All They Want for Christmas is You!

Carving out some one-on-one time with your child during the holidays is worth all the bells and tinsel in the world. Here are 10 ways to create magical memories that will last a lifetime for both of you.

By Laura Reagan-Porras

The holidays are here! You’ve planned and prepared, but this time of year can be a hectic, often chaotic swirl of shopping, entertaining, and traveling. Kids may be looking forward to doing absolutely nothing during the holidays. They may be a little burned out from the structure and regiment of school, tutoring sessions and sports activities. If we aren’t careful, we can overbook the holidays too. It’s easy to get swept up in the shopping, gift-giving, parties and the cousin chaos of extended family. We may even schedule an elaborate holiday vacation to get away from it all.

In an attempt to create the “perfect holiday,” we busy ourselves to the point of forgetting to enjoy the simple moments of the season and we teach our children how to stress over the holidays rather than how to enjoy relationships. Zig Zigler may have communicated it best. Love = time to a child. Why don’t we create magical holiday moments by slowing down and making a concerted effort to spend some simple one on one time with each one of our children individually?

One on one time with each child can fuel strong lifelong bonds and create holiday memories for years to come. It may seem counter intuitive to keep a list of possible “spontaneous” holiday activities to cultivate but the truth is, many of us aren’t good at letting go, truly attending our kid’s emotional needs and having fun. Here are some ideas for spending one on one time with each child that doesn’t require a big budget and may be shared regardless of age or gender.

1. Holiday baking. Let your child lead the way. Find a recipe with simple ingredients they can follow without a lot of fuss. Or buy a tube of cookie dough from the grocery store and keep it simple. Talk and listen to each other while you are decorating cookies. Give some to the neighbors to introduce community building and talk about holiday values.

2. Play Outside! Even play in the rain or snow with your child and enjoy your child’s smiles and giggles with no agenda or time limit.

3. Organize old family photos into a holiday album or start a scrapbook of a beloved family holiday.  Talking about the memories can help kids re-live the experience and draw you closer.

4. Homemade Seasons Greetings. Buy a new box of crayons and construction paper. If you are really adventurous buy glitter or glitter glue. Make New Year’s cards. You may get really wild and make homemade ornaments. Put on some Christmas music if that’s your tradition and sing along while you create. Music is proven to enhance memory. If you sing off key and giggle, that’s even better.

5. Volunteer together. Let your child pick the activity that means the most to him. Provide a list of volunteer activities and let her choose. You may choose to walk or bathe a dog at your local shelter, giving him a holiday treat. You may choose to volunteer to pack family food boxes at your local food bank or organize clothing racks at your local homeless shelter. Your child may want to gather gently loved books to the children’s wing of your local hospital. Your child may enjoy staying close to home and raking leaves in the neighbor’s yard. Or encourage your child to think of their own volunteer activity.

6. Movie Day! Ask your child to pick his favorite holiday flick, Home Alone, Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph or other. Make popcorn and binge watch, snuggled up on the couch together – just you and your child. You may even string popcorn while you watch.

7. Holiday Book Binge. Go to your local library, check out holiday books. Make hot chocolate and sit and binge read together one right after the other. Be sure to ask your child which is her favorite and why. Talk about the stories. Take turns reading out loud, and use funny voices to animate the characters.

8. Holiday Storytelling. Tell stories to each other with the listener providing the first lines. Here are some story ideas: Rudolph the Untold Story, Frosty’s Vacation, the Zoo Holiday or Little Drummer Boy and the Flute Girl.

9. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree! Put on your favorite Christmas music and rock out together! Get your groove on and give your child a spontaneous dance lesson. They may find out how cool you are.

10. Holiday Lights Tour. Take an evening drive before bedtime in your pajamas. Pipe in holiday tunes and drive around town looking at Christmas lights. Ooh and ah over what you see. (This one has become a tradition for my daughter and me.)

Tear this list out and stick it on your refrigerator as a reminder to seize the holiday moments and simply enjoy each other. Then add to the list to make your own homespun, holiday memories.

Laura Reagan-Porras, MS, is a family sociologist, parenting coach and parenting journalist.