It’s that time of year … our family’s favorite time of year! We love Christmas!! The whole month of December is special to our family, and filled with special family traditions. Family traditions are so important to children. Children thrive on routine and a sense of belonging. Having these special moments helps us slow down and reconnect. They give us a moment to reflect on times past and to look forward to the future. They create a special bond that is specific to our family, and our children look forward to them every year, no matter how old they get.
Most of our holiday traditions include the senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch all help create an inviting environment. Young children especially learn so much through their senses, and there are so many fun creative ways you can teach your children through the holidays. One tradition we have is to read a holiday/Bible story every day from December 1-24 when we ready Jesus birth from the Bible. Before December 1st I individually wrap 24 special holiday books in wrapping paper and put them in a basket. Then each night, starting December 1st, our children pick one book to unwrap and read that evening. They look forward to this every year and so do I. Along with special stories, we also play holiday music throughout the month.
Another tradition includes going to the same Christmas Tree farm every year. We love exploring the farm, picking out the perfect tree, cutting it down, and then taking it home to decorate. The Tree Farm we go to also has an animal barn, hot cocoa, and a warm barn with a giant wood burning stove. I love the smell of crisp fresh air and the sharp scent of a fresh cut evergreen. When we are through decorating our tree, we always lie beneath it and look up through the branches at the lights. It might seem silly but we used to do that when I was a kid, and my children enjoy it too.
We love baking and decorating cookies as a family. We do this every year with all of my siblings, nieces, and nephews. Then we fill decorative bags and take them around to the neighbors! The kids love sharing the cookies they made and seeing the smiles on our neighbors’ faces. We bake all different kinds of cookies and have them at our family Christmas every year.
Along with family traditions, there are a ton of creative learning ideas that are holiday themed! I made Christmas-themed file folder games when my older children were little. They still love to do these simple matching games, and my toddler is now learning her colors and patterns while having fun. Sensory tubs are an excellent method of exploration for toddlers also. During the month of December, it is fun to put together winter-themed sensory tubs. Some ideas can include a tub with pinecones, evergreen branches, fresh cranberries, Christmas ornament balls, fake snow, etc. You can make homemade playdough scented with essential oils like cinnamon, clove, and Douglas fir. Pair this with elements from nature, and it creates a wonderful sensory experience for your children.
The holidays create a perfect time to focus on the birth of Jesus. This year my older children are working on memorizing the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. Younger children can listen to or read stories of His birth. You can do a special Advent Calendar or Jesse Tree. We enjoy attending a live Nativity or a special holiday concert. Every year we also try to give to those who are in need. We love participating in Operation Christmas Child through Samaratin’s Purse: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/. My children love picking out special items for a child in need, wrapping the box up, and delivering it to the drop-off location. Then they get notifications by email as to where their boxes are being sent. We also try to volunteer in a soup kitchen or pick from a giving tree.
This is a wonderful time of year, and there are so many special things you can do as a family. What are some of your traditions?