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Giving Together 12 ways to celebrate a more meaningful holiday season By Denise Yearian
n the midst of all the year-end holiday hullabaloo, children (and parents) can often lose sight of the significance of the giving season. Putting a spin on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, the following list offers a dozen ways to connect and create more meaningful family holiday celebrations. No gift receipts required. 1. Grassroots giving. One of the best ways to make your holiday more meaningful is to “adopt” a family in need through a local charity. When you call the charity, ask for a family with children your own kids’ ages. Then, if you normally give your child five gifts, suggest giving them three and let them pick out two for each needy child. (See the Giving Together sidebar, p. 30, for places and ways to give to local families.) 2. Aspiration ornaments. Have each family member take a slip of paper and secretly write down one nonmonetary thing they want to work for, wish for and pray for in the coming year. Then, put it into a decorative envelope or ornament and attach it to the tree. On Christmas morning, family members take turns reading their aspiration and then discuss ways everyone can help each person attain their goal. 3. Go green. Reuse holiday wrapping paper to cover another gift or line a drawer, or let kids doodle on the reverse side. Holiday cards can be recycled, too. Cut them in half and use the blank side to jot down reminder notes, or let your kids cut them up to make new cards for next year. You can also recycle Christmas trees: Take them to state parks for recycling, rather than sending them to the curb for trash pickup. 4. Multicultural merriment. Every year, select one country and research how its citizens celebrate the holiday season. Make mock passports that can be used year after year for your holiday “travels.” Find out what the culture and traditions of the country are like, learn a few words of its language and explore its foods. If you have extended family members from other parts of the country or world, have them share insights and tell stories about their holiday celebrations and memories. 5. Advent virtues. Make an Advent calendar of character traits you want to instill in your family. Pick one virtue each day, discuss what it means and talk or read about someone in history who exemplified it. Then, decide how you and your children can put that virtue into action in your lives. For example, practice kindness by raking an elderly neighbor’s leaves. u
guide YOUTH PROGRAMS
G AG E
AC A D E M Y O F A RT
Giving Together 6. Family photo tree. Decorate your tree with individual photos of family members taken throughout the year. Mount images on construction paper, felt or foam; for each photo, write the date it was taken on the back, attach a ribbon and hang it on the tree. Don’t celebrate Christmas? A photo garland would make a festive decoration for a fireplace mantel or a bookshelf. Keep photos year after year and add more as you go to remind kids of how blessed they have been throughout their childhood. When your children are grown, pass along the collected pictures so they, in turn, can carry on the tradition with their own children. 7. Intergenerational experiences. If grandparents have personal items they want to pass along to their grandchildren, the holidays are an opportune time to do so. Suggest they give something that is special to them, along with the story behind it. It could be one of grandma’s old dolls, a piece of jewelry, a book or even a photograph. If the kids are old enough, they can record a video of the story as an additional, digital memento. 8. Mindful of the military. Have your child write a letter of appreciation to someone in the military or send a care package to an active-duty serviceperson. Visit the Operation Gratitude website (operationgratitude.com) to learn about more ways to support our troops, veterans, first responders and their families. 9. Warm fuzzies. Families so often forget to share positive and encouraging words with one another. Have your family sit in a circle and pass a fuzzy teddy bear around. As you do, have the person holding the bear say something he appreciates about someone sitting to his right or left. This will set the tone for an uplifting celebration and teach your kids how to express their gratitude for others. 10. Critter Christmas. Decorate the boughs of an outdoor tree with pine cones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, a popcorn and cranberry garland, and orange and apple slices that have been attached to pipe cleaners or opened paperclips. What a cheery way to attract and take care of neighboring wildlife! 11. Family fitness. Incorporate the “Twelve Days” theme into a family fitness routine. Decide on one activity you can do together each day to stay fit — walk around the neighborhood and look at lights, jump rope to a favorite holiday song or play a game of basketball while the pie is baking.
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12. Family video newsletter. Let each child take turns being the anchorperson while you record, but make it more than just reading off the news. Take footage of the kids’ bedrooms as your kids show a favorite stuffed animal or in the yard as they perform a newly acquired skill. Attach a fun family video file to your annual holidaygreeting email to friends and family. ■ Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and six grandchildren.
