10 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your Christmas Tree

The holiday season is full of temptations for curious kids, and your sparkling Christmas tree may be the most appealing of all. Protect your child (and your favorite decorations) with these safety tips.

Christmas with a toddler can feel like magic—until they start getting into mischief. The culprit of their troublemaking might be your decorated Christmas tree. After all, what little kid can resist sparkling ornaments, glistening tinsel, and the lit-up star on top?

If your toddler is constantly fussing with baubles and branches, there's no need to put your tree back into storage or move it to an inaccessible room. Instead, follow these tried-to-true safety tips to protect your child (and your favorite holiday decorations) into the new year.

Small toddler playing with Christmas tree

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Strategize Your Ornament Placement

Your toddler might be drawn to your Christmas tree like Santa Clause is drawn to cookies—and that's a testament to your awesome decorating skills! Want to protect your most precious, breakable, or sentimental ornaments? Hang them out of reach on higher branches while putting kid-friendly decorations on the lower ones.

Avoid Dangerous Decorations

These may include frayed string lights, sharp or breakable ornaments, and anything with small removable parts that could be a choking hazard, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Parents should also check that decorations don't contain hazardous materials. "Be cautious about trimmings that may contain lead," the AAP advises. "Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials. Light strands may contain lead in the bulb sockets and wire coating, sometimes in high amounts." Excess lead exposure can harm a child's developing brain.

Replace Metal Fish Hooks on Ornaments

Many classic ornament hooks are a major choking hazard, and unfortunately they have a tendency to fall off. Use caution when pulling your ornaments out of storage so that the hooks don't make their way onto the floor—and into your child's mouth. Also ensure they're securely positioned on your tree branches. Ribbon or string are much safer options for hanging ornaments when toddlers are in the house.

Stabilize the Tree so It Can't Be Knocked Over

If your toddler leans against the tree to reach a shiny ornament, or maybe even attempts to climb it, the whole thing can come crashing down. To prevent this catastrophe, use a sturdy Christmas tree stand, and consider adding some extra weight—bricks wrapped in gift wrap are one effective hack. What's more, you should position the tree in an area where, if it were to fall, the results wouldn't be disastrous (in other words, stay away from fireplaces, stairwells, breakables, and big windows).

Avoid Ornaments That Look Like Food

Candy canes and frosted gingerbread may put you in the holiday spirit, but they're just too irresistible for toddlers with a sweet tooth. Whether they're actually edible or not, steer clear of any ornaments that resemble food, suggests the AAP. And don't think you can get away with hanging them on the higher branches; if anything is going to inspire your child to get climbing, it's an ornament that looks like a strawberry doughnut with rainbow sprinkles.

Use Bells as a Christmas Tree Alarm System

Yes, you read that right! Bells can serve double duty; they're beautiful decorations for your tree and alerts for when your toddler gets too close. Strategically place a few bells around the perimeter of the tree and you'll always know when little hands and feet are moving over the branches.

Consider Ornament Anchors

If you want to keep your ornaments from going missing (and subsequently finding them stashed in the toy box months later), consider using ornament anchors. These nifty little devices allow your child to touch and admire low-hanging ornaments, but they won't be able to easily remove them from the tree.

Build a Present Blockade

Piles of large, wrapped presents surrounding the tree should keep anyone from getting too close while adding to the anticipation of Christmas day. Only you need to know whether those boxes actually contain gifts or not!

Surround the Christmas Tree With a Baby Gate

Granted, your Christmas tree may not look quite as attractive with a baby gate around it, but this is an effective way to toddler-proof if all else fails. A play yard or kennel fencing can also work. Choose a gate that's easy to fold up and set aside when you're able to monitor your child closely. Depending on the location of your Christmas tree, you may also be able to simply block off the room where it's stationed.

Give Toddlers a Mini Christmas Tree

Take away some of the temptation of the big tree by giving your child a mini version of their own. Whether it's a fresh tree or something faux, you can decorate this "kid's tree" with fun, unbreakable ornaments that will keep their little hands busy and distracted.

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