We have a had a great homeschool year. My kindergartener is reading very well and he is obsessed with spelling at the moment. I’m so glad that we have managed to keep their interest in school even though we aren’t getting out much. I am so grateful that we had a wonderful and productive Fall. That said, I am so glad that we are taking some time off in December. We will be taking a whole two weeks off and just focusing on fun activities and play, so I’ll be sharing some of our fun activities here on the blog.
Printable Christmas I Spy
To Christmas off, I’m sharing a printable Christmas I Spy that I’ve made for my kindergartener. I think that children under five might struggle with it. I purposely made it a little challenging by using similar objects. Therefore, it is better suited for ages five and up. You can download it here and print it out at home. Feel free to share this post with others.
You can download some of my other FREE games and activities for other holidays
And coming soon this month, I’ll be doing a printable Christmas Memory Game! Stay tuned or subscribe to the blog to be notified.
As with all my printables on the blog, you can print them without an email sign up, although I”d love it if you subscribed.
You can use the following for your I spy game:
There is an answer key at the bottom of the page that states the objects to find as well as how many of the items there are in the maze. I suggest having your child count and color them as they find them. I’ve included lots of objects that are similar and objects that are not in the key to make it more challenging.
Snowy Village Christmas Game Bundle
Whether you are taking your Christmas Party to the next level or just want some fun holiday-themed activities with your family, this bundle of ten printable Christmas games are sure to delight everyone!
Are you bored with traditional white elephant gift exchanges? Here is a new take an old favorite. Today I’m sharing a new way to spice up holidays gift exchanges with how to play Dirty Santa.
All of us are familiar with white elephant gift exchanges. If you have ever been part of an office gift exchange chances are you have done white elephant. As much as we all love gift-giving, most of us haven’t won the lottery recently. A white elephant type of exchange is a great way to involve lots of people in gift exchanging with everyone making a modest contribution and therefore not breaking the bank.
In fact, that’s part of why I decided to share this in a blog post this year. COVID-19 has hit lots of people financially this year. In years past, some of my extended family drew names for a gift exchange instead of buying everyone a gift. But I found that it ended up being lack-luster. For example, lots of people just bought $25 gift cards and that’s exactly what it felt like. A group of people passing the same $25 around. Boring!!
Why not turn it into a fun game instead. Today, I’m going to share with you a fun way to turn humdrum white elephant gift exchanges into something more fun. Dirty Santa, White Elephant and Yankee Swap are all very similar in nature. First, I’m going to give you the basic rules. Then I am going to give you some fun variations to mix it up.
How to Play Dirty Santa
Rule 1: Decide on a Dollar Amount
This is totally up to the people involved, but you will need to decide on a dollar amount. It’s hard to find decent presents under $10 or $15, but if you are giving to office co-workers, that might be the perfect amount. If you are giving to close family members, you might consider a higher dollar amount like $50 or even $100. Just make sure there is no pressure and everyone is in agreement. You also want to discuss whether or not gag gifts will be allowed. This should be absolutely clear to everyone. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of people who were upset when they bought a thoughtful gift and got a ridiculous gag gift like a bar of soap! So just make sure everyone agrees on whether to include comical gifts or not.
Rule 2: Make Wrapping a Big Deal
To add a little extra flavor to the experience, go all out on wrapping. Go festive with big bows or festive elements. If you have a very small item, perhaps you wrap it in a large box or an unusual container. I’ve heard of some people that get silly and wrap the gift multiple times so the recipient has to unwrap it again and again. There are lots of ways to make the wrapping entertaining to onlookers.
Rule 3: Place Gifts
You will need to place gifts in full view of all the guests so they can select from the pile. Any surface will do so long as it’s clean and everyone can access it when it is their turn to pick a gift.
Rule 3: Draw Numbers
Count the number of participants and write the numbers on little slips of paper. For example, for fifteen participants you’d write numbers one through fifteen. Fold the papers to obscure the number, then place the papers in a container. Then every person will draw a number from the container.
Rule 4: Gift Picking and Stealing
Starting with whoever drew number one, that person will pick any gift from the pile. They will open it in front of everyone. Then the gift picking will move to the number two person. That person can either pick a new gift to unwrap from the table or they can steal the unwrapped gift. If they select a new gift to unwrap, they cannot steal. The playing moves down the line chronologically and every player can steal any one of the previously unwrapped gifts or pick a new gift from the pile.
Some people like to make a rule that a particular gift cannot be stolen more than two or three times. This rule is totally optional, but it totally stops coveted gifts from making too many rounds. If a player’s gift is stolen, they then get to pick another gift to unwrap or they too can steal one of the opened gifts. They just can’t steal their own back. This continues until all players have gifts. At the end of the gift picking, the person who was number one can choose to steal any of the gifts!
