Friday, November 29, 2013

How to Have a Pretty Christmas Tree Even When the Kids Decorate It

Because many of us are going to be setting up our Christmas tree this weekend, I thought I would repost one of my most popular posts ever: How to Have a Pretty Christmas Tree Even When the Kids Decorate It. This post share 5 things I have learned after 14 years of decorating a Christmas tree with kids. 2 of these tips deal with my thoughts and heart (isn't that where everything starts?) and 3 are practical decorating tips.

Christmas tree decorating is suppose to be fun right? It's something families do together and where sweet memories are made. Right?

our tree, 2012
Well, I have 5 kids. I have been letting kids decorate the Christmas tree for over a decade now.  And I am embarrassed to admit, my attitude has not always been the best. If I am honest, I am afraid that the memories my kids will remember about the Christmas tree are me stressing over how all the oranaments are clustered in one area leaving all these bare spots, or me getting frustrated when yet another ornament breaks, or me rearranging the ornaments after the kids go to bed.

our tree, 2011

If you have kids, I bet your Christmas tree looks like mine. Your ornaments do not match. Every ornament that the kids have ever made plus every ornament that has even been given to your kids hangs on the tree. Just look at the picture below, starting from the top, you see: an upside down doll, a pipe cleaner and yarn sheep, my 15-year-old's preschool Christmas tree, Santa with the Statue of Liberty, and a hand painted zebra!  I bet many of your ornaments, like mine, are clustered on a single branch. And there are probably more ornaments on the bottom half of the tree than the top. Lots of memories, but not quite a tree of style, eh?

Well I think this year and last year, I finally got it. Only took me a decade, but I now know how to have a pretty Christmas tree even with the kids decorating it. And I almost have a new attitude about the whole thing. 

Here are 5 things I have learned after 14 years of decorating a Christmas tree with kids This is how I get a Christmas tree looking good even when the kids help decorate it. 2 of these tips deal with my thoughts and heart (isn't that where everything starts?) and 3 are practical decorating tips.

1. As Rob gets the tree and boxes down from the attic, I repeat over and over to myself:

Christmas is not about me and my decorating skills.

I have had this one page ripped out of a magazine since 2004, a picture of what I wanted my Christmas tree to look like. And secretly I was always disappointed that my tree did not look like that. I mean I studied that tree. I could easily spend 15 minutes looking at this one picture. What??!!  The truth is if I let my kids help decorate the tree, then it should not look like it belongs on the front cover of Better Homes & Gardens. Christmas is not about me and my decorating skills.

2. Before I start decorating (or shopping or crafting or baking or putting dates on the calendar), I figure out what I want our Christmas to look like. We as a family talk about what we want to make sure happens this Christmas season and what would we rather skip. For more questions we talk about, see this post titled, What do you want Christmas to look like?

I try to start the Christmas season not with a to-do list, but by being intentional. I try to set realistic expectations (mainly for myself!!). I mean why do I think that no ornaments will get broken? Every year I got frustrated. . .even yelled. . when an ornament or 2 or 3 or 4 would break. This year the below did not faze me. This year we actually laughed together as a family that only 3 ornaments broke and 2 of those 3 could be hot glued back together so the total was only 1!  Laughter. . .that is what I want my kids to remember.

3. I use lots and lots of lights. You can never have too many lights. And it does not matter if they are white, colored, blinking, or bubbly, or a mixture of all those. Lights make a tree pretty. I make sure our tree has lots of lights. We make sure the lights are deep, close to the tree trunk as well as on the outside branches.

And just a side note: Rob and I have finally learned that we set up the tree and the lights at night after the kids go to bed and then the next morning we decorate the tree. Everything is more peaceful and fun that way. Took us a long time to get that too; we used to do it all in one day and the kids could not stand the wait of getting the tree set up and the lights on. And we could not stand their impatience. But anyway, use lots and lots of lights. Just look at that glow:

4. After the kids have hung all the ornaments, I take out a box of icicles. And I hang an icicle on almost every branch tip. . ok, not every branch tip. But I do use the whole box of 50 icicles. My icicles are just cheap plastic ones from Michaels:

It is hard to have a Christmas tree theme when you have kids. And when a tree does not have a theme it tends to look weak and not put together. So to pull my tree together from top to bottom and to add just a little more sparkle, I hang lots and lots of icicles. Your eye connects the icicles and the tree looks put together instead of random. See the picture below; your eye moves from icicle to icicle, doesn't it?

5. I use lots of picks. I pick up (no pun intended, lol) a new set of picks every year. They are inexpensive and make a huge impact. My favorite places to shop for picks are Walmart, Michaels, and Garden Ridge. 

I let my kids hang all the ornaments, but the icicles and the picks are my job. Just like icicles, picks make a tree look pulled together from top to bottom. Picks give a random, no theme tree a little bit of cohesiveness and uniformity. Plus picks are perfect for all those bare spots the kids leave. 

I nestle picks all throughout the tree. I try to make a triangle pattern with one set. And then I take another set of identical picks and start making triangle patterns with that set. And so on.  And then at the top, I put lots of picks just sticking straight out.

Rob says our tree is Fireworks meets Las Vegas meets Christmas. David says is our tree even a tree? It looks like just a blob of color and glitter. I say it is a tree that is pretty. . and a tree that the kids helped decorate. . .and a tree that I maintained a good attitude while we all worked together on it. I say it is almost perfect.

So, how does your family decorate the Christmas tree? Do you let your kids decorate the tree? Do you have separate trees? Do you have a themed tree or a random one? Do you use icicles or picks? And please tell me I am not alone in my mind and heart adjustment.

I am sharing this post over at Titus 2 Tuesdays and Juana Mikels.


  1. Our four little ones (2, 4, 6, & 8) like to decorate the tree in the same fashion. They want to reminisce over all the little things they have made and the ones we have purchased at different vacation spots over the years.

    The nice thing about them being so small is that we (daddy and I) get to put the breakable ornaments up high to fill in the top while they put their ornaments in the areas they can reach. It does turn out to be a bit of a hodge-podge but after I wrap garland around it and put the star on top. It looks just perfect.

    I'll take a tree with meaning over one that looks like it walked out the department store decorator section any day. I like that our tree tells our story.

    Rebecca D

  2. I feel the same way! Let me ask - how many sets of lights do you use?

    1. Oh me. . .I have no idea how to gauge how many strands we put on our tree. I just asked my hubby and his answer was "lots". Sorry I do not know. But we started at the inside of the tree, towards the trunk and worked out way out on each section of the tree. Lots and lots and lots of lights.

  3. Your tree is lovely!
    I love the "fireworks" at the top and the idea of using picks. We have a lot of bare spots, so I may try to pick up some of these. Thanks for the ideas!


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