Guest Post: Why I Trap - The Joy of Tradition

There's so much to share about the Christmas trap.

The goal of the Christmas trap is for it to be difficult enough that it becomes challenging for the kids that you're working with. But easy enough that it's achievable. A successful Christmas trap should take about 2 hours; if it takes less time, it was too easy, longer, they may get frustrated and discouraged.

As a parent, of course you want to win, but remember
-       If you win, your kids remember it as a lousy Christmas trap.
-       If you lose and it was too easy for the kids, it won't be any fun for you because you'll be disappointed from all the work you put into it.
-       When the trap is fun to put together, you can't wait for your kids to break through it, and when you know that it was challenging and they struggled and worked at it, then it becomes a great bonding experience.
-       When both sides put a great amount of effort into something they are commonly committed to, then win or lose, the Christmas trap was a great experience for all.

We really enjoyed using clues in our traps. When writing clues you want to tie it to something the kids are familiar with; a recent movie they like; the story of a family vacation; a game, or an activity they're interested in or your family does often.

One year when our kids were reading and listening to Harry Potter, we built a trap set up as the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. They needed clues to break through a wall we had built with 4 layers of cardboard. Each layer required a different clue to learn how they could expose the next layer of cardboard and break through the trap quietly.

Often the oldest child will spearhead the charge through the trap, leaving little for the younger ones to do but move along with them. When writing clues, try hard create clues that only one will know but the others won’t. The next clue would be for another child. They will have to work together through the trap.

Deception and misleading my kids are my favorite part of trap building. One Christmas Eve night I went to the basement and set up the new tent we’d bought as the family present that year. While building the tent, I took a board, my saw, and a hammer, and I beat it as loud as I could, and sawed it as often as I felt was necessary to mislead them from what I was doing. I think they knew I was up to something and probably wasn't building the trap, but they had no idea what I really was doing, which was my objective.

But a word of advice to the parents. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE your children! They are much sneakier than you think. They are ten times quieter than you can believe. And they always do something you never thought of. Which is really a proud moment for a parent.

Consider the help of family members. When Grandma and grandma came to stay, I would have them pretend to be on the kid’s side by flipping them enough information that they can be an obstacle. But don't be amazed if you find out that they really are against you and are on the children side. These are their grandchildren that you're talking about, so you might even set a trap for them.

Building traditions is something that parents should do with their children. The most important thing I do as a dad is listen. When I hear keywords like, “that was so fun,” “we always do that,” “I hope we do that again.” “Thanks!” it makes the effort worth it! 

Merry Trapping!

Darin Palmer