Variations of Dirty Santa
This particularly fun in an office setting. Everyone must start at the entrance of the building or home you are in. Instead of drawing names, hide all the presents, and have people search for them. Participants can swap once with each other once all the gifts are found, but that’s it.
Have all guests sit or stand in a circle. Have some holiday tunes ready. A gift is entered into the circle as music plays and continues being passed around until the music stops. Whoever is holding the gift when the music stops, gets the gift and leaves the circle. This process continues until everyone has received a gift. The last person in the circle can either steal any of the opened gifts or take the remaining unopened gift.
A Themed Gift
You can play this using the same rules as classic Dirty Santa or White Elephant, but the gifts purchased have a theme. Maybe its a DVD, a holiday ornament, homemade gifts, or regifts. Use your imagination!
Have everyone include a tag on their gift that has a Christmas Carol title on it. You can do this with or without a karaoke machine. Guests get in line and take turns selecting gifts from the gift table. However, they must sing the carol written on the gift they select before they can open it.
Christmas Break Out Games
Make sure everyone is okay with this before purchasing gifts. But you can turn the gifts into prizes and instead allow guests to win them in simple Christmas games or minute-to-win-it games. In fact, I’ve created some printable Christmas party games that you can purchase below. You can also set aside a few gifts for consolation prizes and set a rule that guests can play the games all they want, but can only win one gift.
Snowy Village Christmas Game Bundle
Whether you are taking your Christmas Party to the next level or just want some fun holiday-themed activities with your family, this bundle of ten printable Christmas games are sure to delight everyone!
For a full list of gift ideas, you can check out my blog post
However, here is a small list of ideas. If you are playing with both men and women, you’ll want to aim for unisex gifts. These are gifts that can be used or appeal to both. Here are some quick ideas all under $25.
Bar Tools – mixing cocktails is fun for everyone. While most bar tools run about $35-40 you can find inexpensive ones out there.
Electric wine opener – lots of people hate opening wine bottles. You can make it easy with an electric wine opener. Just $20
Cozy throw blanket – Who doesn’t love to cuddle up with a blanket? These are easy and a gift they’ll actually use!
Spice Set Gift Set – Whether its for cooking or grilling, spice sets are universal for every chef
So now you know how to play Dirty Santa also known as White elephant and hopefully I’ve given you some additional ideas on how to switch things up. Full confession – I normally dislike gag gifts. If you’ve received and loved a gag gift, let me know in the comments. Happy Holidays!
Don’t forget to subscribe for future posts, free printables and fun giveaways! Let’s be friends!
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The Holidays don’t have to be chaotic. Do yourself a favor. Here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.
The holidays can immediately bring to mind cozy thoughts of flickering candles, the glow of Christmas trees and time with family. But for many the thought of the holidays can also bring thoughts of stress, anxiety, and busyness. It can be very stressful for lots of reasons. For some, seeing family is stressful because of family conflicts. For others, money woes and the pressure of gift-giving is overwhelming when you are struggling to make ends meet. Lots of people struggle with the feeling that there is so much to do in such a little time. Whatever the reason, here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.
Make a Budget
Money is always tight around the holidays. Once I started working as a teenager, I started to buy my own Christmas gifts for family and friends. To this very day, I make a budget and I can’t tell you how much it helps. Deciding upfront how much I am willing to spend sets the tone for how and where I will shop. On my Etsy shop and in my blog shop here, I have a printable Christmas Planner that contains a budget worksheet and covers all holiday expenses – travel, decorations, food, entertainment, gift-giving, Christmas portraits, postage, etc. Sometimes we only think about the gift-giving expenses and we fail to account for other expenses. Doing that means that our overspending creeps up and puts a lot of unnecessary financial pressure on us.
Seeing the numbers on paper, helps you to visualize where your money is going and where you can cut. For example, in tough years, I cut back on extra gifts to neighbors, teachers, and hostess gifts. I began to also see that money was trickling out of our pockets for food and entertainment. So we came up with cheaper alternatives to still enjoy festive events.
The other purpose for creating a budget is so that you will see how much money you will need. Very few of us have the cash flow to drop thousands of dollars all at once at Christmas time. It is far less stressful if you begin saving now a little out of every paycheck now. Even if it is only a small amount, it will add up over the next three months. There are lots of things you can buy now, so you have less expenses in December. As a special gift for you today, I’ve created this gift-giving budget printable. Just list out all the people you are giving gifts to and budget an amount. Then update it with your actual expenditures.
