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Toronto, Canada

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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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An Advent Countdown for an Attitude of Gratitude

Written by Melissa Robertson

Looking for a way to change up your family’s countdown to the holiday season this year? Our writer, Melissa, has about 25 ideas for you.

It seems when it comes to the holiday season, you either love it or hate it. Although I look forward to it all year, I can also see the other side. If you lack family, stress over a tight financial situation or simply see it as ‘too commercial’, I would like to suggest a different approach to the holidays this year.

Instead of counting down the days with chocolate or another small treat, why not mark each day with giving? It can be a great way to teach and embrace a season of giving rather than getting. To change the focus from what your children want to get from Santa to what they can give to those around them. So why not take the challenge this year?

December 1st Mark your calendar with holiday events. What do you want to make time for this holiday season? Remember, you do not have to say yes to every invitation you receive and you do not have to ‘have plans’ every weekend. You want to enjoy the holiday season, so be as busy or as relaxed as you want to be. Give yourself the option to say ‘no’ without guilt.

December 2nd Make a holiday bucket list as a family. What traditions do you want to build as a family? Would you like to see a Christmas parade every year? Daytime parades tend to be better for little ones as they are usually a little warmer and can be worked around nap times. Nighttime events often include a tree lighting ceremony.

December 3rd Start the week on a positive note. Instead of making a list of what you want to receive this year, have your family come up with a list of what you want to give. Presents don’t have to come from a store or cost a lot of money.  Include neighbours, teachers, and mail carriers.

December 4th Take time to consider what you can do as a family to help your community. Could you take time to shovel driveways or sidewalks as a random act of kindness? What about inviting someone to share a meal or help you decorate for the holidays? Look for opportunities to care for others.

December 5th Take a trip to your local library to find some titles to share together this holiday season. A great option is The Book of Holiday Awesome by Canadian writer Neil Pasricha. It is something that can be read aloud each morning and reflected on. You can also look for titles to help your family connect to your religious roots and better understand the season such as God Gave us Christmas, Light the Menorah, and Together for Kwanzaa, just to name a few.

For those celebrating with more than one faith, you can look for titles like My Two Holidays.

December 6th Take some time to plan what gifts you would like to make this year. Are you a wonderful baker who would love to share their love through sugar? Do you or your child(ren) enjoy making crafts? By choosing to make some of the gifts this year, you will not only be able to give more for less money, but you will also create some wonderful memories.

December 7th Clean out the playroom to do some good for local families. Explain to your children that some families can’t afford to buy new toys at Christmas, but would appreciate any of their toys they are no longer playing with. This is a double benefit of fewer toys for you to trip over, plus your children will get yet another lesson in giving.

December 8th It’s Friday! Celebrate with your family by doing a holiday movie marathon! Pop some popcorn, snuggle under a blanket and enjoy the holiday memories flood over you as you relive your favourite holiday movies with your kids. Some of my favourites include A Charlie Brown ChristmasDr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Although a little lesser known, Elmo’s World Holiday Special is a hit in our house. Not only does it talk about Christmas, but it also discusses Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa in a way that young children can grasp and appreciate. It’s a must-watch each year for us!

December 9th Take some time this weekend to make for others. These sweet pom-pom photo ornaments are a great way to use those extra school pictures.

Salt dough is an inexpensive way for kids to get hands-on fun making Christmas presents. I love this Christmas tree ornament craft that incorporates family fingerprints! These sweet snowmen are also a great way to capture those tiny feet for years to come!

December 10th Take your kids to shop for a child in need. There are many agencies you can partner with to make a child’s holiday season a little brighter. My husband and I explained to our children that parents have to give Santa the money to make the gifts which is why some children do not receive any presents. This allows us to explain the importance of giving to others. Getting the children together to shop for another child can help them focus on giving to others, rather than adding to their own wish list.

December 11th Enjoy some time together as a family.Has your family decorated your home for the holidays yet? It’s a great time to put up the tree or hang up those stockings.

