Making the most of the holidays with a toddler
If there is one thing I have learned so far in my years of parenting it is flexibility is key. Upon becoming a parent it is a good idea to throw out all previous preconceived notions you had about what it means to be a "good parent". Trust your instincts and know your child. The more you foster your child's independence the less likely they are to do, say or be how you want them to be when you want them to be. I am a firm believer in teaching children manners and respect but being a happy, well adjusted family looks different for everyone especially during the holidays.
1. Be flexible. This might sound like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many "fun" family activities can turn into tired, screaming, unhappy children and parents. Let's take Santa photos for example....every year you might like to get your child's photo taken with Santa. If your child is not a fan of this it is important to determine how much this really means to you. For me it was a no brainer. The first year Jasper did not want to sit on Santa's lap I will be honest I felt a little disappointed, but this year I decided giving Santa a high five was infinitely cooler than sitting on a Santa's lap. This time I was unphased. I did not push it and in the end we were both happier after the Santa encounter.
Last year Jasper was a pretty patient shopping partner. This year he tells me things like, "I want to look with my hands and not my eyes" and the ever dreaded "Is this breakable?" while holding something highly breakable.
2. The holidays will look different with children. In order to maintain some sense of normalcy during the holidays it is important for our family to maintain a consistent nap schedule, attempt to get in bed before nine o'clock each night and sometimes even say no to things we really want to do. There will be times where you will inevitably disappoint those around you, but more importantly you will keep your sanity and hopefully stay healthy.
3. Make note of every free (or almost free) fun thing to do in your city/town. Any way you slice it the holidays can be an expensive time of year so do your research and make a list of all the fun and free or nearly free things to do in the coming weeks near your home. There is story time at your local library, cookie decorating, and many hotels offer musical performances and visual displays just to name a few. Just this week we attended a free Caspar Babypants' concert and I can guarantee Jasper enjoyed this evening far more than the expensive theater tickets I was considering.
Taste testing at its best...straight out of the mixer.
Sometimes driving trucks through flour is the most fun part of making gingerbread cookies.
4. When in doubt stay home. If the idea of braving crowds, messing with schedules and fighting traffic seems like no fun to you then stay home. There is nothing worse than venturing out for family fun with a bad attitude or nagging sense of obligation. I could easily fill my month with gingerbread making, cookie decorating, wreath making and holiday dance parties. All of which may be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home.
5. Make use of the dark evenings. For any of you Pacific Northwesterners a 4pm sunset isn't ideal, but makes for a perfect early evening of driving around looking at Christmas Lights.
6. Let your child take the lead. Ask them what they would like to do and you may be surprised at the results. A trip to Target to pick out a special ornament, a trip to the tree lot to select a tiny tree for their bedroom or a walk around the neighborhood might just be the thing you all need to feel the Christmas spirit.
Beauty is in the imperfections. I want Jasper to grow up in a home where he feels like he can do anything from decorating a tree to entertaining a group of twenty.
7. Teach the importance of giving. Allow your child to take part in selecting an item for a giving tree, donating gently used books and clothing or making treats for someone who needs a little cheering up or a thank you for all their hard work.
8. When in doubt make homemade. Some people are just hard to shop for or do things for. When you are stumped the people important in your child's life will always appreciate a homemade card or a handmade trinket. Even though I am particular about what gets hung on our tree, one of my most cherished Christmas ornaments is a heart made by one of my friend's children who is now a tween.