The holiday season can be filled with joy and celebration. It can also be super overwhelming, with all the events, activities, and expectations. This month, our friend, positive parenting educator (and multi-hyphenate) Giselle Baumet shares the benefits of having a simple holiday season with children, and offers some helpful tips on how to go about it!
The holiday season can make simple living a challenge. There are many activities to choose from, things to do, traditions to follow, holiday cards to send, gifts to buy, wrapping to do, checklists to follow, dinners to host, and meals to make. 

It’s exciting and, at the same time, A LOT. The holiday season brings warmth and joyful feelings. But those feelings can just as quickly become overwhelming when you’re not following simple living principles through the holiday season.

Children, in particular, benefit from simplicity throughout the holiday season. 

By choosing simplicity, we can more easily create precious memories, enjoy and appreciate gifts, and focus on activities that matter to us, culminating in a fulfilling holiday season for our children—and ourselves.

This article will discuss the benefits of a simple holiday season with your children, and some steps you can take to create one, free from stress and full of calm and peace.

How do you simplify the holiday season?

When you look online for how to enjoy the holiday season, you will be presented with an oversupply of activities, traditions, and gifts. 

For example, I recently saw an article for 52 traditions to do with your kids—the very opposite of simple living and a mindful approach to life. I felt overwhelmed just reading the list!

We have too much to do, and this can create overwhelm and stress where they are not needed. 

But the good news is that simplifying your holidays is pretty easy. In this article, you’ll learn how to have a simple, beautiful holiday season with children.

3 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season with Children

All it takes is three simple steps to positively impact the joy and appreciation of the holiday season for yourself and your children.

1) Reduce holiday activities to just a few core activities

Depending on where you live, you may have an array of holiday activities to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you should do them all!

Instead of thinking that more is more, think LESS is more. Choose one or two activities that mean the most to you and your children, and do those.

I have many lovely things to choose from for the holiday season. I could easily do a holiday-related activity each week, which would honestly exhaust me (been there, done that).

Our desire as parents is to create the best possible holiday season for our children. So, naturally, we think, let’s do as much as possible, and we’ll fully embrace the season. We’ll say to ourselves, “It’s fun! The kids will love it!”

But, for children, too many activities can feel overwhelming and overstimulating. 

Given a choice, a child will choose quality over quantity. 

My recommendation is to take inventory of all of your options and present them to your family. Then choose 1-3 that you will do, based on your children’s preferences.

2) Simplify Holiday Traditions

Traditions are rituals that benefit all of us, especially children. But it’s in simple living that these become extra special.

Having traditions during the holiday season creates comfort and security in children. And traditions give them a sense of belonging. 

To create a simple holiday season for your children, choose the traditions that comfort you and your child the most.

Here are some ways to simplify traditions for yourself and your children:

  • Holiday card giving: Limit to close family and friends, or eliminate them and send a holiday email instead!
  • Holiday dinners: Simplify the menu or consider potluck-style dinners.
  • Holiday parties: Be intentional in choosing just one or two that you and your children can attend and enjoy.
  • Gift giving: Simplify by giving to close family and choosing one (or just a couple) meaningful gift(s) per person.
  • Baking cookies: Involve your kids and make simple recipes that you can enjoy with your children, rather than making various cookies and doing cookie exchanges with others (which can feel more like work than a pleasure). 
  • Simplify decorations: Depending on how pulling out your decorations makes you feel, consider simplifying your decorations to a holiday tree and easy, meaningful decorations.
3) Simplify Gift Giving

I learned the lesson of simple gift-giving early in life as a child. It was Christmas morning on the island where I grew up, and my neighbor friend was so happy about the gift he had received. He held it in the palm of his hand.

I also couldn’t wait to show him mine, as I had received several gifts, but I was intrigued by his pure joy and wondered what he had received for the holiday.

He opened his hand with eyes full of happiness and glee, and it was a small plastic bird. I had never seen a child so happy with such a simple gift.

I learned at that moment the value of simple gift-giving, which I then practiced with my children from the first year of their lives until now. The following section below covers more on this in detail.

During the holiday season, simplify gift-giving by shopping small and locally. Make gift giving more about the gratitude of receiving than the gift’s value or size.

How do you simplify gift-giving during the holiday season?

Having learned the value of simple gift-giving early on, I created the tradition in my home that we receive just one holiday gift each. 

It’s all my children have ever known. And since it’s just one gift, they are mindful of what they place on their wish list and appreciate the gift they receive. 

Research shows that children express more creativity and imagination skills when they have fewer toys vs. more. 

A few generations ago, gift-giving was a lot more simple. Gifts were  primarily handmade, and a lot more humble.

Today, for many families, the holiday season is centered on gifts. And gifts have become more elaborate, increasing materialism and consumerism during the holiday season.

An ING study found that 70% of adults in America feel the holiday season is too centered on gift-giving. And yet we are spending more and more buying gifts. 

I genuinely believe it’s because we expect to gift to so many people during the holiday season. It can feel like being on a treadmill that you want to get off of, but can’t. 

Other ways you can gift that do not require much spending but are meaningful:
  • Gift cookies or holiday snacks
  • Write thank you cards of appreciation.
  • Donate to a local family shelter
  • Make a family video with your children wishing others happiness, and send it to family and friends
  • Create a meal train to help a family in need

Create a culture within your family where gift-giving is about what you give to help others, vs. what you buy for family and friends. As a result, your children will grow to appreciate and value what they receive and better understand the meaning of giving.

How can I enjoy a holiday without stress?

By considering the tips shared, you’ll be able to enjoy a simpler, more meaningful holiday season with less stress. In addition to that, using mindfulness can help you be more present and calm during the holiday season.

Mindful living tips for a stress-free holiday season:
  • Begin self-care rituals during the Fall and Winter that help you stay grounded and calm.
  • Surround yourself with others who are also practicing simple living and mindfulness.
  • Consider adding meditation practices during the holiday season.
  • Be aware of your body’s sensations when additional holiday activities and expectations are presented.
  • Learn to say no to what doesn’t serve you, so you have space to say yes to what does.
  • Remember that what our children want and value the most are not gifts, but our presence. So, live in the now, be in the now.
  • Create holiday season affirmations that give you calm and peace.
  • Keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself that you already have everything you need to be happy.
  • Choose your activities intentionally.
  • Remember that even one or two small changes towards simple living can make a massive difference in relieving stress.
You can have a simple, beautiful holiday season with your children.

Committing to a simple holiday season is a form of defiance against consumerism and stress, and a pivot toward choosing a slower paced, more meaningful approach to the holidays.

Remember that to your child, it is time with you and your presence that matters more, even above the gifts they have on their wish lists.

While we are presented with the expectation of centering the holiday around too many traditions, too many activities, and too many gifts, you can choose intentional practices and meaningful actions to simplify your holiday season.

What are your simple living holiday tips that work well for your family?

Giselle Baumet is a Certified Life Coach, positive parenting educator, herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at gisellebaumet.com.