A Simple Christmas

We live simply so naturally we also celebrate a simple Christmas.

We’ve said no to busyness, consumerism and unrealistic expectations. Instead, we simply enjoy the season.

Here are some ways we’re celebrating a simple Christmas:

Gifts

We give our children 3 gifts each.

This year our oldest is receiving a Thomas Wooden Railway engine, a Richard Scarry book and a pack of 3 pair of Thomas socks (socks sound boring but he saw them in a store a few months ago and has talked about them since then!)

Our youngest son loves farming so we’re giving him a toy piglet and goat to add to his little farm and a book about spring called Let It Rain. (We have the 3 other books in this series about the seasons Let It Shine, Let It Fall and Let It Snow. They are cute, simple books that are perfect for teaching toddlers and preschoolers about the seasons.)

Only giving our children 3 gifts may sound cruel to some, but it’s perfect for us. After all, we live in a small home and don’t like clutter! And, for those who feel sorry for our children because of our 3 gift policy, know that our boys have grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and great aunts who send them gifts so they’ll be receiving more than 3 gifts at Christmas.

Advent

While we try to focus on Christ’s birth as the center of the season, we have chosen not to observe advent by following any set of readings or activities. During this season of life with 2 small boys and a pregnant mama, it seemed like more of a stress than a joy to try to do something daily.

Instead, we’re reading picture books about Jesus’ birth and playing with our nativity, teaching our boys in fun, simple ways. (The stories about Christmas in The Jesus Storybook Bible are our favorites!)

Baby Jesus

 

No Santa or Elves in Our Home

We have chosen not to ‘do Santa’ in our family. We don’t believe Santa is evil, we just have chosen not to have Santa visit our home. Our boys still talk and sing about Santa, they just know he isn’t real.

If families choose to do Santa, that’s their decision, we do not judge other parents for their choice. For us, it just made sense to not have Santa come and bring even more presents to our children since we desire to live simply and not make Christmas all about stuff.

Since we don’t do Santa, there is no need for us to have an elf in our home during December. And, quite frankly, these naughty little elves seem like a lot of work for parents. By the time our boys are finally asleep at the end of the day, I’m too exhausted to do anything creative!

Decor

While I love homes that are beautifully decorated for Christmas, it’s just something I choose not to do.

We have a Christmas tree and that’s it. Our tree is a small, artificial tree that was given to us several years ago. It’s not a fancy artificial tree but it’s lovely during the evenings when it’s all lit up.

Our tree is decorated with kid friendly ornaments which my children still manage to break. (During the decorating of the tree we had 3 ornament casualties and have had several more since then!) And, our boys decorated the tree so the ornaments are just randomly placed. But, they had a wonderful time and were proud of their decorating and we used what we had – no going out buying brand new ornaments for a fancy color scheme of the year here!

We’re enjoying this Christmas season and excitedly anticipating gathering with family, having daddy off for several days and visiting with our parents in the weeks ahead.

What are some ways you keep Christmas simple? 

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Gifts to Encourage Creativity

With Christmas quickly approaching, many parents and grandparents are thinking about gifts for the children in their lives.

Many toys that are given to children at Christmas are quickly forgotten, but some gifts have staying power. Classic, open ended toys encourage creativity in young children and are played with for months and often times years.

Here are some of our favorite toys:

Blocks

Blocks

You really can’t go wrong with blocks. A nice set of blocks is a simple toy that will be used over and over for so many different things from towers to bridges to play food. We gave our older son a set of Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks for his first Christmas and they’re still being played with almost 3 years later. We added to that original set when our younger son was given a set of Uncle Goose Number Blocks last Christmas.

In addition to our wooden blocks, we also enjoy the sets of Foam Building Blocks and Building Blocks (like Mega Bloks or Duplos) that we have.

Dress Up

Dress Up Clothes

My boys love dressing up. We have a small collection of dress up items like train hats, superhero capes and a pirate outfit. They really enjoy pulling out the dress up bin and engaging in pretend play. One of the favorites is the Melissa & Doug Pirate Costume, it’s a high quality dress up set that has been played with countless times over the past year and will used for many years to come.

Wooden Train Tracks

Wooden Train Sets

When our older son started showing an interest in trains, we chose wooden train tracks over plastic. We felt the wooden tracks were more open ended and encouraged creativity more than the plastic ones (especially electric trains) available.

You can purchase inexpensive wooden train tracks at various places but we chose to go with the Thomas Wooden Railway. It is expensive but we started out with a Starter Set which included 2 trains and a caboose, he received a track expansion pack and 3 engines as gifts last Christmas from grandparents and another engine for his birthday. Over a year has passed since the initial train set purchase and both boys are still playing with the track and engines and that’s what he wants again this Christmas.

