For the past few years we have been doing the Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher. This project is a WONDERFUL way to help your kids focus on others during the busy holiday season. My kids like to decorate cardboard boxes for their items and it is fun to watch the boxes fill up during the month of December. My best advice is to buy the food ahead of time and store it some place where it wont be accidentally consumed! Then each day have your children “go shopping” to retrieve the item for that day.
Click Image Above to Download
This year I was inspired to create two new giving calendar’s to encourage EVERYONE to participate in Season’s Giving. I created a Solstice Givingcalendar and an 8 Days of Givingcalendar that you can download and print out.
Last year in November, I gave my children the Reverse Advent Calendar list and a grocery budget. They logged on to our local grocery store’s website and worked together to purchase the groceries online. Many grocery store chains and Walmart offer curbside pick up or delivery, so that your kids can do this activity from the safety of home. Not only did they learn about giving, they also learned about budgeting and the cost of food.
So many are in need during this holiday season. If your family is able to give back, I hope you will consider participating in Season’s Giving. This is a wonderful lesson for your children and it will benefit so many people.
This year our local Kids in Service NH meetings will be held virtually in order to keep everyone safe. Because of this we’d like to welcome ALL families near and far to join us and best of all it’s FREE. When you sign up you will get a downloadable Welcome Packet, access to our Private KIS Virtual Club Page, a short Welcome Video and access to Private KIS Club Facebook Group (this is optional and not necessary). We have some great lessons and activities planned for this year and we hope that you will join us!
KiS Junior is for kids ages 10 and under (although my almost 11 year old will be participating). Our theme for the year will be Bravery and Persistence and there will be monthly videos from October-May. Each video meeting will be under 15 minutes and are meant to be low stress for parents. There will be a story, a quick lesson and two service project ideas. You can have your children just listen to the story/lesson and/or participate in one or both of the projects if you have the time. The projects can be done from the safety of your home and most can be done with materials around the house.
Each month we will have a raffle for those who participate during that month (you are always welcome to go back and watch the older videos at any time). Share a photo of your child participating before the end of the month and they will be entered for the raffle. There is a lot more information in our Welcome Packet, click the image above to SIGN up!
KIS Teen/Pre-Teen videos will be posted every other month (October, December, February, April). The meeting videos will be under 15 minutes and are meant to be watched when it is convenient for your child. Each video will contain a video clip or interview and two project ideas. These projects can be done as a family, with friends or on their own.
Kids who participate will be entered to win a raffle for that meeting. Share a photo of your child participating before the deadline (these will be announced) and they will be entered for the raffle. There is a lot more information in our Welcome Packet, click the image above to SIGN up.
Check out the two KIS Junior meetings we created last spring!
May Meeting–I start off with the book One by Kathryn Otoshi, we make Birthday Boxes and make cards for the local nursing home (rainy day art project).
Earth Day Meeting–I start off reading the book Love the Earth by Julian Lennon, we make recycled art projects and clean up trash on our street.
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.
Happy Hanukkah! We have shared 8 of our favorite Hanukkah books below, with YouTube read aloud links. We hope you enjoy them and we’d love to know your favorite Hanukkah books. We also have some ideas for how you and your family can spread some kindness this Hanukkah.
Our family is Christian but 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 10th and the last night is Friday, December 18th. We have created an 8 days of Givingcalendar for you and your family to collect items for people in need. Once Hanukkah is over, you can deliver your items to your local food bank. Coffee and Carpool also has some great kindness activities for Hanukkah on her blog. Hanukkah Sameach!
What is Hanukkah?
8 of our Favorite Hanukkah Books
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.”
Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel is a sweet story about a bear who wakes up early from hibernation and smells something tasty. He meets an old woman named Bubba Brayna who mistakes bear for the Rabbi. She invites bear in and celebrates Hanukkah with him. From the Publisher: “Bubba Brayna makes the best latkes in the village, and on the first night of Hanukkah, the scent of her cooking wakes a hungry, adorable bear from his hibernation. He lumbers into town to investigate, and Bubba Brayna—who does not see or hear very well—mistakes him for her rabbi. She welcomes the bear inside to play the dreidel game, light the menorah, and enjoy a scrumptious meal.”