GIVE YOUR CHILD THE GIFT OF
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Explore the best overnight Jewish camping experiences available in Washington State! Jewish summer camp gives your child the opportunity to experience new activities, make lifelong friendships, and gain independence. Generous financial aid is available through the Samis supported Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle Need-Based Camp Scholarship program. First-time campers may be eligible for incentive grants through the Federation One Happy Camper program. Registration is open and filling up quickly!
The Samis Foundation is proud to support Jewish camps in the Seattle area. For more information visit samisfoundation.org/jewish-camps
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Spread some joy with your kids by remembering and supporting those in our community who are in need. We’ve rounded up local opportunities for families — giving trees, toy drives, food drives and more — to make a difference for other families.
In her children’s book, Ariella Nelson tells the story of her allergy to tree nuts, how she felt about growing up with it, and why getting involved in a clinical study has given her hope for herself and other children with food allergies. Go to whatsinthiscookie.com Also available on Amazon
CHILDREN’S • MATERNITY BUY • SELL • TRADE
DONATE TOYS AND GIFTS
DONATE CLOTHING AND BABY GEAR
• Adopt a family through the YWCA Adopt-A-Family program (ywcaworks.org). The YWCA invites families to contribute by purchasing gifts for children and providing a grocery gift card for their parents. Dropoff locations are available in Seattle, Lynnwood and Everett.
• YouthCare (youthcare.org) in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood accepts a variety of donations for homeless teens, including leggings, underwear, shoes and sweatshirts. The organization has an urgent need for hygiene items, including shampoo, conditioner and deodorant. You can also host a holiday giving tree or order directly from YouthCare’s Amazon Wish List.
• Throughout the holiday season, Wellspring Family Services (wellspringfs.org) in the Rainier Valley offers a number of ways to donate to kids in need. Among the options: Give an item from Wellspring’s Giving Together Amazon Wish List, its Ready to Learn Amazon Wish List, or invite family and friends to fill a Kids Helping Kids coin jar. • Local Bartell Drugs stores (bartelldrugs.com) in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties accept new, unwrapped toys for kids ages 14 and younger through its annual Toy ‘N’ Joy Drive. Drop toys off at any area store location through Dec. 15; toys are delivered to low-income kids the week before Christmas by the Salvation Army. • The Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank (issaquahfoodbank.org) needs donations of toys to stock its Holiday Gift Barn, where families low on resources can shop for free for holiday gifts for their kids. (Shopping takes place Dec. 4–5 this year.)
9776 Holman Road Seattle Open 7 days a week! No appointment needed.
• Support Mary’s Place, an organization serving families experiencing homelessness. Mary’s Place offers holiday givingtree tags — families, groups and organizations can order tags, buy needed items and deliver them to donation center locations in SoDo (9 S. Nevada St.) and the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle (8704 Greenwood Ave. N.) by Dec. 13. Drop-off hours are Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. • The Forgotten Children’s Fund (forgottenchildrensfund.org) is a local, all-volunteer organization serving families that are generally not aided by other outreach organizations. They accept monetary donations to buy toys, gifts, books and more for kids.
• Host or donate to a Joy Drive for WestSide Baby (westsidebaby.org) in White Center and Leschi. The organization is always in need of diapers, wipes, car seats and more for families. • Donate clothing to foster kids through Treehouse (treehouseforkids.org) in Rainier Valley. You can also host a drive specific to the holidays to collect gifts for teens, new clothes, toys, shoes and accessories. DONATE FOOD AND PERSONAL CARE ITEMS • Hopelink (hopelink.org) collects food and toys at its five food bank locations in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Shoreline and Carnation. • AAA of Washington’s annual Soap for Hope drive benefits selected local charities, shelters and food banks with toiletry items donated through its brick-and-mortar stores. Drop off your donations of travel- and full-size toiletry items at any AAA store location in Lynnwood, Seattle, Bellevue, Issaquah, Tukwila, Tacoma, Olympia and elsewhere through Dec. 31. • Queen Anne Helpline (queenannehelpline.org) provides emergency food assistance and especially seeks pop-top cans of protein-rich foods, such as chili, beans and tuna, plus canned vegetables, peanut butter, pasta and sauce, and more. Queen Anne Helpline also accepts personal care items and clothing donations, and has an urgent need for gently used winter coats. Drop off items at the Queen Anne Helpline office (311 W. McGraw St., Seattle) 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Thursday, but call ahead (206-282-1540) to make sure someone is there. — Elisabeth Kramer
Celebrate the milestone moments in the life of your family: WashingtonJewishLifecycles.org
Share the wonder of our marine environment and give the gift of Seattle Aquarium membership this season! Your friends and family will enjoy one year of unlimited admission, special early morning hours, invitations to exclusive events and more.
