The holidays are a time for togetherness. Yet, for many families, it’s also a stressful season ruled by obligations and pricey expectations: gift-giving, attending party after party, adhering to tiresome traditions. Especially for families with young children, the unrelenting demands of the holidays can take over. Orchestrating wholesome family-friendly, meaningful holiday activities quickly take a back seat to other demands.

Whatever and however you celebrate your holidays, it is important to include rituals and family traditions. Not only do they foster togetherness, they also serve as warm memories for your children to look back on. Even in today’s fast-paced world, it’s possible to carve out a half-hour to an hour or so for holiday activities.

5 ideas for parents:

1. Make ‘boring’ meals special.

Establish a traditional holiday breakfast in your house—a special kind of pancakes, coffee cake, sticky buns, omelets, or jelly-filled crepes, a dish you know your family prefers—that you reserve for the season.

2. Foreground gratitude.

Make any dinner during the holiday season special by taking time to reflect on what people are grateful for. For bigger celebrations, allow each child to make a toast or offer thanks for a holiday meal. If you pray before the meal, let the kids take turns leading the prayer day to day.

3. Create something sweet.

Bake and decorate gingerbread houses together. This is an impressive and splendid labor of love that’s worth the time in the memory department. Use it as a centerpiece at the dinner table — children will delight in showing off their work to friends and family — or feature it in an annual holiday card. Kits are available, making it much easier for all. If you’re short on time, you can opt for less-labor-intensive gingerbread man cookies. Assemble candies and other sweets to serve as buttons. Frosting can become hair or used to outline clothing.

4. Pen a new family legend.

Pay attention to the activities that especially capture your children’s attention and turn them into a fun tale. Write a fun or fantasy short story about your family — its members near and far, its achievements, and its goals — to read as part of one evening’s festivities. Older children can contribute lines or plot points.

5. Turn the tree into a timeline.

Handmade ornaments are quick and easy to knit or needlepoint. Add a new one each year. You can find appropriate patterns online or at a local craft shop that children can make. Help your child make an ornament with his photograph and the date. In the years to come, you can reflect with the kids about the ornaments — tell where they came from, who made them, and any unique stories behind them.

For more meaningful holiday ideas and parent-child bonding tips — including suggestions for birthdays, other holidays and special occasions, visit Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.

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