We are living in uncertain times right now and one of the best ways to combat feelings of anxiety and worry is to think of others. We may be social distancing but it is important to reach out and help people when we can. Below you will find ideas for 10+ service projects that you can do as a family at home. Many require very little materials and most are items you already have at home. It is our hope to help ease your anxiety (at least for a little bit) while you work together to help those in need.
We’d love to see pictures of you and your family serving others while social distancing. You can email us (email@example.com) or share them on social media using the hashtag #kidsinservice. Thank you and stay safe!
Hearts for Healthcare Workers--Make hearts to hang on your door to support Healthcare Workers and First Responders. Let them know that you appreciate their hard work and sacrifice. This beautiful movement was started by the Russell Family, one of our Kids in Service NH families.
Send cards to the local nursing home–Local nursing homes are not allowing visitors and the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside. Contact your local nursing home to see if they are open to cards to cheer up their residents. If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity. We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
Virtual Talent Show–Many seniors live alone or are in quarantine in their nursing home and assisted living facilities. Let’s bring a little joy to their lives while keeping our kids busy. Post an act of your child performing a talent that they may have (comedy, dance, magic, musical performances…the sky is the limit). Please keep your video under 2 minutes long and let’s help spread some joy to the seniors who are sheltering in place right now.
Do a Trash Pick Up of your street–Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt. Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids. Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
Record an Uplifting Message for Make a Wish–Many kids are the most vulnerable during this time and many of their wishes have been postponed. Consider recording an uplifting message for these kids as a family. Click HERE to learn more.
Sew Masks for Hospital Workers–Are you or your kids handy and have a sewing machine? There is a much needed demand for masks for healthcare workers and the public is being asked to lend a hand. Click HERE for more information on how you can help by making masks.
Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus–Order a blanket kit (or two) from JoAnn Fabric or another online retailer. Once it arrives, transform it into a warm and cozy blanket that can be donated to a child in crisis. If you can tie a knot, you can make a blanket!
Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones. Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge–The deadline to send in your cards is the end of October but there is no reason why you can’t get started on them now. Put on some holiday music, get out the paper and markers and spread some holiday cheer to our military with a holiday card that thanks them for all of their hard work and sacrifice.
Write a Thank You Note–-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately? Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift? EVERYONE loves mail! Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you. This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude.
Cut out Shoes for Sole Hope--Do you have old jeans laying around your house? Order a shoe party kit from Sole Hope and turn those jeans into future shoes for children in Uganda.
Kid Knits–Are you looking for a craft to keep your kids busy that supports others? Kid Knits was started by 9 year old Ellie who wanted to find a way to help support women in Rwanda by purchasing their yarn to knit hats with. Five years later she has a non-profit that supports women in Rwanda, Mexico, Chile and Kenya with her yarn and knitting kits. Click HERE to learn more about Kid Knits.
Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times. Click HERE to find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
Due to COVID-19, many school districts are closing for at least two weeks. For some districts the close is do to a case or two in the school and in others it is to slow down the spread of this fast moving disease. I am not a doctor with information to share but I am a homeschool mom of 7 years and was a public school teacher before that. Because of this fact I have had a few people reach out looking for advice about homeschooling. I thought I’d use this platform to encourage all of you as you move into your role of temporary homeschoolers.
First let me say that school at home is very different from homeschooling and thus the advice that I would give to new homeschooling parents would be VERY different. There are some similarities though, and after much thought and reflection, I have come up with some wisdom that I have learned over the past 7 years. I hope that this wisdom will help you over the next few weeks at home.
1. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective!
This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn when it came to homeschooling. If I had a nickel for every time a parent asked me: How do you do it all day? I would shoot myself if I had to homeschool my kids! I celebrate when I put my kids on the bus, it’s the best part of my day!” The key to homeschooling is PERSPECTIVE. If you go into this two weeks like it is a prison sentence then guess what…IT WILL BE!
