Holidaze Without the Craze

Once you have kids, every holiday takes on this feeling of magic – the likes of which you haven’t experienced in the last, say, 25 years. Carols! Cookies! Trips to meet Santa! Sleigh rides! Christmas movie marathons! Tree lightings! It can be so tempting to indulge our kids with every form of merriment, all packed into one very short month. But as we all know as parents, our kids have tipping points. Too much fast-paced festivity starts to feel less like fun and more like frenzy for us all. In an effort to avoid over-stimulation (without sacrificing any of those dazzling holiday feelings), here are a few ideas for slowing things down this season.

● Create​ ​a​ ​Cozy​ ​Christmas​ ​Corner My own mom deserves all the credit for this idea: during the Christmas season, she would set up a tucked away corner of our living room where we could go to relax. Along with some comfy cushions, she would stock it with holiday motif blankets she pulled out only in December, Christmas books, and Rudolph, Santa, and snowmen stuffed toys. As a kid, it feels so special to cozy up in a spot where you can imagine your own Christmas magic.

● Set​ ​up​ ​a​ ​Snow​ ​Watching​ ​Station Watching the snow falling to the ground is just about the most relaxing activity there is. To build a little ceremony around it, set up a stool or a chair in front of a window that is a designated place for your kids to sit and observe. You can outfit it with a fuzzy fleece blanket to snuggle up in or even a pair of binoculars. Whenever the snow begins to spit, your little one can take their perch to watch the new flakes fall.

● Take​ ​a​ ​Leisurely​ ​Lights​ ​Stroll This is another one taken from my own childhood; it was a yearly tradition to take a trip around the neighborhood just to admire the decorations (it is just as effective driving slowly in a car, if that suits you better.) If you’d rather take a walk during the day, you can go on a decoration scavenger hunt, noting all the reindeer, snowmen, or Santas you discover. The idea is just to pay attention to how our environment changes in small ways to help us embrace the simple joys of the season.

● Listen​ ​to​ ​Stories Reading Christmas books together is fantastic, but listening to just an audio version of them is a fun alternative. You can download them to your computer or phone, or you can even record your own voice (or the voice of a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, etc.) reading a book for an even more personal connection. My grandmother recorded herself reading a book as a gift for my son, and to this day I swear he equates her voice exclusively with “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

● Practice​ ​a​ ​Merry​ ​Mini​ ​Meditation There are a bunch of simple formats for meditations that focus on the senses, and these are perfect for fully experiencing the wonders of all things holiday. The basic idea is that you take a minute to recognize one thing you hear, one thing you feel, one thing you see, and one thing you smell (you can add in taste if you’re doing something edible!) So for example, you could practice this while enjoying a simple gingerbread man cookie. Or, you could even use it while you’re walking through the mall on an errand – it’s a way to slow down and appreciate those elements that are so special to holiday time.

● The​ ​Old​ ​Christmas​ ​Classic This activity, no doubt, holds a special place in the memories of many of us. It continues to be one of the most magical, simple, and relaxing ways to slow our world down during an otherwise chaotic time: turn the house lights off, switch the Christmas lights on, lie under the tree, and just look up.