In addition to the creative train play, building the track requires engineering. He’s so proud of the different track set ups he creates and I’m often blown away by what he has created.

We forsee playing with these train tracks for years to come. And, trains aren’t just for boys! Most little girls love trains too – so don’t buy into the gender stereotypes!

Art Supplies

Art Supplies

Art supplies definitely encourage creativity – and big messes! We don’t have a ton of art supplies but big pad of construction paper, colored pencils, fingerpaints, paint and paint brushes goes a long way in helping kids embrace their inner artist. Both of our boys love doing ‘art stuff’. And, art supplies are a consumable gift!

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

Our older son loves music. He received his first drum and guitar on his second Christmas and those two toys are still being played with and providing music for our family jam sessions! We added a small wooden drum for little brother last Christmas. Other favorites include the child size child drum kit and our xylophone.

Puzzles

Puzzles

For toddlers, Melissa & Doug Chunky Puzzles are wonderful. The large pieces are easy for little hands to maneuver plus they make fun toys too. We also like Melissa & Doug Wooden Puzzles and have a few Thomas The Tank Engine Wooden Puzzles. The wooden puzzles hold up much better than cardboard puzzles – especially if a younger sibling decides to chew on them!

Books

Books

While books aren’t exactly toys, they certainly inspire creativity and can be the starting point for inspiring creative play. My boys will role play favorite characters and act out their favorite stories.

A few of our very favorite books:

If you’re still looking for gifts for young children, hopefully this list helps you find a wonderful gift to encourage creativity!

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Cloth Christmas Bags

Trying to have a ‘green’ Christmas isn’t easy.  Over the past few years, I’ve been taking steps towards using green wrapping. I try to use recycled materials like newspapers and paper that comes in packages as well as reusing gift bags we’ve been given the previous year.

One of my favorite ways to wrap presents is using cloth Christmas bags which can be reused over and over, making them very ‘green’.

Making cloth Christmas bags is so simple. Mine are not super fancy and the edges aren’t serged but they’re adorable and I love that they’ll be reused over and over in our family.

The best part, they cost nothing but about an hour of time – I had several different Christmas fabrics in my fabric stash.

Cloth Christmas Bag Fabric

Step 1: Cut out your fabric in a rectangular shape. The size doesn’t matter, just base it upon how big you want your finished bags. I made several bags of varying sizes to hold both large and small gifts.

Hem Fabric

Step 2: Hem the edges of the fabric that will become the top of the bag. This step makes them look much neater.

Fold Fabric

Step 3: Fold your rectangle over with the hemmed edges touching and sew up the sides.

Cloth Christmas Bag

Step 4: You’ve sewn a cloth Christmas bag! All that’s left now is finding the perfect gift to place in your bag and tying it up with a ribbon.

Gift in Cloth Christmas Bag

Isn’t this cute? I used scrap ribbon (mostly ‘recycled’ from gifts I’ve received in the past) to tie up my bags.

Unwrapping Presents

We’ve been using cloth Christmas bags a few years now and love that they help prevent waste.

Are you taking any steps towards a ‘green’ Christmas? If so, what are you doing? 

What Happend to Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving.

What thoughts pop to mind when you think of this holiday?

Do you think turkey, football and family? Or does your mind wonder to Black Friday, sale ads and shopping?

My thoughts go to ‘what happened to Thanksgiving?’ 

Why don’t we really stop and give thanks for the blessings we have? Blessings of family, of health, of living in a free country? The blessing of the freedom of religion and the access to education? And, the blessings of a warm home, running water, plenty of food and clothing?

It seems like the beautiful day of Thanksgiving, a day where we should stop and give thanks for the things we do have, has turned into the gateway of consumerism. Thanksgiving dinner tables won’t even be cleared with the leftovers put in the fridge and the dishes washed before ‘black Thursday’ begins.

It’s just hard for me to understand how Americans have turned a day of thanks into yet another day of consumerism.

I won’t be spending my Thanksgiving day (or weekend) as a consumer. Instead, I’ll be thankful for the small pleasures of life. I’ll enjoy lazy mornings with my family, a Thanksgiving meal with extended family and a quiet weekend in (avoiding all of the shopping craziness!)

Remember, when you choose to go shopping on Thursday, you’re saying that another day of shopping is more important than Thanksgiving and family time for those working in retail. Your choice to go out and consume is why retailers open their stores.