We are about to celebrate our fourth Christmas with children in our family! From our short time of experience, I know that it’s a delicate balance of making memories and keeping peace, joy, and sanity. Our culture — especially the “mothers of young children” culture — is obsessed with making each waking moment a Pinterest-worthy occasion. While I absolutely believe that we should make every moment count, I also would suggest that we might make sure we are making it count in the right way.
Over those four Christmas seasons, we’ve slowly gleaned some tips that make this holiday as wonderful and meaningful as it should be, while making an effort to not go overboard on activities and busyness. Your kids are worth the few minutes it’ll take to sit down and evaluate the pace of your holiday season.
1. Age appropriateness. A cursory look at Pinterest quickly overwhelms me with hundreds of “must-do” Christmas activities with children. Crafts, ornaments, printables, bucket lists, Elf on a Shelf, sensory activities, fake snow, and a comprehensive guide to every single Christmas event within a 30 miles radius of your zip code. None of those things are wrong by themselves (in fact, a lot sound like fun to me!), but I would issue a loving word of caution: keep your child’s age in mind. The need for naps and time at home with Mommy do not go away. Their age may not make the newest “must-do” idea the best idea… a moment of honesty and you’ll admit that decorating Christmas cookies with your 10 month old will yield more mess and frustration than memories. Hitting all of the Christmas parades, glamorous light displays, and sitting on the laps of at least 3 Santas is most likely to leave you with a tired and overstimulated todder, rather than a little one with eyes sparkling with wonderment. Keep an eye out for all of those brilliant ideas and then give your self grace to say that it can wait until next year.
2. Quality over quantity. Continuing with the foundation that #1 set, I’d like to encourage you to pick just a few activities and do them well. I’d suggest picking one or two crafts, one or two special outings, and then one or two special things to do with friends. This will keep you from running everyone ragged. You’ll be focusing on making just a few things extra special, rather than filling each moment with wow factors. Fewer busy days and late nights = more rested families that really soak in the special times. And really…. nothing makes my toddlers more excited than the simplicity of a twinkly Christmas tree and a few mystery-filled wrapped gifts. It doesn’t get much more simple – or magical – than that.
3. Shop wisely. I love, LOVE choosing gifts for my children. All the books, all the movies, all the toys, and more, please! It’s just so much fun thinking of what would make them leap for joy on Christmas Day! While the abundance is just plain fun to dream about, we’ve found great joy in simplifying our Christmas giving to our children. There are a few rules of thumb out there that can assist in getting you started with this. Our favorite is the Four Gifts of Christmas. You give your children only four simple gifts: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. (Teresa Swanson Anderson has a variation of this that focuses more on gifts of experience.) A couple other methods are giving Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (something valuable, something spiritual, and something for their physical needs) or the 5 Hands of Christmas (which focuses on experiences, ministry, and the thoughtfulness of handmade gifts).
4. Major on the meaning. If I could give only one suggestion for giving more meaning (all while performing less) to your Christmas season, I would beg you to consider doing a simple Advent program with your children (we have several suggestions here!). What could possibly be more meaningful than a few designated moments, spent each day, preparing their little hearts for Christmas and all of the meaning that it carries? If you do this with your kids, way to go! If you haven’t started anything this year, don’t wait. Jump in with something simple (maybe just reading one story per day for the remaining days of Advent from the Jesus Storybook Bible or Unwrapping the Gift of Christmas). Feed their little souls and focus their minds on the true meaning and you will have the sweetest and most memorable season you could ever hope for.
Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll give some manageable Christmas memory-making suggestions!
Have you found something in particular that has helped make your Christmas season more peaceful or meaningful? Leave a comment below and share it with us!
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