I am sure you are wondering why I am posting about a felt Christmas tree (spoiler alert: and advent calendar) so late in December. The short answer is; this is real life. The longer answer is that I started setting up this blog ages ago but because I am not a WordPress guru (to put it gently) it took a LOT longer than I thought it would. I could’ve started with another blog post but I wanted to show the disorganised mess that is real life and to help other parents out there feel better about starting the Christmas countdown late (we started our advent calendar and put up our tree on Dec 8th). In truth if your child is so young that they are using this as just a felt Christmas tree activity then they won’t know any difference and you can just let them play with the felt decorations (even if it is January 2nd). My 4 year old daughter only started with advent calendar gifts last year and this year didn’t notice that we started late (because well, she is 4 and doesn’t really have a handle on dates and times yet – whew).
So now for the blur…
As a new mommy I (like so many others) wanted all my daughters firsts to be special. I wanted to start new traditions where there weren’t any and continue valued family traditions that were special to my husband and I. This coupled with some serious study avoidance (I was busy studying for my final exams for an Honours degree in Education) led me to the following project – the toddler Christmas tree.
If you do a quick search on Pinterest or most social media platforms you will find many beautiful felt Christmas trees with their carefully crafted decorations. The idea is that you mount the Christmas tree (made of felt) and then leave a container of felt decorations next to it and your toddler/small child uses them to decorate and redecorate the tree. Hours of fun!
It is a lovely idea and was fun although mounting it proved a little tricky. We tried double-sided tape first (a suggestion by a friend of mine who also made her son a felt tree) but that didn’t work too well for us (my tree was a little heavier than most but we’ll get to that). The double-sided tape was good in that it didn’t mess up the paint on the wall. In the end, however, I glued our tree onto a large piece of felt, made loops at the top and then threaded a wooden dowel stick through the loops and hung that on cup hooks my darling husband put on the wall for me (see picture). We chose a place in what was our pajama lounge but is now quickly becoming the play area and we will hang it there every year.
So far so good, right?
The only thing is that before I started making my tree I thought to myself that it was quite a lot of effort for one, maybe two years of seasonal playtime. I know, I know I shouldn’t have worried about that as a new mom… I should just think how can I make each day as magical as I can etc etc but seriously, we are all busy and new mom or not I wanted to max out on my efforts. So, I decided that as well as a playtime Christmas tree I would also make my tree into an advent calendar. I sewed (by hand to make it all pretty – see pictures) 25 numbered pockets onto my tree. Now each year (after the tree stopped being a place to stick decorations… although she can still do that if she wishes) she wakes up each morning in December, looks for the correct pocket and finds a treat. If the treat is too big then I tie a ribbon around it, place it on the floor or couch and put the other end of the ribbon into the correct pocket. Some days she gets something tiny and others she gets something more substantial. I avoided refined sugar with her for about the first 4 years (more about that in later posts) so this helped me avoid the chocolate filled advent calendars sold in the shops and allowed me personalise the daily items to her taste (and my budget). As she gets older, I could choose to give her chocolate or sweets on some days. It gets a little tricky getting 25 items as well as something for her stocking so I just take it year by year and keep the gifts very small on most days.
My plan is that as daughter number two gets old enough to also get advent calendar treats they can alternate days (or I could put two treats in each day… but I like my sanity so I probably won’t double my workload). When they are old and leave home I can put it up for future grandkids (I really do like to max out on my efforts) or give it to one of them to keep the tradition alive in their home (they can fight to the death over it or I could just choose my favourite and give it to her… I’ll figure that out later in life).
Happy start of the holiday season and merry –almost- Christmas to those who celebrate.