I admit it. I am a bit of a Scrooge. There is a whole lot about the holiday season that I just cannot get excited about. My biggest issue is probably our excessive buying of things—the collective “we” of our society, not necessarily my family, though we do our part. Another big issue for me is the pressure on moms in particular to make the holidays perfect, which places unrealistic expectations on the amount of time, effort, creativity, and money we should invest in all this holiday magic making.
So in an effort to curb my Scrooginess the past few years, I have thought a lot about how to make the holidays more like I want them to be. This has included a commitment to stay home on Christmas day. It means buying a real tree even though it would make more sense for the budget and the carpet to use the perfectly good artificial one in the basement. It means trying harder to find meaningful experience gifts for the kids—things like admission to the trampoline park, rock wall climbing, or a live show as opposed to stuff.
A few years ago, my kids were obsessed with counting down to Christmas—or really, counting down the days until Santa came with their presents. It should have been cute, but it really annoyed me. So we started another way to countdown—a Random Act of Kindness for each day of December. I started with a fancy Pinterest-y banner, but true to my desire to simplify, it has more often been a simple list of ideas.
We try to do one RAOK a day, but more often than not, we fall behind and end up doing five or six of them on a slow Sunday afternoon and a flurry more right before the holiday. If a 25 day countdown sounds overwhelming, 12 Days of Christmas is a nice theme too. No act of kindness is too small; it really is the thought that counts. Most importantly, my kids LOVE it. The happiness on their faces as they do something kind for others, for people who aren’t expecting it—well, it really is better than their faces on Christmas morning. They might not realize it, but they are learning how much greater the joy of giving is than the joy of receiving.
Have I convinced you to add some Random Acts of Kindness to your already long holiday to do list? If so, here are some ideas to get you started. It probably goes without saying, but consider the age and abilities of your children. I have tried to include activities specifically for kids, but not all of these will be appropriate for all ages and may require your assistance.
- Carry around post-it notes for your kids to write holiday greetings or draw pictures and leave them on windshields, on boxes of cereal at the grocery, or wherever people will find them.
- Separate a houseplant that needs more room to grow and replant the excess into several small pots. Or simply pick up an extra poinsettia while you’re out shopping. Deliver extras to neighbors.
- Have kids gather a pile of books they have outgrown and deliver to the pediatrician’s office or a nearby hospital for the waiting room.
- Make handmade cards and visit a nursing home to deliver them in person. Plan at least an hour, as the residents will enjoy your kids’ company even more than the cards. If your budget allows, bring small gifts like hand cream or lip balm.
- Candy cane bomb a parking lot. (This is my kids’ VERY favorite RAOK.) Pick a sunny, dry day. Any parking lot will do, but our favorites are the employee lots at hospitals.
- Make biodegradable bird feeders and find places to leave them outside for our feathered friends.
- Let someone go in front of you in line when you are out doing your holiday shopping.
- Bake homemade dog treats and carry them with you to give to people you see out and about with their pets.
- Keep track of when your postal carrier or garbage collector comes and be ready with a to-go cup of hot cocoa for them. Or take hot cocoa to other people working out in the cold, like the crew who has been working on our street.
- Have the kids help make a double batch of dinner and deliver it to someone you know having a difficult holiday season ( a recent divorce, an illness, a lost loved one, etc.).
- Shop for a child. While many of the online adopt-a-family deadlines have passed for this year, many stores and malls have a giving tree with the names and needs/requests of children who are in need. Toys-for-Tots also offers many locations to drop off donations. You can find the closest one to you here: Toys-for-Tots
- When in the grocery store parking lot, offer to return someone’s cart to the corral for them.
- Do a chore without being asked.
- Make your sibling’s bed, take their dirty clothes to the laundry room, or put away their toys for them.
- Take a bag of supplies to a teacher who is likely running low on things like tissues, hand sanitizer, glue, and markers.
- Write a thank you note to someone and send it in the mail. It doesn’t have to be for a gift; you can be thankful for something nice they did, something they taught you, or just for being someone whose company you enjoy.
- While waiting in a long holiday line at the store, strike up a positive conversation (no whining about waiting) with the person behind you.
- After standing in a long holiday line at a store, tell the clerk checking you out what a great job they are doing and thank them.
- Fill out a comment card at a restaurant or other business complimenting an employee who was helpful or kind. Mail it or turn it in to the manager. If no comment cards are available, send an email.
- Spend a day looking for litter where ever you go. Pick it up and throw it away. Or take an hour to pick up garbage all along your street or at the neighborhood park.
- Spend a day making an effort to smile and say hello to every stranger you pass.
- Hold the door open for the person entering or leaving a store behind you.
- Take your dog (or better yet, a neighbor’s dog) for an extra walk or play a long game of fetch in the back yard.
- Bake some extra cookies to take to the local fire or police station.
- Drop lucky pennies for people to find. Make sure to turn them heads up if you’re superstitious.
What would you add to this list? Do you and your kids have any holiday random acts of kindness planned? We would love to hear your ideas and add them to our list!