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!

Celebrate Together: Holiday Traditions For Kids

The winter holidays are an amazing time for families to come together to celebrate! Whether you celebrate one particular holiday, multiple, or none at all, the end of the year offers a perfect opportunity to create and celebrate family traditions. The team at New Jammies worked together to share our favorite family traditions, in the hopes that we spark new celebrations for yours!

Have you tried one of these traditions? Have a unique tradition of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Egg Carton Penguins from OneLittleProject are a great kid-friendly DIY decoration!

  1. Create DIY decorations. Many winter holidays involve a wonderful amount of decorating. Instead of spending tons of money on store-bought decor, set some time aside each year to create homemade holiday decorations together. There are tons of online guides for easy, kid-friendly DIY projects, like these adorable Egg Carton Penguins from OneLittleProject. The point of this tradition isn’t to be the best at arts and crafts — it’s to enjoy the laughs, the fun, and the time spent in each other’s company.
  2. Perform random acts of kindness. The holidays are a great time to teach children that a little kindness goes a long way. Make it a tradition to surprise strangers with random acts of kindness, like compliments, free hugs, or small gifts. One of our teammates says, “When I was a kid, my dad took my sister and I to a grocery store to buy a bunch of bouquets of carnations. Then, we went to the city center and handed out flowers to random holiday shoppers just to brighten their day. It became a quick tradition!”
  3. Pose for family photos. Holiday cards are an excellent way to update friends and family on the year gone by. They’re also a great addition to any scrapbook or family photo album! Many photographers offer discounted holiday photo packages during the fall and winter. For bonus points, have everyone dress in matching outfits!
  4. Make a countdown calendar devoted to learning. If you celebrate a winter holiday on a specific date, you can create a countdown or advent calendar of your own with your own traditions. For example, you can celebrate learning with a countdown calendar made of books! Each night, read a different book with your kids, focusing on a different holiday, historical figure, or culture. It’s a great way to learn more about the world around us, and share some wonderful family time!
  5. Surprise the neighbors. Many families enjoy baking cookies as part of a holiday tradition. You can take this tradition one step further by sharing the bounty with your neighborhood. There’s nothing quite like surprising your neighbor with a fresh-baked loaf of bread, still hot from the oven!
  6. Start a gag gift tradition. If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday, gag gifts can be a fun, inexpensive way to celebrate the end of the year. Another New Jammies teammate shared this great tradition from her family: “When I was a baby, we had a family friend known as Grandpa Sam. He was so much fun at the holidays. Anytime he opened a gift, he would yell ‘YOWZERS!’ He also had a knack for picking out gag gifts that people would inevitably find useful. For example, a pair of lotion-lined gloves from a dollar store that turned out to be a great cure for wintery dry skin! Today, my family still picks out small ‘gag’ gifts for each other, and as soon as we open them, we all yell ‘YOWZERS!’”
  7. Build your own hayride and look at the lights. Depending on what your neighbors celebrate, many neighborhoods are full to bursting with holiday decorations and lights. Get your family in on the fun by loading everyone in the car, jamming to a playlist of your favorite holiday music, and driving slowly through the neighborhood to look at the lights.

    Hosting a holiday PJ party? Set up a backyard photo booth with wintery decorations, props, costume pieces, and more!

  8. Have a holiday PJ party. This is a great tradition for neighborhood kids, extended family, and adults alike! Instead of an ugly sweater party, have everyone show up in their favorite pajamas. Guests can play games, bring food, and stay up late watching holiday movies. At the end of the night, the kids can have a group sleepover!
  9. Host a neighborhood potluck. This is a wonderful tradition for neighborhoods deeply steeped in culture, where many families celebrate different holidays. Ask everyone to bring a dish made from a family recipe, or a traditional recipe from their family’s country. Spend the night learning about different cultures through delicious food, traditional songs, and party games! “I have been having an annual holiday open house party in the day which is nice because people can stop by during a wider time range,” says New Jammies founder, Nicole Johnson. “It is nice for families because if kids have different nap times or other weekend obligations they can arrive and leave at their convenience.”
  10. Give back. The holidays give us an opportunity to build a volunteering spirit in kids from a young age. Nicole’s family participates in Toys for Tots by choosing a few names from a local tree each year to pick out presents for other families. And at New Jammies, we work with various organizations and fundraisers throughout the year to keep them well stocked in comfy, organic cotton jammies! Find a cause you believe in — hosting a food drive, volunteering at a soup kitchen, making and handing out gifts for a senior home — and make it a family tradition. By participating each year, your kids will see the direct impact of their hands-on volunteer work.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!

Play Right: Fall Crafting for the Kids

At New Jammies, we love the beauty that Autumn brings, from the changing of the leaves to the colors of the harvest. So this season the time is right to let the kids become inspired by all that surrounds them to make fun crafts with a Fall theme at home.

