Two young children wearing blue aprons are seated at a table painting round Christmas ornaments.

Holiday life hacks

Put your focus on time well spent

By Fawn Logan-Young

It’s the season of buying gifts and spending time with family, but with COVID-19, traditions have changed. Gift shopping is harder, as is spending quality time with loved ones. Not to mention, funds are tight for many during this global pandemic. 

I would love to share with you some of my holiday life hacks that I have been using over the last few years. They feel relevant now more than ever. They can be as inexpensive and low-waste as you make them. Most importantly, they’re a great way to spend quality time with young ones this season.

Photo of a small gingerbread house nestled in glittery decorations on a blue background.
Give children an opportunity to be part of the creative process when customizing decorations and gifts.

Secret Santa with a twist 

Want to find a creative way for your children and their friends to connect this winter? 

This version of Secret Santa has the same rules as your standard exchange — draw names, assign the exchanges, get presents and send — but the gifts must be homemade. 

During this pandemic, homemade helps make the exchange more personal when sending a gift in the mail if you’re not able to spend time with a friend. Another benefit is you have control over your input costs. Your child gets to customize something special for their friend (and vice versa), while you and your young one will be able to bond and enjoy the creative process. 

Colourful tissue paper packaged tied with brown string, numbered with black marker.

Make advent calendars and New Year’s countdowns

Customizing your own can be as inexpensive as you wish, depending on the treats you use. You could even exchange chocolate for something else, like mini toys, or personalized coupons for fun activities that children can redeem another time. There is a lot less to waste with this process if you stick with recycled materials.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Here’s what we came up with in my house.

  • Wrap 25 chocolates with opaque tissue paper.
  • Use decorative rope and space out the 25 chocolates.
  • Hot-glue gun the rewrapped chocolates to the rope.
  • Number the chocolates one to 25 in random order. 
  • Starting Dec. 1, chow down. 
Popcorn and cranberries threaded on a string to make homemade garland.

Go vintage

Thrifting sessions can be a hit or miss. I do love mom-and-pop thrift shops because they tend to have more unique and quirky finds that kids tend to love discovering. Let us not forget, you also get to support local and a more mindful approach with upcycling.

Giving kids a mission to find something can be game with a potential reward. I have done this with my little cousins before, promising them if they found what I was looking for, they would get one item in the store of their choice. Nothing feels better than finding the right gift for the right person, knowing you took the effort to do so. You can teach kids this lesson too. 

A white adult woman's hands ice a decorated gingerbread man. There are candy canes, hot chocolate, and a plate of finished cookies in the background.

Make your own decorations 

In my house, about 90 per cent of our holiday decorations are homemade ornaments, besides the lights and a few vintage decorations that have been passed down to us from family. 

Making your own is a whole lot of fun and over the years you can build up a nice collection of ornaments without laying out a lot of cash. Crafting is great family bonding time, and you can’t beat the holiday smells and bustle that fills the house. 

A few of my favourites tree trimmings: 

  • Popcorn and cranberry garlands
  • Dehydrated cinnamon sticks tied up with string
  • Cut out gingerbread salt dough cookie ornaments
  • Little bundles of dehydrated flowers and foraged berry bush branches.

The benefits 

The holidays can be a stressful, so I hope these hacks are a help. Not only do you get more time with your family, but you also get more time to teach your children the importance of concepts like low waste, re-thrifting objects, and the bond between friends and family.

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