Little Holiday Helpers

Good grief…the holidays are here!

If you’re feeling that you’re a little behind this year, you’re not alone. And if you’re looking for ways to get the kids out of the way so you can get everything done, think again.

Part of the answer to getting everything done in time is the kids. The next few days are a perfect opportunity to involve your kids and let them see and feel how helpful they can be.  You’ll make some wonderful holiday memories in the process and save yourself lots of time. Here are a few ways you can involve your kids in last minute preparations:

11 and up:

Most kids over age 10 (even younger for some) make great holiday helpers. The magic of Christmas and similar holidays teaches people to believe in things they can’t see or touch. That’s a big job that requires many helpers.

Wrapping gifts is one big way kids can help. If you take time to teach your kids how to wrap – show them how to corner the edges with good creases, why tape has a hole in the middle, even curl ribbon – you’ll save yourself loads of time and give your kids a wonderful sense of pride. Quality tape and wrapping paper with lines on the back helps. And don’t sweat the less than perfect wrapping job. It’s all part of the spirit.

Ask your kids to think up those last few gifts for family, friends or neighbors. This goes a long way in getting them into the spirit and lightening your load. They see details and know things we adults often miss. And the receiver usually knows if the gift is from a child or their parents.

Don’t buy it, make it. There is still time. Let your kids choose what to bake or cook (cookies, brownies, fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, etc) and put them in charge of gifts for neighbors or coaches. Buy the ingredients, help them set up, then let them go. Praise the effort – it may not be as perfect as it is when you do it, but the result will be filled with love.

10 and under:

If your holiday cards still aren’t out…get the kids involved today. Any child age 5 and up can stuff cards, stick on stamps, seal envelopes or put on labels. Let them join in the fun for 15 minute blocks of time – you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll get done. Making holiday cards a family affair makes it easier on you. If the stamps aren’t on perfectly straight, let it go. They’ll get better at it next year. And while they’re at it, have them make some cards too.

Little bodies can wiggle their way under the Christmas tree easier than adults so put an 8 to 10 year old in charge of watering the tree every three days or so. Of course you carry the water and supervise the situation but make it their job to remember to do it so the tree is still fresh when Santa comes to visit. The same age group can also be responsible for putting the Hanukkah candles in the menorah each night.

Panicked about the big holiday dinner? Get your little ones playing restaurant – only this one is for real. Kids can make up name tags, help polish silver, set the table, be the sous chef, write out your grocery list and check off items in the store. And of course, Santa’s milk and cookies are their responsibility.

And that holiday week long break before New Years? If you’re planning to be home, let each child pick a day and plan it out. (Staying in PJ’s all day and playing games is a fun way to spend one of your last days in 2011.) This is also a great time to have the kids help with the holiday cleanup. Taking decorations down and putting things away doesn’t take long when you have helpers. And it provides a perfect opportunity to talk about memorable holiday moments and what great helpers the kids were this year!

Here’s to a relaxing, happy holiday for everyone – filled with the presence of family and friends.

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