An ongoing project of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. Learn more about our work, including our Washington Jewish Museum: wsjhs.org Questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org Offer valid November 1â€“December 31, 2019.
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Small Is the New Big Little gifts spread holiday joy for less than $25 The author’s children, 6 and 10, try out Plus-Plus construction pieces at Teaching Toys in Tacoma’s Proctor District.
By Malia Jacobson
t may be the hap-hap-happiest time of the year, but it doesn’t have to be the spendiest. Although the holiday season reliably empties the pocketbooks of parents everywhere, more families are choosing to be intentional about holiday spending. There are lots of reasons to stick to smaller gifts, whether it’s because you’re opting for one large family gift, prioritizing experiences over material presents, upping your charitable giving or sticking to an agreed-upon spending limit for extended family. But even if you’re paring down, you can still slip a pretty package or two into loved ones’ hands. These small but thoughtful gifts show that you care without breaking the bank; each gift comes in at less than $25.
Here’s to spreading holiday cheer on a sensible budget!
Marketplace (scoopmarketplace.com) and Danger (dangerbainbridge.com) on Bainbridge Island.
Stamp of approval Kids love nail polish, even if parents don’t love the mess it creates. The Cool Maker Go Glam Nail Stamper (regularly priced at $24.99 on Target.com) is a compact kit that lets your polish-loving kids enjoy the nail art trend while keeping the mess to a minimum. (Ages 8 and older) u
Brush local Adorable, affordable and altruistic, MamaP’s handcrafted toothbrushes (mamap.life) are made with compostable bamboo handles, recyclable nylon bristles and nontoxic paint. A portion of sales proceeds go to support worthy causes, from saving the bees to ocean conservation to LGBTQ youth services. The MamaP Equality kids bamboo toothbrush, $7, is available locally at Seattle’s zero-waste grocery store Scoop
WINTER AT BLOEDEL RESERVE
Small Is the New Big Catch and release Sometimes coaxing a reluctant toddler into the tub means upping your bathtoy game. Tolo’s classic Funtime Fishing bath toy fishing set ($14, Amazon.com) features a working fishing pole and magnets strong enough to last through hundreds of tub sessions. (Ages 18 months and older)
HOLIDAY VILLAGE DISPLAY DEC 15–JAN 5 AT THE RESIDENCE Tiny houses are festively decorated and a miniature railroad chugs around this hand-crafted village—a Bloedel holiday tradition. Enjoy hot cider and bit of nostalgia designed to the delight the young and the young-at-heart.
SOLSTICE WALKS FRI & SAT, DEC 20 & 21, 4 & 6 PM Take a guided walk on the trails of Bloedel Reserve lit only by fairy lights and enjoy the stillness of the forest at dusk. Please note: The 4 PM walk is geared for families and children; the 6 PM walk is a silent walk.
GIFTS INSPIRED BY NATURE THE SHOP AT BLOEDEL RESERVE Discover unique, seasonally curated art, toys, books, jewelry and much more. Become a Bloedel Reserve member and enjoy a 10% discount on your purchases. Memberships also make great gifts.
For tickets & more information about all of our winter events, visit bloedelreserve.org.
OPEN YEAR-ROUND, TUESDAY-SUNDAY. RAIN OR SHINE.
Truth bomb Bath bombs — molded balls of baking soda, citric acid and essential oils — turn tub time into an effervescent celebration of scent and color. But at $7–$10 a pop, they’re a splurge. A bath-bomb-making kit comes complete with molds, all-natural ingredients and instructions for whipping up custom spheres of fizzy fun at home. Find The Roxy Grace Company DIY Bath Bomb Kit, $19.99, on Etsy.com.
