So I don’t want you to panic….but Christmas is less than 6 weeks away. And…December 1st is only 2 weeks away. You know what that means, right?
Well, Christmas is coming of course. But it’s also time to start thinking about your advent calendar, if you’re planning one. Now I love advent calendars. I love the excitement and anticipation they create in the lead up to Christmas day. And I love watching my kids excited little faces each day when they open up the calendar to discover what’s inside.
But I have also found them a little problematic in previous years. For example, when my oldest two children were still very young, we tried the store bought, chocolate per day type of advent calendar. But that didn’t feel particularly meaningful for our family.
So then we tried creating our own advent calendar and including a small treat or trinket each day, like a mini candy cane, a sticker, or stamp or small toy. But I wasn’t a fan of all the tiny plastic things we accumulated when we did this. And again, it didn’t feel meaningful for us.
So next we moved to an activity based advent calendar, which seemed like a better fit. I’m all about shared experiences over things for the sake of things. And that worked well for a little while. But eventually, it started to get on top of us. We would inevitably try to do too much in the name of Christmas fun. Activities became expensive, and time consuming and elaborate and after a full day of work we would just be too damn tired to do yet another Christmas craft. So that kind of all fell apart too.
So last year, with all of this in mind, we sat down and had a family discussion about what a mindful Christmas would look like for us. And we decided to really scale back the advent calendar. We wanted to focus more on “being” than on “doing”. Presence over presents and all that.
So we thought about which traditions were really important and meaningful to us and we ditched the rest. We didn’t put pressure on ourselves to complete elaborate activities every day. We tried to focus more on the little moments that made it feel like Christmas. And so the idea for a mindful advent calendar was born.
We practiced mindfulness. We scheduled in down time. We didn’t do an activity every day. Some days we just sat and looked at the Christmas lights on our tree.
And you know what? The kids loved it. I had always thought they loved the big adventures and the new and exciting activities every day. But it turns out, they enjoyed slowing down at Christmas too. They found joy in the small moments of togetherness, just as we did.
It was less stressful. Calmer. We weren’t running around trying to cram a million things into our days. We saw less meltdowns, more cooperation and generally happier kids. They didn’t feel overwhelmed. They felt connected.
And I thought, maybe, you might like that experience this Christmas too. I’d really love for you to experience the joy of a slower Christmas. So I created a Mindfulness Advent Calendar, packed full of Christmas mindfulness activities for you to share with the kids this holiday season. And I have 5 of those Christmas mindfulness activities to share with you right now!
One of the Christmas traditions we love most in our house is turning off all the lights in the house, snuggling up on the couch together with a hot chocolate and watching a movie together while the tree lights twinkle in the background. It’s often in those little moments of togetherness that you will find the most joy at Christmas time.
Do you do anything similar in your home? You can turn it into a more mindful experience by really tuning into your senses and what you notice all around you. Drinking your hot chocolate mindfully is a great place to start.
Start by noticing how the mug feels in your hand. Is it heavy? Does it feel warm? Now bring it up to your nose and take a deep breath in. How does your hot chocolate smell? Now take another big breath in through your nose and fill your belly up with air. Hold it for a moment and then very gently blow out through your mouth and cool your hot chocolate down. Do this a few times, and then slowly bring your hot chocolate to your mouth and take a sip. Notice how it feels in your mouth and the way it warms your throat as you swallow. Pay attention to how you feel right now, as you sit and drink hot chocolate with the people you love.
Do you hang mistletoe in your house at Christmas time? Usually when we get caught standing under the mistletoe, it’s time for a kiss, right? But what if we start a new tradition this year?
Sometimes when things get a bit busy – as they can at Christmas time – we forget to take time for mindfulness. We forget to take time to just “be” and enjoy the moment.
So every time you pass under the mistletoe this year, try something different. Stop. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then out through your mouth. And then just notice. Notice the emotions you’re feeling. Notice how your body feels. Notice the sounds, smells and sights in the room. Just take a few moments to notice what’s happening within and around you, and then continue with your day.
Do you enjoy wrapping presents or do you view it as a chore? A task on the to do list to get over and done with as quickly as possible?
The time spent wrapping gifts at Christmas is actually a great opportunity to think about the people we love and why they’re important to us. Try this activity and send your loved ones kind, loving thoughts while you wrap their gifts this year.
First, pick up your present – who is it for? Imagine they are standing in front of you now. Think about why you chose this gift for them and how you’d like them to feel when they open it. Think about why it’s important to you that this person feels good. Why is this person important to you? Think about a special memory you share with this person, and how you felt in that moment. Just remember that happy feeling now and think about how grateful you are to have this person in your life.
Now imagine sending those kind, loving feelings and thoughts to your special person. What do you wish for them? Say it to yourself as you wrap the gift. You might say, “I wish you love and happiness”. And as you wrap your gift, imagine that you are putting those kind, loving wishes inside. Imagine their face when they unwrap their gift from you. Imagine all that love and kindness you wrapped up inside their gift washing over them so they feel loved and happy.
This game is lots of fun for the kids, and will help them reflect on what is truly important at Christmas time. To do this activity, all you need is your 5 senses – sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing and a basket or bag to collect your treasures in!
Now the kid are going to collect 5 items. they could be things found inside or outside at Christmas time. They’ll need: 1 thing that looks like Christmas, 1 that sounds like Christmas, 1 that tastes like Christmas, 1 that smells like Christmas, and 1 that feels like Christmas.
Once they have their 5 items, everyone comes together to share their items and talk about why they are meaningful for them. Yo might like to ask your children why these items are important, whether they have happy memories associated with them, or how the items make them feel. This is a great way to think about what brings us joy at Christmas and makes it meaningful for each of us.
Christmas can be an overwhelming time for kids – a time with lots of extra commitments and social events, extra sensory input coming at them, a lot of expectations, and much less structure and routine. So it’s important that we provide our kids with some tools to help them learn to calm themselves down when it all feels too much.
Enter the calm down jar. To make one, you just need a glass jar or old plastic bottle, some water and some glitter glue or glitter. Fill your jar most of the way to the top with water. Add a few spoonfuls of glitter glue. To make our jars Christmas-y, we used green and red glitter glue, and added some Christmas confetti and sparkly pom poms too. Top it up the rest of the way with water, and then screw the lid on tightly (you might like to use some hot glue to ensure there are no leakages!).
To use the calm down jar, just give it a good shake. The glitter will swirl around in the water, making it hard to see through. When we are distressed and overwhelmed, our mind looks like this also – our feelings cloud our judgment making it hard to think clearly. But if we sit quietly and just observe the glitter in the jar, it will eventually settle at the bottom of the jar. And if we observe our feelings, they will pass also. So next time your child is feeling overwhelmed, encourage them to sit quietly and observe the swirling glitter until it calms down, and so do they.
5 fun Christmas mindfulness activities to add to your advent calendar this year that will help you live in the moment, appreciate the little things, and bring you lots of joy this Christmas! If you loved these activities and would like some more, you can find 24 fun Christmas mindfulness activities for the whole family in my Mindfulness Advent Calendar: Mindful Little Advent Cards. These activities are all about bringing you together as a family this holiday season and infusing a sense of joy into your celebrations!