By Holly Bonner
Tis’ the season for Christmas trees! Whether real or artificial, trimming a tree as a low vision parent requires a little bit of ingenuity, especially if you have infants or toddlers under foot. Since having my first daughter in 2013, the ghosts of Christmas past have taught this mother a thing or two about safely managing her holiday decor. And with a name like “Holly”, I assure you, when it comes to Christmas I go “BIG” – like six-foot tree big!
Tip #1: Go Pre-Lit: If you’re still stringing lights around an artificial tree, then honey, it’s time for an upgrade. Seriously. Nobody has time for unraveling wires or testing bulbs! Pre-lit, collapsible, artificial trees are sold practically everywhere, including big box hardware stores and discount chains like Target. I actually purchased my 6.5 foot, Mr. Christmas tree from QVC. Complete with three interlocking pieces and stand, I can assemble my tree quickly and independently, leaving me plenty of time for sipping hot chocolate and binge watching Hallmark Christmas movies.
Tip #2: Put Your Tree in the Corner: No, your Christmas tree isn’t in a time out; it’s just a safer option. Pushing your tree into a corner, provides extra support from the surrounding walls. Before implementing this in my own home, I was constantly walking into my tree and sliding on its tree skirt. Once my husband and I decided to remove it from the middle of our living room and prop it up in the corner; I avoided those hazardous trips and falls. I’ll also let you in on a little secret. I only decorate the front. Nobody sees the back of that thing anyway when it’s standing in a corner! This method also saves me a ton of time when it comes to disassembly in January.
Tip #3: Swap Hooks for Ribbons: Most people utilize metal ornament hooks for hanging decorations on their trees. A choking hazard for small children, these hooks may also cause puncture injuries to hands and feet. They are equally dangerous for pets and guide dogs if inadvertently dropped on the floor. A quick, cheap solution to this potential problem is replacing metal hooks with satin 1/8 inch ribbon. Simply choose a color and purchase a spool of ribbon for less than $2 bucks at your local craft store. Wondering how you’ll locate the hole to string your ribbon through the ornament? Use a toothpick! Cut your ribbon on an angle and place it over the hole of the ornament. Poke it through the other side and knot at the top. Works every time!
Tip #4: Braille & Tactile Ornaments: Do you know people sell braille ornaments? Seriously. You can find some absolutely beautiful options on sites like ESTY for as little as $10 bucks! You can even make your own tactile ornamentsas a fun crafting activity with your children by using foam stickers or felt scraps. Our friends at WonderBaby offer some fabulous ideas that can be enjoyed by both blind parents or visually impaired children.
Tip #5: Re-Use Octagon Play Yards & Portable Baby Gates: Don’t throw away those old octagon play yards or portable baby gates. Once you’ve propped up that tree, whether in the corner or otherwise, use your play yard as a surrounding barrier. Kids are naturally curious and it doesn’t matter how old they are; they will undoubtedly attempt to touch your tree or grab an ornament. Pets can also be overly interested in your new holiday decor. Recycling that old baby gate will keep your children and your pets safe from falling trees, broken ornaments and hot holiday bulbs. Think of it like barbed wire for toddlers!
Tip #6: Purchase Tree Bags & Ornament Boxes: If you do choose to purchase an artificial tree, make sure to buy an appropriate storage bag. These canvas bags are extremely durable and will ensure the life of your tree. In addition, I advise purchasing plastic sectional ornament boxes for decorations. I prefer the plastic option as opposed to cardboard because they keep moisture out more effectively. Keeping all your ornaments safe, secure and individually wrapped will make decorating a cinch for years to come.
Low vision parents are perfectly capable of decking their own halls! Low Vision Specialists of Maryland and Virginia recommends you make safety a priority, maintain an organized home and choose decorating options that ensure you feel included in every aspect of this magical season!