5 ways to simplify Christmas—and embrace the joy—this year

5. Limit your commitments so you can focus on family time. ✨

5 ways to simplify Christmas—and embrace the joy—this year

What feeling washes over you when you think of your childhood Christmases?

For me, it’s that fluttery feeling I’d get in my stomach on Christmas eve. I can feel the cold pillow against my face as I lay there in bed—waiting. Then I’d blink and Christmas morning would be there, just like that.

It felt like magic.

As a kid, Christmas truly was all joy—zero stress. As an adult, I’d be lying if I said Christmas is just as fun. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a bit giddy on Christmas eve. (I’m not dead inside, for goodness sake). It’s just different. As adults, Christmas comes with both joy and stressors.


If we aren’t intentional, the holidays can take over our lives, our homes, our schedules and our bank accounts. The good news is, we have the power to choose our lives, moms!

This year, we don’t have to cave to the weight of social pressures that so often tag along with this holiday; instead we can prepare and simplify.

Here are 5 things to remember this Christmas:

1. Keep decorations simple.

Decorating is one of my favorite parts of our family Christmas celebrations. However, I’ve found that keeping decor simple allows me to enjoy it without the dread of having to take it all down! Of course everyone is different. If you truly enjoy going all out with decorations, go for it! Enjoy it fully. For me personally, simple = joy.

In our house, we’ve taken simple Christmas very seriously, in order to maximize the joy! For now, we have a “one bin” policy—meaning we have one large plastic bin for Christmas decor (plus our Christmas tree stand). Each year, when we get new ornaments or decor, we give something away in order to make it all fit.

While I imagine our policy might expand to a “two bin” policy (or more) once our daughter starts making ornaments, the principle is the same: Keep it simple and enjoy the process.

2. Make and keep your Christmas budget.

It can be tempting to overspend when it comes to Christmas gifts. Before you start shopping (or do more), make a budget (on a spreadsheet or a piece of paper). Add it all up and see if you can afford the total. If not, make cuts. Don’t let Christmas spending follow you into the New Year. It will steal your joy—guaranteed.

3. Clear out your kid’s toys before Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but when my daughter receives a lot of presents, there’s a part of me that panics a bit inside. While I’m very grateful, I can’t stop myself from thinking: Where am I going to put all of these toys?

Since we know our kids will receive new toys for Christmas, it’s smart to donate old or unused toys now, to make space for Christmas gifts. That way, on Christmas day you can rest easy knowing that each new toy has a home.

4. Make gifts intentional and meaningful.

When giving gifts, sometimes I’m tempted just to give for the sake of giving or even out of obligation. In these moments, I’ve had to tap back into the heart I had as a kid, when I bought or made my parents presents. Those awful presents truly came from a pure heart—and a desire to give.

Before buying for someone, ask yourself: What does this gift communicate to the other person? Does it show love? Does it tap into their interests?

5. Limit your commitments so you can focus on family time.

Christmas comes with an increased amount of invitations: parties, gatherings and cookie bakes. I love this! However, when our schedules get too full, it can take away from our family time. It’s important to be intentional with your time during this season. Don’t say yes to every party; leave time for your family.

This year, make the choice to make Christmas magical again by simplifying and tailoring it to your family, this year, right now.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

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Mothers wanted the president to condemn white supremacy—he didn't

What you need to know about the first presidential debate and the 'Proud Boys'.


[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

For many American families, the impacts of systemic racism are a daily reality. This summer saw mothers and children go out and join Black Lives Matter protests in an effort to make the United States a safer place for Black children.


Individuals across the country stood up and condemned white supremacy in 2020 and wanted the sitting President of the United States to do that Tuesday night, during the first presidential debate.

But he didn't.

When Chris Wallace of Fox News, the debate moderator, asked President Trump to condemn white supremacy, to ask militia groups to stand down and not escalate violence in cities like Kenosha and Portland, the president stated he was willing to...but when Wallace said "Then do it, sir," the president's answer was far from a clear condemnation.

First, Trump asked for a specific group to condemn, rather than simply condemning white supremacy as a whole. When the others on stage offered "white supremacy" and "Proud Boys" as the name to condemn, the President picked Proud Boys. But a condemnation didn't come.

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump said. "But I'll tell you what, somebody's gotta do something about Antifa and the left. This is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem."

This followed a previous exchange in which Wallace asked President Trump why he ended a racial sensitivity training program. Trump responded that the training was racist and was teaching people to "hate our country."

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