I have a confession. I love gift wrap. Like actual gift wrap. I hate using gift bags. I love wrapping presents in beautiful wrapping paper with big bows and gifts tags and tie-on-ornaments. That said, it means I have quite a big collection of wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon, and other things. I also have a closet where I keep it all organized. I know most people aren’t as neurotic as me. Normal people have three or four rolls of scotch tape kicking around various drawers, a few half-used rolls of wrapping paper laying in closets, and several sheets of gift labels with only three stickers left. I get it. However, I think lots of people underestimate how expensive wrapping materials are. I’m always shocked that wrapping paper can be around $5-7. A three-pack of Scotch tape is $4-5. Gift bags can be $3-6 each. It all adds up. Because many of us have these things tucked away in closets or scattered around the house, it’s easy to forget what we already have. We may also get ready to wrap at Christmastime and realize that the wrapping paper roll we had is crumpled and mostly unusable. That’s why one of the first things I do, is pull out all my gift wrap supplies and do an inventory. This way I use what I have and don’t overbuy. How many times have you bought something because you were unsure if you had it at home and didn’t want to make a trip back for it? Yup! I’ve done it too. In our uncertainty, we buy it out of convenience, but overspending is never convenient!
By the way, I made some FREE fun printable gift tags last year. You can print them out on your printer, hole punch and run some ribbon through them. You can use them year after year. I also have some FREE printable gift tags for teachers that you can attach to soaps and lotions. If you don’t have a gift wrap organizer, consider investing in one. They keep your wrapping supplies in good condition and make sure everything is in one place.
Create Your Christmas Card List
One thing you can do right now is update your address book for Christmas cards. Start reaching out to friends and family to see if addresses are still correct. Personally, I send handmade Christmas cards. In fact, this year marks twenty years of sending out homemade cards. It is a labor of love when you consider I send out about a hundred, plus I make some to sell in my Etsy shop. I start making them in September!
Perhaps you are lucky to just get ones from the store addressed and mailed. That’s okay! No matter what you send in the mail, it is special. That said, gathering addresses now makes things easier later. That way your ready to pop them in the mail as soon as you have them. If you want until December, you will find you will be waiting to hear back from people because they are busy too! Now is a great time to start gathering those things to make card-sending seamless later. You can also buy your postage now too. You don’t even have to run to the post office. USPS allows you to purchase your stamps online and they will send them to you in your mail. Sam’s Club also offers bulk USA forever stamps.
If you really want to get a head start on Christmas cards and you don’t plan on sending out a family photo card, you can even purchase digital Christmas cards. You download them, print them out either at home on your printer or send them to a print shop like FedEx, Staples, Office Max, etc and have them printed. I have several of them in my Etsy shop and they are completely editable. You can buy some envelopes and address them now so they are ready to go!
Gather Shipping Supplies
If you will be mailing packages out, now is a great time to get set up for easy shipping. If you have the space, consider saving boxes over the next few months so you don’t have to purchase them. I start saving small Amazon boxes in September for Christmas packages. This is also a good time to get tape, save paper or bubble wrap and other shipping supplies you may need.
Also, just so you know, you can also print out your own shipping labels from USPS. I invested in a small scale years ago. I plug in my package measurements and weight and print out shipping labels online without ever having to go to the post office. You can even schedule a porch pick-up so you aren’t running packages to the post office. Easy peasy!
Set Up a Christmas Planner
If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love planners! Sorry, not sorry, friends. I used to be a very unorganized person, but during my twenties, I had an appointment based job. This really forced me to use a planner and organize my time better. Now, I couldn’t live without one! I created a Christmas Planner to help me stay organized during the holidays. I offer it here on the blog and on my Etsy shop. It comes with 34 printables to track gifts, inventory supplies and decorations, and menu planning. It also contains a party planning worksheet, budget worksheet, expense tracker, online order tracker, Black Friday wishlist, undated calendars, travel itinerary, and more!
Best of all, I’ve included a seven-week Christmas countdown that tells you exactly what you need to do that week to stay on task and keep things running smoothly. I know you’ll love it. I personally use it to plan everything for the holidays. All the printables are undated so you can buy once and use it year after year.
I also recommend creating an envelope, pocket or folder to save all your receipts for both expense tracking and for returns. I do this every year and it makes it so much easier to have everything in one place.
Buffalo Plaid Christmas Planner
Holiday stress got you down? Get organized this holiday with this beautiful buffalo plaid Christmas planner. This printable planner has thirty-four pages to help you manage your expenses, keep track of gifts, plan your parties and holiday menus and so much more. Inventory your decorations and create a Black Friday wish list. Use the undated monthly calendars to schedule activities and events. Best of all, use the countdown sheets to have a task list on everything you need to get done, week by week!
In Christmas of 2015, I was totally stressed out, One thing I had overlooked in preparing for Christmas was the space we would need. That year my oldest son was born and his birth brought in mountains of baby toys, books, clothes, and other things. It was his first Christmas so friends and family showered us with presents. Something I was very grateful for, but was overwhelmed by. It stressed me out to put things away only to find cramped closets and toy bins. Now I make decluttering part of my Christmas preparation. In September, I declutter closets and bedrooms. In October, I clean out the freezer and pantry to make room for all the holiday foods. Doing this ahead of time allows me to keep the house cleaner during the holidays because I have a place for everything. It also ensures I’m not overwhelmed after Christmas with all the new gifts.
