Celebrate Together: 12 Ways To Give Back With Your Kids

The winter holidays are a time to celebrate with family. They’re also a wonderful time of year to instill a giving spirit in your kids! When families share charitable moments together, they build a tradition of giving that will carry through to future generations.

Kids grow older, but charitable traditions last forever!

Some of the more traditional “giving back” activities, like volunteering or donating to charities, can be difficult to pull off with small children in tow. Especially for kids who haven’t quite grasped the concept of money, financial charity doesn’t often have the same effect as physically working on a project together. These ideas help families with kids of every age get involved with their communities, and find ways to give back during the holiday season.

1. Get involved with your kids’ schools.

One great way to help kids see the fruits of their labor is to focus on a place where they spend a lot of time: school! Get your kids involved picking out and making end-of-year gifts for their teachers. On a chilly morning, get up a few minutes early to make a pitcher of hot chocolate, and have your kids hand out cups during the morning car line. Your kids take the bus to school? Have them write thank-you letters to their bus drivers, and hand them out with a bag of holiday candy.

2. Sponsor a family for a gift-giving holiday.

The holidays can be a difficult time for families going through a tough time. As a family, participate in a holiday sponsorship through a local charity, church, or community center. Many of these organizations offer “giving trees,” where your family can pick a name off a tree or list to sponsor for the holidays. Have your kids plan a budget, find out what their friends like, and choose the items that you donate to the family in need. For an extra DIY touch, have the whole family write handmade cards to deliver with the gifts!

3. Start a holiday toy drive.

For a larger-scale project, your family can start a holiday toy drive within your community. Ask neighbors, friends, and schoolmates for donations of gently used toys, clothes, and winter supplies. When you have enough, donate the whole pile to a local charity, hospital, or shelter.

4. Do something kind for strangers.

A day of unexpected charity makes for an excellent family tradition! Choose a busy spot like a mall or grocery store entrance, and hand out small gifts to strangers, like individual flowers, handmade holiday decorations, or compliments. Your kids get to watch strangers’ faces light up at these small acts of kindness, and learn a valuable lesson for the future!

5. Make handmade cards for hospital patients.

Hospitals work hard to fill patients’ rooms with holiday cheer. Help out by making handmade cards for your local children’s ward, or volunteering to clean and decorate common areas.

6. Go caroling at a senior center.

Many senior centers receive few visitors, especially from children. Share your kids’ holiday cheer with the elderly with a day caroling at local senior centers. If your kids are readers, bring holiday-themed books to read aloud, or host a sing-along in the center’s common rooms.

7. Hand out baked goods to local workers.

If you live in an area with a chilly climate, it’s a great idea to thank local workers like mailmen, garbage collectors, and crossing guards. Make a big batch of homemade baked goods and hand them out to everyone who helps your family maintain its routine. Bonus points if you can give something warm to someone working out in the cold!

8. Cook meals for a family in need.

Like sponsoring a family’s holiday gifts, you can also donate the time and energy it takes to make meals for a family in need. Get your kids involved with your favorite holiday recipes: have them plan out their perfect holiday dinner, then get them in on making a budget, shopping for groceries, and cooking the individual components. When you’re all done, pack everything in reusable containers and deliver to a local family.

9. Host a “give back” party.

Instead of an Ugly Sweater or Grinchmas party, host a Give Back party. Invite guests over to bake cookies, make handmade cards or decorations, and bring an item or two to donate. Spend a few hours sharing holiday stories and working on crafts together, then pile into cars and drive to your nearest donation center so everyone can share in the big moment together.

10. Plan a community cleanup day.

Kids and cleaning may not seem like a match made in heaven, but you can get kids involved with a community cleanup day if you let them be in charge (well, mostly) of the planning. Have your kids pick a place that’s important to your family, like a local park, beach, or playground. Then, have them coordinate with friends to plan a day of cleanup. Bundle up in winter gear and turn the cleanup day into a festive occasion! (For bonus points, make it a friendly competition: see who can collect the most trash in a set time limit!)

11. Make care kits for the homeless.

Especially during winter, homeless people benefit greatly from things like socks, snacks, hygiene items, helpful resources, and words of encouragement. (For more information, visit the Portland Rescue Mission.)

Winter is a difficult time for the homeless. You can get your kids involved in this project by creating care kits. Fill winter hats, coats, or sleeping bags with cold-weather essentials: fuzzy socks, hand warmers, lip balm, lotion, and cleaning supplies. Complete each kit with a handmade holiday card, then donate the lot to a local homeless shelter.

12. Donate DIY-ables to an animal shelter.

Kids and animals go together like candy canes and gingerbread! If your kids are major animal lovers, get them involved in a charity project that sponsors a local animal shelter. There are many online recipes for pet-friendly baked goods, homemade toys, and decorations like pillows and dog beds. Spend a day making these items together, then donate them to a local shelter.

