Designing the Holidays For Your Family (Updated 2022)

The holidays are here and you have a young family.   What will the rules of engagement be?  Is it anything goes when it comes to gifts?  Does Santa visit?  If so, what will he bring?  Do you have holiday traditions you want to follow?  Holiday traditions you want to create?  Now is the perfect time to design the holidays in the way that works for your family now and in the years to come!


I was talking the other day to a dad who said his father always sends insanely expensive or totally inconvenient/irresponsible gifts for his grandkids.  One year, the gift arrived in an 8x8 foot crate.  It was a giant blow-up Grinch that, fully inflated, was taller than their house and took up their entire front yard.  While it is, in fact, now a beloved part of their holiday decorating each year, it felt like a major inconvenience to the parents and it takes up a ton of storage space in their garage.  Another year, he sent a two-year old a drivable car that could reach speeds of 18 mph.  And while it was the child’s favorite gift of the season, it was also scary dangerous until they managed to cap the speed to a toddler-appropriate level.

Gift-giving as a love language is no joke.  And so it pays to think about how you want your holidays to look.  What are the messages you want to send to your kiddos, and how might gift-giving fall into play?  Entitlement is real, and it is so hard to prevent it if you or your family have the ability and desire to make every wish come true.  If you want to set some parameters for you or your extended family when it comes to your little ones, now is a good time to do so – before babies become toddlers who become kids who learn to expect a certain standard of gift-giving. 

For some ideas on how to approach holiday giving, click here.


Now is also a great time to consider what Santa means to your family.  If you are a household that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, will Santa still come?  If he will, what will Santa bring or not bring?  Will Santa bring gifts, or just fill stockings?  Will Santa’s elves wrap presents, or not?  Will Santa bring anything your child asks for, or are there limits?  Why would you need to think about this now?  Because your babies will turn into observant, savvy, brilliant little toddlers who will get you over a barrel in a heartbeat!  Mine constantly outthink and surprise me, and I am at least reasonably intelligent.  Here are some examples. 

When my first was 26 months (just turned two, essentially), we were really diligent about no screentime.  Not only was he screen-free, but we didn’t watch tv or play video games or whatnot if he was around.  I am a stay-at-home mom, so he didn’t go to daycare.  And yet, somehow he knew about guns.  We, to this day, do not know how.  When we getting ready to go see Santa, I asked him what he thought he would ask for.  He told me he was going to ask Santa for a “real gun, not a toy gun” for Christmas.  Oh, heck no.  Gun-debate and my sudden, striking fear I was raising a psychopath aside, my toddler was not getting a real gun to play with for Christmas.  He wasn’t even potty-trained!  In our house, Santa follows family rules, bringing only those gifts our children’s parents – us – would approve of.

At three, we sponsored some homeless families for Christmas.  The families specifically said no toys because they didn’t have room for them in their cars (where they were living).  Instead, they asked for us to buy their kids pajamas, coats, socks, shoes, and food.  We went shopping as a family and bought the items, explaining to him that we were shopping for another family that needed some help this holiday.  All seemed to be ok.  That night, when we were going through the bedtime routine, my son asked when we would buy the toys.  I said we couldn’t and explained why.  Then he started crying.  He asked how Santa would know where to find them.  He asked why Santa would bring him fun things, but not them.  Honestly, it broke my heart.  I also breathed a sigh of relief because I apparently was NOT, in fact, raising a psychopath, but a beautiful empathetic child.  And he needed an answer.  I explained that Santa could find anyone – he’s magic!  And I reiterated that he would follow their family rules just like he followed ours. 

Another story you say?  Sure! Last one, though.  Our four year-old loves Lego.  He is really accomplished at them, too, assembling sets for 16 year-olds and up.  He reads the Lego catalogues that come to our home, studying them and marking the pages of the Lego he wants someday.  He advised me that he intended to ask Santa for a particular set that costs $400.  I responded, “Wow, honey!  That is expensive!”  He responded with all the earnestness of a true believer, “I know!  That’s why I am going to ask Santa, not you.  His elves make it for free!”  Which is exactly what we have always said of Santa and his elves – they make the toys in their workshop.  Hmm. 

