Why does the spirit of giving and true gratitude always get lost in the “more-ness” of the holiday season? Some how, I always get sucked into the idea that more is better. More baking, buying, doing, and crafting = a better holiday for my family. But it doesn’t. It only leads to more stress, more spending, and less happiness. After years of practicing more and ending up with less, I have discovered the secret antidote to the “more-ness.” It begins and ends with one word: gratitude.
By creating gratitude practices during the holidays, the whole family will thrive instead of merely survive the holidays.
5 MUST TRY HOLIDAY INSPIRED GRATITUDE PRACTICES:
Starting gratitude practices for the family (especially during the holidays) can be a total game changer! It can produce seriously magical results. If you want to decrease stress, spend less and really enjoy the holidays this year, then gratitude is in order.
#1: Thanksgiving Gratitude Pumpkin
How it works:
First, start the day with thanks. No special tools needed—just a pumpkin and a Sharpie! Every morning, each family member writes down one thing on the pumpkin they are grateful for that day. That’s it!
Everyone starts the day on the right foot! You plant the seed of gratitude every morning before they venture off into the world. (Mom of the year: you!)
Then, voila! By the end of the month, you’ll have a show-stopping centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table! Before Thanksgiving dinner, everyone reads messages off the gratitude pumpkin. Sweet, easy, and meaningful.
**Go the extra mile: start practice October 1st. Milk pumpkin season for all it’s worth!
#2: Bedtime Gratitude Journal
How it works:
Next, end the day with thanks. Starting November 1 (or October 1 for you over achievers!), add this new element to your children’s nighttime routine. All you need is a small notebook (we grabbed two from the Dollar Store), and a crayon.
While brushing their teeth, the kids come up with 3 things they are grateful for that day. It could be a person, an object, or an act of kindness that was shown to them. Then, right before bed, they write it down (or write it for them) in the notebook.
This helps them end the day on a high note! It teaches them to be thankful in spite of any drama the day brings. Read back through the journal together on the last day of the year. BOOM! You have a built-in gratitude focused NYE tradition on your hands!
Added bonus: this is a great way for kiddos to practice writing skills without much of a fight!
#3: Random Acts of Kindness (while running holiday errands)
Random acts of kindness can teach gratitude in a really profound way. Thinking of others, spreading joy, or giving something to help others is the good stuff. That’s the real holiday magic.
How it works:
Think of errand running as an opportunity to lean into gratitude. Make it like a game for your kids—almost like a gratitude scavenger hunt! Kids love this activity! Start the practice leading up to Thanksgiving and keep the party going through New Year’s!
Start with these, but get creative. Kids always come up with the best Acts, so let them brainstorm some new ones!
10 Random Acts of Kindness:
Before heading out the door, ask your kids if they want to grab a few coins from THEIR piggy bank. Let them donate their own money to the Salvation Army bell-ringers. The littles just love the ringing bells and that red bucket!
While at the grocery store, let your kids pick out few extra canned goods to donate. Most grocery stores have a collection bin near the entrance.
Give up that parking spot to the competitor behind you! This one may be lost on your kids. But, you can take it as an opportunity to slow down. Practice what you preach, right?
Say happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas to 2 workers at the store. Long or extra holiday shifts are no picnic! The workers will appreciate the holiday spirit!
Smile at 3 different people. Extra points for making a bah-humbug-er smile back!
This one requires a little advanced planning, but I just love it! Kids can make simple mini-holiday cards out of any extra supplies in your house. (Index cards are perfect for this). Keep it simple! A few stickers and a few words are plenty for these mini-holiday cards. Grab a card before heading out the door. Pick out a random person (the elderly are a great choice) and gift the card. This simple little sprinkle of holiday joy will stick with someone for the rest of the season!
Lend a helping hand! Have your kids be on the lookout for anything out of place or on the floor. Pick up something and put it back where it goes! Kids learn how helpful lending a hand can be.
Hold the door open! Do this going and coming from the store!
Let someone ahead of you in the checkout line! Let the kids see that you’re not in a rush. Show them you know how to slow down even in the midst of the checkout frenzy!
Let’s not leave hard working mom out of the equation! Get the kids to help mom bring in the bags. Extra points if they can do it without being asked!
#4 Santa’s Bag
We started this practice when my oldest son was three. Since then, it has become a sweet part of our Christmas tradition.
How it works:
Every year, starting the day after Thanksgiving, bring out a red “Santa bag” for the kids to fill up with their old toys. It is their job to go through their own toys and pick out a few to go “back” to Santa. They look for toys that they don’t play with anymore, toys that they’ve outgrown, or even toys that may be missing a piece.
Toys are placed in Santa’s bag, and on Christmas Eve, Santa knows to take all the toys in the bag back to his workshop. He fixes or replaces any broken pieces, and he finds new homes for all those toys next year.
As the bag begins to fill up, and they see that they still have SO many toys in their closet, something clicks! They start to realize how much they really do have—even with the bag full! This can become quite an “ah, ha!” moment for a child. Something about it becomes quite personal, and they become connected to the giving process. This is such a magical thing to see when your kids actually “get” it!
Christmas morning, the kids wake up to see the bag empty! Santa took the toys with him, and he leaves a sweet thank you note praising the children for their big hearts!
#5 Gift Giving: Want, Need, Wear, Read
Finally, without further adieu, let’s talk about GIFTS!
Presents have become an essential part of the holidays. I go overboard every single year, and I regret it. Every. Single. Year.
So, what’s the solution? Simple—you don’t buy more stuff for the sake of buying more stuff. Easier said than done. I know!
This strategy helps you become purposeful about your giving. And, if you become purposeful about giving, then your kids will learn to appreciate your gifts.
How it works:
Everyone in the family gets only FOUR gifts this year. You heard me right! Only four.
- 1: SOMETHING YOU WANT
- 2: SOMETHING YOU NEED
- 3: SOMETHING TO WEAR
- 4: SOMETHING TO READ
Consider the Four Gifts as blinders for a racehorse. Having limited gifts will help focus your own need to do more! You can be selective, thoughtful, and excited about getting the perfect gifts without the craze.
If you keep it simple, then you won’t fall into the trap of late night purchases from Amazon, impulse purchases while at the store again, and (the worst) those just-one-more-thing purchases. We certainly want to avoid those kinds of purchases all together.
The trick is to inform everyone about this new holiday tradition ahead of time. Make sure the kids understand that everyone in the family will be getting ONLY FOUR gifts this year.
You can even go as far as getting cute keepsake “tags” to reuse year after year. I love this idea because it seems to solidify this as a new tradition, and the keepsakes go into the holiday box for next year. Etsy has loads of these cute reusable wooden tags and even “Want, Need, Wear, Read” wish lists for the kids!
Incorporating this tradition into your holidays will give you a manageable gift giving strategy that will help you reign in the expectations and will keep you within your holiday budget!
Thrive this Holiday Season
There are many ways to incorporate giving, thankfulness, and gratitude into your family’s holiday routine. This post is just a few of my holiday inspired favorites!
Above all, remember that this should not be one more thing on your to-do list! By putting even one of these simple little changes into practice can make a world of difference—especially during the holidays!
Which one will you choose?