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December is a crazy time of year for everybody, and the pressure to hype everything up is overwhelming. When you have kids, it can feel doubly so. I once, out of curiosity, did an internet search on “Advent activities to do with toddlers”, and what I found was amazing. Some bloggers had lists of over 50 activities to do. I expect and really hope that they are just suggestions, and not a checklist anyone tries to complete with little ones in tow. Having special events and activities in preparation for a holiday is great, but there is a huge problem if you are jamming your little one’s schedule so full that they lose all sense of routine. In my experience, out of routine kids are unhappy kids.
So this year, in a quest for sanity, Matt and I set out to not over-schedule our family
. Instead we’ve tried to create a simple and balanced Holiday season full of fun activities, but with reasonable expectations of what our kids can handle. Here’s some of the things we’ve done to keep the Holiday Spirit, while also keeping routine scheduled.
- Have a monthly theme:This is something I’ve started recently. We’ve been having a theme for the month that we focus on. For example, November was thankfulness, and in December our theme is Advent. Every evening, with dinner, we have a short time in which we focus on the Christmas story. And I dedicated my Advent project for this year to writing and planning out how to present the story to my kids in a way that is accessible. With a toddler, I chose to go with a very simple storytelling technique, and I’ve been using our Little People Nativity Set to do it. By using the figures to tell the story, and then letting the boys also play freely with the set, they’re developing a feel for the story and the players in it.
- Make a list of activities, and highlight the ones you think the whole family would enjoy: Limiting activities to things that suit your family is key. Your family loves Santa? Plan on taking a trip to meet him at the mall. Maybe going to a holiday lights show is more your speed, or baking cookies. Maybe you want to have Service be your theme for December, and you want to do a service project with your kids. With older kids, get them involved in planning activities. Perhaps every family member picks something special they want to do, then plan out a schedule where you can hit your target goals, and spread them out so you aren’t too overloaded.
- Make sure your special activities fit within your regular schedule. I try to keep our rough schedule consistent, and mornings is our “adventure time.” This is usually when we get out of the house to run errands or go to activities. So, I usually try to schedule any outings, like going to the holiday miniature train display, during the morning. Likewise, in house activities are set for afternoon when we are usually at home, like decorating or baking cookies. Things stay special, but the time-frame is familiar. This won’t always work. Sometimes you need longer slots of time, or the timing just isn’t feasible. When that is the case, relax and enjoy your time, but try to avoid getting your whole routine knocked off kilter after the fact.
- Take time to just be.This is a hard one for so many people, especially when you’re rushing to buy gifts, fulfill obligations, plan trips, and run yourself and your family to parties and other special events. I recently read a book called The Danish Way of Parenting, click here for a link, and it introduced me to the Danish concept and practice of hygge (pronounced Hoo-Gah). Hygge is a term which essentially means the practice of being cozy, relaxing and enjoying the moment. While its a broad term, it really encourages making a habit of stopping, perhaps alone, but definitely with family or friends, and focusing on being comfortable and relaxed together. When I read about this term, I began a personal quest to try and bring it more into my life, and that of my family. And, in the last few weeks, I have seen some definite benefits in everyone’s life and behavior. It becomes a respite from life and its stress.
Our family has been having a blast this holiday season, and we have been keeping our stress and toddler meltdowns a bit lower by abiding to these rules. What are some of the ways that you and your family have been enjoying the holidays this year?