Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christmas traditions with littles.

 I remember last year thinking "Caleb is one! We have to start good traditions this year- its now or never!' and feeling a bit of pressure about deciding or finding the best things to do to make Christmas magical and fun and something he remembers forever.

  Yeah. I got over that really quickly! I still want to be intentional about what we fill our days with leading up to Christmas and I love the idea of traditions, but I have a lot more grace for myself and less pressure to do any of it perfectly. And after listening to this fun podcast a few weeks ago, I am feeling even more freedom to do only what works for us and what we love this holiday season!

  Maybe you're the same as me- you find yourself just wanting to have a happy Christmas this year. You want to find things that are fun and life-giving and take away the extra stuff that you feel pressured to do, but just leaves you feeling crazed or exhausted or guilty because you never actually got to them.

  Well, this post is for you! I hope you read this and see a list of ideas to celebrate Christmas with your family and grace to do all or none of it. We are all so different! I know Christmas cards can stress the heck out of some people (getting the perfect photo, designing the card, getting it sent on time- all because you think its something you have to do). For me, Christmas cards are fun and one of my favorite new family traditions! But you know what I don't do? Decorate my house much. Right now, in this stage of life for so many reasons, that stresses me out. We will for sure have our tree and some little things set out. But it honestly causes me stress to think about making our house beautiful for the holidays. So I won't do it! Know yourself and your capacity, and stick to things that bring you joy this Christmas.

  If you're on the hunt for some fun and easy Christmas traditions to adopt, here are some of my favorites! And I want to hear from you- what do you do (or not do!) with your family at Christmas?

Star From Afar// Hands down my most favorite Christmas tradition we do with our kids. If you know me in real life, I'm sure I sound like a broken record when I talk about this. If you want a simple way to teach your kids (even toddlers!) about Christmas and include the magic and whimsy that a lot of traditions have- this is perfect. It is basically a cute wooden nativity, complete with a large star that sets on top of the stable. Leading up to Christmas day, you hide the star around your home for you child to find and move the Three Wisemen to- leading them closer and closer to Jesus in the manager on Christmas morning. It comes with the sweetest book perfect for kids and you can honestly adapt it any way to work for you. Last year, we simply played with and talked about the nativity. The colorful and classic wooden pieces are perfect for little hands! This year, Caleb understands a bit more but is still probably not ready for a full Advent-long activity. So we will probably just hide the star everyday for two weeks (instead of closer to 4!). I'll put little pieces of candy or acts of kindness or other treats with the star for him to find each morning and I think he'll love it! Bonus! Natalie, the creator of Star From Afar, is so generous. (Ie my dog ate a wiseman last year and she helped me replace him!!) From now until Monday, if you order a Star From Afar kit and use the code KATIE10 you'll receive 10% off your purchase! It's already super affordable, so this is a steal. And it makes a perfect gift!!

Polar Express// I had never heard of this fun activity until last year (have I been living under a rock??), but we are going with my family in December and I think Caleb will love it. I don't know if it will become a yearly tradition, but it is for sure a great one time activity! We are doing this one in Indy (if you're local, reservations fill up fast!), but I'm sure a google search of 'polar express' in your city will show you fun options where you live!

Help someone in need// Yes yes yes. We should be thinking of others all year round, but I love how universal it is to help others during Christmas. And the options are endless! Operation Christmas child is a great (and affordable) way to involve your kids in shopping for others, donating canned goods or filling grocery bags to help give a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal to local charities, or 'adopting' a family to shop for are all great places to start! Don't love any of those? Call your local Women's shelter or elementary school or church and ask them how you can tangibly bless a family this Christmas. I guarantee they'll have ideas for you! And get your kids involved! 

Christmas books// Ok, I love this and can take zero credit for it. Two years ago, my mom spent some time scouring local Dollar Spots and thrift stores collecting second-hand or inexpensive kids' Christmas books. She bundled them together in different bags and gifted them to each grandkid. SO CUTE. She gave each kid 12- one to reach each day leading up to Christmas! Such a great gift idea and perfect for kids of all ages. (Need a place to start? This is my all-time favorite kids Christmas book! It explains the holiday so well in kid language.)

Movie night// There are so many fun and classic Christmas movies! How fun would it be to have a yearly family movie night after you decorate your tree to sit down with hot chocolate and popcorn to watch Home Alone or Elf or one of the adorable claymation movies?!

Christmas cookies// I haven't done this with my kids yet (hello 1 and 2 year old!), but growing up my mom always made a huge batch of sugar cookies and let us go to town decorating them. Really simple, inexpensive, and fun! Bonus? Decorated cookies or other baked goods make great neighbor gifts and I bet your little ones will love marching next door to drop them off!

Jesse Tree// This is such a cute way to celebrate advent with your kids and help them dig into the Bible at a really kid-appropriate level. Also, the fun craft ideas are endless!

Elf on the Shelf// You've surely heard of this tradition where you hide the Elf around the house for kids to find each morning. Typically he's done something naughty (like unrolled the toilet paper), but I love the idea of making him a 'kindness elf'. You could even save yourself some $$ and make your own adorable Kindness Elves

Advent Calendar// This is one of the 'possibilities are endless' traditions. Which makes it great for any family and you can change it as your kids get older. The whole point behind Advent is to prepare our hearts for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth. You can talk about verses around the dinner table or buy one of the chocolate candy calendars or a cute display that has drawers filled with little presents. Or make one with your kids! You can focus on Bible stories, acts of kindness, or even center it around something your kids love, like this LEGO one! Here are three easy and adorable DIY advent calendars I love: one, two, three

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