Christmas is over but are you still in the mood to party? Looking to ring in 2012 with some fun for your family? Personally, I prefer to go to bed early and sleep in on New Year’s Day to recover from the Holiday season. My kids however, like the idea of celebrating the arrival of the new year. So, we will PARTY. Since I’m usually running on empty, I’ve put together some fun but easy ideas for staying home and celebrating in your family room with the kids.
Keep it low-key.
You don’t need to go crazy cleaning the house, buying party favors, and cooking to have a fun New Year’s celebration. Keep the party ideas simple. Even if you just end up watching the countdown shows on TV with the kids, they’ll appreciate it.
Make it a party.
Definitely invite neighbors, family and friends with kids about the same age over to help celebrate. This keeps everyone off of the road, you can all watch the kids together, everyone can ooh and aah over your Christmas decorations one more time, and it saves on babysitter money. To keep it casual and easy, have everyone bring a dish to share. Start the party later so you don’t need to cook dinner, just have snacks and desserts. Invite the kids to come over in their pajamas so it’s casual, and parents won’t have to change their kids’ clothes if they fall asleep before going home.
Time is all relative.
Even if you have small children, you can still ring in the new year together. Here’s a trick. If you have small children who might not make it to midnight, change the clocks in the house so that “midnight” hits around 9 or 10 p.m. The kids will feel like they got to stay up and celebrate and you will still be able to put them to bed at a decent time. Or have the kids at the party bring sleeping bags so they can go to sleep while the parents still stay up and party a little more.
Pop in the Fun
Kids love to make noise and New Year’s Eve is all about loud noise. Grab some inexpensive noise makers at your local Dollar Store or buy a roll of large bubble wrap. Give each kid a piece and let them “Pop it Up” at midnight while the adults pop open the champagne. Skip any confetti or streamers unless you want to spend the next day cleaning. Remember, we said keep it simple.
Another fun idea is to blow up balloons and “drop” them at midnight. Rig up a net in a corner of the basement or drop them over the balcony stairs. Kids will have fun popping the balloons and chasing them around.
Re-Decorate Your Christmas Tree
I loved this idea from a Mom who wrote in to familyfun.com a few years ago. She had her children help her take the ornaments off the Christmas tree so that they could make a “New Year’s Tree.” They took all of the Christmas ornaments off of the tree but left the lights on. They then added curled ribbon, party horns, balloons — basically everything needed for a New Year’s Eve party for the children. What a fun and festive idea and you get a second use out of your Christmas tree! If you are planning on having people over to help celebrate New Year’s Eve, this is a perfect idea on how to decorate.
It’s easier to plan a party if you have a theme. Here are 3 easy themes and activities to keep the family occupied and laughing while you wait for midnight.
Get out those new board games you got for Christmas or Hanukkah, find your old favorites in the closet or fire up the Wii for a little family competition. Definitely grab prizes like big boxes of movie theater candy, large chocolate bars, or my favorite, win coupons to get out of household chores. Click here for more ideas on planning a Family Game Night. Here are a few of my family’s favorite games:
Mexican Train Dominoes
Mille Bornes Racing Board Game
Pajama Pizza Party
Why not have fun cooking together and sharing some laughs in the kitchen by making homemade pizza? If you have a great pizza recipe and a pizza stone, you are good to go. If not, here’s my family’s killer homemade pizza recipe. To make the evening more unique, have everyone wear their pajamas all night. Invite another family over and make it a kids/adult slumber party. Or set up a tent in the living room and the kids can watch the ball drop from inside the tent in their sleeping bags. Here are some more ideas on how to host a fun Pizza Party.
Fancy Schmancy New Years Eve Party
Half the fun of New Year’s Eve is getting dressed up. Who loves dress up more than kids? It’s also fun to dance so why not combine these two into a Fancy Schmancy New Year’s Eve Party? Kids love watching their parents get dressed up for New Year’s Eve Parties, so let them share in the spotlight this year by dressing up in their fancy duds or their kooky dress-up clothes.
