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Happy Holidays!

5 Meaningful Holiday Traditions for Kids

familywalkingParents often lose themselves amid the chaos of preparing for the holidays. All too often, the stress can stay with you long after the guests leave and the last new gift is put away.

If you tend to equate the holidays with cursing traffic at the mall, why not take a new approach this year? Here are five things you can do to create meaningful traditions that your children will appreciate more than any stocking stuffer. Best of all: most of them are free.

1) Write an annual letter to your child.

On my preschool-aged son’s first birthday, I started a tradition of writing him a yearly letter filled with my observations as his mom, as well as my hopes for his future. The holidays are an equally appropriate time to mark your child’s growth with a special message that will be cherished for a lifetime. I’ve sealed my son’s letters and stored them in a keepsake box until he’s old enough to read and enjoy them.

2) Do a Secret Santa gift exchange for charity.

This year, when you draw names to determine who’s buying for whom, turn the tables. Instead of buying a present, make a donation or spend time volunteering for a charity of the giftee’s choice.

Find activities suitable for the youngest members of your family so everyone can get into the spirit of serving. Tricia Puskar, associate director of outreach at Save the Children, says there are lots of “creative, tangible” ways for young children to support a charity. Her organization teaches kids to how to knit caps for premature babies in developing countries with limited access to incubators.

Provide context for your children with age-appropriate messages about why helping others is important. For example, “Tell your child that babies are born every day who don’t have access to a warm hat or other simple things that can give them a healthy start in life,” Puskar says.

3) Make a family walk an annual event.

Whether you have a houseful of in-laws visiting or it’s just you, your spouse, and your baby this holiday, walking is a great way to spend time with each other, let off steam, and work off those extra gingerbread cookies! Set aside time — even if it’s 30 minutes — to get outside and stretch your legs with the family.

“Getting kids connected with their senses is important,” adds Anne Glick, wildlife viewing section leader at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who says that taking a family walk helps young children “appreciate the sights, smells and sounds” of nature.

Before you go out, make a scavenger hunt-like list of tasks for your kids, Glick suggests. “Kids can listen for different bird sounds, feel the differences in texture of leaves, or trace the patterns of tree bark on a piece of paper.”

4) Leave a legacy that lasts (and helps the environment).

Each New Year’s Day, plant a tree in honor of your child(ren). Hold a special ceremony in which everyone in the family plays a part in planting that year’s tree, and take lots of pictures, both when the tree is planted and over the years as it grows.

There are tangible benefits to “encouraging a connection to trees,” says Frank Lowenstein, climate adaptation strategy leader at The Nature Conservancy.

“Research shows that kids who spend time outdoors grow up healthier, happier, and smarter than kids who don’t,” Lowenstein says. “[And] over 90 percent of Americans agree that trees are important to the character and quality of life of their community.”

5) Take part in a community service project as a family.

Designate a day that will be devoted to serving others in your community. Do some Web research to create a list of local options, then vote on the project you’ll complete as a family.

Lots of unique volunteering opportunities exist for families, says Paul Gilbertson, founder of, which supplies first responders with backpacks of books to give to children at the scene of an accident, fire, or other traumatic incident.

“One of the most inspiring things I see … is when young kids — Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, students — call us about putting books in the backpacks,” Gilbertson says, recalling a 7-year-old boy who asked for donations to the organization instead of birthday presents.

Whatever traditions you and your family create this year, remember to relax and have fun! Rest assured that your kids will remember the memories you make together more than any Barbie or Nintendo game they receive. And the lessons you teach them about giving back will last a lifetime.

  • Leslie

    I have appreciated Home Learning Year By Year by Rebecca Rupp.
    It helped me see that all the learning I wanted to accomplish could be acquired through the library,  especially the first few years.
    Since then I have found a lot of good, engaging curriculum from reading the reviews in homeschool curriculum catalogs like Rainbow Resource and Timberdoodle.  They usually comment on how much Christian content there is and many other aspects that are so helpful.  When the RR catalog comes out in the summer time I usually take it along to the beach with a highlighter.
    It’s huge so don’t get to overwhelmed.  Hopefully you have an idea of what you are looking for and you can start there.  You surely don’t want to read the whole thing cover to cover as all of it won’t apply to your child.
    Good success with your research. 
    Oh yah, you may also want to see if there is a homeschool association email loop or something in your area.  Other homeschoolers are a great source of info and what’s been tried and worked or not.

