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A Simpler Holiday: 5 Shortcuts to Traditional Activities

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December 9, 2019

It’s the holiday season. Everywhere you look, there are snowflakes (real or decorative), red and green colors, and commercials of smiling children happily doing scenic activities. Let’s acknowledge the reality. Most parents are busy juggling a budget, end-of-the-year work, a schedule that includes more parties and school events than the rest of the year combined, and the hope that you can somehow make the season “magical” for the kids.  I am a self-proclaimed “traditions addict.” The need to create that theoretical holiday magic for my family feels relatively urgent to me. After 14 years, I’ve learned that the time doesn’t need to be packed with one thing after another. The kids enjoy themselves significantly more when I relax a bit, focus on what we actually enjoy, and keep it simple.

Here are 5 ways to focus on the fun and simplify traditional
holiday magic:

Celebration Stories

I have a good friend that celebrates Christmas by wrapping 25 books with festive wrapping paper and putting them in a basket. Each night of December, a child chooses a book for the family to read together. Doesn’t that sound lovely?! And impossible?!

You can replicate this sentiment with one of my favorite shortcut go-to’s, YouTube. Whatever holiday you celebrate during this season, you can find at least one read aloud video. I found a whole playlist called “Holiday Books” put together by Kristen Klinger. She has videos for Kwanza, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. A delightful blended book I discovered is Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe by Kids Book Read Aloud, in which one of Santa’s elves discovers the Jewish holiday and family traditions and decides to bring extra magic to the holiday!

Light Walk

One of my favorite traditions is to grab hot chocolate, either at home or at a convenience store if I’m really rushed, and head to a neighborhood with lights. Our family is suddenly transported into a festive wonderland and I don’t have to lift a finger! As an extra bonus, if we’re too tired, trying to kill time, or the weather doesn’t allow for walking, we just stay in the car and drive it.

Snow-less Snowballs

If you don’t have snow outside, or just really don’t feel like putting in all the work to go out in it, you can turn to the dry alternative. Find a hula hoop, glassless frame, or anything else that is empty in the middle. String tape, facing outward, from one side of the hoop, to the other. Repeat until the middle space is filled with many lines of tape. Hang the hoop. Give the kids a bag of cotton (snow)balls and have them try to hit the target. When the cotton balls hit the tape, they should stick!


There’s something about have complete creative control in a space that inspires us all. Kids love to be able to decorate their rooms. Grab a few extra strands of lights and some blue painters’ tape, then let the kids decorate however they’d like. The less adhesive tape will assure that you don’t have runaway pins or nails and won’t have damaged walls or furniture that can show up with some tapes. You can give them the enjoyment of a festive room and yourself a few minutes while they’re occupied.

Gingerbread Houses
and Sugar Cookies

Just thinking about gingerbread houses causes me to shiver! But, there’s not a Hallmark movie or commercial set that doesn’t highlight people with some sort of baked good and grins on their faces.  Take the sane mothers’ shortcut. Buy a disposable tablecloth and utensils, a few tubs of frosting, graham crackers, and a few decorative candies. Set the kids up with all of the options, remind yourself that this is all about what they want to do rather than end results, and let them create. In the end, whatever they want to keep goes in a container and the rest of the mess gets balled up with the tablecloth and thrown away. Meanwhile, I’d suggest the kids go into the bath! In my years of experimentation with baking, the biggest draw for younger ones is the creative process and, of course, the sugar. Sure the homemade cookies taste better, but how good will an empty sink and an extra few hours of time feel?

Let yourself off the hook this season. Your family can enjoy
so much without you giving up excessive energy, sleep, or time. Hopefully, that
means you can really enjoy as well!

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