The holidays always usher in busy evenings. There are school holiday programs, events and activities, get-togethers, and potlucks. That’s why one thing I do is prepare some freezer meals. Freezer meals are meals that you make ahead of time and pop in the oven when you are ready for it. It’s a much cheaper alternative to eating out when you are pressed for time. Casseroles are a great thing that typically warm up really well.
These are so easy to warm up even a husband can do it!
Take a look at some of these great posts for ideas:
If you don’t want to prep full meals another alternative it to chop and prep veggies and pre-marinate meats for cooking later.
Freeze Cookie Dough
Speaking of freezing, if you want you can also make various cookie doughs to freeze ahead of time. Sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies are just a few cookie doughs that can be frozen for months ahead of time. I normally make a few batches of cookie dough in October or early November and freeze it to make holiday baking easier in December. It is a big time-saver at Christmastime. Here is one of my favorite lists of make-ahead, freezable cookie doughs.
Shop for Holiday Outfits
Once, we near October, most stores begin to bring out holiday and stylish semi-formal attire. It doesn’t hurt to begin planning out the outfits you will need. Consider if you will be needing new clothes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Will you be buying the kids or family matching pajamas? Consider if you will need outfits for holiday parties or for a holiday family photo shoot. Start browsing online for ideas, set a budget and if possible, go ahead and purchase the clothes to scratch this big time burglar ahead of time.
Book a Photographer
Now is also the time to start searching for a family photographer if you are doing family portraits this years. You may not be ready to book yet, and that’s okay, but it doesn’t hurt to start viewing portfolios and getting quotes. Some photographers get booked quickly, so it’s best to start looking into it early if you want to have the opportunity to pick a specific date. At the very least, even if you aren’t ready to firm up a date, you can get a quote so you can budget accordingly, but getting the leg work done early is a big help when the holidays hit.
Get a Head Start on Homemade Gifts
Homemade gifts are really nice to way a personal touch to the holidays. Even simple inexpensive items can become special when they become part of a fun gift basket. There are all kinds of things you can make and give for Christmas. In the past, I’ve made soaps, bath bombs, lemon and vanilla extract, coasters, and all kinds of other things. Homemade isn’t always cheaper. So make sure you you figure out how much gifts will cost before you commit to doing them. Here are a few fabulous lists of homemade gifts.
It may surprise some people to learn that I start shopping as soon as October starts. It is so much easier on both your pocket book and stress levels if you spread out your Christmas buying over a few months. That’s why I start shopping for things now. As soon as October hits I take my Christmas list and divide into fifths, then I get started buying for everyone.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. I think the most important thing is to pace yourself and start early so you give yourself plenty of time to complete all the necessary things.
Thanks so much for reading. In the comments below, I’d love to hear what you do to get organized for the holidays. I give away lots of things around the holidays and so before you leave, be sure to subscribe below.
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I’ve got a Christmas gift for you. Download your FREE printable Christmas Movie Quote Gift Tags
One of my most favorite things to do during the holidays to curl up by the fire or in our media room with some steaming hot cocoa (I make an amazing one, get the recipe here) and a favorite holiday flick. This year, my kids are totally mesmerized by the Polar Express. Of course, I grew up in the Home Alone era, so that one will always be close to my heart as is the tear-jerking It’s A Wonderful Life.
Today, I’m sharing a FREE printable! Yay! I love wrapping gifts at Christmas. I know, I’m totally a weirdo. Don’t care. While many people dread gift wrapping as a chore, I love it! I throw some fun holiday tunes, bring out my huge collection of gift wrap and revel in making pretty packages with big, beautiful bows!
So this year, I created a cute printable with my two favorite holiday things to help you through the holiday season. I’ve made some Christmas movie quote gift tags. Just print them out and put on your Christmas packages. No need to run to the store and buy gift tags. Or you can save them for if you run out and need some in a pinch. No problem. Print, cut, hole punch and attach with your favorite string or ribbon.
Christmas evokes a a wealth of emotions. Today, I’m sharing 25 Christmas Journal Prompts to discover how you feel about the holiday season
Christmas is a special time of year. But for many people, it brings a myriad of emotions – some happy and some not so happy. The holiday blues is a real thing and they can leave us pining for those we’ve lost in death. We may mourn old traditions that are no longer continued. Or we may have a renewed love for the season as we watch Christmas magic overtake our children’s hearts. Sometimes you may feel all the above. Today, I encourage you to go through the list of 25 Christmas journal prompts and discover how you feel about the holiday season.
25 Christmas Journal Prompts
What is your favorite childhood memory about Christmas?
Did you believe in Santa? Was that a good or bad experience?
What does Christmas mean to you?
What does your ideal/perfect Christmas look like?
