Family Holiday Tips and Traditions from PBS

| December 10, 2015

5 Meaningful Holiday Traditions for Kids

Parents often lose themselves amid the chaos of preparing for the holidays. All too often, the stress can stay with you long after the guests leave and the last new gift is put away. If you tend to equate the holidays with cursing traffic at the mall, why not take a new approach this year? Here are five things you can do to create meaningful traditions that your children will appreciate more than any stocking stuffer. Best of all: most of them are free.

  1. Write an annual letter to your child — On my preschool-aged son’s first birthday, I started a tradition of writing him a yearly letter filled with my observations as his mom, as well as my hopes for his future…
  2. Do a Secret Santa gift exchange for charity — This year, when you draw names to determine who’s buying for whom, turn the tables. Instead of buying a present, make a donation or spend time volunteering for a charity of the giftee’s choice…
  3. Make a family walk an annual event — Whether you have a houseful of in-laws visiting or it’s just you, your spouse, and your baby this holiday, walking is a great way to spend time with each other, let off steam, and work off those extra gingerbread cookies!…
  4. Leave a legacy that lasts (and helps the environment) — Each New Year’s Day, plant a tree in honor of your child(ren). Hold a special ceremony in which everyone in the family plays a part in planting that year’s tree, and take lots of pictures, both when the tree is planted and over the years as it grows…
  5. Take part in a community service project as a family — Designate a day that will be devoted to serving others in your community. Do some Web research to create a list of local options, then vote on the project you’ll complete as a family…

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7 Family Time and Learning Tips for the Holidays

Research shows that families who spend quality time together and connect activities at home to what children are learning in school have a stronger emotional bond and better communication—and the kids do better academically. The holiday season also provides great opportunities to expose children to new ideas and information, reinforce skills and knowledge, and encourage creativity, which supports their success in school. As you are shopping, baking and celebrating special traditions, here are some ideas to mix quality time with learning:

  1. Create a Budget — Encourage your kids to write a list of the people they want to buy gifts for. Then have them allocate a certain amount for each person on their list. While shopping for gifts, help your kids keep track of spending and their remaining budget.
  2. Cook Together — Include your children in meal prep and baking for holiday gatherings. It’s a great way to have fun and teach kids about cooking and nutrition. While you’re cooking, you can practice math and reading skills—and demonstrate cool science concepts through various cooking techniques.
  3. Make Holiday Greeting Cards and Gifts — Have your kids write holiday cards or letters to family and friends. It’s a great opportunity for children to practice their handwriting, as well as their grammar, spelling and creative writing skills. Also, making gifts at home is a way to encourage creativity.
  4. Explore Your City — When you feel a bit of cabin fever, plan a family outing. Many local parks and zoos feature light displays and other festivities to celebrate the season. You can also visit a local museum and historic sites, or see a play at a local theater.
  5. Play Games — Playing board and trivia games during holiday get-togethers is a good way to enjoy quality time together. Look for ideas online. There are a variety of games—for all ages—that are fun and educational as well.
  6. Enjoy the Great Outdoors — Play with your kids in the backyard or at a local park. If it snows, build a snowman or hit the slopes! You can find fun outdoor games that promote physical activity.
  7. And Read Every Day — Take your kids to the local library and borrow books to read over the winter break. And spend time reading together—it helps children develop their literacy skills and excel academically.

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