Christmas Day is one of the most fun-filled times for families with young kids who practice the Christmas tradition. That said, it can be one of the most stressful and exhausting days of the year if your kids are too young to appreciate what the day is all about, if their behavior doesn’t match your expectations of the day, or they are easily overwhelmed by all the excitement, food, and family. These 4 parenting tips for surviving and thriving on Christmas day are meant to help you and your family avoid some of the energy drains that can pop up. Instead, we hope you will be able to build an enjoyable tradition together.
- Share Plans and Expectations Early
Making your plans and expectations for the day known to the family before Christmas morning will save everyone stress and offer a chance to adjust if needed. If you’ve traditionally visited three families on Christmas day, for example, let your kids know ahead of time, even if they’re small. Doing so will allow them to mentally prepare—even if it’s subconsciously—for a long day filled with different faces and lots of energies. If you have expectations about the process of opening presents, sharing meals, or anything else, tell your kids in advance about those, too. Discussing these things as a family when there’s time and space for everyone to give input allows for flexibility and for your kids to have a say in what Christmas traditions you build on and which ones just aren’t working. If everyone’s exhausted and grouchy by the third round of gifts (using our example from earlier), after opening at home and Uncle Fred’s, you may want to ask Grandma if she can come to your house for her round of presents, or if she’d rather spend Christmas Eve with your family to shorten your number of social outings on Christmas day. By making these decisions as a family, you’ll ensure that everyone has enough energy for all that the holiday has to offer!
- Know Your Children’s Limits
This tip piggy-backs on the last. If you already know that your toddler will need a nap at one o-clock, don’t plan to be anywhere but home at one. There will be plenty of years down the road when she’s more flexible, but for now it’s best to respect her needs in order to keep the day enjoyable. Similarly, if your older kids get bored at ten a.m. after all the presents have been torn through, plan an afternoon activity to keep them engaged and involved, like going to a movie or playing with a new game as a family. The same goes for candy and meals: as tempting as it is to let kids eat mountains of sweets or indulge in foods they’re normally sensitive to because “it’s Christmas!” and you want them to have fun, help them stick to their normal diet as much as possible so that they can feel good all day. A healthy body helps create a happy mood!
- Stay Calm and Positive
If you keep your cool and keep a smile on your face, it’ll be easier for your kids to do the same. Modeling happiness, gratitude, and generosity on Christmas will help your kids practice the same sentiments. Plus, by setting the intention of staying calm and positive you’re much likelier to do just that instead of getting frazzled by all the activity! Remember, parents need to take care of themselves during the holidays, too.
- Take Breaks
Even though Christmas is a time of sharing and togetherness, it’s OK to take a break from socializing when you need, and the same should go for your kids. If your kids are introverted or overwhelmed by a lot of new experiences—especially if you have a baby, toddler, special needs child, or a kid who didn’t sleep enough waiting to catch Santa—make sure they know that it’s OK to find a quiet corner to retreat to and read a book if the day becomes too much.
Above all else, take in the moment, appreciate one another, and have fun! Merry Christmas!
The holiday season is fully upon us and families everywhere are coming together to celebrate and enjoy winter activities. While there some kinds of fun, like ice skating, that are reserved for the above-toddler crowd, there are plenty of activities that families with kids of all ages can do together. Really, this time of year is all about getting together as a family to celebrate our holiday traditions and to make new memories that will last a lifetime. Read on for a list of our top 5 favorite holiday activities the whole family can enjoy and plan to spend this weekend enjoying one or two!
- Story Time
Many local libraries host special holiday and winter-themed story-time events around the holidays that include Hanukkah stories, Christmas books, winter folklore, and more. Getting lost in a historical holiday story is a great way for kids to connect to the spirit of the season and ancestral traditions, and it’s fun for parents, too!
- Lights, Lights, Lights!
Many holiday traditions bring beautiful celebrations of light into the dark winter season. For families that celebrate Hanukkah, lighting the menorah is an activity that the whole family can take part in in quiet and delight, and there are lots of children’s crafts involving candle-making and homemade menorahs on sites like Pinterest. All families with children who don’t have early bedtimes will enjoy light parades, zoo lights, and neighborhood holiday light tour. Pack reusable mugs full of hot cocoa, turn up the holiday music and take a trip around your local community to spot them!
