Santa's Little Helpers

As the mother of four young children, I can certainly attest to the fact that Christmas is a very busy time of year. Most people like to decorate their homes, bake wonderful treats and of course, will spend hours shopping for that special gift for their friends and loved ones. And the one thing through all of the commotion that is always consistent is that children see the Christmas season as an exciting time not a stressful one and want to be involved in all of the preparation. As wonderful as this notion is, and as wonderful as the commercials make it seem, the reality of this is the fact that  "Santa's little helpers" can really extend the time it takes to do things, which when you have a lot to do, is a bit of a problem. But it is very important that the kids feel like they are contributing and so here are a few things that my husband and I have done over the years which has helped.

With respect to shopping, my kids were particularly eager to choose the gifts that we bought for family and friends. Meritable, but grandma didn't always want a train. Not to mention the fact that if we had purchased all of the things they suggested, we would have broke the bank. The way we got around this dilemma was by getting each of our children to make a list of all of the people they wanted to buy for. We then took them to a dollar store, gave each their own basket and set them loose. Off they went on their quest with my husband and I trailing after them. As most if not all of the items in the store are only one to two dollars, they could make their selections with confidence that mom and dad weren't going to say, "no, no, put that back, it costs too much".  The kids were very proud of their purchases and the fact that they had been able to pick things out on their own.  And THEIR shopping was done. It was actually really fun seeing what they picked out for everyone and how they made their decisions. All of the adults on their lists were delighted with these gifts from the kids and with respect to the kids' friends, who knows better what their friends will like than them?

Decorating the house has always seem to be an enticing activity for the kids, especially decorating the tree. Problem - over the years, I have collected some really nice Hallmark ornaments that you can't get any more, and I really don't want to get them broken.  Also,  I like the ornaments to be spaced out on the tree, not just all lumped into one spot on the lower branches.  Solution -  I bought the kids their own little artificial trees to decorate any way they choose. They thoroughly enjoy having full creative license, and proudly display their work in their own rooms.  Keeps them happy, saves my ornaments.

Finally, with respect to baking, let's face it, it's breaking the eggs that's the main attraction for kids. So, what I do, is set aside the number of eggs that need to be broken for the recipe I'm making and let the kids do the breaking. The key to this activity though is to have a bowl into which the eggs are broken before they ever touch the batter and in this way, you can check first to make sure there are no shells in the egg. And secondly, have a second bowl handy for immediate disposal of the cracked shells. This will prevent getting your floors and counters messy with egg whites.

Hope some of my suggestions help to make your Christmas preparations easier and magical for you and your Santa's little helpers.  Merry Christmas!

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