Interior designer and Target home expert Emily Henderson shares her best tips for the hectic holiday season.

7 Kid-Friendly Tips for Holiday Decorating
Photo by Thomas J. Story

The holidays can be a lot more fun when kids are involved, but there are a few things to keep in mind when celebrating with little ones. At the top of the list: Making sure the décor is kid-proof (glass ornaments could be a recipe for disaster) as well as fun and sophisticated (for both children and adults to enjoy). There’s also the important task of keeping the kids occupied during holiday gatherings. Not to mention being able to set aside time to simply enjoy the holidays with everyone, instead of running errands and stressing about hosting. Los Angeles-based designer (and mom of two) Emily Henderson teamed up with Target to share her advice for decorating and entertaining during the holiday season with kids in tow. Of course, Henderson wants her home to look “pulled together,” but the main priority is creating a home for her kids “where they can laugh and smile as much as possible.” Find out what she has to say about kid-proof decor, tapping into your inner child, and more.

Start with a consistent color palette


This will help streamline your home’s look and prevent it from going too over-the-top. Henderson advises mixing in some bright colors. “This year we started with red, green, and white,” she says, “and layered in some blue for an additional color pop.” Henderson stresses that “there really aren’t any ‘don’ts’ when it comes to holiday color palettes as long as you incorporate neturals to make the space feel consistent, not chaotic.”

Provide activities for the kids (and other little visitors)


Henderson suggests displaying a toy train for Christmas morning—it keeps the kids entertained, and leaves some time for grown ups to do any last minute chores. “Consider buying a small, pre-lit tree that you can put in your child’s bedroom or play area,” she says. “Gather some indestructable ornaments that you aren’t using on your main tree, and let the kids decorate however they like.”

Tap into your inner kid


Even if you don’t have children, take advantage of the holiday season to bring some whimsy into your decor. Think Frosty the Snowman, Santa, and Rudolph. “It’s all about peppering the kid-friendly pieces throughout an otherwise adult space,” Henderson says. “Make sure the more youthful decorations you chose fit within the color palette you’ve already determined.” The holiday camper Henderson chose is retro-inspired for the adults, and playful for the kids.

Entertain with kids


Yes, it’s possible—it just takes some strategizing. “For example, if you are having a dinner party, consider feeding your kids before the event begins,” she says. “Have them hang around as the company arrives for cocktails and appetizers so they feel included. Then when you’re ready to serve dinner, turn on a kid-friendly holiday movie for them to enjoy in another room.”

Keep it low maintenance


That means kid-proofing the space so you don’t have to spend the whole season worrying about the kids breaking anything or getting hurt. “Hang fragile glass ornaments only on the top half of the tree and use wood, plastic, or fabric ornaments on the bottom,” she recommends. Apart from the tree, Henderson suggests also displaying soft decor accents around the house (stockings, pom pom garlands, stuffed figurines, and more).

Ask for help


Think about what stresses you out the most and don’t be afraid to accept a helping hand. “If you are planning a party and one of your guests offers to help—let them!” Henderson says. “Power through. If you have a massive list of stuff to do, cross out anything that’s optional and is stressing you out. Remember that if you feel stressed out, your kids and your guests will too.”

Make ornaments


You’ll treasure those keepsakes forever—especially when the little ones are all grown. Since we live in such a digital age, Henderson suggests taking plenty of photos of your family enjoying the holidays together and printing them out after the rush of the season to save in a photo album. “My new thing is framing the Santa photo every year and pulling them out to style with during December,” she says. “Seeing how my kids grow and change is pretty darn fun.”