Getting Ready for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is done, and the weather is getting colder. Twinkling lights are popping up around town. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

First let me say that you don’t need to celebrate Christmas to still enjoy many of the things in this post. Holiday light displays and handmade decorations are great no matter what you celebrate! The important thing is to spend time with your family and have fun!

LIGHT DISPLAYS

It wouldn’t be the holidays without brilliant light displays. Simple decorations or over-the-top light explosions, seeing those pops of color and light on a dark night just makes everything cheery. Never underestimate a drive or walk around the block – or further! The closer we get to Christmas, the more homes will display their cheer.

To drive or walk through a larger, more elaborate display, you have plenty of options. Here are a couple of free ones to check out:

Free events incorporating light are around, as well. Here are a couple:

Check with your town to see if they are offering a tree lighting event or other holiday activities. For more holiday events, be sure to check out the events calendar on the website.

DECORATIONS

Holiday decorations don’t just consist of lights. Trees, wreaths, ornaments, candles, and so much more can make your home feel festive and fun. And with a few supplies you already have at home, chances are you can make your own festive decorations. Here are some project ideas:

  • What do you have lying around? Maybe some cardboard boxes, foam packing pieces, random paint or tape? Use this post for inspiration to create over-sized decor using whatever you have on hand: Giant Candy Garland
  • Whip up a batch of salt dough to create ornaments to hang on your tree or around your home. (A few optional ingredients will even make it smell like Christmas!): Salt Dough Ornaments
  • Have some craft sticks floating around? Turn them into giant snowflakes: Popsicle Stick Snowflakes
  • This garland uses coffee filters – and even used ones are OK! Coffee Filter Garland
  • How about this wreath made from cardboard tubes? Honeycomb Wreath
  • Do you keep cards you’ve received in the past? Or have this year’s cards started coming in? Turn them into a tree for your wall: Holiday Card Tree
  • This article has tons of ideas that kids can make. Take a peek, see what you have at home, and create to your heart’s content: 50 Easy Christmas Crafts for Kids

Need more ideas? Do a quick Google search for “DIY holiday decorations,” and you’ll get plenty of options to choose from. Add “kids can make” to the end of that for lots of great craft ideas to keep kids busy, too.

GIFTS

It’s hard to think Christmas without thinking about presents. Stores are filled with shoppers trying to get their fill! But you don’t have to spend much, if anything, to give a thoughtful, meaningful, and appreciated gift. In next week’s post I will be putting together a roundup of many projects you can make and give this holiday season. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

Stay tuned for lots more ideas! And happy holidays!

A Little Thanksgiving Fun

Thanksgiving is a great time to express gratitude and get together with family and friends. It’s also a great opportunity to have fun!

Depending on when your family eats the big meal, you may find yourself with spare time together, either before or after. Football and the parade are popular entertainment choices, but they are certainly not the only ones. Check out these games and activities to have a little fun with your family this Thanksgiving.

FUN AT THE TABLE

Waiting for the turkey to be done? Here are some simple activities that can be done right at the dinner table.

ACTIVE GAMES

Work off the big meal with a little active fun!

OTHER GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

Looking for more ideas? Check these out!

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy the time with your family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Grateful for Gratitude

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, now is the perfect time to express and share gratitude for all we have!

It’s always a good time to express gratitude, and everything I’ve read indicates that it’s really good for you, too! This time of year, however, we all seem to be more in the mindset to appreciate what we have. Here are some ideas to share this mindset with your children – and make it a little more fun in the process!

SHOW YOUR THANKS

Turning the things you’re thankful for into home decor is not only fun; it also keeps them front and center, so you’re reminded of them every time you walk by. Two of my favorite projects are gratitude chains and thankful pumpkins.

