Holiday Parenting: The Gift of Natural Play

Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants
have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to
the end to find a list of links to the other carnival


What if we gave the children in our family our presence instead of presents? We will fly across the country this Christmas to be with beloved family members who have very different parenting philosophies. My tiny daughter will likely be exposed to more sugar, TV, videos, battery-powered toys, battery-powered games and cow dairy than she has ever encountered.  And so it is for most normal families during the holidays. But we aren’t normal. We’re crunchy. We’re different.

I try to live by the Buddhist principle of “The Middle Way” in my parenting. Not too strict, but firm.Not too permissive, but fun and open.Letting some things go. Letting up on some of my crunchy ideals occasionally. And letting go is one half of what will help me to relax around the holidays with family. The other half  of the puzzle is bringing the gift of natural play. 

Some of my mama friends over at Natural Parents Network answered my cry for holiday play help with this very idea. I took it and ran. I got excited about spending time with my niece and nephews and having a way to engage my own child away from TV and sugar. We are bringing the children small handmade gifts from mom and pop businesses online, but I wondered how that could compare to handheld games most kids are asking for, chocolate and battery operated wheels? I want to bring something more personal…. I’ll hope be bringing learning, exploration and connection!  I don’t get to see my niece and nephews much. 

I hope to connect through these various activities packed in my suitcase:

Making Finger Puppets:various odds and ends to glue onto already hand-sewn cloth finger puppets. Ribbons, google eyes, pompoms, strings, patterned cloth squares. Because I have this stuff around, it costs me nothing. Then, we will put on a finger puppet show for the adults! Since these kids are young, it is sure to be wacky! Free.

Simple Holiday Painting. I will paint examples of snow people, menorah, dreidel and Christmas Tree. I will see what they choose to paint!. I will bring simple cut-out construction paper trees and menorahs for the smaller ones to decorate. I got the amazing Glob paint (which happens to come in small packets for easy traveling!).  It comes from a small company and I bought it from a locally run children’s store. These paints are all natural, edible, smell amazing and wash out of clothing. $15 with paint to spare.

Journey to the Moon Game: a HABA game from Germany. Simple matching game of beautifully painted interlocking crescent moons and little elfin Sandman place markers. Something I can help four children all play together.

Holiday Yoga:  Menorah (stand very tall on one leg with arms straight out and four fingers up on each hand. Christmas Tree: arms start as shown but move slowly from prayer to stretched out to reaching straight up and back down to prayer- all while trying to keep balance!  Of course you can try to be a dreidel and a candy cane too along with all of the regular poses with animal names and sounds. Cat/Cow, Pigeon, Cobra.(Look out for my Kundalini Yoga for Kids post coming up late January on NPN.)

SnowPeople, Igloos, Snow Castles! Only if we’re lucky! We can bring back out Summer’s pails and shovels!  I hope to build a little igloo or castles. The size of a dollhouse, with a door that little trucks can go through. Decorate with sticks and rocks.

My other inspiration for natural play as a gift to ourselves and our children was the Hands on Play Challenge. In November, we did the Challenge. 15 minutes of mindful play with a new activity or art idea every day brought to us by The Imagination Tree and Hands On As We Grow. Well, It was amazing. We are letting other people get gifts for our daughter this year. Instead, my gift to her is to continue the play challenge and play with her mindfully every day of December.

As I have been saying in all of my parenting workshops and to my clients: spending a mindful half-hour with your children without cell phones, Tv or computers helps build connection, avoid behavior challenges and assuage your guilt about the times when you can’t be as present. 2 hours is my personal ideal, together or broken up. For older children, you can ask them what they want to do and follow their lead. For younger children, it is great to start with an activity and then see where the children take it. When they move on…go along and play along with them instead of trying to keep them engaged.

We are the best gift we can give our child, and all of the children we know!

Happy Holidays!



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About mooreamalatt

Find my whole bio here:!about/cktc
This entry was posted in Play, Recipies/Allergies. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Holiday Parenting: The Gift of Natural Play

  1. Brilliant.
    Presence instead of presents.
    I’m there.
    Thankyou, sister. That is exactly what I needed.

  2. These are such great ideas and I am so impressed that you have decided to turn a challenging holiday visit into something positive and special for all the children in your life!

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

  3. Thank you for participating in the Mindful Mama Carnival.

    I love your ideas about sharing with the kids in an unconditional manner. We sound very similar in being kid-centric with play, while understanding there will be blinky-noisy-plastic enticements going on, as well. I think these ideas will be a welcome distraction from the other. There’s something deeply satisfying about tactile activities and simplicity. Perhaps some of the other adults will join in with you, too.

    I’m psyched about two things in your post: firstly, I am ordering some glob paints & bamboo brushes for the kids’ stockings. Thank you for sharing that link. Secondly, I’m excited to read your post on kundalini yoga for kids in January. We do a lot of yoga around here and I’m always looking for fun new ways to get them excited about it.

  4. Yes indeed mama! WE are the best and ONLY gift our children really need. All the stuff is just something to occupy their time when in fact it is OUR time that our children need. Brilliant and insightful post. I like all of the ideas you listed as well. Great post…right up my alley!

  5. akismet-b98adb45795fa0bc50a61359ec6a9088 says:

    Moorea, I love your wisdom, your ideas and your philosophy. Great post.

  6. I love your post. Everything I read I was nodding along to. I too have family faraway and love the idea of giving them presence when we are together. They don’t bake often, so we have a holiday tradition of baking together, but I am excited to incorporate finger puppet making, holiday yoga and other things into our time together. Thank you!

  7. Adrienne says:

    What fun ideas! I too am getting creative for the littles in my family this year. I’m making my three young nieces “Busy Books” for them to take on their post-Christmas vacation. Hopefully they will take the place of some handheld games and DVDs…at least for awhile. 🙂

  8. Amy says:

    I love your decision to be creative, to bring a part of yourself to your family get together that will surely be remembered and most importantly – enjoyed. The note about really spending time with the kids since you don’t see them often warms my heart. Do have a lovely time. 🙂

  9. Terri Babin says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful reminder. Being fully present with children during play is so important, and can be quite challenging in the midst of the busy holiday season. I would like to commit to giving my children the gift of my presence this holiday season as well. Thank you for sharing.

    ~Terri Babin

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