As moms, we can be so busy making the holidays magical for everyone else that we forget to stop long enough to enjoy them ourselves. Let’s make sure we also soak up some of the festive cheer and try to spend our energy on holiday activities that truly bring us joy. Of course, it can’t all be fun and reindeer games. So here are some ideas that will help the busiest month of the year unfold as smoothly as possible.
Get your skates sharpened
Why? Outdoor rinks open this month in most of the country and you’ll want to take part in this most Canadian family pastime. You might not be able to imagine having time for lazy circles around the pond (or the flooded tennis court, as the case may be) while you jostle crazed shoppers at the mall, but remember that most kids have a full two weeks off school after Christmas and you will be desperate for active family fun. In fact, it’s not too late to add skates to your own holiday wish list.
To Stanley’s Christmas Village at Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm, Saturdays and Sundays until December 18
Why? Upon arrival you’ll be greeted by an elf and taken on a sleigh ride through various magical elf villages. Learn how the elves keep track of all the letters Santa receives and how they work to make sure the big night is a big success. Top the ride off with a cup of cocoa and a candy cane. Good to know: You must book this excursion in advance—but it’s worth it.
An Instant Pot
Why? The Instant Pot is the undisputed small kitchen appliance of the moment and from all accounts, this one is worth the counter space. It’s a multi-cooker that serves as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, steamer, saute pan, and warmer in one. (Some models can even make yogurt.) The pressure cooker feature is what makes it so special—cook pulled pork or dried beans in a fraction of the time—and you can get rid of your old slow cooker or rice maker while you’re at it. Pick one up for someone who loves cooking, or get one now to see you through the holidays.
Candy Cane Hunt
Why? If you have to entertain a gaggle of kids this month, try hiding candy canes around the house and let them find them. (Definitely keep some rooms off limits. Nobody needs to be rifling through your closet.) Mix it up by tying a gold ribbon around one candy cane to earn a special treat. Or, for a smaller crowd, let players take turns hiding them for one another.
Classic holiday stories as a family
Why? There’s nothing like revisiting your favourite holiday tales at this time of year to put everyone in the festive spirit. Pile a few of these yuletide picks next to your little one’s bed and bring a some seasonal joy to bedtime throughout the month. We love Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Little Tree by e e cummings, Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko, Simon and the Bear by Eric A. Kimmel, and The Sound of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo.
Pin and Tucker
Why? The table is set, the roast is in the oven, the halls are decked and the wine is breathing. Except you are still wearing dirty jeans and a t-shirt! Pin and Tucker is a free iOS and Android app that helps you decide on an outfit RIGHT NOW. Snap a picture of your outfit next to your closet or in a store dressing room and post it to the app (or share to Twitter or Facebook). Your community will vote yes or no and you’ll have an instant second opinion.
Elf on the Shelf ideas
Why? Those who love finding new hiding spots for their Elf on the Shelf every night don’t need to be told about how much joy it brings to their families. But even the skeptics will have their frozen hearts melted by pictures of elves hanging from trees, sitting in candy dishes, or passed out in a bucket of popcorn. The official website has a section for kids with quizzes, games, and trivia, and one for parents with craft ideas, recipes, and ideas—but for the best creative ideas, we love this calendar and a month’s worth of ideas.
Get a living succulent wreath
Why? The latest eco-friendly trend in holiday decorating uses hardy succulents to create a stunning and long-lasting wreath. The traditional evergreens we love are usually sprayed with pesticides and then they dry up quickly and are tossed as soon as the holidays are done. Enter succulents, living and organic greenery that is beautiful all year round. You can buy a ready-made wreath, or those with green thumbs may have fun making their own.
Why? Homemade gifts are easy on the earth and the wallet, but big on love. These are the perfect token of holiday cheer to give out to friends, coworkers, teachers, coaches and more. Spend an afternoon with the kids baking batches of holiday goodies to be packaged up in pretty tins or wrapped with a bow, parcel off DIY lavendar bath salts in pretty paper bags, or choose any one of the wonderful DIY gift-ideas listed here.
Give a child a happy Christmas by donating a new, unwrapped toy at one of Toy Mountain’s many drop-off locations around Ottawa.
Why? Because every child deserves a happy Christmas. You can also volunteer at the Toy Mountain warehouse and make a financial donation online. Toy Mountain collects gifts for kids 0-12 years old, and note that they typically run short on toys for boys and girls in the 0-2 and 11-12 year-old age groups.