12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to January

'Tis the season for stressing out, but it doesn't have to be. These holiday hacks will help you actually make it the most wonderful time of the year.

By Today's Parent
12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to January

Photo: iStockphoto

Holiday Hacks

How to keep your kid’s behaviour in check during the holidays

Later bedtimes, tons of new toys and massive doses of sugar can trigger less-than-lovely behaviour. Early childhood consultant Julie Romanowski offers these tips.

1. Get your kids to fall asleep on Christmas Eve
Let them know what will be happening and validate their excitement. It’s a legitimate feeling—and it’s been building for weeks. Don’t ruin it by getting angry with them. Avoid empty threats. There’s no need to say “there are no gifts tomorrow.” Use a firm but friendly approach. They will test you or try to bargain. You need to be solid. Going to bed is non-negotiable.
2. Ward off a tantrum
When you’re in the thick of things, it can be very difficult. Acknowledge what the child is experiencing (whether they’re tired, hungry, overstimulated) but then follow through with whatever the boundary is. Maybe say, “I know it’s fun to run around with your cousins, but safety comes first.” If they’re in a full-blown tantrum, take them to a quiet room until they calm down.

Get more tips: 6 ways to keep your kid’s behaviour in check during the holidays

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: iStockphoto

How to holiday shop with kids

Shopping with the kids doesn’t have to be a disaster. Here are three ways to make it easier.

1. String Cheerios on plain dental floss to make a necklace. Your kid can munch while you shop.
2. At the toy store, quiet your kid’s “I want that!” pleas by taking a picture of it and promising you’ll put it on the Xmas list. That often stops the begging.
3. At the grocery store, park next to the carts, not the entrance, so you can roll your kids right in.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryIllustrations: Sarah Rafter


How to take perfect holiday photos

Award-winning photographer and dad Roberto Caruso (he shoots almost all our covers!) knows a thing or two about getting great shots with your phone.

1. In the snow
Get right up close to your kid, and fill the frame with his expression while he’s playing. If there is too much white snow filling up the shot, the camera might compensate, and your kid’s face will be shadowed. Try using HDR mode: The camera takes three photographs with a bright, medium and dark exposure and then merges them to produce one shot. This works well outside or anytime you are looking for that extra contrast.
2. At the holiday concert
At the start, get up as close as you can (details are lost when you zoom in digitally), grab a few photos and then head back to your seat to enjoy the show. Don’t join the parent paparazzi—iPads blocking people’s views is not cool.
3. On Christmas morning 
When the kids first see the tree with presents, take a time-lapse video composed of multiple photographs taken seconds apart. Most smartphones have this feature, or there are many time-lapse apps you can download. You’ll get the best shots near a window or in a bright area of the room (you want the light behind you), so keep that in mind when setting up your tree. 

Get more tips: How to take perfect holiday photos

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: iStockphoto

How to keep your carpet pine needle free

Avoid the carpet of dried needles. Treat your tree like a giant, cut flower; ask the seller to saw two inches off the trunk, then water it daily.
Tip: A dab of toothpaste removes tree sap.

Tree skirt with fallen Christmas tree needlesPhoto: iStockphoto

How to make a six-point snowflake in 45 seconds

1. Take a piece of paper and fold down one corner to make a right triangle. (Thin paper works best.) Trim off excess.
2. Fold in half and then open up to the original triangle. Using that crease as a guide, fold your triangle into thirds.
3. Fold this shape in half.
4. The fun begins: Cut a shape from the bottom of the triangle. This will be the snowflake’s outside edge.
5. Cut some notches, triangles and random shapes from the two sides. Then carefully unfold your snowflake.
6. Make a few more—they look fantastic strung in rows on fishing line.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryIllustrations: Alex Mathers


How to toddler-proof your Christmas tree

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless, of course, you have a toddler. 

Who can blame newly mobile babies and toddlers for going after the glitz and tinsel on a big Christmas tree? To prevent your tree from toppling (and grandma’s antique ornament from shattering), hang baubles on higher branches and dress the lower boughs with bells. The jingling sound will act as an alarm. Every time a bell rings, a toddler is probably up to no good.