It is crucial that you go into this time period with with a positive perspective. Think of the next few weeks as an adventure. After all you can do school in your jammies, while sitting on the couch, under the dining room table in a fort, outside on a blanket…the possibilities are endless. If you go into this experience with a positive perspective then that will rub off on your kids. At first they may be resistant to your positivity (especially if they are moody teens) but it will be much more pleasant for all of you if you go in to this with an open mind and a sense of adventure.
2. Rhythm vs Schedule
I know that some schools will be strict about the time your kids need to be online. What you all are experiencing is different then what we homeschoolers experience. However many homeschool experts say that rhythm is best over schedule. I have found when you try to stick to a schedule at home it fails time and time again. There is laundry to do, meals to prepare, emails to answer and many of you will be balancing work with school at home. My advice is take a deep breath, embrace the mess and set up a rhythm.
Our day usually starts around 8:30 (but not always, some days we start at 8 and others at 9, it depends when we are all ready). Before that my kids sleep until about 7:30 or 8 (growing kids need sleep, and I think that if the school schedule allows, let them get the extra sleep during this time). While “waking up” they may read, play, grab breakfast and get ready to start our day. We begin with a family read aloud. I recommend this even if your kids are in High School. This is a great way to wake up and connect as a family before you start your day. After that we will go off and work on our more individual work for about an hour. If you have more than one child that requires individual attention, try to stagger their work so that you can work with one while the other works independently. Audio Books and Learning Apps are great ways to distract the youngest ones who may need more attention so you can help your older children. Here is a look at our Daily Rhythm.
Our Daily Rhythm
Morning Read Aloud Time
Work Block 1
Work Block 2
DEAR TIME (I read too!!!)
Work Block 3 (we often don’t even need this block)
Free Time//Extracurricular Activities
3. No Morning Screen Time
I find my kids (and most people) are less productive and focused if they have started their day with screens. I recommend using screens as the reward for a pleasant and productive day. My children know that they will not earn their screen time if they are rude or do not put their best effort into their school work. Our screen time is usually in the evening so they know not to ask for it throughout the day. We do have a family movie afternoon (usually on Wednesdays). This is a great time to work as a group to fold laundry (my friend Kitty taught me that tip).
I think that during this social isolation time screen time will be important. Online gaming with friends or FaceTime with friends and family should be encouraged. My son has even played card games with his friends via FaceTime. It’s time to get creative with screens!
4. Brain Breaks
Many kids struggle to focus for long periods of time and children with ADD or ADHD really struggle with this. I find that building in breaks into your day helps. When the kids were smaller we had a policy that each person in the family could yell out “Brain Break” once during the day and everyone had to follow suit. Brain Breaks could be putting on a favorite song and dancing around, play leap frog, do some yoga poses, do some deep breathing, jumping jacks…anything to get your bodies moving for a few minutes.
Before you start a Brain Break, make sure they understand that this is to help us focus and they will be expected to return to their work after the fun. Believe it or not, this will help them to focus better when they are finished.
5. Relationships Come First
This role of parent and teacher will be new for most of your kids. There will be resistance, there will be frustration and there will be moments where you want to tear your hair out and run for the border. My advice is to remember Relationships Come First. I write this EVERY DAY in my journal and I repeat this over and over in those moments where I want to yell and scream in frustration.
Please remember that the math assignment is not as important as your relationship with your child. This can be really hard to remember in times of frustration. When your child is acting out there is usually a reason. Do they understand the assignment? Are they hungry, embarrassed, tired, anxious? Often I find a hug, a break and a snack does the trick.
6. Leave Time for Fun!
Fun is the most important ingredient to schooling your kids at home. I know that this role is temporary for most of you but please don’t forget the FUN. Plan a fun activity for the end of the day, let them work in a fort that you built under the dining room table, play hopscotch with your kids outside during break etc.
We homeschoolers are usually on the go and so we will also be feeling the effects of this social isolation. The museums are closed, our activities are canceled and it is time to find creative ways to fill our time when our schoolwork is done. Below you will find some of the fun things that we are planning over the next few weeks.
SOME FUN FAMILY IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--Is your family watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox? We LOVE it and we were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY BOARD GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels. Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!
VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS--From the comfort of your couch you can go on a virtual tour of 12 famous museums from around the world. Click HERE to learn more.
