How do I make holidays special for my toddler or preschooler?
Real Mom Problem
“I'm always looking for little ideas to make holidays more special. My family didn't really have any fun traditions so I'm trying to incorporate some with my kiddos.”
- 1. Choose some of your favorite family traditions from childhood to pass along to your toddler
- 2. Create new traditions as your family grows
- 3. If you practice a faith, find ways to incorporate the true meaning of the holiday into the fun things you do as a family
- 4. Use books, songs, and crafts to teach your toddler about the history of your celebration
Real Mom Solutions
No matter your beliefs, holidays can be a wonderful time to make memories with your family. Find out how the moms of CafeMom make celebrations special for their toddlers.
Our Thanksgiving tradition is getting up on Thanksgiving morning and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade together. I've always loved the parade, and started this tradition with my oldest daughter the very first year she was alive. Of course, she was only a few months old then, but that's okay. Now she, myself, and my youngest daughter all enjoy curling up on the couch and watching the balloons and floats go by.
My daughters love to help in the kitchen. They learn simple skills like measuring and stirring, and love to feel that they are contributing to the meal. I'm looking forward to having them in the kitchen helping with the holiday meals.
Last year we started renting a cabin for the 5 days around Thanksgiving. It was a chance to get away and focus just on family (no house cleaning, laundry, etc). We really try to focus on togetherness and family.
Last year with our 1 year old we started a tradition of buying her a set of jammies, wrapping them up, and letting her open them on Christmas Eve. This way she gets an early surprise and gets to wear cute new jammies to bed for Christmas morning.
We decided to get down to the heart of Christmas. My daughter and I are making all our Christmas presents. Much thought and love are going into the gifts we will be making which reminds me of what Christmas used to be.
We are going to arrange to make packages from our families to send to the soldiers over seas. We're doing this instead of buying gifts and it helps support some of the most important people serving our country this holiday season!
Every Christmas Eve, we read the story "The Littlest Angel" and then the true story in the Bible. We have a family prayer and the kids are sent to bed. The next morning, the kids wait in their room until we give them a drink of milk or juice (to counter-act the candy!) and we start the day with prayer before any gifts are open. We want to make sure that our children understand the true meaning first.
For us, we're doing a Birthday Party for Jesus. Christmas Eve my family and several friends are coming over for soup and sandwiches and we're wearing b-day hats, having cake and ice cream - everything that you would do for a b-day party.
I try to buy each child a new ornament for the tree each year. That way when they grow up and move out they can take all of their ornaments with them and the memories surrounding that ornament.
My oldest daughter is now old enough to understand giving so this year we will donate her old toys and shop for new ones to give to kids in our local children's hospital. Giving and sharing is something we are instilling in our children year-round. However, I don't believe there is anything wrong with giving your kids gifts. Part of the joy of this season is being thankful for what you have and what I have are two beautiful little girls who I would give the world to if I could.
To me, Easter is what you make of it. We do the egg hunt. That is just tradition and all in fun, making memories with and for our kids. We make sure our kids understand the true meaning of these days as well. After a fun egg hunt we will put on our Sunday best and celebrate Christ at church and remember what the day is truly about. I see absolutely no harm in the fun part as long as there is that emphasis on the true meaning.
I love my child endlessly and feel that I can lavish him with gifts 3 times a year (Christmas, Easter, birthday). While he is only 16 months old right now, I plan on making these holidays special with gifts. We are also faithful to our church and the real reason behind Christmas and Easter. He will know the real reason for the holidays. I grew up with big Christmas and Easter and so will he. It is a vivid part of my childhood memories, and I want to create those same memories/traditions with him. While we were given lots of gifts, we were taught to be thankful and appreciative for what we got. If I can give my child the world, I would! But for now, I will settle for a teeball set and some candy! My husband is in the army and any holiday we can spend together is important and is a big deal for our family. I think everything that happens for holidays are to make the kids happy and show them a good time. I look forward to the smiles and happiness my son gets from hunting for eggs and looking for his basket.
