The holidays are purely magical. Twinkling Christmas trees, sugar cookies and hot chocolate, nutcrackers, the smell of evergreens and cinnamon, and the childish anticipation of Santa coming to town…those are the kinds of wondrous feelings that I want to be sure to inspire within my own children, every holiday season. I vividly remember hiking up and down the mountainside every year, sloshing around ankle-deep in mud, as we searched for the perfect Christmas tree. I remember eagerly pulling out precious Christmas ornaments year after year, each one with its own special story and memory. I remember anticipating the moment each day that I could open the window on the Advent calendar, one day closer to Christmas Eve. I’m sure you have your own magical holiday memories, too. These things that we do each year—our traditions—they create the spirit of Christmas that we pass forward. An once we become parents, we get to create our own traditions…and we become responsible for creating holiday magic. Below are a few ideas that will get your family outside and active. They can help you to build amazing memories for your entire family.
1. Activity Advent Calendar
My childhood friend and active mom extraordinaire, Joan Scritsmier, shared this brilliant idea with me. Rather than using an Advent calendar that contains little pieces of waxy chocolate to count the days down until Christmas Eve, Joan uses an Advent calendar to get her kids involved and active. Her children get to open a special envelope each morning that has an activity listed for the day. She has included activities like “go through rooms and donate clothes and toys to foster closet” and “go for a winter walk with apple cider” listed. This is your opportunity to get truly creative and take an organized approach to planning daily activities.
To make an activity Advent calendar, take an old, largish picture frame and put 5 evenly spaced nails in each side. Tie twine from one side to the other to make 5 hanging lines. Plan out 24 activities (make sure you’re prepared and have all supplies to do each activity ready on the assigned day), write them on small cards, and slip them into 24 envelopes. Get creative with decorating the cards and envelopes: Use stamps, markers, puffy paint—anything! Then use small clips or clothespins to attach all 24 cards to the lines, evenly distributed and spaced. You can get fancy and decorate the frame or lines, too–just have fun with it!
2. Nature Walk and Homemade Ornaments
Children seem to have the gift of being able to find beauty within nature. Whether they pick up a pine cone, a twig or a leaf, kids seem to want to collect and look at these things that, as adults, we end up passing by and taking for granted.
For this craft, all you need are some beautiful things from nature, some string or twine, glue, cheap paintbrushes, glitter, labels, paper plates (to help keep the glitter all in one place), and some dedicated quality time with your kids. To get started, simply take your kids on a nature walk and encourage them to pick up things they find beautiful. The best part of this craft is the walk itself, so get creative. Make an afternoon out of going on a special holiday hike, and be sure they take their time picking out their natural supplies.
Take the leaves, pine cones, or other treasures home and give them plenty of time to dry out. Then, let your kids paint the items with a layer of glue, and then coat them in glitter! Once the glue is dry, tie an ornament string to the item, and be sure to add a label with your child’s name and the year. Each time your children pull ornaments out of the storage box to decorate the tree, they will remember the nature walk and making the ornament together.
3. Outdoor Elf on the Shelf
I love the idea of Elf on the Shelf. It’s so much fun for us parents to get to be creative every night, and it’s such a treat for the kids to wake up and see what silly things the elf is up to. I also love the idea of my kiddos getting fresh air, and spending a little time outside each day. So why keep the elf indoors? Try simply moving the elf outside from time to time. You can make sure there’s plenty of cover so he/she isn’t too subjected to the elements, and you can set up boundaries (such as “I don’t think the elf would go beyond the fence”). This is a great way to get kids excited about going outside, even when it’s not perfect weather for playing. Finding the elf doesn’t take too long, but still gets them outside and moving with purpose for a short time.
It can be difficult to get kids excited about being outdoors and active during the holiday season, but with some planning and your own willingness to get moving and create new traditions, it can certainly be done in a fun and magical way. What are some of your holiday traditions that keep your family active?