A gratitude chain is a super simple project that just requires some construction paper, a marker, and tape or a stapler. Write what you’re thankful for on strips of paper, then link them together to make a chain. This is a great activity for Thanksgiving day, if you have guests coming over. Give each guest a small stack of paper strips and have them add on to the decorative chain. Then you can hang up the chain, and all the guests will be reminded of all they have to be grateful for. Not getting together with a large group of people? That’s OK! You can still do this with just your immediate family, on Thanksgiving or anytime.

There are actually two types of thankful pumpkin activities. If you have a spare pumpkin lying around (leftover from Halloween, perhaps?), you’ll just need a permanent marker to turn it into a festive decoration. Here are the instructions. The other project is more of a craft, and it requires orange and green construction paper, a marker, and tape. It’s similar to the gratitude chain, but you’re turning your strips of paper into a pumpkin, instead. You can find instructions for the second project here.

What are some other ways you can showcase your gratitude?

EXPRESS YOUR THANKS

While it is great to be grateful for all we have, it’s also important to be grateful for who we have. Let people in your life know you’re grateful for them by expressing your gratitude. There are infinite ways of doing this, including saying it and showing it with hugs and smiles. But it doesn’t have to end there.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we could also see signs posted in many places to say “thank you” to essential workers, teachers, and healthcare workers. Signs are still a great option. To make it more personal, try making a card and sending it to someone you appreciate. Leave little notes where they can find it (especially if they’ll find it at unexpected times!), such as in a coat pocket, wallet, or stuck to a bathroom mirror on a sticky note. You can also get more high tech with a personal video, or by sending an e-card.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, though, to get the message across. The more heartfelt, the more appreciated the expression will be.

PRACTICE THANKS

One time declarations of gratitude are great, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Express your gratitude every day by incorporating it into your life. Say “thank you” to those who help, guide, and inspire. Take some time at the beginning of family dinners to discuss what you’re grateful for that day. Create a gratitude journal and take a moment each day to write down what you’re thankful for (this is also a great way for kids to practice writing!).

For more ideas on how to express gratitude – and make it fun and interesting for kids – check out these sites:

How does your family express gratitude?

Giving Back

This time of year, especially, it seems people are looking for ways to give back. Whether it’s volunteering or donating, or just spreading some cheer, sharing kindness can be a fun and fulfilling family activity.

There is no shortage of food drives happening right now, and gift drives will be starting before we know it. Blessing bags are another idea for donating. If you have extra to give, by all means contribute. But you don’t have to buy things to give back. Here are some ideas to get you started.

VOLUNTEER

Volunteering has loads of benefits, for both the volunteer and the beneficiary, and even young children can find ways to contribute. This brief article from Connecticut Children’s touts some of the benefits. Volunteering can be as simple as helping a neighbor rake leaves or shovel snow, or as involved as helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity or helping train a service dog. Here are some sources for ideas and locations where your family can volunteer:

Think about what’s important to your family. Be sure to ask the kids, too! Are there particular groups in the community you would like to serve? Is helping the environment more your thing? No matter your interest, there is a volunteer opportunity (or several!) that you can take part in. Check out the websites of organizations that matter to you. Many will indicate ways you can help, and it’s not always about writing a check. Even spreading the word can make a difference.

DONATE

With kids, there is always something that’s become outgrown, no longer played with, or not loved. And chances are, you have items you no longer want or need, too. Everything from clothes to toys to old cell phones is fair game. Put these items to good use by donating them to someone who could use them. Here are some ways you can give your unused items a new life:

  • Donate to a local homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter.
  • Donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Savers – they will sell the items and use the proceeds.
  • Donate to CT Mutual Aid (serving different parts of the state – groups are also on Facebook)
  • Join your local “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook and post items you no longer need.

Looking for more places to donate? Check out this article on 28 Best Places to Donate Your Used Stuff.

SPREAD CHEER

Don’t underestimate the power of making someone smile. You can make a card for someone, paint a kindness rock, or simply say something nice. For more ideas, check out my Spread a Little Happiness post from last month. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy to make someone’s day!