Four Holiday Games for Surviving Your Toddlers


The holiday season is stressful for everyone. As parents, we are buying gifts, baking cookies, wrapping presents, and trying not to kill our kids before Christmas. That’s why I bring to you four games you can play with your kids this holiday season. Chances are, you already play these games, you just haven’t been keeping score. Allow me to help.

Each game requires your normal holiday items (ornaments, toys, cookies, etc.), at least one toddler, and parents; though, parents, you don’t really have a choice. If you have a toddler, then you’re already playing. Ready for the first game?

Game 1: Watch ‘Em Break

When to play: Any time you are gathered around your Christmas tree. Usually best played when you are trying to do something else (i.e. cook, clean, watch TV, scroll through Facebook, ignore your kids, etc.).

Time to play: from the moment your Christmas tree goes up until the moment you take it down.


  1. One point for every ornament your child hits or tugs on.
  2. One extra point if it is the same ornament five days in a row.
  3. Two points each time you say, “Stop touching that.”
  4. Three points for every ornament you move from the Toddler Tier down low to the Parents’ Prow up high. (One bonus point if you move the ornament without averting from your toddler your soul-burning glare.)
  5. One point for each broken generic ornament. Two points for each broken homemade ornament. Five points for each broken milestone ornament (“baby’s first Christmas,” “first Christmas in new home,” “hooray for triplets,” etc.)
  6. Fifty points if you follow through and actually take down the tree before Christmas.

Game 2: Should I Return It?

When to play: Often played early in the morning before coffee, just before naptime, and just before bedtime.

Time to play: Not much. The length of your personal anger-fuse determines the length of the game.

How to play:

  1. Observe your children playing with their toys.
  2. Smile as they calmly play with separate toys.
  3. Open Pinterest on your phone and think to yourself, “I’m going to try to make those cute Frosty the Snowman marshmallow treats for our party tomorrow.”
  4. Get interrupted by one of the following phrases:
    • “I was playing with that!”
    • “I want that!”
    • “I had it first!”
    • “Mom! Dad! He took my (insert name of toy) from me!”
    • Some combination of a scream, hit, and/or cry.
  5. Calmly say one of the following:
    • “You two need to learn how to share.”
    • “She’ll be tired of it in a minute. Then you can have it back.”
    • “You both can play with it.”
  6. Observe that nothing gets solved. Allow children to argue for another thirty seconds while you read “28 Things Only 90’s Kids Understand” and say to yourself, “I know!” while you read the one about trying to open CD cases.
  7. Roll your eyes, clear your throat, and say, “Do you want me to return your presents? Because I will! I’ll return every last one of them!!”
  8. You only lose if you actually return the presents, because, come on, who actually returns the presents? You’re not going to take that much effort. Now get back to your phone: there is an important video of an acappella group singing their newest holiday tune, “All About That Baste.”

Game 3: On Repeat

When to play: Pretty much any time your kid is awake.

Time to play: How much energy does your kid have? How often have you seen your kid stop repeating something that’s really irritating? That’s how long this game takes.


  1. One point for each holiday song repeated by your toddler at least three times in a row. (One bonus point if it is a Hanukkah song.)
  2. Five points if the song is sung more than twenty times.
  3. Ten points if the song usually has an ending but your toddler has somehow managed to sing it in a way that makes it never end.
  4. Five points if the song changes tone in some way. (For example, “Jingle Bells” becomes a metal song when your son screams the lyrics from the depths of hell, or when “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” becomes the electronic remix when your daughter uses her best monotone robot voice to deliver the lyrics from her car seat.)  
  5. Ten points if your toddler twirls faster and faster with each repetition of the song.
  6. Twenty points if multiple children sing multiple songs on repeat while twirling or running in circles.
  7. Five points if this occurs after bath time as your kids do their usual sprinting-and-jumping-because-I’m-naked ritual.

Game 4: Is it Midnight?

When to play: Any time after 4 p.m. in December.

Time to play: Only a few seconds, but will be played multiple times each night.

How to play:

  1. Look out the window.
  2. Observe the darkness.
  3. Ask your spouse, “Is it midnight?”
  4. Give a look that suggests you’re kind of kidding but also pretty much depressed that it’s so dark and so cold and it’s really only 5:15 p.m., which means it’s not even bath time yet but it’s too dark to really do anything except numbly watch “Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas” for the seventeenth time just so that your kids stop crying/hitting each other/asking for food/talking/moving.

How do you win these games? Survive until May when you can finally say, “Go outside and play.”