If money were no object, what would you want for Christmas?
What is the most special Christmas gift someone has given you?
Learn how to make a happy planner squad girls ornament with just a few materials in less than 15 minutes.
Hey planner babes! Welcome to my new tutorial on how to make a Happy Planner Squad Girls ornament. This year, I spent time making lots of different Happy Planner ornaments and this is just one of the cute ideas that I came up with. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for lots of fun Happy Planner themed Christmas tutorials.
This cute ornament is filled with fake snow and looks like the squad girls are skiing in your ornament. This craft is very easy to make and you can do all kinds of fun scenes. This craft took me less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish. I’ve made a video for you to follow along with and I’ve also provided written instructions below. I really encourage you to watch the video since the instructions were hard to describe in writing. While you are there, please subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to follow my Instagram for daily inspiration.
Cut down your acetate to a manageable sheet about 6 x 8″ and score in the middle
Pick out the stickers you want to use. Lay your scored acetate down so that half is flat on the table and the other half stands up towards you. Place your stickers about and inch to two inches on the acetate. You may need to reposition the stickers depending on where you want them to be.
Trim down your acetate
Trim down your acetate by cutting off any excess acetate around your sticker. Then trip your base in a half moon shape. You only need an inch or two. While you’re trimming, trim a little at a time, making sure it fits well in your globe.
Apply Foam Tape
Apply double sided foam tape to the bottom of your base. Adhere to the bottom of the globe.
Carefully, add your fake snow. Close globe and shake gently until snow is evenly distributed.
For added security, super glue your ornament for added protection once you are certain no other adjustments are necessary
Make Christmas magical together as a family. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start this year.
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.
Growing up in a Catholic family, I loved going to midnight mass. It was the one time of year I was allowed to stay up late. The church was lit with flickering beeswax candles and bright red poinsettias were scattered over the alter. The choir filled the nave of the church with beautiful Christmas hymns. It was such a magical, spiritual experience. Traditions like this are so special. They create memories for us to look back on and think of fondly. They can also connect us at a time where busyness can overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.
There are lots of traditions you can start like taking holiday photos together. Perhaps you take them in front of the tree in the same positions so you can watch everyone change and grow throughout the years. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions you can start right now.
10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start
Light An Advent Wreath
In the Catholic Church as well as the Luthern Church, Advent wreaths are used to celebrate the four weeks in the liturgical calendar leading to Christmas. The wreath, also contains 4 candles. Traditionally, three purple and one pink. Sometimes there is white candle in the center. Some protestant wreaths, particularly in Europe use red candles. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world. Each week one candle is lit and is accompanied by prayers, scripture reading or Christmas devotional. Each week, an additional candle is lit until Christmas arrives and they are all lit. In the Catholic Church, this is typically done during the celebration of the mass, but it is also very common to have an advent wreath at home.
You don’t need to be of a certain denomination to use it. The wreath is about taking a moment of solemnity to remember the reason for Christmas – Christ and his coming into the world for us. If you’re looking for an Advent Wreath, I recommend these below.
Celebrate With an Advent Calendar
In our family, we celebrate the holidays by using an Advent calendar. An advent calendar counts down the days of Advent (4 weeks) before Christmas. Normally, each day on the calendar has a door, window or pocket to be opened one per day as you count down. Traditionally, a chocolate, trinket, or small toy is placed as a gift for whomever opens the door.
In my family, we don’t put gifts in it. Instead, we put memory-making activities on slips of paper. Every day, we remove the slip of paper and read that evening’s activity. Some are simple, like making hot chocolate together, watching a Christmas movie, or reading Twas The Night Before Christmas. Other are more time-intensive like building a gingerbread house or doing a Christmas craft as a family. To read my full list of activities see my post, The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List.
I can’t begin to tell you how special this has become to our family. With all the crazy rushing of Christmas, this helps us take some time as a family every evening and make Christmas magical for each other. Here are some of my favorite Amazon Advent Calendars.
Watch the Polar Express In Pajamas
One thing we do with our kids every year is watch The Polar Express. True to the story, we wait until it’s bedtime and once the kids are in their pajamas we surprise them with the movie. We serve hot chocolate at the same time they are serving it aboard the train to the kids. I even give my kids a golden ticket and a bell. It makes for a very special, magical evening. It’s something my husband and I really love doing for our kids.
Read the Nativity Story in Luke
One easy, beautiful tradition you can start is by simply reading the Gospel as a family. With all the focus on gifts, Santa, and holiday parties, the true reason for Christmas – Christ – can be easily swept under the rug. Taking time out as a family to read the living word of God helps to instill a focus on Christ. The most descriptive version of the nativity story can be found in Luke Chapter 2:1-20. We like to read it on Christmas Eve fireside.