This is a story about a little girl who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. Her father is Jewish and her mother is Christian and this is a story of how the family blends the two holidays. From the Publisher: “A delightful picture book captures the warmth of family tradition as Emma and her family celebrate two holidays–Hanukkah, a time to light the menorah and play dreidl games, and Christmas, a time to sing carols and open presents.”
The Night Before Hanukkah is a story that goes through a family’s celebration of the 8 days of Hanukkah. This story in verse tells about the traditions, celebrations and history of the 8 day festival. From the Publisher: “It’s the night before the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah begins, and everyone is excited! Each evening, the family gathers to light the candles and share holiday traditions such as playing dreidel, eating latkes, and exchanging gifts. The seventeenth title in Natasha Wing’s bestselling series, The Night Before Hanukkah captures all the joy and love in one of the most wonderful times of the year!”
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” I won’t torture you with the entire song but I will encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas. We started celebrating them a few years ago and it has stopped the “After Christmas Blues” from coming to town. Each night we add a candle to our window sill until there are 12 candles lit for Twelfth Night. It is beautiful.
One of our favorite parts of the 12 Day Celebration is listening to a new Tullyport Story each day. Sparkle Stories puts out this LOVELY audio series for the 12 days of Christmas. Throughout the series Martin and Sylvia (siblings) “explore what it means to celebrate the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ inspired by twelve delightful stories from 18th century Maine.” (Sparkle Stories Website). You can CLICK HERE to learn more. If you are short on time each day, they also have a series with the just the 18th Century Stories from Tullyport Maine (a fictional coastal town). These stories are truly magical, CLICK HERE for that series.
We have been a Sparkle family since they began and this is our FAVORITE series. You can get a free 10 day trial which would get you through most of the 12 days of Christmas and you’d be able to see all that Sparkle Stories has to offer. This is not an advertisement, I am just a true fan.
What else do we love to do during the 12 days of Christmas?? Here is a little glimpse into all we have planned this year.
Day 1–Christmas Day-This will be a quiet day for us this year. We plan to stay in our jammies all day, hang by the tree and enjoy a wonderful dinner made by dad.
Day 2–Boxing Day (Kwanzaa Day 1)–We will be having a family Christmas party this day.
Day 3–Hibernation Day–This is the day we do NOTHING. We play games, read books and just chill. I love to hibernate and this is one of my favorite days of the week.
Day 4–The Forgotten Gift–Every year one of the gifts gets “forgotten” under the tree. The kids open it on this day. It is usually a book to share or a board game to play. They love having this fun surprise.
Day 7–New Years Eve-This year we have plans for a family game night out with friends. New Years Eve is usually very low key for us and we like to celebrate at home. We usually make a nice dinner and do an 8 o’midnight celebration with the kids with a live ball drop from our upstairs. Having 8 o’midnight means we are always in bed by 10, which I LOVE. We will see how leaving the house works for us this year 😉
Day 8–New Year’s Day–Every year we have a BIG New Years Day fancy breakfast. After the meal, we complete our New Years Day Interviews. You can read all about the Interviews and get your own copy by clicking HERE. We’ve been doing these interviews for years and it is always fun to go back and see how we have grown and changed.
Day 9–Plan out Service Projects for the Year--This year during the 12 days I want to have a family meeting where we map out the organizations that we would like to volunteer with this year. 2018 was a big year of service for us but we were flying by the seat of our pants and it felt like we were saying “YES” to everything. This year I want to be more intentional about our volunteer hours and the money we donate.
Day 10–Family Game Night–On the 10th night we are hoping to break out the new games the kids got for Christmas and a few old favorites and have a big family game night.
Day 11–Family Movie Night–We are hoping to pop the popcorn and find one last holiday movie to watch. There are a bunch we have not watched yet this year, so I am sure there will be lots to choose from.
Day 12–Family Twelfth Night Celebration--This year Twelfth Night falls on a weekend night and so we can do more than our traditional candlelit dinner. We are hoping to do a bonfire with s’mores, write some wishes on pieces of paper and send them into the new year by burning them in the fire. We will also bake a Kings Cake and the person who finds the bean will be the wish keeper for the celebration. They will hold everyones wishes for the new year in their heart.
Epiphany or Three Kings Day–3 Little presents arrive on this day. One for each child and one to share. They are not big presents, just a small item of fun to open and my kids are sooooo excited for this day EVERY Year. This is also the day we pack away our Christmas decorations and give thanks for all of the fun and magic we had throughout the season.