  • Rodriguezcalcoah

    As challenging as it may sometimes be, all the invested time with your child is worth it’s while.  It’s a brush up for myself as the coach; and as the parent, I have the opportunity to decide what curriculum dedicate more time and which to bird’s eye view–referring to teachings that are not according to Scripture.  CAVA–California Virtual Academy has a very good, hard core subject curriculum.  Yes, it’s free.  They provide a computer and printer and reimbursement for ink and internet, after each semester.     

  • Suzi13

    Great ideas…thanks!

  • Carisa Marie05

    These are very interesting. And wonderful to do with your childeren. I want my whole family to be active and for all of us to eat healthy. I want to do things as a family so we can all stay in shape and eaa healthy

  • Sv_yesenia

    great ideas, they love dancing and playing in the fort

  • Nisha1988

    I like these ideas they helped alot

  • gonzlucy

    It is interesting how much a child enjoys the basic things in life. Example, something as easy as hide and seek is a whole imaginary world for them.. ;.)

  • Jennifer

    I enjoy learning new things and ideas to help my child to be more active then sitting around playing games or watching tv.

  • Mayguti88

    great ideas…. very helpful

  • Amezquita_sara

    my son loves doing all these thing already. he is very eager to help mommy out with luandry and  other things around the house.he is alway a like ball of energy.we keep each other active.

  • 7-month-old’s Momma

    My baby is 7 months old and she loves to stand up (with me holding her hands) while watching “Cat in the Hat” and bounce with the theme song!  She also likes to walk around tables and things while holding on.  She’s a FAST crawler and loves to explore “hidden” areas like underneath the coffee table.  We put some of her toys in different hiding spots around the house so that exploring is safe and fun!

  • Mstsdolphindream

    this is wonderfully informational

  • leah

    my daughter is 2 &1/2 and an hour after she “helped” me fold the laundry she said, “I need to fold laundry!”.  That lit me up inside.  I can’t wait to have a little helper around the house.  Cute!

  • Gabehoogenboom

    my son who is 4, does not like toys at all. never has. we do, thankfully, have a treadmill, and during these winter months, as he is so very hyper, i have found he loves to go on the treadmill, burn off his energy while getting good exercise! and we put fun music on too :)

  • Tori Orgill

    great tips on keeping kids active. 

  • Jkmatek

    my son loves bath time i love the idea of washing his toys in the tub-thx!

  • Granny_dee1

    There are some things in here that I didn’t think of, thank you.



  • Varsityplaya_24

    My Little boy just turned 1 and loves to sweep, doesn’t matter where he is could be kitchen or the carpet in the living room.

  • Gotoexpert

    My husband exercises at home instead of the gym and our 3 yr old son imitates him so he wants to do push ups, jumping jacks and sit ups every morning before he has breakfast.

  • Fsdjeffreyford

    very interesting topics

  • Carlss13

    my 2 1/2 year old loves to pick strawberries from our garden

  • Damettria_lg

    My 20 month old son loves to dance to his nursery ryme cd. I love the idea of giving toys a bath I’m sure he will love that one since he loves the water.

  • Mich0779

    doing chores together is a great idea. i love the extra help and my kids feel involved. even my one year old likes to “help” do laundry with me!!

  • Mafunda84

    my son doesnt like to watch TV. he just wants to go outside and explore with his dad.

  • Sweetpea1033

    my son loves to help me wash the car!

  • Mam7

    She loves to ride her bike

  • Clara Wilhite

    My son is 2 and he is very active and always on the go. He loves to play inside and outdoors. We sing and dance, we jump and run, we play while he is in the tub. He is very limited when it comes to tv time and keeping him on a schedule really helps.