When I married my husband, I learned his parents had kept a beautiful tradition going for forty years. Every year, the two exchanged ornaments. It had almost developed into a playful competition that the kids, now grown, still enjoyed witnessing. So when my husband and I got married, we agreed to continue that tradition. It’s actually quite special. It’s fun to hunt for that perfect ornament and it’s a lovely gift to look forward to on Christmas morning.
The exchange doesn’t have to be between mom and dad. It can be between anyone. Kids and parents. Siblings. Grandparents. Use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be bought either. One thing our family does as a tradition is make ornaments every year as a part of our advent calendar. My husband and I also collect them from everywhere we travel. One of our trees in our home is an eclectic mix of our collected ornaments over the years. We often gaze upon them and recall all those special trips and moments when we got them.
Help the Less Fortunate
Christmas is a time for giving alms, that is, filling a material need for someone who is less fortunate than us. As Christians, we are called to acts of charity towards our fellow brothers and sisters and Christmas seems to inspire a giving attitude.
Our family does several things at Christmas time. First, we give to the bell ringers of Salvation Army. You can find them outside departments stores. This is especially meaningful to me. You see, when my mom was a child they were very poor and she was the recipient of the used, donated toys from Salvation Army at Christmastime. Second, we fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritans Purse. For some children, it is the first gift they’ve ever received. Moreover, it is an opportunity to introduce the love of Christ around the world as the program continues to minister to the children through a discipleship program.
Lastly we find local charities to help. We donate food to our local food pantry. In addition, we donate goods to our two main homeless shelters SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope. If you have children, get them involved. Instill in them a spirit for helping others. Christmas time is a great opportunity to spread the love of Christ with acts of kindness.
Make a Hot Chocolate Bar
Hot Chocolate is a staple of winter. I love making hot chocolate. More importantly, I love turning it into a fun event for my family and friends. For about seven years, I’ve been making a hot chocolate bar. Fill a slow cooker with hot chocolate so everyone can serve themselves. Then offer loads of toppings, syrups, and flavors. Kids love loading their cups with marshmallows and candies.
I make it fun for adults too. I love to include adult liqueurs like Frangelico, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Amaretto, etc. It’s actually quite fun to see adults get excited over it and every year people ask me about it. I set up the bar at the beginning of the season and it stays up all December. Then I keep the dry toppings in mason jars. I screw them up when they aren’t in use and open them up when gets come and make a hot crockpot of hot chocolate.
When it’s cold outside, indoor activities like crafting can be a fun way to spend time together. As I mentioned earlier, one thing we do is make an ornament every year. I also send out homemade Christmas cards to all our friends and family. It’s like my personal gift to each and everyone of them.
In fact, in my first marriage, my in-laws had a very special idea. One year, instead of buying gifts, we made gifts. This was one of the most special Christmases I’d ever had. It was amazing to see what everyone came up with. My ex-husband found some copper pipes left over from a house repair and put together a gorgeous copper wind chime. I broke down some old chipped dishes into pieces and created a mosaic trivet for my mother-in-law. Everyone came up with different ideas. I can’t even describe how taking the commercialism out of presents affected us. There was something so magical about that Christmas!
There are lots of things you can make and you can turn it into a family affair. Last year we made some DIY Christmas swags. It’s super easy! Even if it’s a total Pinterest fail, the memory of how awful it was will become one of those funny family stories. It’s all about making memories. Here are some things you can try:
Handmade Christmas cards
Make a Wreath or Garland
Hand stamped wrapping paper
Look At Christmas Lights
This may not be a new one for you, but I’m including it because I think it is underestimated at times. Since we’ve been married, my husband and I have made this an annual tradition. Neighborhoods are fun to explore, but we enjoy a local commercial light display even more. We go to Santa’s Ranch, which is drive-thru property full of more than 1.5 million lights.
We bring lots of warm, cozy blankets and hot chocolate in a thermos, Christmas cookies, and sweets. Then pile in the car with Holiday tunes on the car radio. We always ask friends or family to come with us. It’s such a fun way to spend a frosty evening!
Additionally, some places to a live nativity. If you’ve never been to one, it’s impressive! These are often done by churches. They use sets, live people and animals to recreate scenes from the nativity story in the Bible. Normally you either walk or drive through the scenes. It’s so beautiful! Simple pleasures spent together are often the memories we cherish.
Christmas Eve Boxes
If you haven’t heard of Christmas Eve boxes, I’m excited to tell you. Christmas Eve boxes are curated boxes you give to family members in anticipation of Christmas. Think of them almost like gift baskets filled with everything they need for Christmas Eve night.
Some people only prepare them for the kiddos while others treat the adults to the fun-filled Christmas box too! Because, we’re all kids at heart, right? Traditionally, the boxes include pajamas, snacks, a Christmas book, and or a movie.
You don’t have to necessarily put them in boxes. I know someone who stuffs stockings with all the goodies. You can find my full tutorial on how to make Christmas Eve boxes here. I have lots of ideas on what to fill them with.
