Before kids, I was one of those people who had color-coordinated Christmas tree decorations. None of this hap-hazard hodgepodge stuff for me! Then came the year that I let the little ones decorate the bottom part of the tree. There were bare spots, branches with 3 or 4 ornaments layered on them, and nothing looked remotely planned or coordinated. Yet, it was endearing. My kids have been helping me decorate for Christmas ever since! We’re going to share some of our favorite tips for decorating as a family:

• Start with the Storage

You probably have at least a few fragile or breakable ornaments that you like to put on the top of the tree. Keep these well-packed in a separate box! Mine are in a little red hatbox, and it comes out of the box of decorations before the kiddos are allowed to dive in to the rest of it! Keeping the breakables separate also makes it easier for Mom or Dad to put them on the top layer of the tree while the little ones are kept busy with the bottom branches.

• Embrace the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Vibe

If your family picks out a real tree, then let your kids come along and help choose one! They may not pick the prettiest one, but just keep reminding yourself that it will look better with lights and ornaments…

If you have an artificial tree, then let the kids help put it together. Yes, I know, they really have no idea how to properly “shape” the fake branches, and a few of them might be stuck in the wrong spot. The kids will have fun helping though, and again, enough ornaments and lights can cover a world of imperfections!

• Salt Dough, Construction Paper, and Glitter! (Oh My.)

Remember all of those Christmas ornaments that you made at school? Things like gluing your school photo on construction paper and then drowning it in glitter? Grab the construction paper and let the kids make some ornaments! (Though I’d suggest substituting glitter glue for loose glitter.)

Kids and adults can all get in on the fun when you make dough ornaments. Basic salt dough works fine, but I tend to like baking soda dough a little better. (Here’s the recipe that I used:

If you’re looking for something less messy, try making candy canes by stringing beads onto pipe cleaners and bending them into a candy cane shape.

Kids will be thrilled to see the ornaments they made on your family’s tree!

• Invest in an Unbreakable Nativity Scene

I have a lovely Willow Tree nativity scene that was a Christmas gift from my mother years ago. Alas, in the eyes of a young child it does look like a new toy! Let’s just say that I was glad to have some super glue on hand that day…

So, when my kids were little, I would set up the plastic toy nativity set on our coffee table. I didn’t want them to think that Jesus’ birth was just something for grownups. The pieces did end up being scattered about the room, but the kids would help me find them all and we could talk a little bit about the Christmas story. Now that the kids are a bit older, I almost miss seeing the occasional dinosaur visiting the manger!

This year, turn on the Christmas music, make some cocoa, and decorate with the kids. Even if it doesn’t look like a magazine cover, you’ll have so much more fun. Not to mention all of the wonderful memories that the kids will treasure in years to come!