December 12th Happy Hanukkah! Tonight many families across the world will be lighting the first light on their menorah. Even if you don’t observe this Jewish holiday, you can take the time to explain Hanukkah to your children. Head to your local library to pick up some age-appropriate stories. Pick up a dreidel for a fun family game and attempt a latke recipe to make a night of it.

December 13th Go shopping for a family in need. Find out what is on the wish list of a local food bank and give as generously as you can. Get together with other families to share the experience. Make sure your children come with you to drop off items. Take photos and explain how proud you are of your child’s generosity.

December 14th Give to the animal world. Explain to your children the strife that winter weather brings to local wildlife. This sweet DIY birdseed ornament is a great way for kids to display their love for animals during the holidays. This homemade birdseed wreath is also a perfect way to celebrate the holidays,

December 15th Wild animals aren’t the only ones who need your love this holiday season. Consider calling your local animal shelter to find out what items top their most-wanted list for the holidays. Explain to your children how lucky your family pets are to have a warm and happy home for the holidays, and then invite friends and family to join you in gathering much-needed items for your local animal shelter. Take time to see and visit the animals you will be helping, even though you are likely to be tempted to add another furry member to your family.

December 16th Spend time together and do some holiday baking as a family. Include your children in deciding who would enjoy your sweet treats and package them with a homemade Christmas card. Check out these crowd-pleasing cookie recipes from Life Made Delicious.

December 17th Take the time to give out your holiday baking as a family. Wrap your crafts and get everything ready to give.

December 18 Has your family had a chance to drive around and admire the Christmas lights? Make a crockpot of hot chocolate and fire up your favourite holiday tunes for a sweet drive that is sure to make memories.

December 19th Double your ingredients for dinner tonight and share. Try an awesome crock pot meal idea like this slow cooker chicken and dumplings. Then consider who you could help by giving a portion of this meal. Do you know a single parent who could use a pick-me-up on a Tuesday? Do you have a neighbour who doesn’t have much family visiting during the holidays? Or freeze the excess and you have a ready-made meal for a new parent who isn’t sleeping much and would love a break. Get your kids involved in the decision making as well. Who would they like to invite to dinner? Who do they think could use a meal?

December 20th With the holidays fast approaching, ask your children to give the gift of helping in the home. With a simple water and vinegar mixture and some cloths, they can easily help wash cupboards and baseboards. Maybe you need help folding laundry or vacuuming the floors? Whatever tasks you choose make sure your children know how much their help is a gift to their family.

December 21 Have a wrapping party to get the whole family involved in this (often) last minute task. Put on your favourite Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and get down with some scissors and some tape. Place your child’s gift for their teacher in their backpack to avoid an early morning oversight tomorrow.

December 22nd Last day of school probably has your kids wound right up. Take some time as a family to blow off energy together. Hit the local hill with your sledges for some fun family tobogganing and then head home for some cocoa to warm you up. No snow yet? That’s okay, take a completely different approach and go for a family swim at the community pool. It’s not likely to be super busy and you can still burn off the excess sugar of the season to make for a good night’s sleep.

December 23rd Take the time to call and wish someone happy holidays. Who would your children like to reach out to? Make a phone or video call to brighten someone’s day!

December 24th With the holidays upon you, it can be hard for kids not to focus on Santa’s arrival. Take their minds off of presents with a family game night. Incorporate as many friends and family as you can and spend the night doing something other than exchanging gifts (if possible). While you can easily grab some family favourites from the board game shelf, you can also consider these fun DIY options that offer a Christmas flavour.

December 25th Merry Christmas! Enjoy your day with family and friends.

So PLNers, Did your giving throughout the holiday season impact your child(ren)’s gratitude this Christmas? I hope you have discovered many ways to share the holiday season and grow as a family. Let us know in the comments if you were able to complete any of the challenges with your family.


*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.