The winter holidays – whether you celebrate St Nicholas Day, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, etc, can all easily become fixated on what the kids will get. These holidays have such a rich background and history beyond the gifts though. This year, I am putting in a lot more effort into avoiding the gifts, getting rid of the stress, and focusing on creating a loving, relaxed atmosphere in the home as we go through the month of December.
This year, we are avoiding the sterss, the chaos, and we are opting for a family building holiday season! I want to share some of our ideas for avoiding the materialism of this time of year with some fun alternatives! My goal for this time of year is to build our relationships, focus on memories and activities, rather than accumulating more things.
12+ Ideas for a Non-Gift Oriented Christmas
Instead of asking your kids to make lists, write letters to Santa, cut out toys from magazines, etc, focus on experiences together. Our tactic for Christmas and the holidays, in general, this year is to build our relationship with our children – connect, and refocus our expectations away from gifts and more towards being together and enjoying each other! You can do it, too!
I bet you’ve been there – overwhelmed by clutter, toys, and so much stuff! The thought of adding another truck worth of toys to your home during the holidays can be too much. Here are some ideas for holiday traditions that can take the focus away from the gifts and the stuff, and more towards reconnecting as a family!
Cook meals for the hungry
While the holidays may be a festive time for us, not everyone is as fortunate. There are so many people out there who wonder where their next meal will come from. The holiday season can be a time of giving – cook a delicious meal with your kids and give it to those in need.
Put together supply kits for homeless or deployed soldiers
Go shopping with your child to put together small kits of useful items for those in need – whether it’s soldiers, for homeless shelters, for domestic violence shelters, children’s hospitals, etc, putting together a small supply kit can really be a nice way to give to others.
You could put together basic necessities, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc that wouldn’t be expensive. These items could really help those who lack these things. There’s no need to get tons and tons, but small, useful things can go such a long way!
Instead of giving things, give experiences
Go ahead and do things together instead of giving gifts! Ask your children what they would like to do together and do that instead!
Make a family, holiday journal
Instead of keeping track of what you want to get, start a journal with your family for keeping track of your amazing holiday memories! Write down about that time you baked cookies together, about that time you built a gigantic snowman together, or that time you made Christmas slime and it went literally everrryyyywhere. Take silly photos and put them in there!
You can all take turns writing, photographing, and reflecting on your amazing memories!
Have a movie marathon
Family + Netflix Christmas movies + popcorn + Christmas jammies! What more do you need? Who am I kidding? I would definitely be enjoying tons of awesome Christmas cookies.
Don’t stop at a movie night, have a book reading marathon
Do the same as above, but read as many awesome Christmas books as you can together!
Declutter and donate together
Since we do tend to accumulate new things (which may be very useful, wonderful things) during this time of year, it probably makes sense to remove some of the things you do not need from your home first. Take some time to remove unused toys, broken materials, and extra clutter from your home. Do this together!
Yes, seriously, purge un-used toys with your kids. Don’t do it while they sleep. For me, this breaks trust and removes an opportunity to learn about giving from your children.
Talk to your children about how others may not have toys, and why one may want to donate old, unused materials to be loved by another child. Children really can have such huge hearts, but they need to understand the situation to process their own emotions. Talk to your child about why one would donate toys, ask them to choose a few, or use the Kon Mari approach with your child.
Regardless of how you do it, decluttering together can be a massive learning opportunity and an opportunity to bond. Don’t forget to purge your own things and involve your child in that process, too!
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Make Christmas Cards together
Crafting little cards with kids can get messy, but it can also be so much fun! Provide the supplies, but don’t focus on replicating a pinterest worthy craft. Convert your kitchen table into a Christmas Card making station, and make a bunch of cards as a family. Relax, grab your markers, glue, construction paper, and get crafting!
Have an ornament making party
Make some awesome homemade Christmas ornaments together! There are recipes for salt dough all over! You can use one of these to make handprint ornaments. You’ll even get some wonderful mementoes to look back on in later years!
Visit a nursing home
The elderly can get lonely, especially in nursing homes. This time of year may be a reminder of lost loved ones, of family living far away. It can be a great opportunity to do something nice for someone else and make a new friend by going to visit and volunteer at a nursing home!
Bake cookies together
Spending time in the kitchen is such a great way to connect. Baking Christmas cookies, filling the house with delicious smells of the holidays is just a great tradition!
Write poems for each other
This is a tradition my husband’s family does for Sinterklaas (St Nicholas Day). We write silly poems for each other! It can be hard to sit down and write some silly rhymes about someone else, but getting together and reading them all is so fun!
Donate to a charity, visit it together
Have your children pick a charity that you can donate to as a family. You can all visit it together, learn about their work, and maybe even start a relationship. Children in the second plane of development (6-12) are particularly sensitive to experiences such as these – they are trying to understand the way the world works around them and make sense of it all. Taking them to donate to charity, do volunteer work together, are perfect for this age group!
Spend a day crafting gifts for each other
Making something together or separately for each other really requires much thought and care! Put some love into a handmade gift! These can be very thoughtful, wonderful gift. Make a lovely smelling hand scrub with essential oils and sugar, make a tea set with loose leaf teas, bags, and labels, make a beautiful drawing from your child. These are simple ideas that you can do with your kids, even the youngest ones!
Learn about the religious aspect of your holiday
The holidays also have a strong religious role in many homes. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to explore your faith and teach your children about why you celebrate the holidays you celebrate. I am leaving this part open because I know many of you come from different faiths.Our home is one of different faiths and backgrounds so we do a mixture of many things.
Do something for someone else
As a family, you can help someone else. A grandmother who needs help cleaning? Go together and clean her house. Ask your neighbours how you can help them. Just get together and do something nice for another person together. Children learn best by following our lead and emulating our behaviour – this is just the time to show them the importance of helping others.
Get away from it all
Lastly, it may be a nice change of pace to just leave it all! Depending on your budget and your lifestyle, you could go out to eat, stay the night somewhere else (hotel, friends, family), go on a road trip, go to a ____ … well you get it. Simply changing how you spend the day whether it is Christmas day itself or one of the days leading up to it, simply doing something spontaneous and new can really give you a memorable experience.
Grab your own free printable poster
Need a reminder? Print this our free Christmas Ideas that Connect poster, frame it, and or check off the activities you do together with your family!
More Awesome Christmas Ideas
I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!