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Here are some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.
Send cards to the local nursing home. Local nursing homes have reduced the amount of visitors and I am sure the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside. If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity. We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
Do a Trash Pick Up of your street. Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt. Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids. Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones. Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
Write a Thank You Note–-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately? Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift? EVERYONE loves mail! Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you. This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home. This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).
This month the Windham Magazine ran a four page article about our local Kids in Service organization. I was beyond thrilled when they reached out in January about doing an article about our group and the work we are doing in the community. Reporter Madeline Hughes called to do a phone interview with me and then reached out to a few of our members (adults and kids) to ask them about their experience with the organization.
Madeline and photographer Carl Russo came to our KIS Teen meeting at the end of January and took pictures and interviewed the kids while they made blankets for Project Linus. We made 12 blankets that night and shared so many laughs as Madeline asked questions and Carl came around and snapped photos.
The article came out last week while I was away. My friend Kristin sent me photos of the article and I cried tears of joy and gratitude in the parking lot of a CVS. Reading the words of the kids, the parents and the seniors we serve in the nursing home touched my heart. Since the article came out I have been showered by love and support from friends, family, former colleagues, community members and many people from my past. I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out and for The Windham Magazine for running the article about our special group. I had hoped that the article would mention a few of the key people who have helped Kids in Service grow into what it is today. Unfortunately they were not mentioned and so I wanted to take a moment to thank them now.
Kids in Service NH is a team effort and has been from day one. The group started almost 5 years ago under the name MOSAIC Kids. Claire McGarry, founder of MOSAIC of Faith and Shifting My Perspective, and I sat together one Saturday afternoon and dreamed up a group where our children could serve the community in age appropriate ways. We could not find service opportunities for our young children and decided to create projects of our own. We brought on Pam Sarantis and MOSAIC Kids was formed. That first year we worked so hard recruiting families, dreaming up projects and creating the framework for the organization. Claire and Pam stepped down from leadership after our first year but have continued to support the organization every step of the way. I am so grateful for all they did to help build this group.
Next on board came Kristen Sudati. She was a busy mom of littles but wanted to get involved. She took over organizing our nursing home visits and worked to promote our group around town. Last year Jody Wilkins joined Kristen and they were both given the official title of Community Relations Directors. These amazing women work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote our group in the community (the Memorial Day Parade, Scarecrow Contest etc.), make sure that we have a place to meet and that the families know when it is their turn to bake cookies for Project Appreciation, deliver the food for Project Brown Bag or clean up the park. I am so grateful to have these two women on board and for all they do to make Kids in Service a success.
Kids in Service is so lucky to have the GREATEST families as part of our organization. I am constantly in awe of the kids in our group. Their kind hearts are always searching for new ways to make a difference. During our Kids in Service Kids meetings we start with a lesson and a story and end with a gratitude circle. The wisdom and gratitude of these children always warms my heart and gives me so much hope for the future. Watching the teens and seniors interact at the nursing home is a beautiful site. The fact that all of these children take time out of their busy lives to stop and help others is so important.
We could not do half of what we do without the support of the parents. They are out shopping for items to donate, chatting with the seniors at the nursing home parties, making sure that their kids get to meetings on time and then pitching in to lend a much needed hand with our projects. These parents are the glue that hold this group together and I am so very grateful for all of the work that they do and for sharing their children with me each month as we work to make our community a little brighter.
Thank you to Joe D’Amore, Cheryl Haas, Katie Cook, Peter Griffin, Lisa Challender, the Bow Rotary Club, Janine and Chris Parkinson, Zack McGarry, Scott Weller, Windham Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew’s Church and the many other people who support us financially, spread the word about our group, allow us meeting space and help to get us involved with projects.
Finally I’d like to thank my husband Scott and my children Zach and Caroline. These three are my sounding boards, my cheerleaders and are always willing to jump into whatever service project is up next. Without their support there would be no Kids in Service.
