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What truly makes something special? If there’s anything that brings more calm into our life it’s keeping the birthdays, vacations, Holy Days, and holidays fun, but low-key and very simple.  It’s too easy to fall into the overwhelm and stress of making memories.

Where do you even begin in simplifying these festive times? I’ve collected ideas in the past few years that help me stay accountable to keeping things manageable and I want to share them with you to inspire you to do the same.

VACATIONS

I read a great article a few years ago in Wonder Time Magazine about a family that planned vacations in a very unique way.  Their goals were to:

  • disconnect – unplug from cell phones, computers, and television as a family for 1-2 nights to completely get away from “life as usual”.
  • relax – enjoy one another’s company by being fully present without an agenda.
  • escape at least 4 times each year for a weekend together.
  • make the vacation centered on the hotel amenities – the indoor pool, big breakfast, elevator rides.
  • create tradition – purchasing some kind of new game to play or art project to do in the room, read or tell stories, play charades or hot potato – something easy and non-competitive.

This family took to heart that vacations with young children aren’t easy. Despite your best intentions, your little ones do so much better when their routines are upheld – their regular meals, naps, and bedtime.

A great idea is to choose a hotel like Embassy Suites 1-2 hours from home (just in case someone gets sick or hurt, home is easy to get to), buy a new game, and look forward to a relaxing hotel stay.  That’s it.  That ‘s the plan.  When you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers you’re going to have a higher vacation success rate because a plan like this is low-key, inexpensive, relaxing, and your expectations are super low.  Getting more frequent breaks because it’s short and affordable, keeps your spirits up because you know a get-away is coming up sooner rather than later.

HOLIDAYS

It can be hard for me to hold back my excitement for particular holidays and not go overboard on decorations and activities.  My favorite holiday is Halloween.  I love the decorations, the pumpkin patch visits, the hot cocoa and spooky story times on-the-lawn at our local co-op, costume parties, and, of course trick-or-treating.  Whew.  So, I’m really trying to think about how to simplify this holiday for my family.

This year, my goal is to create a nature table for each  season that allows the kids to participate and to celebrate and focus on bringing the great outdoors, in rather than filling the house with lots of nick knacks – choosing a few select items unique to that festive time.  My kids love to collect things from outside and add them to the nature table.  Leaves, acorns, feathers, pinecones, gourds in the fall;   berries, candles, and sprigs of evergreen in winterflowers, eggs, seedlings, and clovers in spring;  and shells, drift wood, and stones in summer.

Placing the emphasis on nature will help me stay away from buying more holiday paraphernalia and from having to put up stuff, take it down, put it up, take it down.  Since the seasons are longer than any given holiday, it will be less stressful.

During the holiday times, I look at all of the activities and try to focus on one or two. For example, in the fall, the pumpkin patch is a great family tradition for us and celebrating the holiday with an hour of trick-or-treating on the 31st seems reasonable.

After a gleeful night of trick-or-treating, our kids leave their bags of candy on the front porch for “The Halloween Witch.”  She leaves them 3-5 pieces of candy and exchanges the rest for one small toy.  This past year, my daughter received a craft kit and my son got a dragon figurine; they were thrilled and I didn’t have weeks of negotiating candy rations!

Another great tip I got from a fellow mommy blogger — keep the Halloween costume reserved for Halloween night only (and then it can go into the dress up box). Wow! This makes total sense to me since my children decide at the beginning of the month on a costume and by Halloween night they are crying because they want to be something else; the chosen costume no longer holds its allure because they’ve been wearing it all month long!

Because there is so much more to simplifying these special times for our family, I am creating an e-book chock full of ideas and tips on all of the holidays, birthdays, and vacation weeks.  Stay tuned for more information about this valuable resource.

I’d love to hear your feedback about how you make your yearly traditions special and simple for your little ones.