- Build a Snowman
If you live somewhere where snow is abundant, build a snowman! Or woman, dog, cat—anything your kids like. You’ll get a little exercise and kids love to play in the snow. Even if you live in a warmer client, you can hit the beach to make a sandman – complete with seashell eyes and buttons.
Families and groups of friends wandering the streets singing, cups of hot cocoa in hand, is not as common a sight as it once was in centuries past. That said, one of the easiest ways to connect with your heart and uplift others this holiday season is through song. Caroling is a great family activity that brings neighborhoods together, bonds you as a family, and gets everyone outside to enjoy holiday lights!
- Gingerbread House & Cookie Decorating
Gingerbread houses don’t have to be reserved solely for families celebrating Christmas. Building a house from graham crackers and homemade icing and candy or decorating a pre-built house are equally fun ways for your family to bond, have fun, and eat treats! Decorating the house offers a great creative outlet for kids, too, and they might even learn something in attempting to engineer the building of it. If your family is really ambitious, try a whole gingerbread village this year. Decorating sugar cookies for Christmas and Hanukkah is a tradition in many households, as well, and the abundantly available recipes for paint-on sugar cookie frosting allow for maximum kid participation—yum!
Your turn: what favorite activities does your family do together during the winter holidays?
Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner and it’s the time of year when kids everywhere feel the wonder of the season and the anticipation of opening holiday gifts. Even as adults we can relate to the excitement and buildup kids feel before the holidays, with our own plans and expectations of how we’d like things to go. While the delight and wonder are what make the season so magical, I have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t, at least once, expressed disappointment that a much desired gift or activity was not received by her child with satisfaction and gratitude. It’s easy for children to buy into the buildup and glamor of the season, believing that a new video game, bicycle, or pair of boots will bring unending happiness as all the ads and commercials promise. It’s only natural that their reaction will not match that of the kids on TV who open the same gift—those kids are acting! We aren’t suggesting that you refrain from buying gifts, but before your family sets yourself up for the buildup and letdown that can so commonly happen during the holidays, consider giving some non-material gifts to your kids. By doing so they’ll learn that positive experiences are really what they’re searching for in all the toys and games they lust after. You’ll also be teaching them that the holidays are about sharing and connecting with others, not just getting more stuff. Read on for a few ideas for non-material gifts for kids.
- A Parent’s Wish List
Your children love to feel that you’re proud of them, see potential in them, and that you know there are great things ahead for them. Write down a list of 10 hopes you have for your child for the coming year, and why you want those things for them. Make sure you pick non-material thing, for example “I hope you learn more about marine life in science class because you love whales so much”, or “I hope to take a family vacation with you and your brother somewhere with a beach and a forest”, “I hope to have a weekly game night with the whole family.” Keep your child’s age and personality in mind when writing and read the list together during your family holiday celebration.
- Family Yearbook
While this gift does involve making something material, its focus is the enjoyment of your collected experiences together. Spend some time sorting through pictures and videos from the past year and put together a family yearbook of big events and funny things that happened. Choose major milestones to write about and sprinkle in hilarious moments, beautiful sights, and holidays. This is a great end-of-the year gift that will remind everyone in the family of how much you have to be thankful for and how much there is to look forward to as a family. You’ll love looking back at it in future years, too!
- Family Memberships
One of the best experience gifts you can give your family is a membership to the local zoo, children’s museum, botanic gardens, or history museum. A year-long membership will set your family up for unlimited opportunities to spend time as a family learning together and enjoying new things.
Classes are another great way to gift an ongoing activity. Depending on your child’s age and interests, you could choose music and art classes, sports or gymnastics, language, or dance. Classes are a great way for kids to connect with others and learn more about their own interests and abilities.
- Holiday Events
Choose an activity or two to do specifically during the holiday season like ice skating together, snowshoeing, seeing a ballet or play, and taking a carriage ride. By letting your kids know that the activities you’ve chosen are part of their set of gifts for the holidays, they can direct some of their excitement and wonder towards time with family, and will probably enjoy a day of fun more than the fleeting moment after opening a toy.
We hope that these ideas provide some inspirational ways to enjoy the holidays non-materially with your kids. What are your favorite gifts of experience?