Traditions are my favorite! I love creating memorable experiences for my kids, and December is full of many anticipated events that we have done year after year. Watching The Polar Express and making graham cracker trains is one that my kids definitely look forward to. We always include this holiday tradition as one of our Advent activities.
Each year, my kids invite a couple of friends to join them. I hit the candy aisle for mini M&M’s, Smarties, Gummy Lifesavers for wheels, mini Starbursts for windows, Nerds, Candy Canes, mini marshmallows and whatever else looks fun and festive. I get a couple of boxes of graham crackers and some vanilla frosting and have the table ready when friends arrive. I have found that muffin tins make the perfect holder for a variety of sweet treats. #CommissionsEarned
I tell the kids to create their train, but to hold off on eating until we start the movie. I love watching all of their creative ideas come to life. Some of their trains are simple and others make complex box cars with hidden compartments filled with candy. I like to include a few “healthier” snacks to put out with the movie as well, so that they are not leaving my house in the midst of a sugar crash.
I usually plan for about an hour for train making and two hours for the movie. Once the trains are complete, we throw on The Polar Express, which honestly is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. I am pretty relaxed about kids eating in my living room, so I let everyone get comfy and enjoy their tasty creations while they watch.
For more fun Christmas ideas check out my other holiday blogposts:
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have been reflecting on the progression of our Thanksgivings over the years. This used to be the one holiday that my entire side of the family came together. We spent several days at my mom’s house baking, taking walks through the almond orchards in her town, playing games, bike riding, watching movies, and preparing for the big feast on Thanksgiving Day. When my mom passed away, 6 years ago, everything about this beloved holiday changed. We started getting together with my family the weekend after Thanksgiving for a non traditional meal, which has still made for some really fun memories, but some years, we have found ourselves at home on Thanksgiving Day, just the 5 of us.
I love to create memories that my kids will look back on with joy when they have families of their own, so on those quiet Thanksgivings we started a new tradition. I purchased a roll of brown craft paper and used it as our table cloth. I grabbed a large bowl from the kitchen to use as a template to trace circles for each member of our family and put a bucket of markers in the middle of the table. At some point in the day, before our big feast, we all sit down and make “turkey handprints” in the circles and then write the things we are thankful for. The circles then become our dinner place settings. #CommissionsEarned
On Thanksgiving, like many families, we take some time to share what we are thankful for. This interactive table setting, provides plenty of content for a wonderful conversation about gratitude and gives each member of the family a chance to put their creativity on display.
You can even add to this activity by including some fun holiday stickers for the kids, as well as a beautiful thankful sticker to place along the center of your table. #CommissionsEarned
For more fun Thanksgiving ideas, check out these blogposts:
Turning Dad into a snowman has become one of the most anticipated Advent activities for our children. We started this tradition 3 years ago and it’s always sure to bring out tons of laughter and joy for all of us! The kids squealed with delight this morning, when they opened the Advent bag and read that this was the day to make a Dad “snowman!”
The best part of this activity, besides the crazy amount of laughter, is that it is free! Just gather what you have around the house. We used a couple of rolls of toilet paper, some scrapes of cardstock for the eyes, coal buttons, nose, mouth, and arms. I grabbed a scarf out of my closet and a hat out of the kid’s dress up box. Have some scotch tape handy and you are ready to go.
Last year, by accident, my husband got some toilet paper in his mouth, which made for a hilarious few minutes of giggles for the kids. So of course, this year, there was the expectation that he would make this happen once again. He did not disappoint! Make sure to watch our video to the very end to see the grand finale!
Over the last several years, we have switched things up a bit. So far all but one of us has been the snowman. The kids were delighted the year that they opened the advent bag and found the card that said “turn MOM into a snowman!” From that point on, every year we have chosen a different person to be the snowman. Here are a few pics of this silly tradition.
For more Christmas Fun check out the following blogposts:
Every year, in the month of December, we spent time focusing on preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. One tangible way we do this as a family is by doing Advent Activities. Each day, December 1-25, our kids open the Advent Bag that corresponds with that day. Each bag contains a card with a Bible verse and a family activity printed on it.
I’ve included a video tutorial on how I made my Advent Bags. They are simple to make and have held up for over 5 years. My kids get so excited when they see them hung up across a wall of our house each December.
