There are few things that to me say, “Christmas is here!” like a Christmas tree. When I was younger and living at home, we would head to the huge tree lot on my birthday, 8 days before Christmas to pick out our tree, then go home and decorate it while watching Christmas Vacation and drinking eggnog. It was the perfect stretch of time to ensure that most of the needles actually stayed on the tree and created a tradition in our family. I fondly remember my brother and I choosing which ornaments we would put on the tree: our baby ornaments, vacation mementos, and favorite characters were all in the mix.
For Alex and my first Christmas together we started a new tradition of going to a tree farm and cutting down our own tree. That year was also Molly’s first Christmas, and we both remember looking through the branches to see her teeny tiny head and huge ears poking through.
Last year we didn’t get a tree because we didn’t have the energy to figure out the logistics of having such a small house, plus a cat and a dog. Molly likes to chew the bottom branches of trees, regardless of whether it’s a real or a fake tree, and Cooper is a huge oaf who knocks things down with a gust of wind from his tail. With Ryan being just 7 months old, we just got a random, small, fake tree that we put his “First Christmas” ornament on, and only kept out for 2 or 3 days because Molly kept chewing on it and Cooper ate at least 2 salt dough ornaments off it.
This year, Ryan is mobile. And by mobile, I mean a tiny tornado. We have no where in our home that we could put a tree and keep Ryan, Molly, and Cooper away from it while still being able to enjoy it, which makes me sad. So I started Googling and brainstorming until I figured out a tree alternative that would be festive, adorable, and safe for toddlers and pets alike.
Oddly, I could not for the life of me find what I was looking for or envisioning. I wanted a tree with branches that I could hang ornaments and lights off of that was 2 dimensional and able to be hung on a wall out of reach. So I made one myself, and documented the steps to share with all of you!
This tree is kid, pet, and small space friendly and super adorable. It takes some work, but I think it’s something that will last for multiple years to come so that we can enjoy a tree while keeping it safe from kids and animals alike. I’ll be linking up my thoughts on trees and avoiding the destruction of said trees with Amanda!
Mini glue gun (I really want this one, and at $3.99 it’s so cheap!)
Extra glue sticks
3 packs of 9 foot garland, wired
2 Styrofoam sheets (I used .5 inch thickness)
3 Foam Sheets (similar) 11.5×18 (I got mine at Michaels)
Mini Lights, 20 count
First, hot glue the two styrofoam boards together to create a large sheet. To reinforce it, I put little drops of hot glue along the seam, then smeared/spread it down with an old gift card to seal.
Next, plan out your cut lines and cut. It doesn’t have to be perfect since we’re covering with garland and little mistakes will be mostly covered.
Hot glue cardboard to back. If you, like me, don’t have a sheet of cardboard big enough, make sure that the “seam” of the cardboard is not the same direction as the seam of the stryofoam to ensure that it’s as sturdy as can be. Also, be smarter than me, and put the pictures facing inward. I’m silly.
Then cut off the excess. You can take a piece of sandpaper (I used a nail file, it was the perfect width) to even out the cuts a bit and make it less jagged. I also sealed the edges of the styrofoam/cardboard with more hot glue in the same manner as before. This saves you from cleaning up little styrofoam debris every time anything touches the cut sides. After, glue the foam pieces on top. I did this for two reasons: one, if you see the green foam between the garland, you don’t notice it as much, and two, I wasn’t sure if I simply painted the foam the pain wouldn’t just peel off after being hot glued. Play it safe.
Now the fun part: gluing the garland. I bought this at Walmart for $1.98 and it was perfect for what I needed. You could probably use the normal, unwired garland and probably save a ton of time and energy, but then you’d need to find little hooks to secure the ornaments on. The wired variety acts like normal fake trees and lets your hang the ornaments off the branches themselves.
The Walmart variety above starts each length with a piece of wire/hook, so start at the very top of your tree shape. Voila, something to hang the tree on. Now start gluing the actual garland. I recommend going around the edges and spiraling inward, but you do you. You’ll find short lengths of blank wire every few inches, so just hold that down, put on some hot glue, and hold it until it cools. It’s not a short process, but it works.
The corners are definitely tricky, and I found that using a chip clip like above in addition to a ton of glue is the best course of action. Keep on spiraling inwards, adding new lengths of garland as needed until you reach the middle. Once it’s all glued and cooled, you can fluff the “branches” to fill in any holes and glue on your star if using.
Add lights and ornaments, and you’re done! Hang it away from little hands and paws so that you can admire your ornaments (and memories) without worrying about them being ruined! Add Scentsicles to make it smell yummy! (please note, all of our ornaments are still packed away at my MIL’s, so these are just the ornaments we bought or made last year)
So tell me – how do you navigate a tree with kids or pets? Do you have a small space? Fake or real trees? (I’m all about real, but obviously that’s not happening right now. Let me know in the comments!
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