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10 phrases to help kids focus on holiday memories, not just presents

5. "Let's go on a holiday scavenger hunt."

phrases to help kids focus on holiday memories

The holiday season can be truly magical, for both kids and adults. Some of my best memories as a child are of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and I hope my own children look back on our family holidays just as fondly one day.

During this time of excitement, it's so easy for kids to focus on just the presents. Can you really blame them when every commercial is for a Black Friday sale and every store is filled with beautiful displays of toys?

Try these simple phrases to help your children focus on all of the meaningful holiday experiences, rather than just the toys:

1. "When I was a kid..."

Take some time this year to reminisce about your own childhood holidays and traditions. Talk about the things your family did together and which memories are most meaningful to you. Children hear about Santa and presents everywhere they turn, but we can help balance it out by talking about the other wonderful parts of the season.

Plus, young children love hearing stories from their parents' childhoods. They generally find it fascinating, like you're letting them into a secret world they rarely hear about.

2. "Help me unpack the decorations."

Get your child involved in the preparations for the holiday. While these tasks can sometimes seem like just another item on your to-do list, they are often really enjoyable for young children. Whether it's decorating the house, planning the holiday menu, or deciding which holiday events to go to this year, invite your child to help, even if it makes the task take a little bit longer.

3."What could we do for your cousins to make their holiday wonderful?"

Ask your child to help you brainstorm something nice you could do for someone, rather than a gift to buy. It might be cleaning a sibling's room for them or baking muffins together for your child's teacher. What matters is that your child is focusing on things to do for someone else, giving the gift of time rather than money.

4. "Let's make some holiday cards together."

Set out some simple supplies like markers and stickers and invite your child to help you make holiday cards. You can send them out with your family photo cards, or simply keep them with you and hand them out to anyone you see who looks like they may need a little boost this season.

The important thing is that your child is seeing that handmade gifts have value and that there are simple things we can do to make this time meaningful and special.

5. "Let's go on a holiday scavenger hunt."

Preschool-aged children love scavenger hunts, and they're so easy to pull off. Simply make a list of things like a snowman, an elf, a wreath and take a walk or a drive with your child to find all of the items. If it's a hit, you can make a new list each week.

Sometimes giving kids a purpose, like finding certain items around town, can help them focus on an experience like taking in the holiday sights.

6. "Let's make a holiday bucket list."

Sit down with your child the day after Thanksgiving and make a list together of all of the experiences you want to share this holiday season. You can keep it simple and just put the list on the refrigerator and tick things off when you have a free day, or write each item on a paper and draw randomly from a jar each day. It can be easy things like baking cookies for a neighbor, drinking hot cocoa or reading a holiday book together.

7. "We're going to help serve a holiday lunch today."

Volunteering is a great way to not only help others in need, but show your child that the season of giving is not really about giving presents.

Choose an activity your child can really participate in like making decorations for a local children's hospital or visiting an elderly home to bring some holiday cheer. During the activity, talk with your child about the importance of being there for others and the real spirit of the holiday season.

8. "What experiences would you like as Christmas gifts this year?"

Once your child is preschool age, they are old enough to begin thinking of meaningful experiences they might like to receive. They might need some prompting, but they can participate in the discussion. Experience gifts like a membership to a children's museum or tickets to see the Nutcracker make wonderful gifts and take the focus off of material things.

9. "Do you want to play a fun game with me?"

There are so many things that make the holidays special. The lights, the music, and of course the smells! Use empty spice jars and place a different holiday scented item in each jar. You might include cinnamon, fresh pine needles, nutmeg, a scoop of hot cocoa mix, or peppermint.

You can either blindfold your child or wrap the spice jars in wrapping paper and then let them smell and guess what each item is. Simple activities like this help your child pause and recognize all of the little things that make the season magical.

10. "Let's look at holiday photos together."

Take some time to look at old holiday photos together. Make the experience as cozy as possible by lighting a candle or a fire in the fireplace to make it feel special. Put on some holiday music and make an evening of it.

You can make these simple holiday experiences every bit as special as a big trip to a holiday light festival or opening piles of presents. Children follow our lead with which parts of the holiday are the most important. If we make a big deal out of choosing and decorating a tree together, they will internalize that that's an important tradition in our family. But if we go all-in on singing holiday songs together every day in December, that is what they will remember.

Every child loves presents, and there's nothing wrong with that, but we can subtly shift the focus so that their memories will be of simpler (and less expensive!) moments. They may not remember what exactly they received two months later, but they will certainly remember that you watch Elf together every Christmas Eve in your matching PJs.

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

    $269.99

    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

    $99.99

    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

    $99.99

    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

    $219.99

    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

    $99.99

    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

    $64.99

    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

    $29.99

    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

    $165.99

    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

    $39.99

    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

    $39.99

    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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