Just in time for the holidays, we’ve reached out to parenting experts for tips to make this your best holiday season ever. Kiddie Academy, the leader in providing children and their parents with educational childcare and essential development tools offers timely tips for the holidays.
Keep Kids Safe in the Digital World
Stay with your kids when they’re using technology. No setting or app can replace parental input and guidance. These tips help parents keep kids safe.
Control use of apps and games.
Set time limits.
Limit mail and instant messaging.
Restrict content/website access.
Control deleting/installing permissions.
Get reports on online activity.
How to Choose an Educational Toy
Choose Toys with multiple uses.
Look for manipulative toys to build cognitive and perceptual skills.
Choose age appropriate toys. The experts have already done the research on what works for kids of all ages.
Look for exploratory toys that teach children about senses, cause and effect.
‘Tis the Season to Be Giving
Make the concept of sharing fun by including youngsters in simple everyday activities, like sweeping the floor. This will give them the ability to start understanding what sharing meals; all the while helping with tasks that make them feel important.
For older kids, try giving them an extra snack to share with a friend.
Volunteering with children is a great way to help them learn and give back. There are many different activities that will please any age range, resulting in good feelings for everyone.
The best example of generosity is YOU! As a parent, try to give and take, compromise and share with others daily.
It’s All About the Family
Teaching children about their families is a great way to capitalize on the wonders of this holiday season.
At your holiday meal, ask grandparents and other relatives to share stories of their younger days. This family history questionnaire from Kiddie Academy helps kids with questions to ask.
Tell your own story. Kids love to hear about back in the day. Share your favorite childhood holiday memory and ask other family members to share their memories.
Brighten Up the Kids Table
Entertaining experts at Wayfair, Joss & Main, DwellStudio, AllModern, and Birch Lane designed five different looks that pertain to five styles, ranging from modern to bohemian to classic Christmas. Meredith Mahoney, Founder and Design Director of Birch Lane, offers the following tips for decorating a kids’ table:
For a rustic look that’s also practical, use a sheet or two of butcher paper as your tablecloth. Be sure to provide various sets of crayons or pencils to keep the kids busy!
A kid-friendly, non-breakable centerpiece is key. Opt for a vignette with features such as greenery, battery-powered pillar candles, and/or a felted wood garland to keep things festive and safe.
Melamine plates, cups, silverware etc. are a great alternative to breakable materials – and they come in so many different sizes, colors and patterns to keep your tablescape lively and bright.
Whenever possible, feature items that can serve multiple purposes: this will eliminate clutter from the table, and make your life a little bit easier. A cute LEGO centerpiece doubles as both a decoration and a delight for the kids.
Short on space? Instantly turn your everyday coffee table into a kids table by utilizing your throw pillows for seating.
Make the kids feel like they’re a part of the party by displaying name tags, just like the grown-up table. Mini chalk boards are a great, no-mess option, and provide the kids with something to draw on during dinner.
Skip the paper napkins and opt for cloth linens – an easier and more eco-friendly option. Go for the darker colors, which show stains less easily.
Kick the meal off on a high note with a candy cane fastened at each place – and offer a prize for whoever can wait until the end of the meal to eat them.
Keep kids cozy with plush cushions on each seat. Not only will this increase comfort, but it can act as a booster for the little ones.
Last Minute Decorating Tips
Maria Samuels, Interior Design Expert and Lead Blogger with In Style Modern, is here to help with her fab last minute tips to trim your dwellings in festive holiday style without the hassle of major decorating. In Style Modern is your top source for stylish and affordable contemporary furniture that won’t break the bank.
Play Holiday Music. Just tune into a local Christmas only radio station or do the same on Pandora or Spotify and immediately your house will feel and sound a lot more festive.
Scented Candles — we all love cranberry treats and gingerbread lattes during the holiday season. A simple, quick way to add some holiday ambiance to your home is by lighting a few candles (or using plug ins) in seasonal scents including balsam, gingerbread, cinnamon, cranberry, and many more to create a relaxed, cozy vibe.
Holiday Twinkle Light Fun — a fast, inexpensive way to deck the halls in your home. Drape them across your mantle, string them up on a book shelf, place them in a large empty vase and use as a centerpiece, wrap them around your stairway railing, the possibilities are easy and endless.