You don’t have to go to a club to hear the latest bands and dance on New Years. Pick a theme and host a kid’s prom at home. Turn the New Year’s countdowns on the TV and let the kids dance along to the featured bands. Or set up an area in the house as a dance floor and spin the tunes. Create a playlist of the top dance hits of 2011 and groove those holiday feeding-frenzy calories away or grab some of our favorite kids music to get them hopping. Get your video camera out because the video of your kids dressed up and dancing will be worth it!
For more ideas, here’s a video when I was on WGN last year talking about hosting a New Years Eve party for your kids. I was also on MomTalkRadio last night sharing a few of these New Years Eve ideas for your family.
Whatever you decide to do, have a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve with your family. We look forward to sharing more simple, creative and memorable Family Fun ideas with you in 2012, so we can all have more Chocolate Cake Moments.
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I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have lots of “Chocolate Cake Moments” with your family this Holiday Season.
(My 9-year-old daughter painted this picture. Isn’t it cool?)
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There’s only 9 more days for having fun with you Elf on the Shelf. Are you out of ideas yet? Well, here are more fun things you can do to hide and enjoy your Elf on the Shelf tradition.
Elf on the Shelf Cookies
Bridget over at the Bake at 350 blog did an AMAZING job with these Elf on the Shelf cut-out cookies. I wish I could ice cookies like that!
Amy at Living Locurto had some fun with her kids by giving them “Elf Seeds” and creating magic. Check it out, it’s a very fun idea. She also has a free download with ideas for posing your Elf.
I’ve been having a blast creating funny situations for our Elf Jack. I found that I’ve been doing so many “scenes” with our elf that when I actually do hide him. The kids can’t even find him. They have become lazy with their elf sighting skills. Oh well. Here are some of the latest Elf sightings in our house.
Jack picked a snowball fight with one of our other Elf decorations. Each side has his own Marshmallow Reindeer team mascot.
I made homemade snow globes with the kids one night and Jack decided to make his own that night while we were sleeping.
Jack wrote our kids a note last year and of course everyone knows that Elves write backwards, so the kids had to hold their notes up to the mirror to read it. (You knew that, right?)
Late Elf Nights
We have a pull out couch in our family room that we like to use for Family Movie Night. We pull out the couch and everyone watches the movie in their PJ’s. Well, the kids loved it when they came down one night to find Jack had pulled out the couch and had stayed up all night watching Holiday movies. He even made himself an espresso to stay up. The cat must have kept him company.
I’ve been working on my Parents Sanity-Saving Guide to Elf on the Shelf for the last few weeks but sadly I didn’t get it done in time for the Holiday Season. Life keeps getting in my way. I’m make sure you know when it’s done so you can download it for next year.
What do you do for fun with your Elf on the Shelf? Send me a photo and I’ll put it up on the blog. I’d love to highlight your creativity! Send photos to sue (at) chocolatecakeclub.com Thanks!
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Unique Family Holiday Traditions
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Don’t you just love Holiday family traditions? Everyone is excited, looking forward to the activity. It’s fun to get everything ready with the kids. And then it’s fun to make the memories.
However, every now and then I feel like some of our traditions are getting a little “stale” and we need to spice them up a bit. Maybe you just need to add a fun twist to an existing family tradition or maybe your kids are a little older now so they can do more things.
So I did a little investigating and I was amazed at some of the really unique and cool traditions that other families are doing for fun. So I flagged some traditions I found online and asked my readers about some of their unique Holiday Family Traditions. You might want to start some of these fun activities in your home.
Christmas Eve Traditions
There are a lot of fun activities that go on on Christmas Eve night. Some are more traditional like opening gifts from family members to going to midnight mass. Some read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and others have to sing a Christmas carol before you get to open gifts. (OK, that was my Mom’s rule.) However, some families kick it up a notch. I’ve seen online that some families wear matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. My Mother-in-law has a good family friends that hosts a talent show on Christmas Eve. Everyone no matter what age has to get up and provide entertainment for the whole family. If your family tends towards the “dramatic” it’s a nice tradition because cousins were working together on an act which brought them even closer together. Plus, it makes for great family videos.