  • Linkonpark24

    My kid loves to do these things. Sometimes I think I need more energy to keep up!

  • Afadwan

    i take my twins almost every day to the park and twic a day swimming plus dancing with my oldest ..

  • Amowry

    All great tips. To find other great tips and follow a family dedicated to sharing recreational outdoor activities to help keep kids active check out the following blog.

  • Tambam

    My 4 yr old loves to dance, so weither its just to the radio, my Zumba music or the Wii game…we always have fun with excersize!!

  • Sarahmcintyre79

    Being active is extremely inportant to my 3 yr old.  We have access to a playset and large yard so sitting down to watch tv is a bedtime thing….

  • Ajenkins1985

    My son and daughter love to help around the house. they both love to be outside to. they are 5 and 3 and they are very active. I feel very blessed to have active children till bedtime

  • Malmanfmly

    Love all the ideas, always great when kids help out with chores, makes them feal like they are big kiods as well.

  • Ciera Mcquay

    My daughter is 3 1/2 and loves to help around the house with chorse. She loves sweeping and folding clothes. After all her help we jump together on the trampoling.  She loves the out doors and so do I, it’s a great haveing kids involved in activities that we enjoy as well. Most commen out door activities which we do together are hiking and swimming.

  • g47

    Jillian my daughter amazes me everyday. walking at 9 mo she can throw a ball , keep a tune. fully understands how to use the vcr dvd tv so she watches a movie when she wants to. clime over anything , get to almost anything, not so good. she really keeps me on my toes. she makes hot apple cider in our kurig machine. when i yell STOP DANGER she stops and looks at me waiting for me to instruct her. she helps her mom with house work. she enjoys helping sooooo much it really does make her feel important and like a part of the family instead of in the way. We love her soooooo much. truly blessed. she is now 2yr 2mo

  • gmg

    My baby girl is so active she keeps me on the go. We do all kinds of fun things indoors and outdoors. Her favorite thing to do is singing in the shower.

  • melissa

    i love the tv limit because i find my self letting my daughter watch tv for a hour.

  • Cherry Grace Diaz

    I love the BJU book and their teaching videos offered by a local school in our country, especially because they are Bible-based. Sorry if this is offensive to non-Christians, no offense meant. :) peace!

    • Cherry Grace Diaz

      I meant the Bob Jones University Press books (BJU) :)

      • Cherry Grace Diaz

        My kids love them too! <3

  • Elena

    I make exercise fun for them like dancing or playing ball.

  • Holly

    We try to get outside and run around. My son loves to go to the park or on rainy days even run around the mall. He is VERY active, so he really needs to get out. Also, it’s good for me because it encourages me to exercise a little bit!heheh:)

  • Veronica

    My son is 2 1/2 and if its hot outside I put music videos on for him and he loves to sing and dance. Or we work on puzzles, just to try and limit his TV.

  • Catalina

    We do yoga twice a day in my house and I have two toddler boys. We finally bought a yoga mat and cut it in half so they could both have one!! =] THEY LOVE IT!!!!

  • Roberta Radcliffe

    I remember the Spice Girls when I was a girl. Nobody’s Angel is one of my favorite singing groups. I also like the Spice Girls. My coyote/Dalmatian cut-out likes the Spice Girls. My coyote/Dalmatian cut-out is four days old. My mouse/elephant cut-out is also four days old. My mouse/elephant cut-out also likes the Spice Girls. I would like a “Spectrum Phonics grade 2″ workbook for Christmas. I was in second grade during the 1995-1996 school year.

  • Jenuinearticle

    What about having the kids help write out or decorate the Christmas cards? Or how about going and cutting down your own tree? Spending a couple of evenings driving around looking at Christmas lights? Going out caroling, either as a family or with a church group? I’m all for the humanitarian things listed but do some things that are sloooower and take time…but are done together…as a family.

  • Rodriguezcalcoah

    Try CAVA–California Virtual Academy.  They provide all the curriculum, a computer and printer and reimbursement for ink and internet after each semester.  Yes, it’s free.

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