The holiday season is the time of year for spreading extra happiness, kindness, and cheer. As you prepare your celebrations, here are some fun and simple ways you and your children can make days brighter for family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
Pick up inexpensive gifts and treats or bake a batch of cookies and secretly leave them on the doorsteps of a neighbor’s house with a note that reads, “You’ve Been Leafed.” The concept is similar to the popular “You’ve Been Booed” Halloween tradition of leaving candy anonymously by someone’s door. The aim here is simply to bring a smile to someone’s face with the hope that they in turn will leave a similar gift to someone else in the neighborhood. A quick Internet search of “You’ve Been Elfed” provides a variety of printable notes to attach with your gifts.
Little ones can practice writing skills as well as learn how to address an envelope while filling out holiday greeting cards for family members, classmates, or U.S. troops. In previous years, communities across the country have initiated 10,000 Cards for troops campaigns. More recently, the website justakindnote.com was created during the pandemic to spread joy to health care workers and other essential workers. Consider sending holiday cards to teachers, service workers, patients in local hospitals, or residents in nursing homes.
Have kids who like to bake? Grab an apron and set to work making Christmas cookies and deliver them to first responders at the local fire stations and police departments as a thank you for all they do throughout the year. Get little kids involved by having them pick out their favorite recipes and shop for all the ingredients.
Teach children the value of giving back to the community by devoting time to a local soup kitchen or food bank. Collect canned food items from neighbors to donate to the food bank for holiday meals. Children can also learn the importance of giving by donating old books, clothing, and toys to those less fortunate. The Toys for Tots run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve (toysfortots.org) is another option.
Another way for kids to get into the spirit and play Santa is by adopting a family during the holiday season. The Salvation Army Angel Tree program and other similar programs through schools, churches, and other community organizations, is an opportunity to help provide gifts to children or senior citizens in need. Children will get a kick out of picking out presents for others.
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Bell Ringing Program has been a symbol of the holiday season since 1891. That was the year that Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee decided to do something to help feed San Francisco, California, residents who were going hungry. This year, instead of dropping your spare change into the kettle, consider dedicating a few hours to being one of the iconic bell ringers. Learn more about the program and sign up for a shift at salvationarmyusa.org/usn.
Bundle up, prepare some hot cocoa, and take an evening stroll throughout your neighborhood to check out the holiday lights and sing a few Christmas carols along the way. Belt out a few holiday classics, adding your own spin. Know someone who strums a guitar or plays the drums? Have them tag along for a nice added touch.
Consider hosting a hot chocolate station or potluck for friends and neighbors. Make hot cocoa bombs or jars of hot cocoa with marshmallows, peppermint stirrers, or sprinkles. Or, host a small gathering at the house where everyone shares their favorite dish. Those who prefer a virtual meeting can still exchange dishes porch side, then set up a Zoom while you eat and play Christmas-themed games like bingo, trivia, or charades.