Ahhhh the holidays. For me, the "ber" months always conjure up images of hot coco, fun holiday traditions, and watching the little ones unwrap presents by the Christmas tree. That is, until Karen chimes in with the, "Five Saturdays until Christmas!" reminder, and the panic sets in. So many presents to buy, so many relatives to see, and so many hours traveling with your unpredictable toddler. It's enough to make any mom wish the season away.
But before you call the holidays off altogether, I want to share my 9 tips for surviving the holidays with your kiddos. I hope you can take away a couple of tidbits that will make this time of year that much more enjoyable!
Start shopping early and use a Gifting Budget Spreadsheet: When you spread out your holiday shopping over the months leading up to Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa, it alleviates a BIG part of what makes the holidays so stressful for most people: time and money. Spacing out the financial burden that the holidays inevitably bring will help you worry less and enjoy more! I also suggest setting a budget per child and relative, and tracking what you buy/how close you stay to that target, in a Gifting Budget Spreadsheet. I shared a downloadable template and blog post on this topic, and will link it here in case you are interested!
Make a packing list: When traveling over the holidays with kids, there is A LOT to remember. So, a few weeks prior, start a packing list in the "notes" app on your phone. This way, you can first jot down the obvious things (presents, diapers, stroller), and then add the random things you are likely to forget when they come to mind (camera charger, borrowed sweater for Aunt Julie, etc.). These lists are also super helpful when it comes to loading up the car and heading back home, to make sure you aren't leaving anything behind!
It's okay to over-pack: If you're flying to visit relatives, disregard this piece of advice, BUT if you're traveling by car this holiday season (and you have the room)... I say it's better to have that extra pack of diapers, then to have to run to the store because you ran out right before the start of Christmas dinner. So bring that extra set of clothes and your trusted baby gate. It will make life easier to have these comforts from home while spending time in someone else's house.
Leave the toys at home: Although I'm all for packing every day necessities, it’s fine to leave the toys at home around the holidays. Your kids will be entertained by new people, a new environment and, of course, the boat-load of new toys they'll get from their relatives! If you’re worried about being caught without toddler entertainment, toss a portable puzzle or small pack of crayons and favorite coloring book into your diaper bag. Just in case.
Warn relatives about childproofing needs: This might seem a little high-maintenance, but I think everyone can appreciate a little heads-up, especially if it's been a while since they've had little ones running amok. My grandma invited us to Thanksgiving this year, and upon accepting, I sent along this little note: "We would love to join! But I should disclose, we come with a curious toddler who will open, close, climb, pick-up, and attempt to ingest anything she can get her hands on :) I know you have lots of nice things so I want to put that out there. We will bring puzzles and toys to keep her busy!" My grandma was happy to oblige.
Pack presents in laundry baskets: This is a trick I picked up from my mom. She did this my whole childhood and continues to pack in laundry baskets to this day. They are wide and tall enough to fit all of your gifts (Tetris style), super easy to transport, and then perfect for loading up the holiday loot you get to bring back home.
Get those naps in: So often, our sacred schedules go out the window when we are outside of the normal routine we live by at home. But if you are hoping to preserve your sanity (and the sanity of your relatives who may not be accustomed to whiny, sleep-deprived toddlers), make sure you make time for those naps! With babies who nap more frequently, I like timing our drive time with nap time. For toddlers on a more consistent nap schedule, I make sure to set up a sound machine and Pack-n-Play in a quiet room. Even if your wildling refuses to sleep in a new environment, the quiet time is good for everyone!
Have a sense of humor: The holidays can get stressful. So when things go awry (let's say you end up with a carsick kiddo), refrain from sniping at your significant other about letting her watch the iPad in the car. Instead, share a laugh about the ridiculousness of your new roles of roadside puke picker-uppers. This has actually happened to us multiple times, and humor tends to be the only thing that gets us through the disgusting ordeal!
Flex and flow: A good friend introduced this saying to me a couple months back, and it can be applied to virtually any situation involving kids. Be flexible and go with the flow. Bedtimes will get pushed, tantrums will happen, Aunt Julie's sweater might get forgotten. And that's okay. Just do your best mama, and remember that you are basically Super Woman for just getting those kids fed and into holiday outfits. Everything else is just a bonus.
*All photos by the uber talented Sadi with Whimsie Studios