Spend a lot of time in the car, listening to the radio during December, and you’ll hear Christmas music. “I want a hippopotamus…” “Tiny Tots with their…..” Wait! What?! TINY TOTS? Driving along and like a blow to the stomach with a simultaneous slap to the face, bringing tears to fill my eyes… I realize I only have ONE tiny-tot left! The other three are beyond their tiny-tot years, and I have roughly only 8 chances left to really make Christmas magical for them.
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We start with only 18 chances, to begin with. Let’s face it; some kids lose the magic well before eighteen. I don’t have any particularly magical Christmas memories of my own past the age of 13. Certainly not because my parents did anything wrong. Simply instead because I insisted on growing up too fast.
It is not a matter of perspective. Eighteen is just a small number.
Of all the approximately 1080 months we get on this earth (that’s 90 years, for those of you pulling out your calculators,) a mere 18 of those can be remembered as special, joyous, magical times at Christmas in childhood. Are you doing all you can as a parent to make Christmas magical for your children?
It’s easier than you may think. And it’s important to create a magical Christmas season for your child, full of wonder because he can’t do it for himself.
It’s Not About the Gifts
Don’t get ‘wrapped up” over-dramatizing materialism.
Christmas and presents go together like peanut butter and jelly. They do. The Magi brought gifts for Christ’s birth. People join together to provide gifts and clothing to children who live in poverty. Folks loosen their purse strings to supply STUFF to other folks who don’t have any STUFF.
STUFF, however, can quickly and easily become the focus at Christmas time.
One report from 2016 showed the average parent would spend just over $400 PER child at Christmas. What the….? You’re either reading that and saying, like me, “holy guacamole!” Or, “ya, so… that sounds about right.”
The truth is, while I do believe a child can be given too much stuff, families come from all sorts of varying means. Some can buy a little, and some can buy a lot. When we spend our 18 chances making Christmas magical, whether they get one gift a piece or 10 is not what our children remember when they are grown.
How does $50 a child sound?
The decision for me to quit working when my first child was born came with many financial sacrifices. For the first 8 years of our parenthood, we budgeted $50 a child to spend at Christmas. We had 3 kids right in a row, so our Christmas budget was about $200 total, after special candy, a new ornament, etc. It’s only been within the last 3 years that we doubled our spending to a whopping $100 a child! Now there are 4. Equaling $400 total. (that was some tough math, huh?)
Know what? My kids have ALL KINDS of good memories surrounding Christmas. Living on a shoestring budget with 4 kids, being determined to give them Christmas magic, and being sobering-ly aware of what little time I had while they were small; meant making each memory count.
Wish I would tell you how I shopped for my kids with just $50 a child? Well, that will have to wait for another time. But here’s all you really need to know: Don’t buy as much.
Kids don’t see things the way we do.
My children love to throw “parties.”
Now, I’d like to know… what just came to your mind as you read that sentence? A day or two spent preparing for people? Cleaning house? Baking up goodies to serve said people? Maybe playing a game? Entertaining?
Nope. That is not the kind of party my kids throw. A party thrown by my children looks something like this: 10 sheets of lined paper, colored in with all sort of crayon colors, then cut into strips and hung from the walls (ALL OVER THE HOUSE) with tape (to serve as streamers) a plate with a chopped up banana, dried cranberries, and almonds on it for snacks, and a dance-worthy song playing in the background. (as I write this, I again feel my eyes stinging with tears as I realize they actually haven’t done this in a while)
When looking to make Christmas magical for our children, we have to get-over-ourselves. Stop thinking like an adult and think like a child. I’ll admit this is hard for me to do. Even as a kid, I was a bit overly-mature and prudent. So how can you know what it is that feels magical at Christmas time for your child? Ask her!
How to Make Christmas Magical for a Child
You have to make Christmas magical. Plain and Simple.
Recently at a family meeting in our home, we sat the kids down and posed this simple question: What are the 3 most exciting things about December?
Some common responses were; lights!, making cookies for the firemen, giving to needy strangers, going to the Christmas tree farm, and decorating. We focused our question on the season and not on Christmas day. The traditions created, memories made, and warm-fuzzy-feeling can be carried inside a person forever. A toy can not.
So… write down what they like and do those things a lot.
Driving around one night a week looking at Christmas lights on homes costs only the gas. Make it extra special by making hot chocolate to take along.
#1. Wagon rides.
- If you cut and buy a real tree at Christmas, look for a farm that offers free wagon/hayrides. The farm we frequent even offers free warm beverages. Don’t want to spend the money on the tree? Just go and ride the wagon! Most Christmas tree farms appreciate the foot traffic regardless.
#2. Bake and give.
- All-purpose flour is cheap. So is sugar. Bake a lot of cookies. Give them away. DO NOT get caught up in vanity. Your kids don’t care what the cookies look like. I. can. Guarantee. That. You are the only one wishing they were Pinterest-worthy!