The Family Memory Tablecloth
Amy over at SheWearsManyHats.com has a unique family tradition where they make aFamily Tablecloth. Every year when her family gets together for the Holiday they add a saying, memory, hand print or other drawing in pencil onto the designated family tablecloth. Then her mother-in-law embroiders over the pencil marks during the year so that next Holiday you see your contribution permanently added in needlepoint. The tablecloth grows as the family does. How cool!
My husband’s family lives in rural Iowa and for years they’ve had a tradition of “tree looking” where you drive around to your friends’ houses during the Holiday Season and drop in to look at their tree. I know my Mother-in-law always had to have some cookies or treats ready because you never know when someone will stop by. It’s casual, informal and a fun way to stay connected with friends or neighbors and get to check out all of the hard work people put into decorating their homes for Christmas. I only ever get to see my neighbors’ trees from the window. I love the idea of stopping by to admire and chat. I love seeing other people’s Christmas decorations too because there is usually a memory or story behind some of them that I love hearing.
Hide and Seek Traditions
This year, the Elf on the Shelf tradition has really taken off but many families have been hiding the Christmas Pickle for years. This is a German traditions where you have a glass pickle ornament that gets hidden on the tree and whoever finds it first on Christmas Eve wins a prize or small gift. Here’s how one of my readers does the Christmas Pickle tradition.
The Cookie Drop
Over at Girlfriendology.com, I found a cute post about a Cookie Drop tradition. Andi, the author from Udandi.com, makes up packages of homemade cookies, drops them at a friend or neighbor’s house, takes a photo of the package at their door and sends them an email telling them to check their front door for a surprise. Very cool!
Does your family have any unique holiday traditions? I’d love to hear about them so please leave me a comment.
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Looking for a way to spice up your family’s Holiday Traditions this year? I suggest you Be Creative and Try Something New to add a little variety to your Holiday Season and make it more fun this year.
While we all love traditions and look forward to them every year because they provide a foundation for the family’s Holiday activities, it doesn’t mean you can’t adapt or update the tradition or try something new entirely. Variety is the spice of life! What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t like the new activity and you don’t do it again next year.
So, instead of putting on your Santa Hat, put on your thinking caps and get the whole family to brainstorm some creative ways to amp up your existing Holiday Traditions. If your family has a tradition of cutting down a real tree every year, try wearing Santa Hats or dressing like lumberjacks this year to give the event a little silliness and flair. If you all bake Holiday cookies together, be adventurous and try a new recipe or one that sounds really wild. Do all the girls in your family get together for Holiday Tea? Ask everyone to wear an audacious hat to make the affair more elegant and/or goofy.
If your family seems a little burned out on the tried and true family traditions, be adventurous this year and try a new activity that you’ve heard or read about. Who knows? It may become a new favorite. So, if you always go to see the Christmas Carol play, try the Nutcracker Ballet this year. If you’ve never had a real Christmas tree, try cutting one down this year and see if you like the difference. If your kids are a little older now, try going to Midnight Mass. Invite other people to your Hannukah celebration to teach them about your traditions. Try making your menorah this year instead of using the family favorite. Or, buy a candle making set and have the whole family make candles this year for the Celebration of Light. (I’m not Jewish but I asked my friends about their traditions and looked and online for ideas. I found a really fun article on family Hannukah traditions to do with your kids at SheKnows.com. Let me know what you think.)
For inspiration, check out the article I wrote for TheFamilyGroove.com where I share 7 Fun Holiday Tradition Ideas.
What are your family Holiday Traditions? Leave me a comment and let’s see if together we can brainstorm ways to spice it up this year.
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Family traditions are wonderful, aren’t they? The anticipation. The preparation. Knowing that your family has done this in the past and will continue to do so makes an activity powerful. Hopefully, these traditions are also a load of fun, mostly because you spend time together as a family!