Get started with STEM Plus one There are lots of construction toys out there. But how many of them work for kids as young as 1, build both flat and three-dimensional creations that flex and bend, and start at just a few dollars? Made in Denmark, Plus-Plus building pieces come in one interconnecting shape that can be assembled to create flat mosaic patterns or intricate 3-D builds, from buildings and bridges to figures and faces. Plus-Plus 15-piece Big tubes are made for tiny fingers (18 months and older; $9.99); and Plus-Plus 70-plus-piece basic tubes are perfect for kids ages 5 and older ($7.99). Check the store locator on the Plus-Plus website (plus-plus.us/find-a-retailer) to find a retailer near you. On the grid Circuit sets are a great way to introduce kids to electrical engineering concepts, but shopping for the more extensive circuit kits can trigger sticker shock (ha!). Before you spring for a big, expensive circuit set, start with Snap Circuits Beginner Electronics Exploration Kit. It includes 14 parts, enough to build more than 20 projects, with extra safety features for younger engineers ages 5–9. Find it at Snapdoodle Toys & Games locations (snapdoodletoys.com) in Seattle, Kenmore, Redmond and Issaquah for $24.99. Magna-tiny If Magna-Qubix look familiar, it’s because they’re miniature cubic versions of the mega-popular (and more expensive) Magna-Tiles building toy. Pocket-size, threedimensional building shapes with a petite price point to love ($19.99 for a
19-piece set), Magna-Qubix won’t consume all your precious play space or your entire holiday toy budget. Find Magna-Qubix at Teaching Toys (teachingtoysandbooks.com) in Tacoma’s Proctor District or Teaching Toys, Too at Uptown Gig Harbor. (Ages 3 and older)
Baby shark If you’re looking for a gift that’s simple, doesn’t require batteries and delivers loads of play
Inner beauty More fun and educational than a lump of coal, geodes are ordinary-looking rocks that house sparkling crystals within. With ordinary household tools, eye protection and adult supervision, rock hounds can break geodes open to reveal their unique beauty. Magic Mouse Toys (magicmousetoys.com) in Seattle keeps a selection of individual geodes and geode kits tucked into its science section downstairs; look for individual breakat-home geodes for $4 or Klutz Maker Lab’s Rocks, Gems & Geodes kit (ages 8 and older) for $24.99.
Crank up the creativity
value, consider a cape. The right one can transform your child into a superhero, a storybook character or a deep-sea creature at the drop of a hat — er, hood. Add this one to your tot’s dress-up collection for hours of open-ended play. Find the Great Pretenders shark cape, $24, at Teaching Toys locations in Tacoma and Gig Harbor. (Ages 12 months to 3 years) Inked Is your kid’s handwriting making you cringe? Even grade-schoolers who hate cursive enjoy practicing calligraphy, which offers a chance to hone fine motor skills and learn the (nearly) lost art of hand lettering. Compile a calligraphy kit for less
ESCAPE ROOMS Ages 12-100
Ready to escape the holiday chaos? Give the gift of an escape room this holiday season. Our gift cards are always a perfect ﬁt! Our unique themes take you back in time to diffuse a bomb left by the mob, send you to the future to save your ship from a wormhole or take place right now in the Seattle music scene to save your soul. Whether you are looking for a date night for New Year’s Eve, family fun the teens will love during school break or are looking for a unique place for the family holiday bash, we’ve got you covered.
We’re open every day so come and play! (Advanced reservations required for the holidays)
Small Is the New Big than $25 with a Speedball C-Style lettering set, Speedball super black India ink and a Strathmore calligraphy writing pad, $7–$10 each at art supply stores or on Amazon.com. All set If you’ve got lots of lists to check off, look for gift sets that can divide and conquer. Kid Made Modern’s set of three giant crayons are molded from 64 dazzling hues and make an impressive display. Even better, the set can be divvied up so nobody gets left out. Add a roll of craft paper and turn your kitchen counter into a family pop-up art studio. Snap up a Kid Made Modern Giant Crazy Crayon set, $24, at Olympia’s Captain Little toy store (captainlittle.com) or online (kidmademodern.com).