For the past two years my children and I have been working to include more mindful practices into our days. Practicing mindfulness is a lot like going to the gym. People go to the gym to exercise their muscles so that they will be strong and ready when they need them. Just like exercising your muscles, it is important to exercise deep breathing and being mindful. When you do this, you will better be able to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes your way.
Today I want to share with you a few of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. We do not do all of these things daily but try to pick one or two each day to help us to center and focus. Practicing mindfulness daily has made such a big difference in our lives and I hope that it will help you and your kids too!
1. Mindful Jars
Mindful Jars are not only fun to make but they are a wonderful tool for children (and adults) to use when they are agitated and upset. We have a few Mindful Jars around the house and they are great for those moments when you just need to calm down. Give them a good shake and sit and watch the glitter settle to the bottom. Click Here to learn how to make your own Mindful Jars.
2. Breathing Exercises
Over the past few years we have learned a lot of deep breathing techniques. Many of our favorites were learned through the book by Kira Willey called, Breathe Like a Bear. We put our favorites breaths on slips of paper and put them in our breathing jar. At breakfast or dinner, we will take turns choosing one slip of paper and practice that days breath. Lion’s Breath and Candle breath are two of our favorites. Our daily breaths usually leave us in giggles but learning deep breathing techniques has greatly helped us in moments of stress.
3. Gratitude Journals
When my children were small we kept a Family Gratitude Journal. Each day we would record the things we were grateful for in the family journal. Now that they are older, we each have our own gratitude journals to mark the things we are blessed with. Focusing on gratitude forces you to live in the moment, be more present and research shows that gratitude leads to greater feelings of happiness.
4. Mindfulness Apps
There are so many mindfulness apps and programs that can help kids and parents to learn to breath deeply and self-regulate. Many of the apps offer guided meditations for both kids and adults. Our favorite apps are Mindful Powers, the Mightier Program and Headspace. Check out this post from Parenting Chaos for more apps that will help your children with practicing mindfulness.
5. Blowing Bubbles
When my kids were small, blowing bubbles was a regular activity. When energy levels were high or moods were cranky, I’d grab our bottle of bubbles and we’d head outside (or to the garage if the weather was not favorable). Watching bubbles is a fun way to practice being mindful. Bubbles are mesmerizing and kids can’t help but be present as they follow and try to catch them.
6. Body Scans
This is one of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. Have your kids lie down and allow their bodies to sink heavy into the floor. Have them take a few deep breaths and encourage them to make their body feel heavy. Next have them squeeze all of their muscles tight. Have them squeeze their hands, their feet, their face, their toes…and squeeze and squeeze. Then after a few seconds have them release EVERYTHING and feel heavy. Ask them to pay attention to their body, how do they feel? Have them scan each body part and see how it feels. You can repeat this a few times or have them isolate muscles to squeeze from head to toe. It is such a great way to relax and help them learn to pay attention to the signals of their body. There are many guided meditations that will take you through a detailed body scan if you want to do it along with them.
7. Gratitude Walk
Take a quiet walk as a family and as you walk encourage each person to think of things that they are grateful for. Have them use their 5 senses to explore their surroundings as they walk and observe things in nature to be grateful for. Spend a few minutes in quiet and then take a break (maybe with a snack) to share all of the gratitude that was felt and everything that they noticed.
8. Coloring or Painting
My kids love to listen to audio books or classical music and color in coloring books or paint. There is something so relaxing about this process and it is a great way to encourage your children to be present. Children who struggle to stop moving to listen to a story or music, may enjoy the act of coloring, drawing or painting to help them focus on the what they are listening to. There is something about art that allows children to truly listen to the book or music that is being played for them.
9. Finding Your Heart Beat
Teach your children how to find their pulse (either in their neck or on their wrist). Have them count the beats in 10 seconds. Put on music and have them dance around for a minute or two. Have them check their pulse again. How much faster is their heart beating? Now take 5 deep breaths in and out and have them check their pulse again. How long does it take to return to a calm heartbeat? Explain how powerful breathing can be for our bodies.