You get the gist.  It pays to think ahead, to consider what you want the Santa experience to look like and then craft your story and practices around that vision.  It isn’t just about saving money or limiting presents, it is about preserving their belief in Santa and the magic of Christmas, too.  Kids are smart.  They catch the details and notice and remember things you don’t think possible.  Consistency helps preserve their belief.  And that is so worthwhile.  The magic of the holidays for children is a precious and beautiful gift to everyone.

Family Traditions

With a new and growing family, now is the perfect time to think about what traditions you want to hold on to from your families of origin and what traditions you may want to create.  Here are some ideas.  Feel free to share some of your own in the comments!

Holiday Jammies. 

Opening a pair of Christmas jammies is something I have done since I can remember.  I buy them for myself now, as my husband forgets each year. (Don’t worry – he makes up for it in a million other ways.)  You can match as a family, or not.  If you have a baby or toddler, we highly recommend Bumbershoots by Nana sleep sacks and jammies.  (Of course!)  We have some really cute holiday designs for Hannukah, Christmas, and winter in general.  (Speaking of, for the month of December, our blog-readers can save 15% plus receive complimentary shipping.  Just enter promo code BBNHOLIDAY at checkout.)

Holiday Christmas Lights. 

Whether you walk or drive, consider taking your little ones on a neighborhood tour to see the Christmas lights and decorations.  They make magic!  And because the sun sets so early in the winter, you can get their full magic without keeping your little ones up too late.

Holiday Reading. 

My brother and sister-in-law read The Night Before Christmas every year to their children.  It is a tradition in their family, and their kiddos looked forward to it even in their pre-teens.  Whether you want a secular or non-secular book, to read the same book or mix it up, there are plenty of holiday books for babies, toddlers and bigger children to choose from.  Check out this list!  

Giving to People in Need. 

Whether you can spend a little, a lot, or nothing at all, there are ways to incorporate charity into your holiday.  Most communities have locations where you can donate individual gifts, sometimes for a specific child and sometimes a generic gift some child would like.  Here are some charitable organizations you can join forces with.   Many times, you will receive the child’s age, gender and wish, to include sizes if applicable. 

You can also sponsor entire families by providing meals and gifts (based off a submitted wish list with pertinent information).  Look to your local YWCA/YMCA, veteran’s organizations, and shelters for opportunities to do this. 

Also very significant is the gift of time and effort.  You might start a tradition that involves handing out meals at a shelter or holiday meal groceries at a food bank.  Maybe you help distribute the gifts a community organization collects.  Whatever the charity, it will likely be a fulfilling experience.  Keep in mind that many organizations set age limits for volunteers.  You should also take into account health-related consideration for in-person volunteering, not just because of the pandemic, but because the immune systems of young babies are still developing.    

Attend a Community Holiday Event. 

Coming together with the people in your community, old and young, to share good cheer is one of the best parts of the season. Whether you prefer a town tree-lighting, a Christmas Eve religious service or a virtual holiday event, baby will love taking in all the friendly faces, colorful decorations and holiday tunes.

Handmade Gifts. 

This is a fun idea that grows with your child.  As an infant, you can make a hand or footprint ornament or plaque for the grandparents.  As your baby gets older, crafts are no only a great way to pass the time and stimulate your little one’s mind, but they make great presents for loved ones.  Want some holiday craft ideas?  Check these out.  And these.  

Decorating your Home Together. 

Whatever the holiday, you can decorate your home.  Maybe you buy seasonal decorations you bring out each year.  Maybe your kiddo makes decorations to hang.  It can be a really fun experience to do as a family.

Happy holidays!  We at Bumbershoots by Nana wish you all a wonderful, safe, health and love-filled season!

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