During the holidays, we like to find ways to give back to our communities. But sometimes, that can be hard to include the kids. Other than an angel tree or a toy drive, how can you get the kids involved in the generosity of the season? Our mommy blogger Stephanie has some great, and easy, ideas.
It’s the holiday season! (Which has been obvious since September when the stores started stocking garland.) Along with that, our children started making lists and checking them twice, and commercials this year seemed to be geared right at my little ones interests. It seems to me, their desire to secure the latest and greatest gadget is growing with age.
But instead of just buying into commercials (and commercialism), I want to instill traditions in our household that involve giving back. Although toy drives and angel trees have been our go-to choices in the past, this year I complied a few ideas that are a little different and take little planning or financial commitment to complete.
In the age of bigger, better, faster and more, I hope my children remember the true reason for the season—and it isn’t found in stores.
Pack Food as Your Next Holiday Play Date
The Christmas holiday always equates to a break from school, which means two things: You have extra time at home with your kids, and you will need to schedule some playdates ASAP. Additionally, thousands of North Texas residents are without meals. So let’s put all this together.
The women’s group I’m a part of just had a playdate at our favorite mommy playground—Target. We gathered a list of requested foods from a local DFW nonprofit and turned it into a scavenger hunt for the kiddos. They had a blast locating the items and it was an easy way to give back while engaging their young minds.
To take it a step further, organizations such as Lovepacs, who serve children in need, host boxing events where you can bring your kids to help put together meals for those who are without.
Clean Out the Toy Room
I told my children that Santa’s sleigh only stops at our house this year if there’s room on the shelves, and I’ve never seen them move so fast.
We all have extra items that we’ve hung onto for too long, so take an afternoon and have your children sort through the playroom with you. I know it’s easier to part with things while they’re asleep or at school, but have them play an active role while you explain the why. Donation centers like Frisco Resale or churches and shelters will happily welcome anything you’ve outgrown.
Cookie Decorating and Caroling at a Retirement Home
This is one of my favorite traditions because it feels less like volunteering and more like being given a true gift.
Singing carols and decorating cookies at a retirement center will make you feel the spirit of Christmas again. Many residents don’t have any family nearby, and they are so appreciative to see our youth.
This is a great option for all ages as well. I took my children as young as six months and two years old, so it’s a great way to engage and volunteer even if you have little ones who don’t quite understand yet.
Write Christmas Cards for Community Helpers
As a former nurse who worked the nightshift for a decade, I know firsthand what it feels like to miss holidays with your family. Nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers, even movie theater attendants are foregoing family time to keep our community strong. Have your children make a card for those who would love to feel the Christmas spirit, even while at work.
Even better: Send some love to the pediatric unit for patients who can’t make it home this year. Making these cards gives your kids a fun and creative outlet that will end up truly brightening a person’s day.
Send a Two-Minute Email
This one is for parents and children alike.
Shawn Achor, a leading researcher on happiness, claims that the best thing we can do for our children, and ourselves is to adopt “happiness habits.” Much like brushing our teeth for two minutes makes us feel healthier and happier, Achor claims that sending a two-minute email or text praising or thanking a different person you know for twenty-one days has shown to increase social connection and support.
What better practice leading up to Christmas, or even as a New Year’s Resolution, than to acknowledge the people around us? Help your children draft an email or write a letter (2–3 sentences is sufficient, Achor says), and reap the benefits of giving back simply by thanking others. (You can listen to his podcast here.)
Stephanie Hanrahan was just your seemingly average housewife until she grew tired of pretending and took an axe to her white picket fence (also known as making her private journal public). Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she chronicles her journey as wife to a husband with chronic illness, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again.
Images courtesy of Stephanie Hanrahan.