10. Solo Sits
Have your children spread out around the house or yard and sit quietly for 30-60 seconds. You can add time on to the solo-sit each time they practice this activity. I love to do this on a hike in the woods and have the kids sit for 3-5 minutes. While they are sitting quietly, have them pay attention to the noises around them. Ask them these questions when they return. What sounds did you hear? Did you struggle to focus on listening for sounds? What were some loud sounds? What were some quiet sounds? How did you feel as you sat there silently?
Kids in Service NH Kids is a great way for children ages 0-11 and their parents to help serve their community in age appropriate ways. We meet once a month, there is no fee to join and no commitment (please come when you can).
Every other month Kids in Service NH Kids meet at the local nursing home for a seasonal party. These festive parties are great way for the children and seniors to interact. We sing songs, play games and work on crafts.
On the opposite months, the group meets to work on age appropriate service projects. Over the past 5 years we have painted flower pots for hospice patients, made cat nip socks for the animal shelter, made dignity bags for the homeless, sent gift bags to orphans in Honduras, ran a food drive, made birthday boxes and so much more. These meetings start off with a story book and a quick lesson about our theme of the year. This year our theme is EMPATHY. We end our meetings with a circle of gratitude and by reciting our Kids in Service pledge.
Kids earn a service bead for their Kids in Service name necklace for every project they complete. They love to see their colorful beads grow as they work to help others.
We are in our first year of our Kids in Service NH Teen Club! This group started off the summer granting wishes in the local nursing home. In the fall they helped to prepare candy for Windham’s Harvest Fest, made 50 bagged lunches for the homeless, made 30 holiday gift bags for hospice patients and made 12 blankets for Project Linus. In March we will be making shoes for Sole Hope. Many of these teens also participate in our Adopt a Grandparent Program. Here they visit with local nursing home residents once a month, when it works in their schedule.
This is the NICEST group of kids and we have such a good time serving together. This group meets once, every other month and there is no fee to join and no commitment (kids should come when they can). We are happy to sign off on any community service hours that they may need. We’d love to have your teen/pre-teen join us!
For more information on how you can get involved in the Kids in Service NH Teen/Preteen group, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Holiday Season is a busy one and it leaves many of us stressed out, overtired and feeling a little under the weather. Below you will find lots of ways that you and your family can focus on self-care this holiday season. It is important to remember to care for ourselves so that our personal lights will shine bright and then we can care for others.
Set up a family game night
Put on some fun music and have a family dance party
Drink your water (at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces)
Eat vegetables every day
Move your body for at least 30 minutes
Put on a family movie and snuggle up on the couch together
Put on an audio book and draw or color as you listen to the story
I am one of those SUPER ANNOYING people who is hyper organized when it comes to Christmas. I am a complete mess when it comes to organizing my closets, my car or other important things but I’ve got it together when it comes to Christmas.
I use the month of November to shop, decorate, wrap and complete my holiday cards. The theory is that if I get the work done in November, I will be all calm and relaxed in December. The vision of being curled up by a fire, watching Hallmark channel while snuggling with my family, helps me to get through my CRAZY November. The truth is that my December never looks like the vision I have in my head (my family hates Hallmark ;)). I ALWAYS find more to do and cram our schedule so full that there is little time to breathe.
Last year was a perfect example of this. I scheduled so many service opportunities for my family, that we were left EXHAUSTED by the time Christmas came around. I thought that if I shared the idea on my Kids in Service website, then I should be out there doing it! We practically took on a part time job at the Salvation Army ringing bells once a week for a two hour shift, we volunteered twice at the Food Bank, served lunch to the homeless in the park, shopped for children in need, did the Reverse Advent Calendar, delivered our Christmas jar, baked cookies for the postal employees, visited a woman’s rehabilitation home, gave out a dozen seeds of kindness, Jingled 8 families (EIGHT?!?!), visited the local nursing home and tried to complete EVERY DAY on our Kindness Calendar. It was a rollercoaster of a month with so many emotions. We were TIRED, INSPIRED, STRESSED OUT, JOYFUL and by the end my kids started to resent it all and would groan when it was time to go.