Tree On a Wall — no time or space for a tree, no worries. All you need is a wall. Wall tree decals are now available, but if you’d rather go with a DIY approach, an easy to implement design is to take three long diagonal ribbons to create the “tree”, cut out a paper star or download a star online for the tree top, decorate the ribbon with holiday cards or family photos from the last year. Or the kids can draw and cut out some “ornaments” to “hang” on the tree.
Treeless Ornaments — no tree, no problem. Take some of your favorite ornaments and hang them on chandeliers, wall sconces and tall plants throughout your home. It’s a fun way to add quick pops of holiday cheer and color throughout your home.
Decorate with Holiday Cards — create a “garland” around a main interior door frame with arriving holiday cards. Guests will love looking for their own cards.
Ribbon Decor — buy some expensive looking wide craft ribbon and wrap it around lampshades or tie pretty red ribbons around your toss pillows to give them a custom holiday feel. You can even tie a ribbon onto your front door to make it look like a wrapped present.
Holiday Candy — nothing says holiday sweets like candy canes. Use empty water glasses or jars and fill a few of them with candy canes or peppermints and place them throughout gathering places in your home, on counters and bookshelves.
The Christmas Vase — fill a clear vase or glass serving bowl from your kitchen with holiday inspiration, such as colorful ball ornaments, pine cones, or greenery. You can wrap a pretty satin ribbon around the vase to create more color.
Doorknob Stockings — place a festive holiday stocking, the inexpensive red and white kind will be just fine, to visible doorknobs throughout your home to create a merry and welcoming vibe.
The Festive Mantle — mantels are a natural focal point so if you don’t have time to do much decorating elsewhere, focus your efforts there. Place a few pine cones, a bit of artificial greenery and some twinkle lights across your mantle and you are all set. Even a row of real or battery lit candles across your mantle will have a dramatic effect that’s chic and effortless.
The Poinsettia — don’t underestimate the holiday effect of a poinsettia. Purchase three or four and place them on the entry way table, on the dining room table, next to the fireplace and other focal points in your home.
Tips for a Welcoming and Comfortable Guest Bedroom
Interior Design Expert Maria Samuels of InStyleModern also shares her favorite guest room updates to help you prep for your holiday guests. Most ideas can be done without having to spend a lot of money or requiring much work
Framed Photos — place a framed photo of the family/guest staying with you in their room to make them feel right at home. If you do not have any photos of the guests, check out their Facebook page and print a few off.
Room Service — leave a bottle of wine with glasses in the guest room for the first night along with a personalized welcome note.
Personalize It — purchase monogrammed/personalized towels for the bathroom that the guests will be using. This gives the feeling of a spa or resort getaway. Or instead of just leaving out a towel for your guests in the bathroom, fill a basket in the guest room with bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths. Then your guest won’t feel bad for requesting more towels if they need them. Putting a nice fluffy robe in the room is a welcoming addition as well. Most people do not travel with a robe due to the amount of space it takes up in a suitcase, so this will allow them to run to the bathroom during the night covered up.
For the Kids — If your guests have kids with them, make sure there are plenty of fun board games on-hand in the guest room. Put together a basket of other items kids love like crayons and color books, card games and DVD’s of kid favorites.
In-Room Holiday Entertainment — place a television with some favorite holiday movies (‘White Christmas’, ‘Home Alone’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, etc.) in the guest room. Your visitors will appreciate being able to retreat to their room and pop in a holiday favorite.
Local Goodies & Snacks — fill a basket with snacks and gifts that are local to the area, and place the basket in the guest room with a nice welcoming note. Nothing says welcome like local artisan chocolate. You can also tuck a few snacks in a side table drawer. Small packs of trail mix, granola bars, or even sweets are a nice touch for your guests. Put a bowl of fresh fruit like apples or bananas on the dresser too. If they get the munchies or if they are hungry before bedtime, they will have something they can easily grab without having to ask you or make noise in the kitchen.
Assemble a Box of Goodies — keep a small storage container in the guest room filled with travel/sample size items, such as shampoo/conditioner, razors, pain reliever, a shower cap, facial cleanser, lotion, toothpaste and toothbrush, etc. These items can be purchased in the travel section of most big box stores or they might be complementary items you collect from your hotel stays. Your guests will appreciate having the items they may have forgotten at home.