I’ve also given you a list of the Bible verses that we use, as well as our Advent activities for this year. Just an FYI, some of our activities may not be in the order I have posted. I try to plan ahead, but adjust as necessary depending on how life goes. Follow my blog this month for more detailed blog posts on some of our crafts and family activities.
ADVENT BIBLE VERSES
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 118:29
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zecharaiah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” Luke 1:13
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Luke 1:76-77
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Luke 1: 30-32
And everyone went to his own town to register. Luke 2:3
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. Luke 2:21
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:20
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of king Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11a
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11b
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:11
And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Your word is truth. John 17:17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Jesus is the Son of God. Acts 9:20
This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
One of our Thanksgiving traditions is to create a thankful tree. We have done this several ways throughout the years, but this has become my favorite way to display our gratitude in the month of November. It is a great activity that encourages families to spend quality time together and to focus on the things we are grateful for.
Fall walks are full of beauty with the changing colors and leaves and twigs scattered throughout. We are blessed to have gorgeous walking trails in our city. This year we took our kids out to collect branches near the river. We brought the branches home and placed them in a vase. This year I just used a large mason jar. I cut out simple tags using my Cricut machine, punched a hole in the top, and threaded a loop of twine through each one. #CommissionsEarned
One evening, when we were all home together, we sat down in the living room and spent a few minutes writing the things that we are thankful for, then decorated our “tree.” This activity can be done anytime in the month of November and can become part of your Fall decor, or it can be an activity that you do with extended family and friends on Thanksgiving day when many are gathered, as a part of your time together.
It’s the Monday morning of Thanksgiving break. We are all in our pajamas and enjoying a relaxing day off. In a couple of days we will pack up and head to Papa and Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. But today we are home with virtually no agenda. I mentioned to my husband that we had cinnamon rolls and bacon in the refrigerator and then inspiration hit! I had seen a picture of these breakfast turkeys on Pinterest and had wanted to make them. Today was the perfect day! These sweet and yummy turkeys didn’t last long in our house…and I think we found a new Thanksgiving Break tradition.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love the food, the family time, and all the yummy desserts. Involving the kids in the preparations makes the anticipation even greater. Each year, I give my kids an activity to do before we pack up and make the trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. We made these place cards several years ago, and I have to say, they are still one of my favorites. To make these cute turkey place cards for your Thanksgiving table you will need card stock in plain colors, scrapbooking paper in various fall prints for the feathers, and buttons or googly eyes. Cut out rectangles of card stock and fold in half for the cards, cut out the basic turkey shape, small orange triangles for beaks, red squiggly gobbles, and feathers in various prints. Hand out glue sticks and let your kids get creative with the design of their turkeys. Leave some room on one side to place the names. I just printed a list of names off of the computer and then backed them with dark brown card stock to make them pop. These little place cards looked perfect on our Thanksgiving table, and my kids were very proud of their creations! #CommissionsEarned
My daughter and I recently added a tutorial for you to enjoy and you can find another fun kid friendly Thanksgiving idea by clicking on my most recent blogpost Thanksgiving (Turkey Handprint) Kids Table. Happy Thanksgiving!
When my oldest son was in preschool, we started this tradition. Every year during Christmas Break, my kids get to invite a couple of friends over to make graham cracker gingerbread houses. We have carried on this tradition for 10 years now and it is definitely one we all look forward to. A muffin tray makes the perfect holder for the various small candies used to decorate these tiny edible houses. Royal frosting is a must, as it hardens quickly and acts like glue to hold the sides of your houses together. Stick pretzels can be used to create a log cabin or a fence. It’s helpful to give each child a baggie full of frosting with one corner snipped off for cleaner lines. Because this is a messy experience, I like to put a cheap plastic table cloth on my table for easy clean up. It’s also important to buy heavy duty plastic or thick paper plates to build your houses on. To secure the houses, it’s best to “glue” the base to the plate with some royal frosting. I always invite parents to stay and hang out while the kids work on their house’s. Not only does it make for good company, but there are extra hands to hold graham crackers in place and spread frosting for little ones who need the help. I love to see how each child comes up with a completely different and unique design for their graham cracker gingerbread house. I imagine that we will continue this tradition for years to come!