Let the yule rule be sweet traditions: unwrap more than stuff this Christmas

Welcome back Rudolph, Frosty, and the Grinch! Pull out and dust off (or maybe download?) Home Alone, The Santa Clause (any of the trilogy!) or possibly A Christmas Story. How about Dickens made cute: Mickey’s Christmas Carol or The Muppet Christmas Carol? Cuddle up with the kids, and feel nostalgia drift down like a gently shaken snow globe, as you watch old favorites through “new eyes.”

Considering how much joy and bonding such seasonal classics have brought to multiple generations, it speaks to the importance of traditions. Early this year Mikelle Despain, in “The Importance of Family Traditions,” for Kids Village, noted that “Holiday traditions help establish meaning for the holidays and detract from commercialism, all while strengthening the family bond. It gives children and adults alike something to look forward to and provides memories that will be stronger and more meaningful than any gift or treat they receive.”

Traditions come in many “packages,” from viewing favorite shows, to baking grandma’s Christmas cookies, to decorating the tree. Focusing on creating sweet and meaningful traditions can also help calm the holiday chaos. After all, as Joanna Kiernan, writing for the Independent notes, “Christmas is indeed a wonderful time of year, but it can also be a stressful and confusing time for children.”

One way to simplify the season is to reduce gift overload. More and more folks are adopting some version of the “4-gift rule”: one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one thing read. Kiernan’s article for the Independent “'Four-Gift Rule’ and 10 Other Ways to Help Kids Avoid Christmas Overload,” quotes psychotherapist Joanna Fortune advocating the 4-gift approach. The article also emphasizes the importance of helping kids to be grateful and to express that gratitude. Fortune “advises parents to make thank-you cards with their children ahead of Christmas, which they can then write and give to relatives and friends, who give them a gift.”

Choosing gifts that achieve multiple goals is both fun and wise. A super holiday gift idea for ages 4+ that will get mileage well into the new year and fill the “something to read” category many times over is the great big Kids Create Books Activity Set created by Beaver Books. It has 24 mini-books, which are all ready to be decorated and put together. Kids pick their story and bring it to life! Then they choose another one. Packed with incredible facts about dinosaurs, insects, pets, and sea life, these mini-books are a wonderful way to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) education, as well as encourage curiosity and develop enthusiasm for reading. Kids color and embellish the perforated pages, separate them, and bind their mini-books; step-by-step, illustrated instructions make it easy. Budding artists will color the illustrations with the crayons in the kit and use the bold, colorful stamps to decorate the pages. Every mini-book also features its very own sticker activity. Find the stickers that match the story, peel them off, and stick them into place. When a book is finished, the final touch will be filling in the “credit” page that says, “This book was created by (fill in child’s name),” to give kids a sweet and satisfying sense of pride and ownership.

On a related note, this could be the year to write and illustrate your family’s Christmas story. Stoke the fire, simmer the cocoa, and pull out the paper, crayons, chalk, or colored pencils. Help kids brainstorm what the story is. What happens? Why? How? Then what happens next? (Remember to include the family pets in the story!) Not only could this become a new holiday tradition, but it helps little ones practice creativity, critical thinking, storytelling, sequencing, and cause-and-effect.

For more spins on new traditions, the Anxious Toddlers website, promoting “parenting survival for all ages,” posted “25 of the Best Family Christmas Traditions.” The list includes ideas such as wrapping up 25 books and letting kids open one each night leading up to Christmas starting Dec. 1. (You can still jump in!)

Other fun suggestions include doing a family video every Christmas Eve, hiding “the last presents on Christmas day" and then making "clues as to where your kids can find them,” and turning “your Elf on a Shelf into a Kindness Elf that helps around the house and notices when your kids do considerate things.”

A high-value gift that can be shared by multiple kids is Anywhere Teacher, which offers award-winning educational content and digitally delivers School Zone’s curriculum to families anywhere, anytime, on any device, putting the power of learning in the hands of kids ages 2-8. Explore thousands of fun, creative activities that can be tailored to each child’s grade and ability level, or zero in on specific skills in early readiness, reading, math, spelling, and more. The safe, secure, ad-free environment helps kids build confidence while reinforcing essential skills needed for life-long learning. The Mom’s Choice Awards® has named Anywhere Teacher as among the best in family-friendly media, products, and services, and subscriptions start at just $6.99 per month.

Gifts need not be big or many to be valuable and just right,and traditions need not be complicated to be treasured and passed down. Keeping it simple can be the best gift—and tradition—of all.