Christmas time with my kids has become a magical time of year. December is filled with anticipation and excitement, but can also lead to a lot of stress and anxiety…especially as a mom with a lot of extra tasks to accomplish during the month. I’ve learned a few tricks over the last few years to help simplify things and to help keep me focused on what’s most important. SO… here are my top 10 ways we kept Christmas fun, meaningful and SIMPLE this year.
1. VISIT SANTA EARLY. Our family has visited with Jolley’s Old St. Nick in Salt Lake City, Utah for the last three years and we have LOVED it! You can make a reservation online ahead of time which allows you to show up just a few minutes before your allotted time so that you don’t have to stand in line in the cold with your kids. The Santa is super sweet and does a great job. Jack was all smiles this year and London screamed and reached for mama the second we set her on his lap. Jack informed Santa that he wanted trains, a slide and monster trucks for Christmas. Luckily for mom he kept those items on his list all season!
2. CHRISTMAS PAJAMAS. I love to get the kids Christmas pajamas and I decided a few years ago to give them to the kids on Thanksgiving night instead of Christmas Eve. That way the kids can wear them all month long. We got so much use out of them this year! I also noticed that everything was still in stock this year since I ordered so early, which was an added bonus.
3. FRED THE ELF. I have been waiting to get an elf for years. I remember seeing them when they first came out and loving the fun idea! I felt like this was a good year to introduce him and Jack was the perfect age to love the whole idea of an elf at our house. When we got home from Thanksgiving dinner we had our new Elf, Fred, waiting on our kitchen table with a note saying who he was and with the Christmas pajamas wrapped up as a present for the kids to open. I felt like it was a really fun way to get Jackson excited and kick off the Holiday season! I know a lot of moms feel super stressed about the Elf and don’t like doing it. We kept it super simple. Fred moved to a different location each night but we never had him doing extravagant things. I’m sure this might change as the kids get older and expect more from him but this year Jack was completely fascinated by Fred and came upstairs looking for him every single morning. Even London started to point and wave to Fred by the end of the month!
4. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. I will admit this is the item that is the hardest for me and takes the most time. Putting up a Christmas tree with two toddlers was absolutely exhausting. There is no question about that. So I guess I would say my only tips for this are to have your kids help get a few things out to put on the tree to get them excited but then to finish up decorating once they go to bed. It saved me a LOT of time! I love how everything came together in our house this year!
stockings | stocking holders & wreaths – dollar section at target
5. GET YOURSELF A KID-FRIENDLY NATIVITY. I absolutely LOVE having a nativity out during Christmas time. A few years ago our good friends sent us a darling set for Jackson. I love that it’s a toy set so my kids can both play with it. What a wonderful time to teach them about our Savior and the true meaning of Christmas. I also love having a few kid Christmas books out to help teach about the nativity story. My favorites are Who is Coming To Our House and Christmas in the Manger.
I found this darling felt Nativity set this year and am so excited to have another one my kids can play with! Next year I will be on the hunt for a manger to go with it. They all seemed to sell out fast this year so that’s one thing I’ll need to do early on next Christmas season.
6. CHRISTMAS CARDS. Getting Christmas Cards from all my family and friends is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I used to get really stressed about Christmas cards but I finally have found my routine to make them work for me. We took our family photos in the summer this year to help relieve the stress of last minute photos. Scott and I collect and edit addresses all year and keep everything in a shared google drive spreadsheet so we both have access to it. Having everything in one place has helped a TON. After deciding on a design, I decided to spend a little more this year to have all the addresses printed right on to the envelopes. We also had our return address printed. This made things EXTREMELY easy. It only took me about thirty minutes to assemble everything once I received them in the mail.
7. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. We live in Salt Lake City, Utah and it can get COLD by December; however, it is so fun to look at Christmas lights! So we found an option that works really well for our family with young kids. We bought tickets online and went to see lights at Christmas in Color! We actually did this last year too and Jackson liked it so much we decided to go back. You drive through a big display of lights with tunnels and coordinating music. You go so slowly that we let the kids look out the sunroof and out their windows. It is so nice to be able to see fun Christmas lights and to stay warm at the same time. I think this will probably be a new tradition until my kids are older. We’ve found that there are similar types of activities in a lot of the major cities.
8. TEACH YOUR KIDS TO SERVE OTHERS. The holidays are my favorite time to serve others. As a mom of two, it is so important to me that I teach my children to love and serve others as Christ did. Since we have been married, Scott and I pick one act of service each December. We have continued the tradition with the kids and this year was especially fun as we were able to involve Jackson a bit more.
Jackson had to have an emergency surgery a week after his tonsillectomy due to some bleeding. Since we were unprepared for his surgery, they sent Jackson home in a pair of donated pajamas and a donated toy car in each hand. We were so inspired with how impactful such small donations were for us that we decided we would give back to that same hospital this year. We researched items they needed and then we bought some clothes and toys. We had Jackson help us carry them in to the hospital and explained what they were for. I was so proud of him as he willing gave away fun cars and toys and hearing him say they were to help make the sick kids happy. That was hands down one of my favorite moments of the season.
9. GIFTS FOR FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS. I do my best to keep all my gifts simple. I love getting homemade treats at the holidays but honestly I just don’t have time to do a lot of cooking with everything else going on, so I always buy something. I like to find a yummy treat that is gluten free since Scott has Celiac. This year I found these HUGE Toblerone bars and they were perfect! I bought the same thing for everyone and tied a ribbon and tag on them. Super simple!
10. POLAR EXPRESS RIDE. I wanted to pick one activity that we could do as a family that would be really fun for Jackson. His love of trains is still really strong so we decided to head to Heber Valley to ride on the Polar Express Train. I am so happy we did this but a couple things I would do differently next year… I bought my tickets too late so we did a 7:30 PM ride, which was too late for my kids. They were exhausted by the end. They do a lot of day trips on Saturdays so next year I will buy tickets early so that we can go during a better time. I would also suggest going earlier in the season and make sure to dress warm since it can be chilly. My kids both wore their pajamas and LOVED it. If you are local to Salt Lake City, I would also highly suggest you stop at Dairy Keen either before or after for a bite to eat. The train theme in the restaurant fit perfectly with the theme of the evening. This is another activity that I have seen in a lot of large cities around the country.
Regardless of what you decide to do, I hope you find ways to keep the holiday season simple and find ways to brighten the lives of others!
xo, the Heninger Family