I loved this graphic from the Art of Simple. You may incorporate some of these things into your 12 days. They have a great post about the tradition and history of the 12 days that you can find HERE.
Kwanzaa is the 7 day festival that begins on December 26th and goes until New Years Day. Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and is a beautiful celebration of faith, community and creativity. This festival originates from African harvest festivals and was created so that African Americans and Pan Americans could celebrate their heritage and come together in unity.
Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on a different principle and each night a new candle on the kinara is lit. Kinara’s can be expensive so if you wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa with your family, you could always make a paper kinara and add a paper flame to the appropriate candle each night. Some examples of paper kinara’s are HERE and HERE.
The 7 principles or pillars of Kwanzaa are things that EVERYONE can strive for all year long. Below I have included the 7 principles, some ideas for activities that you and your family can do for each and some of our favorite Kwanzaa books.
Umoja or Unity–This pillar is there to remind people of the importance of unity in their families, their communities and their race. The center black candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Umoja, it might be a great time to have a family game night, a special family dinner or go on a Gratitude Walk as a family. Click HERE to learn more.
Kujichagulia or Self-Determination—Kujichagulia is all about defining who you are and what you stand for. The far left red candle is lit on this night. Kujichagulia would be a great day to set some goals with your children. Maybe you could do a New Year Interview or create a vision board together of their hopes and dreams. This could be done with old magazine photos, drawings and you could even make a big family vision board.
Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility-–Ujima is about working as a community to solve problems. The far right green candle is lit on this night. Ujima would be a great day to volunteer your time. Perhaps you could donate food to the local food bank, visit a nursing home, bring animal supplies to a shelter or clean up a local park.
Ujamaa or Coopertive Economics—Ujamaa is all about supporting local businesses to help them to thrive and grow in your community. The second red candle is lit on this night. Small businesses are vital to our local economies and Ujamaa is a great day to show them your appreciation. Perhaps today you make cards for the local businesses in your community and deliver them with a “Thank You” for all they do.
Nia or Purpose-–Nia is all about building community and remembering our traditions. The second green candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Nia you could visit or call the elders in your family and ask them to share stories of the past (I know they’d love to hear from you). Make sure to record these precious conversations so that you can play them back again and again. It might be fun to look through old photo albums to see how traditions have been passed down in your family from generation to generation.
Kuumba or Creativity-–Kuumba encourages us to do as much as we can to leave our world and surroundings better off than when we came. The last red candle is lit on this night. Kuumba would be a great day to clean up your street, your local park or help a neighbor with an outdoor chore. If your world is covered in snow, perhaps you make hot cocoa for the town plow drivers or give them gift cards to a local coffee shop. You could make some artwork for the local nursing home to brighten up the residents rooms and leave the world a little brighter. The sixth night of Kwanzaa is also time for the Karamu or the big feast of Kwanzaa.
Imani or Faith—Imani is there to remind us to believe in the people around us (parents, teachers and leaders) and to remember the struggle of the African Americans in this nation. The last green candle is lit this night. You can celebrate Imani by thanking all those people in your life who help you out. Maybe you could write thank you notes for the gifts you received during the holidays or call someone special to let them know how much they mean to you.
A Great Overview of Kwanzaa for Young Children
Favorite Books for Kwanzaa
This book is no longer in print but you may be able to get it at your local library. This is a sweet story of kindness is all about Imani learning about Kwanzaa and her family traditions from her grandmother. In this story it is the sixth night of Kwanzaa and time for the Karamu (the big feast of Kwanzaa) on New Year’s Eve. It is Imani’s turn to light the Kinara on this special night and she is nervous. What will the gift for Imani be?
This is a nice alphabet book that helps to understand all of the Swahili words and customs associated with Kwanzaa. This is a great book for your family if you have never celebrated Kwanzaa before and would like to learn more about this festival of light and family. From the publisher: “A unique alphabet book for children and a wonderful introduction to Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African American heritage. For example:A is for Africa — Africa is the second largest continent. It has many countries. African Americans’ ancestors came from Africa. Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates the rich heritage of Africa.”
From the publisher: “Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.”
From the Publisher: “Li’l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won’t celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows what to do! He’ll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. Inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster character from the African-American folklore tradition, the story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others.”