“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” That memorable classic serenades you in stores, shopping malls, and on the radio as the details of your to-do list pile up in your head. If you’re a mom, the tantalizing thoughts of parties, delicious food, and family tradition can easily be overshadowed by what it takes to obtain those “Instagram” worthy moments. In the motherhood hustle, it’s all too easy to forget to stop, breath, and be present. If you haven’t given yourself permission yet, consider this blog your first form of encouragement to “lower the bar” on experiencing the holiday season with your loved ones. Say no to the next kids’ holiday party (you’ve attended 25 already), hit “decline” on that Ugly Sweater Facebook invite your cousin throws (it has terrible food anyway), and throw off the constraints of “have-to” demands in favor of the “get-to” moments you can savor with your family during Christmas. Most of the best ones are usually free too!
Now look, if you are wanting perfection this holiday season then keep looking for some other airbrushed and poised mom and her kids, because this girl ain’t that! I’m real, honest, and on a mission to live my best life now; even embracing the terrible (my word of the year!) moments along the way. If you are like me (I’m not so secretly hoping you are… flawlessly popping another M&M in our mouths while we compare ourselves to strangers on the internet) then this season is about memories and experiences that will create fond memories of our family for years. Instead of chaos, opt for creativity; instead of maxing out credit cards, aim for simplicity and engagement. You might just find that it is TRULY the most wonderful time of the year! Below are my Five Ways to Celebrate The Holidays for Free (or almost free)!
1. Christmas Scavenger Hunt
Do you like riddles? Then you can create your own “Christmas Scavenger Hunt.” If not, you can find a variety of great riddles very easily on Pinterest. What to do: Start the evening with dinner. After dinner organize the group into pairs (try and pair a child with an adult). Give each pair the list of riddles that, when solved, identify an item for them to take a picture or video of. Load everyone up in the cars and take them to an outdoor/indoor mall, local hotspot, or even a large department store that has a variety of Christmas themed items and people (Santa, Elves, Live Nativity Scene, etc.). Whoever finishes the list first must rush to get it back to a pre-determined spot and can be declared the winner, with total bragging rights (you guessed it…I am a terrible loser!) After everyone returns, celebrate with either hot chocolate or a dessert! This game is perfect for team work, cultivating healthy competition, and can be educational depending on what you learn from each riddle and clue.
2. Christmas Home Spa
At the end of the day, make a mock schedule for the “(FAMILY NAME) SPA.” Set aside 30 minute increments for each child. Let them know that they have 5 minutes to prep for the spa in one of your bathrooms that has a bathtub. Run some water, grab bubbles, bath bombs, oils or any special bath toys (depending on age). Lower the lights, and then have each child request their favorite holiday movie on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Set up a laptop or iPad on an end table close to the tub but far enough away that it can’t be harmed by playful splashes. When your child arrives for their spa time, hand them a cup of hot chocolate, ask them to get in the spa and then press play on their holiday movie. Of course safety is key so, as the parent, determine the level of safety each child needs in a bath full of water. If you need to stay close, this might be the perfect opportunity to sit nearby on the floor, fold laundry, and watch your child become a diva in training.
3. Christmas “Tour De Subdivision”
Often times, the most wonderful memories are the traditional ones that have a unique spin. When I was a child we would go look at lights in the surrounding neighborhoods. As I grew older, the family ventured out into other towns. Today, my family carries on this tradition with some added elements. The trick to this is introducing an element of surprise. For example, on an evening when your kids least expect it, have them prepare for bed in their warm pajamas. Just before bed announce that, instead of the same old routine, the family is going to have a Christmas surprise! Pile everyone up in the car with plenty of blankets, roll down the windows, and make your first stop any place that serves ice cream. Crank the holiday music as the kids enjoy their late night treat and slowly drive through your local subdivisions ohhhh-ing and ahhhh-ing at the lights. Make sure you turn off your headlights (if you can) for an even more dramatic impact. Don’t forget that this can be either long or short depending on the ages of your kid’s. As you gaze at the lights ask your kids questions. For example:
- Which type of lights do you love the most – icicle, colored, white, blinking, etc.
- Which one was your favorite home (of lights) and why?
4. 12 Days of Christmas – Book Edition
Create a simple calendar system for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Let the kids know you will be reading a holiday book of their choice each night together prior to bed (or when it works best for the family). Visit your local library and have each child pick out the books that are geared towards the Christmas season. On your return home, place each child’s name and book in the schedule day. Once you have your pre-determined time each day, let each child know it’s his/her day to pick their books and favorite spot to read. Make sure that the family knows this is done together each day so there’s no options or excuses not to sit and enjoy the book of choice.
5. Hot Chocolate Tasting
This might not be free, but it is still cost effective and super engaging. It can be a good choice for a large family or even a friends/family outing. Set aside at least a three hour window of time on a predetermined a day. Select a driving route that takes you to at least three places that sell hot chocolate. Create a “Hot Chocolate” evaluation form where the name, location, and type of hot chocolate can we written down. Include a list of numbers to rate taste, creaminess, whip cream, etc. At each stop, ask for the small or kids size hot chocolate and then remind everyone to sip slowly (almost like wine, but that would be encouraging drinking and that’s not what this blog is about) and then talk about and write down how much they like/dislike it and why. Proceed on to the next location instructing everyone to do the same thing for each stop. At the last location, ask them to either choose their top pick for hot chocolate or decide together on a team “winner!”
(All pictures courtesy of The Copper Lens & Co.)
I hope you enjoy these options but if you have another way of celebrating Christmas with your kids for free or cheap, let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to be present with the incredible gift of our family and friends this Christmas season.