The Winter Holiday Season offers great opportunities to have fun traditions with your family. Baking special cookies, throwing parties, caroling, sledding, cutting down a real tree, etc. Whether you are carrying on family traditions or starting new ones, there are so many options. However, the season is short and there is a lot to do – gift buying, baking, wrapping, Holiday parties, decorating, and writing and addressing cards, to name a few. Agh! Don’t let the stress of the Holiday Season overwhelm you where you forget to have fun or start traditions your family will look forward to year after year. After all, the Holidays are all about family.
You may already have a few traditions in place but I want to inspire you to start a new one this year or add to an existing holiday tradition to make it even more fun. There are so many activities around the Holidays like plays, concerts, and parties to keep your family in the fun. But it’s also nice to just relax, stay in, maybe light a fire, admire your decorations, and have fun in your home.
What is a tradition? According to Merriam-Webster:
a tradition is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)ul>
It is also:
the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
It is essential that traditions continue year after year to become ingrained in your family’s culture but that doesn’t mean they are inflexible. Most family traditions change a little over time as your kids grow older or new members join the family. That’s perfectly fine! It’s the intent behind the tradition that shouldn’t change – remembering Grandma, spending time together, giving back to others less fortunate, etc. So, don’t let any of the Holiday stress or change get in the way of carrying on the fun.
Do you know which traditions your kids love? Ask them today. I was surprised that my son’s favorite family tradition was going to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago every December. He loves the smell of the German sausages, eating outside in the cold, looking at all of the wooden nutcrackers, the beautiful Christmas lights, and spending time downtown with our family and most years, our best friends too. I love this tradition too but I was surprised it was his #1 tradition. My daughter’s? Taking a carriage ride around downtown Chicago to see all of the Christmas lights.
Tune in tomorrow for my “Recipe” on How to Create Strong Family Holiday Traditions.
What are your favorite family Holiday traditions?
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Need some fun ideas to say “Thank you” and “Happy Holidays” for your kid’s teachers this year? Helpful neighbors, sitters, or co-workers on your list? I try to be creative and come up with something unique or homemade, but many years I give gifts that I think they could really use, like gift cards or books. I am fortunate enough to have 6 teachers living in my neighborhood so I asked them what they like to get at the end of the year from their students. Here were their top answers, ideas from my readers, as well as some of my own ideas for thoughtful ways to say Happy Holidays.
Book Gift Cards – Many teachers have to buy their own books for the classroom so gift cards help to cover that expense. You can also donate some of your favorite, gently used books for the classroom as another thoughtful gift. Here’s a cool way to “wrap” your teacher’s gift card that I saw at RoomMomSpot.com – make a snow globe.
School Supplies – A reader last year told me she gets a canvas bag and fills it with extra school supplies and chocolate. Something for the teacher and something for the classroom.
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What? It happens! It’s the Holiday Season. There’s so much to do – gift buying, wrapping, decorating, baking, and if you’re lucky, parties. You’re tired from a long day and you forget to move the Elf. The kids are going to be crushed. Now what?
How many of you have snapped awake at 4 a.m. and had to get up to move the Elf? We’ve all been there!
Well, after doing the Elf on the Shelf Family Holiday Tradition for the past 5 years, I’ve done everything wrong you possibly can … and survived. The Elf on the Shelf hide and seek tradition is supposed to be fun after all, not stressful for Mom and Dad. But the “magic” all depends on Mom and Dad, so here are some tips and tricks to recover from “magic” malfunctions.
What to do if you forget to move the Elf:
- Pretend the Elf was tricky and stayed in the same spot to fool them. I’ve used this excuse at least once almost every year. The kids now expect our Elf to try and trick them by not moving at least one night.
- Say that the weather near the North Pole was so bad that he couldn’t fly so he stayed put. This works well if the weather is really bad in your area. The kids can “see” that the weather was bad. If it’s not bad by your house, blame it on the Arctic Winds in the North Pole.
