Alternative Christmas Traditions You Can Start With Small Children

Deer figurine with fairy lights

Donate Old Toys

Take time towards the end of the year to go through your children's toys and books together and find things to donate to a charity shop. Even if your child can only part with one thing, that's one more thing another child could be receiving for Christmas (and one less thing cluttering up your home when you're trying to find room for all the kids' new Christmas gifts).

Keep Advent Calendars Simple

Remember when advent calendars were made of cardboard and each door had a picture of a snowman or a stocking or a sleigh behind it and that was it? They were still so very, very exciting, weren't they? There's no need to spend a fortune on twenty-four tiny gifts (no, not even books) or to commit yourself to doing twenty-four different time consuming treats with your kids - you CAN just give them a paper calendar or a basic chocolate calendar from the discount store, and that WON'T be setting you up for a headache every December.

Bake For Customer Service Folk

Use festive cookie cutters to make shortbread or bung together some mince pies (no judgement for using shop bought pastry and/or mincemeat!) and give them to your neighbours or your postie or that one nice delivery driver or the folk in your local shop or the lovely librarian. Anyone who regularly makes you and your family members smile.

(And, if you're feeling self conscious about this suggestion, let me just assure you that one of my best memories of working in video shops - and working in video shops was AWESOME - is of a regular customer bringing us a homemade fig cake one December).

Watch A Christmas Film on Christmas Eve

It has become A Thing for children to be given an incredibly generous "Christmas Eve Box" filled with books and DVDs and pyjamas and sweets and crockery and... well... more stuff than I personally think they need on Christmas Day itself, never mind the night before. You do NOT need to do all of this; making some hot chocolate, putting on comfy pyjamas and snuggling up on the sofa to read a Christmas story or watch a festive film will give you the same cosy feeling without all the added expense.

Eat By Candlelight

The winter solstice is a few days before Christmas and it's the perfect time to get out the candles. Make it a tradition to eat by candlelight and/or fairy light through the darker parts of December.

Stick to Your - Small - Budget

Steve and I have a strict £30 limit for ourselves and the kids; we have a £10 per niece/nephew limit agreed with my sister; and we do a £10 Secret Santa with Matilda's group of friends. That's it. There is no need to spend £100s on each child if you can't comfortably afford it (arguably, there is no need to spend £100s on each child even if you CAN comfortably afford it); focusing on family time and festive traditions is much more important than running up debt buying presents. Take this from someone who received tiny gifts compared to most of the kids in my class at school: receiving less will do your child no harm.

Choose A Gift For A Stranger

There is bound to be a charity near you collecting toys for underprivileged children. Letting your kids choose a gift for a child they don't know is a great way to encourage empathy and kindness; it also helps them to appreciate their own fortunate position.

You could also consider a reverse advent calendar, which involves putting one food/personal essential item into a large box each day in December, then donating the lot to a food bank just after Christmas. This is one for slightly older children; toddlers will lose focus pretty quickly.

Make Christmas Gifts For Your Garden

If you have a garden - and, unlike ours, it doesn't swarm with seagulls whenever you carry food into it - be sure to feed the birds. Decorate trees with popcorn garlands for a really festive look.

Make Thank You Cards

If you send Christmas cards, it's probably already a tradition to make them with your children. But what about thank you cards? I would argue that these are more important - taking the time to thank somebody properly for a gift is an important habit for kids to learn, and the easiest way to do that is not to watch their parents writing a message in a shop bought card, it's to put effort into creating the cards themselves.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

For loads of Christmas baking and craft inspiration, follow my Pinterest board here.

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