I blinked yesterday and found out it was December. It had been December for several miles already, but we were moving so quickly I hadn’t noticed the scenery. So in honor of December, here is a collection of free things to do with your family to slow the pace down a little bit.
One: Make a paper calendar as a family. Put everything on it. The more discerning of your children will recognize that that it’s really full and will agree to pull back a little bit, or at least complain less when you say, “No, we can’t do that.”
Two: Spend an evening (or fifteen minutes) walking/driving around your neighborhood to look at your neighbors’ decorations. One year I made Bingo boards with the different things we’d seen. This year’s Bingo squares here include an inflatable Minnie Mouse, a Storm Trooper, Yoga (it’s a big year for Star Wars and Minions, apparently), Minions, a dragon in a Santa Hat, and Santa smashed into a chimney.
Three: Bake cookies or cinnamon ornaments. Here’s the recipe we like. (Do me a favor and don’t compare ours to hers.) Our ornaments have held up for 6 years, through two moves, so they’re more durable than you think.
Four: Go through old photos together. Repeat your family stories.
This gem is from 2010, when we helped Aunt Mandy decorate for Christmas. (You can see that hair care was a top priority even then.)
Five: Make gingerbread houses. Make them cheaply, from graham crackers or pretzels. Think of these as Minecraft structures, built to be destroyed by your siblings, instead of enduring architectural masterpieces.
Six: Observe Advent. It’s a quiet church season, unlike Christmas (and especially unlike the commercial version of Christmas.) Pray together over the injustice you see in the world. It takes a minute, especially for the younger ones to slow down enough to think about the second coming and what we’re waiting for, but it’s worth the effort.
In years past, we have followed an Advent devotional through the four weeks, always crashing somewhere in the middle a missing a few days here and there. So if you’ve always wanted to do an Advent book/reading series/devotional but didn’t manage to start on Sunday, no worries. Start where you are!
Here’s my favorite easy Advent “calendar”: write out the verses from Luke 2: 1-20, breaking them into enough segments to cover the days of Advent. (Or, if you’re starting today, just 17.) Then cut the paper into rings, staple them together. Open one each day, pasting them up and reading the story each day as it develops.
Side note: I tried to have the girls in my Sunday school class at church do this with me this week. We couldn’t decide if it was better to label them 1-22 (since there are 22 day of Advent this year), or 3-24 for the actual dates of December. Two of the girls told me what a terrible craft it was, because it wasn’t perfect. So anyway, do it yourself and then you won’t have tiny perfectionists criticizing your crafting.
Seven: Pull out a favorite Christmas book and spend time curled up together, reading. Our favorite is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but I just bought a new-to-us audiobook of The Christmas Carol I’m hoping to slip in here one night, accompanied by hot chocolate and popcorn.
What would you add? What are your favorite free ways to slow December down?