My husband and I have started doing a fairly child-friendly Seder. Growing up, by the time the meal came around, some of us were nodding off in our soup because in addition to the reading of the Haggadah, all the kids would have things to add that they learned in school. So what we do now is we simply read/sing through the Haggadah until the meal, and then we can leisurely enjoy the meal and that's when everyone can offer insight and stories and words of wisdom regarding Passover and the Haggadah, etc.
We are super non-traditional. Even as a kid I hated sitting around the table reading the whole story while the food sat in front of us, it was like torture. I swore I would never do that to my son, so we did the plate, we did some blessings and we ate.
I found myself thinking about my children who are now grown up with kids of their own. When I am there I see myself in them as they raise their children. Many times I too lost my cool and overreacted with them, preparing for Pesach, but I remember something my mother, may she rest in peace, would do. She would apologize to us kids for her frustration and her busyness in trying to accomplish her task. She would then often sit with us, have a cup of coffee, take a few minutes to relax and then return to her task at hand. I followed my mother's example and I now see my children do the same with their children. With Pesach it is such a busy time and we can often get so caught up in the things to do that we forget about the inward cleaning we should be doing too. The cleaning of the crumbs is important but the real cleaning and changing of the heart and attitudes is where it truly matters the most.
Remember, as parents, it's important to teach our children our history, THEIR history. Then they will teach it to their children and future generations. The food isn't going anywhere. Don't rush it. Live and love the experience of the beautiful gift, The Seder.
My son loves to light his Menorah. We keep Chanukah as our religious holiday and concentrate on the meaning of the holiday, lots of latkes and doughnuts and stories and music.
Hanukkah in our house is about the Miracle of the Oil. We always make latkes and have cheesecake and yummy food and good books! There are some beautiful children's books about Hanukkah that I've collected over the years and I have such a good time re-reading them and sharing them with our son!
This will be my 3rd year celebrating Ramadan with a child and I'm really looking forward to including my son with the decorating and celebrating. We usually put up some lights and make our own decorations, some Sisters I know put up balloons and I may do that this year as well. I would also like to find books on Ramadan and use this month to cut down on the cartoons. Insha'Allah it will be an enlightening and enjoyable month.
Eid at our house, is so much fun Alhamdulillah. We wake up in the morning, take the Eid shower, and head to the masjid. We pray and listen to the khutbah then have breakfast with the community at the masjid. We then go home and my kids go on their treasure hunt for their gifts. It is a personal tradition that I used to do with my brothers and now carried through to my children. I buy them a number of gifts, I hide them around the house and draw maps, and they run around the house searching. It is a fun time and they wait for it every year.
My family has been decorating for Ramadan and Eid since our children were born. As the years come and go Alhamdulillah our decorations grow and each year we bring them out on display. Now the children really do anticipate bringing out the pretty lights. Now that the boys are growing up we don't want them to just know the fun and festive side of the month but we also want them to understand Allah's mercy. We have some Islamic cartoons and movies that they love to watch and they also learn a little bit about Islam as well. We are teaching them about zakat this year by having them wrap some presents and give to our local Muslim charity. I think depending what age your children are you can find ways to make it meaningful for them. We point out to our children that they have an entire month to celebrate and that it's a wonderful month filled with worshiping the creator, breaking fast with loved ones and memories of the masjid they will never forget Insha'Allah.
Other Winter Celebrations
At the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the return of the Sun. Fires are lit on Solstice eve in honor of the life-giving Sun whose time of year is now slowly returning to us. We have a sacred space on our property with a fire ring where we have our ceremonies in a natural setting. This past Solstice eve, we lit a fire, meditated on the season, looked at the stars, sang songs, danced, talked, and said goodnight to the setting moon & sun.
I celebrate love, friendship, togetherness, thankfulness, traditions, memories, the new year, and life in general. We deck out our house with decorations, lights, holiday music, a tree, gifts, stockings - the works. We just don't call it "Christmas" since we don't believe in Christianity. We usually say Happy Winter Solstice or Happy New Year!