What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Sleep Right: How To Ensure Quality Sleep During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of high excitement, for kids and parents alike. It may be fun (for the kids, at least) to wake up early and open presents, but all the holiday excitement can turn into a major case of the humbugs if naps are skipped, bedtimes are missed, and sugary treats take over our holiday diets.

How do you get kids from “holiday cheer” to “visions of snowplums dancing in their heads”?

These tips will help your family guarantee healthy sleep, during the most wonderful (and busiest) time of the year.

1. Whenever possible, stick to your regular routine.

The winter holidays often disrupt our usual routines. Instead of school, kids head to family events, neighborhood parties, and snowy outings. Despite your busy schedule, try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible. If you’re staying over at Grandma’s house, pack familiar toothbrushes, story books, and sleep aids like blankets or stuffed animals. When bedtime rolls around, try to resist the request for an extra fifteen or thirty minutes–sticking to normalcy will help your kids’ bodies fall into their natural bedtime rhythms, making sleep seem less far away.

2. Make bedtime fun with a new family tradition.

If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday with your kids, the night before the big day can be far too exciting to get to sleep. One way to curb this is to start the festivities a little early! Create a new family tradition, where everyone unwraps a new set of personalized jammies, curls up under blankets, and reads or tells stories together. This can be a good low-energy way to curb kids’ enthusiasm, and get their minds and bodies ready for bed.

3. Plan a seasonal siesta.

Between cooking, cleaning, gift-wrapping, and snowball fights, the actual holiday can add far too much stress. If your schedule allows, set aside an hour or two where the whole family–not just the kids–takes a brief break to energize and recharge. This can be nap time for the kids (and we all know a nap would be a great gift for Mom or Dad, too), or a quiet time for the adults to enjoy a cup of coffee. If you make the siesta a familiar part of your holiday routine, kids will benefit from the scheduled relaxation time.

4. Keep kids’ diets balanced.

Candy canes! Chocolate! Reese’s Trees! The holidays are full of sugary stuff that keeps our kids up at night. That’s why it’s so important to stick to a balanced diet during the holidays, and enjoy sweets and caffeine only in moderation. Plus, healthy proteins like turkey contain tryptophan, an amino acid that makes us sleepy as our bodies break it down. Avoid sugar and caffeine for a few hours before bedtime, and make sure your kids are eating a healthy ratio of greens, protein, and carbs at mealtimes.

5. Learn some new relaxation games.

If your kids are struggling to fall asleep, relaxation games can be a good activity to try together. Practice body mindfulness by stretching every body part one by one: while laying down, start by flexing the fingers and toes, then move clockwise around the body until you’ve checked in with every body part. You can also turn this into a holiday grounding activity by naming objects in the room, or objects related to the holiday you celebrate. Can your kids name five red things associated with Christmas? How about six decorations you create for Hanukkah? These mindfulness activities can help calm racing thoughts, release pent-up energy, and prepare the mind for rest.

6. Remove distractions.

Holiday decor like lights and music can be a major distraction when we’re trying to sleep. Make sure kids’ windows are well-covered, blocking out any twinkling or blinking lights from the street. If you’re staying with family, try to find a place for the kids to sleep well away from any late-night conversations. Tuck travel cribs in quiet, safe spaces like the laundry room or a home office. If cousins are likely to stay up all night giggling (like in my family), it might be time for separate rooms.

Winter Jammies

Winter is a great time to get outdoors and active!

7. Tire them out.

Kids have a seemingly limitless amount of energy, but that’s nothing some good old-fashioned cardio can’t cure! A few hours before bedtime, get the kids up and moving with some holiday games and activities. Winter is a great time for snowball fights, hide and seek, and capture the flag. If they opened new toys or games during the festivities, find a way to make playtime as active as possible. This extra calorie burn will come in handy at bedtime!

8. Try a natural route.

Certain natural supplements, like melatonin or specific essential oils, can help the body relax and calm down enough for sleep. (If you choose to go a supplement route, just be sure to check with your pediatrician first.) Essential oils like lavender, valerian, and chamomile are great for relaxation. A couple of drops in a diffuser, under pillows, or on your kids’ pajamas can help lull them into a smooth sleep.

9. Stay flexible!

We get it–the holidays are exciting! And for many kids, the winter holidays are the highlight of the year. Excitement, adrenaline, and sugar can all be a major detriment to healthy sleep–and kids who are normally well-behaved might fight bedtime a little harder than usual during the holidays. Take a few deep breaths, stay flexible, and remember how you felt about the holidays when you were a kid.

The holidays are a wonderful time to create and share memories with your family. With a can-do attitude, some perseverance, and just a sprinkling of holiday magic, you can ensure your kids get enough sleep to carry them through the excitement of the season.

New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.