Light the Path — keeping a small nightlight in the guest room on top of the dresser or side table will help the guest feel comfortable. You can plug it in where it is needed most. As you know, getting around in the dark in a different home can be challenging. Your guest may want to have it plugged in the hallway, bathroom, or guest room.
Wake-up Call — a nice clock radio/CD player/mp3 or iPod player is also helpful for guest rooms. Your guests won’t have to ask for a wake-up call (especially if it’s earlier than you rise!) and they can put on music to help them fall asleep. Falling asleep in someone else’s home can sometimes be difficult.
Good Night, Sleep Tight — create an environment that promotes a great night’s sleep like high-thread-count, 100 percent cotton sheets with thick, soft blankets and fluffy pillows.
Add Some Light — put an adjustable desk lamp or nightstand lamp beside the bed. This will allow your guest to enjoy a good book or catch up on emails without disturbing the rest of the house.
Sleep Appeal — make sure the windows have room darkening blinds or shades in them. Some people like to wake up to sunlight but others prefer to keep a completely darkened room. It also helps create a buffer from street traffic outside.
Kids in the Kitchen
Invite the kids help tackle cleaning the house. Each child can choose one room to clean. Give them a list of what needs to be done and let them get started.
Bring the kids shopping with you. Make a list together of all of the items you’ll need for the meal. Kids can take turns in each aisle of the store placing the items in the shopping cart.
Put your creative kids to work making place cards for the tables. Give them white construction paper, markers, stickers and a list of those who will be at the meal and let them do the rest.
Keep the creative juices flowing and let the kids make Christmas decorations for the table, fridge or wall. Kids can create some amazing and unique decorations with very little adult help.
Kids love to help with baking. Let the kids take over dessert duties. Kids can choose their favorite dessert recipe to make. Younger kids may need a little help from mom or dad.
Be ready for guests and let the kids set the table. Provide a chart for setting the table or teach the kids that forks and napkins go on the left while knives, spoons and glasses go on the right. If you prefer, go with the flow and let the kids set the table in their own unique style.
Use the kids for side dish help. Mashing potatoes or cooking vegetables can be done by kids at a pretty young age, but be careful of hot stove tops, sharp knives and other hazards.
Let the kids be the hosts: answering the door, greeting guests, taking coats and seating the guests. As you put the finishing touches on the meal, let the kids be your good will ambassadors.
At cleanup time, invite the kids to help too. Whether you’re using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand, many hands make light work. The sooner the table is cleared, the sooner you can enjoy some unstructured family time.
After the work’s done, pull out a family favorite card game or board game. Pair up little ones with adults or play grown-ups vs. kids as you make memories.
Tips for Hosting Christmas Lunch or Dinner
Planning ahead for Christmas lunch or dinner helps to ease some of the stress of cooking for a big crowd. Before the big day, here are some tips from Blogging Grandma Sandy to help .
Decide whether your meal will be formal or casual. If you will be opening gifts while eating, it may be more practical to opt for finger foods instead of a big meal.
Try to get a final head count at least a week before Christmas. This will help you know if you need to borrow an extra table or chairs.
Check for table linens before buying new items. If you’re organized, this won’t be a problem. For many of us, the stacks of boxes in the basement make it a little trickier.
If you are planning to add any special Christmas decor items that aren’t already on display, bring them out of storage now to make your table and home more festive.
Check your dinnerware to make sure you have enough plates and glasses. Your group’s size may have increased since last year and you may need to pull out more of each or borrow some dishes or silverware.
Make sure you have enough serving dishes and serving spoons for all of the sides you plan to cook. If you plan to use a roaster or crockpot for any of the dishes you’re cooking, pull it out of storage.
Check with any guests who will be bringing food to make sure you don’t have duplicates. Check to see if any of your guests have food allergies or foods they don’t eat.
If there are children in the group, plan some kid-friendly sides like macaroni and cheese, corn or peas and mashed potatoes.
Write your menu in advance and post it on the refrigerator door. Write how long each item takes to cook and you’ll find it easier to know when to put each item in to cook.
Determine whether you will prepare anything in advance. Desserts are often easier to make a day ahead of time. This keeps your oven free for the turkey or ham.
Check each recipe for ingredients you need and make up a grocery list so you don’t have to go to the store on Christmas Eve with the crowds.
