I’ve got the holiday spirit. Bad. And it’s all thanks to our 3-year-old son. Seeing his little face light up at every holiday detail fills me with warmth and joy. We turned on the car radio the other morning as little Michael Jackson was belting out “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Jack was giddy and screamed, “We sing this at preschool! I know this song!”
The magic is real and I want to be a part of it.
Here are some ways we’ve been keeping the holiday spirit alive in our Anchorage household. Share yours in the comments!
1. Portable North Pole
A friend told me about Portable North Pole, a free online program where you enter a few generic bits of information about your child, what you’d like him to work on this year (we went with “brush teeth every night”) and a photo. In a few minutes you have a personalized video message from Santa.
Our son Jack was stunned when he watched it. He made us replay it four times. Let the Christmas joy begin.
2. Get into the kitchen
Our preschooler loves to help out in the kitchen. At Thanksgiving he helped me make pumpkin pie and it was a kitchen bonding experience. He measured the flour, cracked the eggs and turned on the mixer.
Last week we made perfect potato latkes and Jack was a terrific sous chef.
Whether it’s Christmas cookies or candy cane bark, there’s plenty of ways to get your kids culinarily involved.
3. Donate to a local shelter
Each year Bean’s Cafe, a local homeless shelter, turns to the community to help out with Beanie Boxes, which are wrapped shoeboxes filled with necessities such as deodorant, toothbrushes and socks. Have your child help you fill up a shoebox with goodies, pick out the wrapping paper and ribbon and drop it off.
This year we collected items for AWAIC, the local women’s shelter. I made a list based on what they asked for and included little clip art pictures of each item to make it visual. Jack and I went to the store and he selected three items from the list to donate.
4. Felt Christmas Tree
This is a project I put together two years ago, but it’s still fun to play with. Buy a couple of yards of green felt and cut out a tree shape. On several different colors of felt draw some simple shapes and have your child cut them out to create ornaments. Pin the tree to the wall and let him decorate his tree to his heart’s content.
Click here for a more detailed tutorial.
5. Go to a holiday movie
Up till now we’ve avoided taking our son to a movie theater. I remember being a non-parent and cursing the world whenever a screaming kid was seated at our movie.
Thankfully there are kid-friendly options. We recently took Jack to Williwaw where they were showing a kid-themed Christmas film as a fundraiser for Special Olympics. It was Jack’s first movie theater experience and a positive one. The manager passed out free popcorn and families roasted marshmallows over a s’mores kit.
Williwaw has several more movie nights planned. There are two show times so you don’t have to worry about staying out past bedtime. Plus it saves you a night of having to cook dinner! Click here for show times.
If you can’t make it to Williwaw, there’s always the peanut gallery at Bear Tooth Theaterpub. Tickets are cheap and if you catch an early show you don’t have to feel bad about making noise in the balcony area.
6. Make snowflakes
Many tiny tots are hard at work on their fine motor skills. Ours loves cutting out paper. Work on making paper snowflakes together. Jack was happy with just cutting up pieces of paper and taping them to the window. We’ve got sort of an abstract impressionism vibe going on.
Here’s a simplified way to make paper snowflakes that is perfect for new scissor users.
7. Visit the Gingerbread Village
Every year the Hotel Captain Cook sets up an elaborate gingerbread house village in their lobby. Check out their live gingerbread web cam to catch a glimpse.
Afterwards, head the the store for some graham crackers, powdered sugar, gumdrops and Necco wafers and build your own.
8. Write holiday cards
I’m a big supporter of snail mail. Have your child help you with your holiday cards by including their scribbles and drawings. Jack actually drew a Christmas tree for his preschool teacher, so that definitely was included.
9. Look at the lights
Kids tend to love sparkly things that light up. Thankfully it’s dark most of the time here right now so it’s easy to find trees and houses adorned with twinkly lights. Start off at Town Square Park, which has some of the most stunning blue lighted trees.
If it’s not too cold, take a stroll through the Alaska Zoo at their evening Zoo Lights event. All the pathways are illuminated by animal-shaped light fixtures, some of which are animated. If you’re lucky you might spot a real, non-napping animal.
This week, Jack rushed inside after school to tell me his wish finally came true: the shooting star was on. A house over on Elmore and Huffman has a tall pole that lights up to the rhythm of holiday music that you tune to your car radio. Jack’s been waiting for it all year; and it’s free!
10. Have Santa mail a letter
Ok, this one is a little manipulative, but I had to give it a try. We have started a tradition in our family that in order for Santa to deliver toys to us, we have to give toys away to someone else who needs them. Instead of boring old parents telling their children to give away their toys, why not have Santa ask?
Santa mailed Jack a letter explaining that sometimes the elves fix up old toys in the workshop to give to other kids who don’t have many things. It worked like a charm. Be sure to put the correct return address.