Make Christmas Magical
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start. Be sure to PIN this post for later and share it on social media to inspire others. Also, before you go be sure to subscribe to my blog for FREE printables, giveaways and other fun goodies. Have a Merry Christmas!
Create a special family tradition when you learn how to make a Christmas Eve box to usher in the Christmas spirit for your child.
Christmas is such a magical time for both children and parents. As parents we get to experience the magic and wonder of Christmas through the eyes of our innocent babes. This year, we are starting a new tradition, we’re making Christmas Eve boxes for our little ones. This tradition stems from a German tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.
I’ve heard a few families say they do this instead of hanging and filling stockings, but it’s up to you. Personally, I decided to do it because I was already going to buy and do these things for Christmas anyway. Putting it together like a gift, just makes it more special. The idea is that you create a box filled with Christmas goodies. Traditionally, you would give your child this box on Christmas Eve, but I know some families instead give this box the day after Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday season. There are no rules. I, however, am giving this to my little guys on Christmas Eve. It will have their pajamas, a movie we’ll watch, a Christmas bedtime story and snacks. I’m hoping it gets them excited about going to bed early on Christmas Eve!
How to Make a Christmas Eve Box
Get Your Box
You can use any box you wish. Some families simply use a large gift box. Others use a wooden crate, available for purchase at any craft store. Etsy has some amazing sellers who make personalized boxes to be used year after year. Really you can use any container, so long that it’s big enough. The buffalo plaid one I’m using in my picture was purchased at Hobby Lobby. It comes with a lid. If you are doing it on a budget, you can cover a shoe box with festive wrapping paper.
Ideas for Your Christmas Eve Box
Obviously you can put anything you want in the boxes. In fact, I encourage you to make it your own. However, if you are looking for some suggestions here are a few.
Snacks (Candy, Popcorn, Cookies, etc)
A Christmas movie
Christmas socks / slippers
Reindeer Food (see “recipe” below)
Snowman Soup (see recipe below)
Christmas coloring book
A small toy
Christmas mug (for snowman soup)
You can add any combination of items to your box. This year, I’m adding Christmas themed pajamas, a story book, a Christmas movie and some homemade bunuelos, some reindeer food and snowman soup.
Snowman soup is just hot chocolate mix presented in a cute way. Reindeer food is a cute idea. It’s just oats and glitter. Have your little ones sprinkle the mixture on your lawn to feed Santa’s reindeers when they land. Cookies for Santa; Reindeer food for the Reindeers. It’s just another way to make it more magical for the kids. See below for exact instructions. However, you can also use bird seed instead of oats. I’ve made some cute printable bag toppers. I recommend printing them out on white card stock. You can download them below.
Also, while we’re at it, there is no reason why this has to be only for children. You can tailor it for adults. You can even add some grown up additions like mini liquor bottles and liqueur flavored chocolates.
How to Make Snowman Soup
Time needed: 10 minutes.
How to Make Snowman Soup
Gather the following ingredients
Packet of instant hot chocolate, mini marshmallows, candy cane, and a zip lock bag (sandwich size)
Pour ingredients into bag
Open the packet of instant hot chocolate. Add marshmallows and candy cane. Seal bag.
Print printable bag topper
Print the bag topper or make your own and staple to the top of the zip lock bag.
With all the online shopping mail carriers are busier than ever. Today, I’ll show you how to put together a Thank a mail carrier basket full of snacks, water and goodies to let them know you appreciate them and their hard work.
A Thankless Job
Being a mail carrier is quite a thankless job. Especially around the holidays. I knew the same mail carrier Cliff who worked for UPS and was on my dad’s business route for many years. The holidays were always busy. He worked such long hours, often skipped lunch, and was always dealing with problems of missing and damaged packages. During the holidays it was stressful.
These days, so much of our Christmas shopping is done online and families are sending care packages and gifts across the country more than ever. Many employees from carrier companies and the postal service, work demanding schedules around the holidays to make sure our needs are met.
So my family decided to make them feel noticed and appreciated while they are busy on their route by offering them some snacks and drinks. It’s a small act of kindness, that hopefully brightens their day. We love doing acts of kindness around the holidays. We actually add it to our advent calendar (Christmas Bucket List) every year! If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to read my post, 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays.
How to Make Your “Thank A Mail Carrier” Basket
First, it doesn’t have to be a basket. You can use any container to pack with a few goodies. I use a wire basket with a Christmas bow. Next you’ll need a sign. You can make your own sign with a message. However, I’ve taken some of the work out for you by making a printable one. You can download it below. I recommend printing it on white cardstock.
Next, fill your container with whatever goodies you like. Here are a list of some of the things we put in ours.
Stumped on what to put in your child’s stocking? I’ve got a great list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers to take some of the guess work out of Christmas shopping!