- Let them decorate the tree (or A tree, if you can’t give up your perfectly decorated Christmas tree.) Look for trees on sale at Goodwill after Christmas, or ask around. Someone may have a tree they’re looking to off-load.
- Purchase some inexpensive ball ornaments. Or better yet, let them make their own! It took me a while to figure out that perfectly crafted, home-made, DIY ornaments are not mandatory when making craft ornaments with my kids.
If you’re super good at all the hand-crafty stuff, by all means, get cutesy. But don’t let a lack of craftsy-ness be the reason you don’t do it. And don’t let your perfectionism turn it into a “no, do-it-like-this-not-like-that event.”
Or make these button ornaments super simply. Get supplies here. OR… give them some paper, cut it into star shapes, let them go crazy coloring it, stick a piece of string to it and tie it to the tree! I mean, for real… just don’t not-do-anything because you’re not “craftsy.” Your kids don’t care. They want to be craftsy. And that word means something different to them than it does to you. Get all these supplies delivered to your door for free with Amazon Prime.
I just CANT do crafts!
Alright… alright… I hear you. Honestly, I have to force myself to do crafts with my children. I am that non-craftsy person I keep mentioning.
So, if you just can’t bring yourself to get out the paper and glue (I promise it wouldn’t be as bad as you think), I have a couple of other options for you to make Christmas magical for a child.
#5. The name chain
The names of Jesus chain is something we have done multiple times. It is so fun for ME because I am imparting scriptural knowledge to the kids (as a Christian homeschooling mom, that makes me happy:)
#6. The dirt-cheap advent calendar.
Most Christmas seasons, you can find advent calendars at Aldi for $1.00. Did you catch that… ONE DOLLAR! Yes, they are just a piece of candy within a cardboard cut-out but throw in an internet search on your smartphone (because everyone has one), and you can quickly find something to talk about regarding advent each day for 2-3 minutes while the kiddos munch the chocolate from their advent calendar.
Here is a calendar that is similar to the one Aldi has. It isn’t all-about-Jesus, but I can make it all-about-Jesus!
What About Christmas Traditions That Purely Give?!
This. right. here.
These traditions can be the ones that will leave the greatest impact on our children and create the most magic. Giving never gets old, even as our children grow older. We already talked about baking goodies and giving them away. There are other ways you and your family can give at Christmas that is not merely dropping money in a bucket (although that is super fun for children to do.)
I know of one family with a stellar Christmas giving tradition. This tradition is loved and looked forward to by their children ALL. YEAR. LONG. Each Christmas, the father of the family, gets a cash Christmas gift from work. The family takes that cash, splits it in half, keeps half, and gives half away—the way they give it away, though, is really the star here.
In the days leading up to Christmas, they make gift boxes. Small Christmas boxes, they find on clearance after Christmas the prior year, filled with tinsel for padding, Hershey kisses, chapstick, cocoa packets, and other goodies. The final addition to the Christmas gift box is a gift card purchased with their Christmas gift money.
Sometimes a gift card in the full amount is put into just one box. Other times, it’s split up to make multiple gift boxes. This varies depending on the amount of money they have to offer and what direction they feel The Lord is leading them.
After praying about what neighborhood/houses to visit one Christmas Eve, the family executes their operation. One adult drives, while the other takes the kids to a door, knocks, leaves the box, and RUNS – fast as their legs will take them – away! When the home resident gets to the door, all that is there is a gift box filled with blessing!
Can’t you just feel the excitement experienced by these children? Oh, man, I can!
The anticipation building as the gift boxes are put together. The decision-making process of where to stop, wishing you had enough to give a box to everyone—the heart-thumping as you sneak up to a door, hoping not to be seen. And the mega-adrenaline rush as they all run away!? Ahh! What an awesome tradition of giving this is. Certain to make Christmas magical!.
Don’t have a lot of money to give? Don’t get caught up in that way of thinking. Truth is, any amount is going to be a welcome blessing to the recipient. A $5 gift card would be appreciated on any doorstep.
Don’t want to spend the money on the actual boxes? Leave it in an envelope. And if you are financially able to leave a $100 gift card… rock out! (just make sure you investigate a little before you leave it, so you are certain someone is home.)
Modest giving. Giant impact.
Another way to give that works well for people on a budget is to support a missionary. Missionary work is one of those areas where “many small contributions add up.”
The impact with this has a ripple effect you can’t even imagine. Your financial gift (no matter the size) sends a person who will positively affect another person, whose life will forever be changed because of it. And your children can watch it all unfold if you choose to follow that missionary’s journey along the way.
Your Child Needs You to Make Christmas Magical
The Holiday season is full of opportunities for magic. But, you have to be the one to create it. Don’t look back when your kids are grown and wish you’d been more intentional to make Christmas magical.
That would just be a bummer.
As my children have grown, I can look back over the years past and see how easy they have been to please. Don’t overcomplicate things. Make it magical and treasure every second. We only have a handful of chances. They will go by fast!