Get more tips: 10 ways to toddler-proof your Christmas tree

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: iStockphoto

How to wrap awkward gifts

Rather than clumsily wrapping an oversized or awkwardly shaped item (hello, pretty much every kid toy ever) with oodles of paper that’s likely to rip anyway, stick it in a cute, patterned pillowcase and secure with a ribbon. If your item is too large for a pillowcase, drape it with a sheet.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhotos: iStockphoto

How to deck the halls with ease

Your mother-in-law is arriving in two hours and the house is still a disaster. Try designer Sarah Hartill’s simple tricks. 1. The speedy deep clean If you are short on time and “the maid has been away,” focus on key areas. Forget the kitchen—you can clean up as you cook. Get the bathroom as spotless as you possibly can. A good, thorough vacuum goes a long way. 2. A dead-easy centrepiece Sometimes I just put ornaments on the table. No tablecloth, no placemats: just balls down the centre (varied sizes look best). They’re colourful and bright, and they make the table look special without a lot of fuss. 3. Think fresh Flowers always takes things up a notch. Buy a bunch of carnations in one colour and cut them so they sit low in a vase—it’s quite striking.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: iStockphoto


How to rescue your holiday dinner

Turkey’s still frozen? Gravy is lumpy? We’ve got you covered.

1. Thaw a turkey quickly
If you forgot to take the bird out on time, put it in the laundry sink and run cold water over it. Once it’s thawed enough to grab the giblets, take them out and then run cold water through the turkey. Don’t soak it, don’t use hot water, and don’t use a hair dryer (to avoid bacterial growth). Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
2. Keep perfect timing
Stagger the prep. Plan to serve one side dish at room temperature, like green beans or salad, and make that in advance. Have another dish, like mashed potatoes, that’s cooked ahead of time and just needs to be reheated. You only want to be making one side at the last minute.
3. Delegate to empower
Get the kids to rip up bread for the stuffing or mash the potatoes. If they’re over the age of five, they could peel vegetables. Even better: Folding napkins and setting the table gets them out of the kitchen.
4. Save your (lumpy) gravy
First, strain it. Then, in a small pot, melt 2 tbsp butter, sprinkle in 2 tbsp flour and stir it together over medium-low heat. Whisk in a cup of water. Once that’s thickened, stir in your failed gravy.
5. Make clean up less of a chore
Keep a sink full of hot, soapy water so you can clean as you go during prep. To tidy big pots and pans you can’t stuff in the sink, put them in a closet or on your back porch to tackle later

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: iStockphoto

How to carve a turkey like a pro

1. Sip your wine
Let your turkey sit at room temperature for 20 minutes so the meat stays juicy. Place the bird on a large cutting board. Cut and remove string.
2. Start with the legs
Hold the turkey steady with your hand—a carving fork doesn’t provide the same grip. To remove drumsticks, place a chef’s knife against the thigh and cut down to the leg’s second joint. Twist the knife to sever the drumstick. Slice the thigh meat parallel to the thigh bone and transfer meat to the platter. Repeat with other leg.
3. Next, cut the wings
Insert the knifepoint at the first wing joint, and then twist to separate the wing. Repeat on the other side.
4. Spoon out the good stuff
Slice open the neck cavity. Scoop out the stuffing with a long-handled spoon and place in a serving bowl.
5. Slice the white meat
Cut from the neck end to the tail end of the breast, right beside the breastbone. Then angle the knife and run it alongside the rib cage. Slice the meat crosswise so there is a piece of skin with each slice.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryIllustrations: Alex Mathers

How to make easy holiday cookies in one go

Make one monster batch of sugar cookie dough, dress up the cookies in five different ways and then freeze them. (No one will ever know.)
Find the recipe here.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: Maya Visnyei


How to store things for next Christmas

1. Place big ornaments in plastic cups, and set in a cardboard box or storage bin. Put small ornaments in egg cartons and layer them on top of the cups. Then write a quick inventory, noting anything that needs replacing next year.
2. Shoving your lights into a box is a fast way to pack up. But to avoid having to untangle that rat’s nest next December, try the hanger trick. Attach one end of the light strand to the lower right corner of the hanger with some duct tape. Tightly wind the strand around the hanger, moving across as you go. Then hang it up.
3. Place all of your seasonal wrapping paper in a clear garment bag. That way, you’ll know exactly what you have before you buy next year, and your gift wrap won’t be all crumpled and ripped.

12 clever holiday hacks to get you through to JanuaryPhoto: Tony Lanz

Read more: 52 ways to trim your holiday budget How to throw a holiday party for kids 16 cute toy advent calendars for kids

This article was originally published on Dec 04, 2016

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.