Plan your desserts ahead of time so you don’t have to go back to the grocery store for more ingredients. If you’ll be buying desserts or rolls from the bakery, place your order now.
Each family has traditions and favorite foods that make the day feel more special. Of course, you may also want to try some of the new recipes you’ve found on Pinterest.
If you are inviting adult children or friends, ask each family to bring one side dish. This will allow you more room in the oven and on the stove top for the items you will be cooking.
You might want to consider setting up a separate appetizer table or dessert table if you plan to serve a lot of either of these foods.
Set the table in advance and use post-it notes to mark what food goes into each serving dish. If you have help on Christmas, it will be easier to put foods out if each dish is marked.
Ask for help. It’s not always easy to ask but others often want to help. Make a list of things that someone else can do and put them to work.
Puzzled about how much to tip during the holidays? These tips for holiday tipping from Care.com make it easier to thank those who help you all year long.
Have a Tipping Action Plan: Be like the 41 percent of parents surveyed and budget for holiday tips. Decide how much money you can use for tips in total. Then make a list of the number of people you’d like tip this year and simply divvy it up. Be honest with yourself and don’t exceed your budget.
Make Things Personal: Include a hand-written, sincere thank you. Share something specific they did this year for you or your family that made a difference in your life.
Keep a Tipping Diary: Each year, keep a list of those you tipped and how much. You don’t have to do the same thing every year, but it helps to have a gauge. Keeping a diary will also help you avoid missing anyone important!
Have a Tipping Timeline: According to our Care.com survey, close to half of families (46%) share their holiday tips in early December. If you know your budget is going to be especially tight in December, start setting aside money earlier in the season. Some families (5%) save holiday tipping for the New Year, but try and remember that some professionals rely on holiday tips for their own holiday budgets.
Remember it’s Not One Size Fits All: Different families, different priorities, different budgets. Prioritize the people most important in your life and see how far your budget takes you. Be comfortable making small adjustments to make the budget work.
Get Creative and Mix Things Up: Cash may be preferred, but it is not the only way to say thank you. 57% of parents surveyed said they have felt guilty about not giving someone a holiday tip. Avoid the guilt, think about each person, and get creative with your budget. Consider gift cards – many offer reward programs for buyers—and handmade gifts. And get the kids involved with cards, holiday arts and crafts, and baked goods!
Don’t Exceed What You Can Afford: Tipping is important, but it’s not something that should put you in debt. Give what you can and no more. Remember that running up your credit card bill to account for tips means that you’ll be paying more over a longer period of time.
Don’t Feel Like a Grinch: Can’t afford to exceed what you gave your doorman last year? You’re not a holiday scrooge. Add a thoughtful hand-written thank you in your card this year (and every year for that matter!) and a add box of from scratch cookies to show much you appreciate his hard work.
Don’t Re-gift, Unless…: Re-gifting is generally taboo, but there are exceptions. Not a coffee drinker and find yourself with a $20 Starbucks gift card? There is no crime in giving it to your latte-loving babysitter as a special holiday thank you.
Don’t Forget What Holiday Tipping is all About: Holiday tipping is part of the holiday spirit and is meant to show appreciation for a job well done. While cash is definitely the most popular tip to receive, those important people in your life will be grateful for the recognition for their hard work.
Boxing Day Becomes Boxing Weekend
Much like Black Friday, Boxing Day, the day following Christmas, has evolved from a single shopping day to an extended period.
Online retailer eBay has typically seen an increase in buying and selling during the period following Christmas all the way into January. In 2014, the top selling days following Christmas was the first Sunday in January; a similar uptick is expected this year. As shoppers look to sell any unwanted gifts they received over the holidays, it gives them extra cash to purchase the items they do want. Additionally, eBay tends see a lot of electronics get listed in the days after Christmas as people put their old models up for sale.
This extension of the holiday retail season provides an opportunity for eBay’s unique selling platform to keep the holidays going. As a result, eBay will be bringing its marketplace offline with pop-up kiosks in eight Westfield shopping centers on December 26 and 27 for shoppers to sell the unwanted goods post-Christmas.
Christmas is less than a week away. Now’s the time to finalize your plans, finish any last minute gift shopping, wrap the gifts and prepare your home. Check out the links below for more holiday tips, recipes and ideas and enjoy making memories this holiday season.