Make time for family time- it can be hard with the busyness of the season, but see above, and set aside time with your immediate family... we love to go ice skating, make hot chocolate and watch our favorite movie, bake together etc.. We also make time for our traditions like tagging our tree at our favorite farm in November and going back to cut it down in December.
Make small gifts for your neighbors- We usually bake (mostly because I'm a better baker than crafter), but get creative! I love filling mason jars with homemade chocolate dipped pretzels, party mix, or granola. Whatever you chose to make, involve the kids in the creating and delivering process. I love the joy my kids get from giving out these gifts and the thoughtful and giving spirit it is encouraging.. I also love the simplicity... I love them seeing how special a small gift or gesture can be.
Talk about the meaning and history of the holidays you celebrate- Whatever your religion or level of spirituality may be, talk about the meaning and history behind the holidays you are celebrating. Let your kids see where these holiday traditions came from.. Books can be a great tool to help with this, and show pictures from your own holidays as a kid.
Start/keep up with traditions- Holiday traditions are the best! If you don't have any, now is a great time to start new ones, or bring back your favorites from childhood. It could be as simple as where you go to get your Christmas Tree (if you celebrate) or decorating it together as a family. It could be a special dish you make together, a holiday activity like riding the polar express, or like us, the I vividly remember a tradition my mom started when I was in middle school where we would find someone in the community or in our area we knew could use a little something extra (whether it be money or specific items), and we would leave it by there door without identifying ourselves. We didn't have all that much ourselves, but I promise you I will never forget the feeling that we just made someones day and gave them the boost they need. This is one I will definitely be bringing back with my kids.
Help your kids take inventory of what they have and donate what they don't need- Help your kids go through their "stuff" - it's a great process to show them just how much they have and how lucky they are... while doing this, create a bag of toys they aren't using anymore, and clothes that don't fit and together bring them to a local donation center.
Set limits on gifts (including Santa & grandparents)- this is a big one in our house! Santa brings one special gift and fills your stocking, and we ask their grandparents to do just one gift. We also encourage gifts that are experiences, adventures and special times to share together. An excess of gifts isn't helping anyone.
Take a break from TV- I'm not anti TV (all things is moderation) but during the holiday season, the regular TV is full of crazy commercials.. Instead of a usual show, how about a favorite holiday movie or special (there are loads of great ones on Netflix).
Give back to others- There are lots of ways to do this. One great way is to Adopt a Family. If you can swing it financially, I strongly encourage adopting a family for the holidays, you can do this through local organizations like the Salvation Army as well as many local organizations. Take the time to explain to your kids why you're helping others, and take them shopping with you, they will probably love picking out the gifts for the other kids. Donating food to a local shelter- another great way to give back, and frankly something that we should do all year long. Involve your kids in collecting and delivering the food- maybe even make it a project for them at school or involve the neighborhood.
Sit down and have your kids write thank you notes- Their involvement will vary by their age obviously.. if yours are toddlers like mine, you'll have to gather the resources and provide a little guidance.. a picture of the gift, a hand print, and signature are always a huge hit- TIny Prints also makes some great thank you cards where kids can write in a message, sign their name and draw pictures etc... It's important to for them to recognize what the gift was as they're learning to be thankful and sincere.
Teach your kids gratitude & sincerity and lead by example- No one is perfect and we do the best we can, but our kids are watching us, especially around the holidays.. So show them thankfulness and sincerity. Among other things, try not to mark up a whole catalog of things you want yourself, express outwardly how appreciative you are, and show them thoughtfulness as you are picking our gifts for others.
Gift each family member a Thankful/Gratitude Journal- even if your kiddos are little, you can help them write/identify something everyday that they are thankful for, and you should do one too! It's a great way to remember how lucky we are, and keep the spirit going through the year.
I always feel like a work in progress. I'm hoping this list will serve as a good reminder to me as we enter the holidays. I'm get so excited to share the magic of the season with my boys. Wishing you all a healthy, happy, and peaceful season with your families. Take time to enjoy it!
Thanks as always for stopping by!