It is not even December yet and I am already a bit over Christmas. Not because I don’t like Christmas (that used to be the case before I had kids of my own) but because I have already a few weeks behind me of trying to explain to my almost 4-year old that Santa is not coming for another 5 weeks, and that is why her Christmas stocking is still empty. Against my better judgement, but to the kids’ delight, we put up our tree already mid-November. I guess that is where the confusion started, but it was either that or argue every single day over the fact that our house looked like the Grinch’s lair while the shops looked like winter wonderlands. So we put up the tree and some decorations. A1 then told me they were not enough, so I made more and put that up. Still not enough. Going to make more, soon. If the Christmas spirit doesn’t get the better of me.
I know the post title seems a bit misleading – why would I write a post about getting kids excited about Christmas while mine clearly already read the manual? Because I have failed with a few key points, and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as I did. In short, society got her excited about the glitz and glamour and I forgot to teach her the real reasons behind the event. She is only 3, you might say. You still have a lot of time. Yeah, not really. Kids are impressionable but unfortunately also very determined. We have started with the fun part of Christmas, and I am scared that will trump the more serious things. Luckily we have another chance – and this year I am taking it.
Getting your kids in on the Christmas spirit is great.
They are amazing reminders of the wonder, joy and magic of Christmas. Here is how to ensure your little one understands the reason for Christmas, and enjoy it to the max at the same time:
- Remember the real reason – put Christ back in Christmas
Yes, it is wonderful to spend the holidays doing things we love, spending time with friends and family, getting gifts. But we must teach our kids that Christmas is about much more than merriment. It is about salvation and grace and love. Religion is important, and it further teaches our kids to be respectful, sincere and forgiving. Better people all in all. Of course, there are fun ways of keeping Christ centred in your celebrations.
- Limit the gifts your kids receive
This ties in with the first point. Because we have already received the biggest gift, Christmas is not about piles of presents. Giving is wonderful, and it has a way of blessing the giver, but that should not be the main focus. Teach your kids to give without hesitation, and to accept graciously. Also teach and encourage them to give to strangers, the needy, and the elderly, anyone who needs it. A gift also doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical thing – it can be quality time or an activity, anything that will create a special memory. Kids also do not need that many toys, and gifts invariably end up as being toys. A great idea is to implement the Four Gift Rule where you only give 4 gifts – one gift you want, one gift you need, one gift to wear, and one gift to read.
- Emphasize family time
Usually, the year speeds by with little time to spend quality time with our loved ones (thank you lockdown for giving us unprecedented uninterrupted time). Christmas is a wonderful time to get them all together and show them how much they mean to you. This is also a great way of underscoring Biblical principles of loving thy neighbour, taking care of other people and loving yourself enough to allow yourself some downtime.
- Start your own traditions
The easiest way to keep the true meaning of Christmas in Christmas is to force the world out. Decide what is important to you and your family, and work out a way of creating traditions that will celebrate this. Love spending time outdoors? Start a tradition of watching the stars every night. Love reading? Read the Christmas story every night. Love cooking? Bake cookies and other treats. You get the just of it.
Read all about our new family traditions.
- Stop emphasizing the food
I see this happening year after year. We start looking forward to December from about mid-Jul, because we focus on all the treats and snacks and all the gourmet food. How often do you hear the words “you need to starve yourself so that you have enough space for the feast”. What utter nonsense! Christmas is about more than the food, and even then, we should not teach our kids to associate it merely with what they get to eat and then stuff themselves at that! Healthy habits should prevail, even in the festive season.
- Balance hype with peace and quiet
For everybody, but especially smaller kids, the festive season can be overwhelming. The entire season is known for excitement, but you need to remember that smaller kids do not yet have the coping skills to bring themselves down after being psyched up. To counter this, schedule lots of downtime in between the fun activities. Downtime can be anything from reading a book to watching a movie, doing some crafting on their own or playing softly by themselves.
- Special does not mean perfect – lower their expectations
We are bringing up perfectionists. There is no middle ground, things are either perfect or it’s a no-go. Try to teach kids that Christmas is about more than a perfect tree and sparkling decorations, it is about spending time together, finding joy in every day and laughing at things that go wrong (like the time your gingerbread house looked like a hurricane hit it…)
- Don’t deviate too much from your routine, and keep some structure
This is one of my best tips! The kids must be able to enjoy the holidays, which they cannot do if they are tired or hungry or overstimulated or bored. Kids want structure, and they crave routine. Keep them in theirs, as far as possible. It will keep them calm and hopefully friendly, and will also make it easier to go back to “normal” come January.
- Be fully present – put away that phone!
Again, stressing the importance of teaching your kids that Christmas is about family. Connecting with the people you love the most. And you cannot connect if you are behind a screen. That also includes taking photos of every single moment. Rather be present and take photos of a few pre-decided activities.
Here are a few things you can do to instil the magic of Christmas in your little one:
- Count down the days
Make an advent calendar to help them visualise how many days are left before Christmas day. There are various ideas out there, and if you would like to make one yourself, there are cost affordable and easy-to-craft ideas everywhere.
See my Pinterest board full of Christmas ideas and inspiration here
- Decorate your house and garden
Go further than the tree, but try to not spend money. Get the kids to help you make decorations, and reuse things from last year. If you want to put Christ back in Christmas, you can do fun things like Biblical printables that the kids can colour in, making a nativity scene, and working through the Bible verses talking about the birth of Jesus.
Read read read. From Bible stories to books taking a more commercial spin, kids love being read to or reading to themselves. This is a wonderful way of introducing younger kids to Christmas.
- Go see the lights
Take the kids out to see the fairy lights. In SA there are various streets and organisations that put on a light show for Christmas. You can double up on this – some children’s homes or other charity organisations put on light shows for Christmas. Taking your kids teaches them to give to others, while appreciating the beauty and wonder.
- Write to Santa
Let the kids write to Santa, and then maybe Santa will write back…
- Get baking
We started a tradition of making our family’s Christmas gifts, and the kids help. They help to bake and decorate, and they love every moment of it. Plus it is a special tradition that they will hopefully continue one day with their own kids.
- Make your own decorations
From popcorn strings to cookies that you can hang on the tree. You can also make snowflakes from toilet paper rolls, ornaments from paper-mâché, and more. Get the kids involved, and date each ornament they make. This way they have a history of Christmases to look back on.
There you go, my ways of getting the kids excited about Christmas, for the right reasons, as well as how to help them get through the festive season in the best way possible. Please let me know if you tried any of these tips or ideas, or let me know which ones you would like to add!
I hope the festive season is exactly that for you, festive.