One morning, as I sternly told my children to SMILE while we were ringing bells in the frigid cold, I had an out of body experience. What was I doing? Was I being as kind to my children as I was to the strangers who put change in the red bucket? Was this manic pace of helping others, hurting us? We were running from one project to the next, all while trying to fit in homeschool, chores, making homemade gifts and Christmas fun. That is when I admitted to myself it was too much.
This December already looks a lot different in our house. We decided on a few favorite service projects (many of them simple) to complete over the course of the month and have had to say no to many others. We have also cut way back on our homemade gifts. Instead we are playing daily board games, reading holiday stories together and trying to save some whitespace in our crazy calendar.
Why am I sharing this story? I want to encourage YOU (or anyone who is still reading at this point) to pick only ONE act of kindness to do as a family this holiday. Pick just one! I know there are so many options this time of year but our calendars are also way more hectic. Save those service projects for other times of year when you have more time and space to devote to them. The food bank needs help ALL year long and the nursing home residents need cheering up more in March than they do now with all of the carol groups coming through.
Pick ONE thing and it can be a simple thing. Maybe you buy some $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop to spread them around to people who could use a little cheer. Or pick one tag off of the giving tree, bake cookies for a neighbor or pick one of our other holiday kindness ideas. Whatever you pick, talk it over as a family and make sure that the activity does not add any more stress to the season. It is important to remember self-care for EVERYONE in your home this holiday. If you are not taking care of yourselves, then you will not be able take care of others.
The only way you can be a LIGHT this holiday season is to take care of yourself.
Once again we will be working on some good deeds for friends and family members and leaving a note that they’ve been “Jingled by the Kindness Elves”. My kids love leaving some treats on the doorstep of the people we care about without them knowing. It is hard to be stealth and last year all but one of the recipients ended up finding out it was us. This year the kids are working on ways to be sneakier!
2. Kindness Calendar
This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness in December. My kids and I have used this for the last two years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season. We do NOT do every task, December is too busy for that. We merely read the prompt for the day and if it something that we can easily accomplish in the next few days, we will do so. This calendar is meant to be fun and not cause extra stress!
3. Donate Food and Hygiene Items
Food banks and shelters depend on people’s generosity at this time of year and hope for lots of donations to fill their shelves. Make sure all of the food that you donate is non-perishable and has not expired. They are always in need of hygiene items too (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, diapers, toothpaste etc.) . This Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher is a hands-on way for kids to be mindful about donating food this holiday season.
4. Feast for the Animals
One of our favorite traditions this time of year is to decorate an outdoor tree with edible treats for the birds, squirrels, deer and chipmunks that live in and around our backyard. We usually do this on Winter Solstice and read the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting before we head out to decorate. Some years we have taken a lot of time with this project and made our own suet and bird seed ornaments. Other years we buy suet, sunflower seeds and hang an extra bird feeder. This is also a great opportunity to clean out your vegetable drawer. Bring out old carrots, celery and other greens for the animals to enjoy.
5.Make Holiday Cards for those in Need
Grab the paper, markers and other art supplies for this family project. Work together as a family to make holiday cards that you can pass on to people who need a little bit of cheer and encouragement this season. Do you know someone who lost a loved one or someone who is battling an illness? I am sure they would appreciate a homemade card from your family. Send the cards to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to be passed out to their guests. Cheer up seniors at the nursing home or a send the cards to Meals on Wheels.
6. Spread Seeds of Kindness–Holiday Edition
This has to be our family’s FAVORITE way to spread kindness during the holidays (and all year long) and it is soooo EASY. We go out and buy a bunch of $1 scratch tickets or $5 gift cards (for coffee shops or fast food restaurants) and hand then out throughout the holiday season. Was the cashier extra friendly at checkout? Hand them a gift card and say “Happy Holidays and thanks for being YOU!” You can spread seeds of kindness to the person working at the tollbooth (we still have people who work the tolls in New England), the person who works at your transfer station, your dry cleaner, the mom who looks stressed in the store, a homeless person…anybody is game for a little kindness this holiday. A nice touch is wrapping the gift card or scratch tickets in a drawing from your children. Click HERE for more information about Seeds of Kindness.