- Guess that the Elf really liked that spot and decided to try it again another night.
- Tell your kids that you were up all night – couldn’t sleep, too much work before Holidays, sick, etc. – so the Elf couldn’t leave because not everyone was asleep. Santa can’t come if you aren’t sleeping so it should be logical that the Elf can’t fly away if someone is awake. Tell your kids you’ll try to better tonight.
What to do when you forget to move the Elf two nights in a row:
I hope this never happens to you but it did to me once. One year I forgot to move our Elf two nights in a row and my daughter was devastated. “Oh, no! Our Elf is dead!” Hardly the spirit of Christmas, right? So we figured that maybe someone had accidentally touched him and he lost his magic. Here’s how we fixed it after many tears and me being overcome with Elf guilt. Write a letter to Santa. I told my daughter to write the big Man and ask him to give our Elf his magic back. We put the letter in an envelope addressed to Santa at the North Pole and put it in the mailbox.
I then wrote myself a note and set my alarm clock at 11:00 p.m. to go off to remind me to move the Elf before going to bed. That night there was a “Christmas miracle” and the Elf moved, so my daughter was thrilled that Santa got her letter and heard her plea. It actually ended up making her even more invested in the tradition and our Elf’s welfare.
Note: While I don’t really condone lying to my kids, I do want to fill their life with magic and joy, so a little fib here and there to keep everyone smiling is OK in my book.
Any other ideas? What has worked for you when you forget to move the Elf?
Need an Elf on the Shelf for your family or to give this fun tradition to a friend? We’ve got you covered with Elf on the Shelf Book Sets and the brand new Elf on the Shelf: An Elf Tale Christmas Special on DVD.
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The Chicagoland area has some wonderful family-oriented activities to help you celebrate the Holidays and have fun together. We have a whole list of activities that we want to do each Holiday Season to take advantage of all of the cool happenings in Chicago. Chicago shines during December and whether you live here or are just visiting – take advantage of the fun.
Here are a few well-known and lesser-known local Holiday favorites that my family loves to do. Many of these have become Holiday Traditions that our kids look forward to every year.
Kids Aged 6 and up
- Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza – This is my family’s favorite thing to do every Christmas. We have been 3 times already this year. The hot sausages, German pastries, beautiful ornaments from Germany and the Gluhwein make it a hit for parents and kids.
- Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science & Industry – While the exhibit is nice and has a lot of great history, definitely check out the Dr. Seuss exhibit this Holiday Season. The Gingerbread Museum in the lobby is AWESOME!
- Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater or Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker - we alternate these two shows every year. This year we’re going to the Nutcracker Ballet. Joffrey’s version is the BEST. I’ve seen it 6 times. Last year, the kids LOVED the Christmas Carol. The stage and the special effects were incredible.
- Holiday Tea at the Drake Hotel is a special moment for the whole family or a Mom, Daughter and Grandmother event. I met a friend for Holiday Tea at the Drake Hotel this past weekend and the decorations were spectacular. So many adorable little girls in fancy dresses!
- Ice Skating Millenium Park – Rockerfeller Plaza doesn’t have the mighty Bean sculpture behind it, now does it? Friday nights in December there is caroling in front of the Cloudgate sculpture (aka the Bean) at 6 p.m. Haven’t gone yet but I’m sure the photo ops are incredible.
- Carriage ride on Michigan Avenue – Grab yours by the Water Tower
- Tower Brass Holiday Concert at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
– We go every year. It’s amazing. This year it is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17th at 2:30 p.m. Save us a seat, we’ll see you there.
- Shop windows at Macy’s on State Street, then see the beautiful, decorated Christmas trees at Water Tower Place, 900 North Mall or NorthBridge. There is supposed to be an incredible, 5 story Grinch display in Water Tower Place so check it out.
No matter what you decide to do this year, create some memories and have some Happy Holiday Fun with your family!
What are your favorite things to do in Chicago during the Holiday Season?
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