Hey there, friend. Christmas time is here and you may be struggling on what to put in your child’s stocking. So I’ve put together a quick guide of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. In full disclosure, some of these may not fit in the actual stocking. These small, inexpensive gifts are some of my families favorites! We personally love all these items, which is why I am suggesting them.
As always, use your best judgement when it comes to age appropriateness. Just because something is marked for a certain age, doesn’t always mean it’s right for your little one. Mamas know best!
Under 6 Months
As a mom I know I always appreciated clothes as gifts because they go through them so quickly and clothes are surprisingly expensive. But I absolutely loved some of the items I’m sharing today.
It seems like when your child starts drooling and teething it seems like it happens before are fully able to grasp items well. That’s where some of these things really come in handy. Some of our favorites were drooling bandana bibs. They have an attached teether on them. This keeps it fairly clean since it isn’t falling on the floor all the time and it’s always handy. Same goes for the munch mitt. This was a favorite by both my boys. Its a mitten that is secured to their hand. They can munch away on it without it dropping to the floor all the time! If you haven’t tried Baltic Amber for teething, I highly recommend it. Amber (genuine) has natural healing properties and it is a great soother for sore gums.
Feeding spoons always come in handy and my boys loved wrist and foot rattles. This made floor play super fun and it was handy even when they were in the stroller. Both my boys were disenchanted with tummy time. I received the water pad / mat as a gift and it turned tummy time around for us. It is a non-messy sensory experience and the water is very soothing to babes.
When your baby is first born their retina isn’t fully developed and therefore their vision is also undeveloped. They see high contrast images better. Thats why high contrast books, like this one are a great choice for newborns and young babies.
6 to 12 Months
With a little one, I always felt like I never had enough bibs and socks. Socks always seem to disappear in the wash and between starting solids and the constant dribble of teething, I felt used bibs like they were going out of fashion!
Six to twelve months is a great time to start introducing spatial reasoning. This is an early math skill. Believe it or not, at six months, children begin to be curious about the relationship of objects’ size, distance, direction, and space. You’ll notice your little will try to stack objects which makes stacking rings, bowls, and cups an awesome toy. They’ll also start trying to fit objects inside another which is a great time to start introducing shape sorters. They’ll need your help with it for a while, but it’s a great time to introduce it. Additionally, babies enjoy feeling things with different textures, which is why sensory balls and toys make a great addition to your play area.
Ages 1 to 2 (12 to 24 months)
At about a year old, your child’s world becomes colorful! You’ll find they are now interested in objects that are bright in color. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a great book for learning animals, colors, and the noises they make all in one easy board book. My boys learned all their animal sounds with this book by 18 months.
You’ll also notice your little one loves bath time and this is actually another play time for her. This is where bath toys like squirters and stick-on-the wall pipes become super fun. I also used bath time as an opportunity to teach colors. I used color drops (below) and I would put toys that coordinated with that color (e.g. green water, green toys). Finger paints are great for both a sensory experience and learning colors. If you are worried about a mess, take it outside or you can do what I did – we did it in the bathtub! It’s easy to hose them down afterwards and the mess is contained. Palm crayons are awesome for kids of this age that might get frustrated with traditional crayons.
Also, your little one will be very interested in things that make noise like play phones and musical instruments. This is also a great time to read as your babies language is starting to develop at rapid speed. Board books are great at this age because they can’t destroy them.
Ages 2 to 3 (24-36 months)
Congratulations, you have a busy bee who wants to copy everything you do! This is a great age to start introducing play kitchens, household sets, play food, and other pretend toys are always loved items.
Kids love to play outside in the dirt. My son loved having his own little garden tool set where he could play in our garden bed. Kids of this age also are interested in fine motor activities which is an early writing skill. Fishing toys, lacing toys, dot markers, even wooden puzzles are great for this.
This is also a great time to work on the alphabet and counting. All kids are different, but my oldest was able to count to ten and knew his alphabet by 36 months.
Around this time, I started to introduce a rimmed sippy cup to my toddler to help transition him to a normal cup. Also the Munchkin snack catcher is one of favorites! It’s great for holding puffs, goldfish and other toddler snacks without crazy spills. Stuff can still fall out, but it certainly mitigates messes.
Ages 3 to 4
As you start approaching preschool age, fine motor activities will be a forerunner to writing. We loved using fine motor tools in our sensory bins.
Pattern blocks and counters are great teaching tools and it feels like play time to them. These are great for developing early math skills with patterns, shape, and color recognition. This is also a great time for them to start learning their name and a name puzzle is a great fun way to do that before learning to write it. Magnetic writing boards and mess free painting like Water Wow are fun pre-writing activities.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. Hopefully, it will take some of the headache out of Christmas shopping. Don’t forget to PIN this post for later. Also, be sure to take a look at how to make Christmas special with a Hot Chocolate Bar.