7. Donate Toys and Gifts
There are lots of worthy charities that will accept brand new toy and gift donations at this time of year. Our library has a giving tree where you can take a mitten off the tree and buy a present for a boy or girl in need. Contact your local school nurse or guidance counselor to see if there is a family who needs help during the holidays. Contact the local Foster Child Agency and see if they are in need of toys for the children they serve.
8. Volunteer Time
Do you have some free time this month to volunteer? Our family likes to spend one Saturday morning in December volunteering in the Food Bank. We dress in festive clothing, sing carols on our way and go out to breakfast when we are all finished. It is a nice tradition that we look forward to each year. If you have time to volunteer, contact your local food bank, pet shelter, hospice house, soup kitchen, nursing home or homeless shelter to see if they are looking for volunteers this season. The Salvation Army is always in need of volunteers for their Red Kettle drive during November and December. Many places will accept the help of younger children (ages 5 and up) if there is an adult present.
9. Go Caroling at a Nursing Home
Make some simple song books (most holiday lyrics can be found on the internet), gather together some family and friends and schedule a time to visit your local nursing home. Dress in festive clothing and wander the halls singing carols for all to hear. Perhaps you might bring along some holiday cards or homemade ornaments to pass out to the seniors as you wander. This activity will be one that you will always remember.
We use December as a way to learn about and honor all of the winter holidays celebrated around the world. We have good friends who are Jewish and we are blessed to have spent many nights of Hanukkah with them over the years. The latkes they make are fantastic (both sweet and white potato) and watching them light the candles while saying the blessing is so beautiful.
A former student gave me a menorah for my classroom and it is the menorah I still have today. My children and I read a Hanukkah story during each of the eight nights, discuss the symbolism of the candles play dreidel and pray for our family and friends on earth and in heaven.
This year Hanukkah begins on December 22nd and the last night is Monday, December 30th. Coffee and Carpool has some great kindness activities for Hanukkah on her blog. Here are some of our favorite Hanukkah books to read during the eight nights.
This is our FAVORITE Hanukkah story but it can be a bit frightening for young children. This is a story about a traveler who comes upon a small village where they are not celebrating Hanukkah because goblins have taken over the synagogue. The traveler sets out to defeat the goblins using his wit. A wonderful story about staying strong, being brave and standing up for what you believe in. I think this book is wonderful for children ages 6 and up. Maybe younger if your child is okay with the ideas of monsters.
Every year I find a new holiday book that touches my heart and for 2019, it was Gracie’s Night. This is so much more than a book about Hanukkah. This is a book about kindness, love, giving and thinking of others. I LOVED this book and feel EVERY child (person for that matter) should hear it. I recommend it for ages 4 and up. From the Publisher: “THERE’S LOTS OF LOVE in Gracie’s and Papa’s lives, but not much money. Gracie finds a resourceful way to buy Papa some well-deserved Hanukkah gifts, but an encounter on a bitterly cold night opens her eyes and alters her plans. When we are brave enough to reach out instead of looking away, each of us can bring someone a miracle.”
My kids love this Hanukkah story and it is one we own and read year after year. From the Publisher: “Sadie and her four little brothers are very poor and always hungry. On the first night of Chanukah, Sadie performs a generous act, and in turn receives a frying pan that cooks up sizzling hot, golden latkes on command. Sadie tells her brothers never to use the magic pan, but when she goes out one afternoon, the mischievous boys can’t resist. They remember the words to start the pan cooking . . . but what were the words to make it stop?”
From the publisher: “A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world. This is a heartwarming, timeless picture book.”
This is a great book to teach the story of Hanukkah and why it is celebrated. Children as young as 4 can hear this story and learn about the miracle long ago that is celebrated during Hanukkah. From the Publisher: “Hanukkah is a wonderful time filled with games, food, family, and fun. It’s also the celebration of an ancient miracle, and retelling and remembering the story of that miracle is an essential part of the holiday, for young and old. The story of the courageous Maccabees is retold in simple yet dramatic text, accompanied by vibrant paintings of the battle, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the oil which miraculously burned for eight long nights.”