Christmas looks different in each and every home. Of course, our home is decorated and festive, but the holidays are truly a time to celebrate the love we have for one another. We make an extra effort to spend more time together and with those we love and do our best to let them know we appreciate them. We share gifts to show we are thinking about someone, not because the commercialization of the holiday has told us to. While our tree will be surrounded with presents on Christmas morning, this is not what the season is about.
What it IS about is sharing, giving and loving. And since I know my kids will have no trouble getting excited over the presents they will receive each year, I wanted to make sure that we started family traditions that supported and encouraged kindness and giving. Here are 6 traditions that we are implementing in our own home. I hope they inspire you!
1. Sponsor a child or family
A great way to help those in need is to sponsor an individual child or a whole family. Many families are having a hard time making ends meet, and that means many children do not wake up to presents on Christmas morning. While we don’t have enough money to help all of those that I would like to, we make the effort to sponsor a family or individual each year depending on our current financial situation. And honestly, it doesn’t take a lot to bring a smile to a child’s face on Christmas morning. This year, we are sponsoring a 2.5 year old little boy who loves trains, cars, balls and Paw Patrol. My 3.5 year old and I spent an afternoon shopping for him. While we were out we talked all about why we were shopping for him and honestly my son would have bought everything for him if I had not had a budget. For just over $60 we were able to get him a Paw Patrol t-shirt, Paw Patrol socks, a ton of sticker packs including Cars, Paw Patrol and Finding Dory, a Paw Patrol figuring and play badge, a large pack of mega blocks, a battery operated CAT dump truck, a Melissa and Doug tool kit, a Paw Patrol carrying case and a variety of crayons and coloring books. By adjusting our spending budget for a couple of weeks we were pretty easily able to fit this all in for him. It was a beautiful experience to see Quinn so excited to pick out presents that this little boy would like. And even better, later that week while making necklaces he made an extra one because he thought the little boy might want one. This is what it’s all about; thinking about others and sharing what we have with those who might need it.
2. Pass it on
If your toy room, kids bedrooms and/or basement looks anything like ours, you probably have excess clothes and toys that your children can donate to those in need. Depending on where you live, most shelters will be looking for warm clothing and outdoor gear for the cold months ahead. Having your children participate in clearing out their closets and playrooms makes them an active part of giving. You can discuss where the items will be going and why others will be appreciative of them. Give your children the power to choose what gets donated, even if it’s a sweater YOU just love. If they are ready to part with it, let them. Not only will this help others, it will clear out some space for new items that the children will be receiving over the holidays.
3. Kindness Elves
I can’t say enough good things about these elves. No, not the creepy elf on the shelf, I’m talking about the Kindness Elves. These adorable and gentle elves come to your home to help spread the true meaning of Christmas. Each morning you place these wonderful holiday friends around your home and they suggest a wonderful act of kindness such as, sending a holiday card to a loved one, baking cookies for a neighbor, visiting an elderly, smiling at everyone you see today on so on. We just ordered our Elves with the cutest accessory pack full of acts of kindness cards, ideas and extra goodies. Learn more about Kindness Elves here.
4. Book Advent
Say no to chocolate and say yes to books! 🙂 A book advent is just like your typical chocolate advent, but each day your children get a book instead of a piece of chocolate. Wrap 24 different books and each day in the month of December, unwrap one as a family. (Don’t worry, it’s not too late to start this year. Plan for a 12 day to Christmas Countdown!)
We unwrap our books right before bed and read it as that evenings bedtime story. Then, it is usually read about a dozen times the next day. You can do this book advent many different ways. Some people like to wrap only Christmas stories where others wrap books of all sorts. Last year we did a bit of a mix. We included wonderful Christmas stories as well as stories that promoted the spirit of the holidays and talked about giving, kindness and sharing. By incorporating some beautiful books with heartfelt messages, you can center the holidays around kindness and giving back. To be clear, these do not need to be new books, nor do they need to be a different set every year. You can create your advent any way you would like. You can include books you find at yard sales, online buy sell groups, used book stores, or even library books that you return after you read them. You can use new books each year, or you can get a core set of holiday books that only come out once a year during your book advent. It’s really up to you and what works best for you family. Have fun with it!
5. Volunteer as a family
Most towns and cities will have a local food bank looking for extra volunteers during the holiday season. Giving food and toys to others is a beautiful thing, but the added benefit of seeing and interacting with those whom you are helping can be an incredible learning experience for your children (and you!). Depending on when you go you may be asked to help pack food donation bags or even serve a meal. I used to volunteer my time often prior to children, and have to admit that we are waiting a couple more years before we begin this tradition as my boys are currently 3 and 1.
6. Reverse Advent Calendar
I’m assuming everyone has heard of an advent calendar. The most common ones are full of chocolate and each day of the month you get to open one little box and eat the chocolate inside as you count down until Christmas. A reverse advent is where you give something each day, instead of getting. Set aside a box and each day of the month you add something to the box to donate on Christmas. You could do one for a food bank and add non-perishable food items each day, or you could reach out to a local shelter and fill it with items on their wish list (food, toiletries, socks etc). This reverse advent calendar will have you counting down to Christmas is a way that shows our children the importance of giving. Be sure to bring the kids with you when you go to donate the box and let them participate in that giving as much as possible.