For the month of December, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Pancha Ganapti, Boxing Day, Bodhi Day or some other winter celebration, here are ten things you can do to teach your children the true meaning of the holidays and celebrate with them.
BAKE HOLIDAY COOKIES FROM SCRATCH AND DECORATE THEM. A quick search on the Web can dig up all sorts of holiday cookie recipes. Avoid the “easy cookie kits” and allow your child to help you make them from an old-fashioned recipe and decorate them with your holiday’s symbols.
CONSTRUCT A UNIQUE ADVENT CALENDAR YOUR CHILDREN WILL LOVE. Children (and teens!) love to open each window of an advent calendar and some can be costly. Hang 24 tiny bags from a garland stretched across a doorway, each containing a small prize or a note hinting at a place hidden somewhere in the house. (see our article on Christmas Crafts for the Whole Family)
HOLIDAY CARDS WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S HAND PRINT. Their hands are only going to be small for a short time. Use nontoxic finger paints to allow them to decorate homemade holiday greeting cards and encourage them to use only palm, finger and thumb prints. They will create memorable keepsakes relatives will hang on to for many holidays to come.
DECORATE YOUR HOLIDAY’S CENTER WITH YOUR CHILD. Some families have a Christmas tree, candle center piece or tabletop decorated with precision. Consider setting your perfection aside and allowing your children to participate in its decoration or creation. Including your children in decorating will make the holiday remarkable for them for years to come.
READ TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY STORIES. Story telling is an oral tradition that dates back to ancient times. Recreate this lost art by reading or telling the traditional stories of the holidays of your heritage or of your family.
CULL OUT AND DONATE TOYS. Keeping bedrooms and playrooms organized can be stressful for parents, so decide to reduce the amount of toys you would normally hide under the tree at Christmas or give to your children on January 1st for Kwanzaa. Lead an activity with your children before the holidays to thin out the toys they do have by encouraging them to donate some of their existing toys to a charitable organization that accepts gently used toys for those in need.
ADOPT A CHILD NEEDING A GIFT. Many organizations collect requests from low-income parents who are unable to provide gifts for their children for the holidays. They then present these requests (sometimes called the “Family Giving Tree”) at their place of business to allow adults or families to “adopt” a child and purchase an unwrapped gift for them. Have your family adopt one of these children and shop with your children for that adopted child. (You can help by adopting a TrashCanKidz doll, a percentage of the funds go to aiding street children in South Africa or by purchasing a Brain Boosters education set for a child in need)
SING HOLIDAY CELEBRATION SONGS AT AN ELDER-CARE FACILITY. There are many elderly adults who reside at elder care facilities who do not have family to spend the holiday with. Consider visiting such a facility to spread holiday cheer or sing carols or other songs to bring the holiday to them.
VOLUNTEER AT A SOUP KITCHEN OR FOOD DONATION CENTER. Nothing teaches children empathy around the holidays more than leading them in some sort of service or act of kindness for those less fortunate. Seek out your local soup kitchen or other such facility and volunteer to serve others.
BRING A PREPARED MEAL TO AN ELDERLY NEIGHBOUR. If you look around your own neighborhood, you may have an elderly person living on their own who gets few visitors. Have your children participate in preparing a meal and delivering it and serving them in person. We led our children doing such a thing and the act left a lasting memory for all 3 of our children.