New Jammies Founder and CEO Nicole Ludlow loved the Halloween-inspired Paper Plate Spiders her preschool-aged son made at school, with inspiration from the I Heart Crafty Things blog. We thought we would check out other do-it-yourself crafts young children can complete from iheartcraftythings.com, and these Cupcake Liner Turkey Puppets caught our eye.

Just in time to get into the Thanksgiving spirit!

Turkey Time

“I love making crafts with my kids that can be interactive for pretend play or that we can use to reenact a story that we’ve just read. I came across some darling Cereal Box Turkeys over at Plum Pudding recently and I loved them,” says the iheartcraftythings founder and kids craft designer Rachel Nipper. “I decided to make more of a kid-friendly version that my children could help me with and we are using them as Turkey Puppets. We used one of my favorite crafting materials to make them also, cupcake liners.”

Supplies:

• craft stick [We received ours from our friends at Craftprojectideas.com.]
• 2 mini brown cupcake liners
• 1 orange cupcake liner
• sheet of cardstock paper (I used a scrap piece of yellow, you can use whatever color you want)
• small piece of brown, yellow and red cardstock paper
• 2-inch circle punch (or you can free hand a circle this size)
• school glue
• glue stick
• scissors

Directions:
1. Start by using your glue stick to glue down your orange cupcake liner onto a sheet of cardstock paper. I used a scrap piece of yellow that I had. You can choose whatever color you want to use. Now cut the cupcake liner out. (Backing it with cardstock paper gives the cupcake liner and puppet stability.)

2. Use school glue to glue your craft stick down to the front of your orange cupcake liner.

3. Using your glue stick, glue one of your mini brown cupcake liners onto the orange cupcake liner, positioning it at the bottom.

4. Use your scissors to make slits around the top and sides of your orange cupcake liner. Some of the cardstock paper you glued your cupcake liner onto may show through after doing this, so keep that in mind when deciding what color you use in step 1.

5. Cut your other mini brown cupcake liner in half and glue the pieces onto the sides of your other brown cupcake liner to act as turkey wings.

6. Cut a 2-inch circle from your circle punch out of your brown paper and then glue it onto your puppet.

7. Finish your turkey by adding googly eyes, a beak and snood cut out of your red and yellow paper.

“Now you have a fun little turkey puppet to reenact your favorite turkey story or for imaginative, pretend play. We made several turkeys so my kids have had fun letting them interact with each other,” Rachel says. “I think it would also be fun to play around with different patterned cupcake liners instead of the orange one. I’m thinking orange polka-dot liners or a different pattern. I didn’t have any on hand to try it out.”

Sponge Paint It

Nicole also noticed her preschooler seems to be drawn to painting with sponges, so she became inspired to ignite his creativity at home using household sponges and paint.

“I just cut up a sponge into different shapes and put colors of paint on plate to dip and splotch, she says.

At school, he made this Egg Carton Caterpillar project in class, and it turned out pretty cute, according to Nicole.

“All you need for this project is an egg carton, some kid-friendly paint, pipe cleaners and eyes (optional, because you can always just paint the eyes on),” says Megan Bray, from the Balancing Home blog site.

Read full instructions here.

Catch the Sun

Nicole says another neat project her son did at school, but parents and caregivers can also do at home, is making suncatchers or stainglass.

“Cut a shape out of thin tissue paper and paint with water colors,” she says.

The Artful Parent blog offers 50+ suncatcher crafts for kids at https://artfulparent.com/stained-glass-suncatcher-ideas-kids.

These Autumn Leaf Suncatchers from The Artful Parent are great as holiday presents in December or gifts for the family at Thanksgiving in November.

Supplies:

• Transparent contact paper (sticky-back plastic)
• Fresh autumn leaves
• Heart or other hole punch (optional)

Directions:

1. Cut off a rectangular piece of contact paper. Fold it in half, then pull the paper covering off to the fold, exposing half of the sticky plastic.

2. Arrange your autumn leaves on the sticky contact paper and press to adhere.

3. If desired, your your hole punch to cut out heart (or other) shapes from leaves and add those to the suncatcher as well.

4. When you are satisfied with your design, remove the rest of the paper backing from the contact paper. Carefully fold it over the leaves, sandwiching them in between the two layers of plastic, and press down with your hands, avoiding air bubbles if possible.

5. Hang in a sunny window and admire!

The Artful Parent taped the suncatchers to the window, but sometimes they punch holes in the top and add a ribbon for hanging.

A note about the leaves: The fresh autumn leaves are beautiful, vibrant, and full of color which is one of the reasons we like to use them for these nature suncatchers every year (rather than pressed and dried autumn leaves). However, please note that they will lose some of their color over time and decay. Ours are usually enjoyed for about two weeks before we take them down.

For more fun DIY arts and crafts activities ideas from The Artful Parent, click here.

Happy crafting!

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.