Developing the fun of the Christmas trap is a process, YOU must lay the ground work for your children to understand the trap. Here are a few key elements to help build the anticipation and enthusiasm;
1. Start small –For children facing the trap for the first time the challenge won’t really be understood until they have been through the trap once. Keep the trap doable but challenging. Stick to the easy traps for the first two years, keeping in mind #5
2. Communicate – let your kids know the trap is coming. At least a month in advance start building the anticipation. For example: “ I just had the greatest idea for our trap” or “Dad and I are going out to plan the trap” or “ you guys will never beat the trap we are planning this year” Also a handy tip :the trap becomes a natural excuse for all things Christmas… “ I am still up because I am working on the trap.” I am going out shopping for the stuff I need to build the trap” etc. Go over the rules so everyone is clear about what to expect. The basic rules are outlined here but we have found that some adjustments to personalize it for your family are good.
3. Give hints - For the first two years keep the clues plain. As the escapees gain experience the clues can become more elusive. Example clues: “you may want to be prepared with gloves for the trap this year” or “a flashlight might really come in handy on Christmas Eve” or even leave tools out to be found. Tell stories about children who escaped the trap to reach or save Christmas. The Polar Express, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, Home alone, fit well in this category but made up stories are even better. Make sure the stories are not scary but empowering.
4. Make it fun. This is the MOST important element. Never let the trash talk or competition become too intense. The Trap is for fun and the fun in the challenge is what bonds the family together. (In addition make sure to let them win once is a while ;-)
5. Age appropriate – keep the challenge, communication, hints and fun relative to the age, experience and personality of the children involved. Keep it to their level and let them surprise you with their ideas and skill.
When I married into the Palmer Family, the trap sounded like fun but I was doubtful it would last. I was very mistaken, the kids caught on quick and it has been always been the highlight of our Christmas. Now that most of our children are grown and beginning to bring home children-in-law, our Christmas’ and traps are getting bigger and better and the challenge has shifted, the children who have married join with the parents and help build it….and we must create a trap that allows the grownup kids to continue to participate while allowing the teenagers to LEAD in skill and problem solving.