Age Appropriate Traditions
On the first day of December, my oldest daughter opened a door on our wooden Advent calendar and pulled out a piece of chocolate. My husband explained to her that Santa had brought her a treat for being a good big sister and a better eater, but that he wants her to work on listening to mommy and daddy better.
This was our first Advent calendar. My husband has wanted one for a long time, but this is the first year our daughter is old enough to have one.
We love the holiday season. Our tree went up the day after Thanksgiving and our whole living room was decorated with garland and our stockings hung before the calendar turned to December.
Our children are still so young, though. My preschooler is starting to understand more, but the baby has no idea what’s happening. We want them to enjoy the holidays without overwhelming them or stressing us out.
So here’s what we’re doing this year:
Picking out an ornament
We’ve done this every year because it’s a fun and easy tradition. The girls are allowed to each pick one ornament for the tree at our favorite Christmas store. We write their initials and the year on it.
As young as they are, the ornaments are emblematic of their budding personalities. This year, my baby chose a sweet little white bird, while my preschooler picked out an insane golden hippo with a wreath around its neck.
Christmas Tree Farm
We spontaneously stopped at a Christmas Tree farm when we were out with just our preschooler. We figured the baby wouldn’t have as much fun picking out a tree but that we’d bring them both next year.
Decorating the tree
Decorating with toddlers can be chaotic. This year, we put up just a few special ornaments as a family and then put the girls to bed. Afterwards, my husband and I finished the tree and decorated the mantelpiece together. The next morning, both girls were delighted to see the room fully decorated.
My husband may love Christmas even more than I do. He starts playing holiday music in July, while I am firmly in the camp that there should be nothing Christmas until after Thanksgiving. We both liked the Rankin/Bass “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” movie as kids, but he was ridiculously excited to show it to our older daughter. She was four months old at her first Christmas when he bought her the DVD. We watched it once that year. This year, they’ve already seen it two or three times and it’s barely December.
I have so many wonderful memories of baking and decorating cookies with my mom and siblings every year. Last year we felt like our daughter should decorate cookies because isn’t that what all kids do? She wasn’t really coordinated enough to decorate and the cookies were barely edible because of the amount of icing on them. But in the last year, she’s become much more coordinated and also loves to help in the kitchen, so my mom is going to spend a day baking with us.
Of all the holiday things we’ve done, our box of seasonal books always gets the biggest reaction. Most of the books were from my childhood, so reading them to my daughters is a nice opportunity to share my past Christmases with them.
I always loved getting new pairs of pajamas on Christmas morning. This year, I bought matching pjs for the girls that I plan to give them on Christmas Eve when we get home from celebrating with our family.
They’ll get to spend the whole next day in their new “outfit”. I plan to continue this tradition for years to come.
There are so many amazing displays of lights in the Philadelphia area, but my kids go to bed by 7 PM so there’s not a lot of opportunity to get out at night. We plan to take them to one house near where we live that does an insane light display. They’ll still be filled with wonder even if it’s not as impressive as Franklin Square.
While the girls are far too young to shop for anyone, I promised my toddler that she could come with me to the pet store to pick out toys for our cats. She hasn’t stopped talking about what she’s going to pick out.
Santa Phone Call
Our township arranges for phone calls from Santa, which starts at 2 years old. Our toddler was so excited to get the call last year and we’re looking forward to hearing their conversation again this year.
One Holiday Excursion
There are so many incredible holiday-themed things to do in the Philly area. It’s easy to get carried away with plans, but remember, when your kids are so young, they don’t need their routines disrupted with an endless parade of holiday fun.
Our one annual outing is the Macy’s Light Show, a stunning 15 minute display of lights and music in the middle of Macy’s Department Store.
As a parent, it’s easy to get carried away by the season and forget that your children may be far too young for the events and traditions that you are most excited about.
This year, we’ll enjoy reading holiday books together in front of a fire with our Christmas tree in the background. We’ll leave out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. We’ll spend all of Christmas day in our pjs, enjoying each other’s company and playing with new toys.
In a few years, we’ll be able to take them ice skating on the Delaware River in Philly or to New York to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, but for now, we’ll enjoy seeing the magic of the season come alive for them in the simplest, age appropriate ways.