Family Play Stuck on you Clack! is a fast-paced, picture-based game that’s simple enough for kids to play on their own, but fun for families. With just five rules and no complicated instructions, the magnetic matching and stacking game makes keeping score simple: The tallest tower wins! The game can be played by two players or an entire brood (up to six players). Clack! by Amigo Games sells for $16.95 on FatBrainToys.com. (Ages 5 and older) Curl up Think you know your beagles from your bagels? Think again. This silly, surprisingly challenging game asks one simple question: Is this image a dog or a breakfast food? It’s the perfect choice for those “Let’s pick a game that won’t take all night” evenings when a good laugh is in order. Find the Beagle or Bagel? game by Blue Orange for $12.99 at OfftheWagonToys.com. (Ages 7 and older) Picture it A paperless, mess-free version of Pictionary that appeals to even too-cool teens? Yes, Virginia, there is such a game. The latest version of Mattel’s Pictionary lineup lets players “draw” images in the air, which then appear on a smartphone, tablet or television screen (app download required). Players can interact with their drawings and record performances with the app to relive the fun long after the holiday decorations have been stored away. Barnes & Noble stocks Pictionary Air by Mattel for $22.99. (Ages 8 and older) ■ Malia Jacobson is a family journalist and mom of three from Tacoma.
Ho-Ho-Holiday Fun on the Cheap
Top budget-friendly attractions for Seattle and Eastside families
1. Visiting Swansons Nursery (swansonsnursery.com) in North Seattle to take a look at real live reindeer is a low-key outing that you can take anytime. Browse Swansons’ displays of gorgeous greenery, ornaments and trees at your own risk. There’s also an amazing holiday train set-up, a koi pond and more.
(seattlecenter.com) is a cash-strapped family’s best friend. On the opening weekend, witness the unveiling of the elaborate model train and winter village display. Ice-sculpting takes place on Saturdays, and free performances last throughout the festival. Don’t forget to take a twirl on the Winterfest ice rink in Fisher Plaza.
7. It’s the classic Northwest wintertime adventure: Bundle up, stash a flashlight in your pocket and head to a Puget Sound or Lake Washington beach to watch the parade of Christmas Ships (argosycruises.com). Listen to live choral music broadcast from the brightly lit boats. Christmas Ships depart from various ports and make all kinds of stops.
8. The lavish music and light
show called Snowflake Lane (snowflakelane.com) — complete with live toy soldiers — is back for another year entertaining crowds on the street alongside Bellevue Square. As an added bonus, they’ve expanded the parade route for better viewing.
3. Molbak’s Garden + Home (molbaks.com) gets all decked out for the holidays, with poinsettias of every size and color — from pale green to deep burgundy — plus greenery, lights and decorated trees, including a 14-foot-tall poinsettia tree. There’s also live music on weekends and free Danish kringle and coffee.
9. Redmond Town Center’s holiday happenings (redmondtowncenter.com) include a synthetic outdoor skating rink, a horse carousel, a holiday express mini train that takes tots around the center, a display Springfree Trampoline where you can “jump for joy” and more.
4. Seattle’s Festival of Trees (seattlefestivaloftrees.com) is a magical collection of stunning, themed Christmas trees on display in the lobby of the opulent Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The beloved Teddy Bear Suite opens for regular viewing Nov. 29.
10. The always stunning Bellevue Botanical Garden
5. During your holiday shopping, stop by Westlake Park and take a spin on the Holiday Carousel. It’s a $4 suggested donation to ride and proceeds go the Downtown Services Association’s efforts to keep Westlake Park and Occidental Park great places to visit for locals and tourists alike. While you’re at Westlake, check out Urban Craft Uprising’s holiday market (Nov. 29–Dec. 22).
(bellevuebotanical.org) dresses up for the holidays in hundreds of thousands of colored lights, becoming Garden d’Lights. Among lights twisted into fanciful flower and garden shapes, kids will especially love the smoking dragon.
11. You can’t get any more old-school Seattle than this. Head to Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park for Clam Lights (rentonwa.gov), a free holiday light display — and yes, Virginia, there are clams. Opening night festivities (Friday, Dec. 6) include live music performances, a Christmas Ship stop and an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus. — Kris Collingridge
Give the gift of ! adventure
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2. Seattle’s amazing Gingerbread Village (gingerbreadvillage.org) is back for its 27th season in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Seattle. Stop by to view the amazing architectural creations. This year’s theme is #ElfLife. Expect jaw-dropping amounts of candy and sugar constructed into fanciful elf-themed shapes!
6. Seattle Center’s annual Winterfest celebration
DOWNHILL & X-C SKIING • SNOWBOARDING • ICE SKATING • HIKING
t’s hard to feel flush ahead of the holidays, with giftbuying and travel to see family in the near future. Not to worry — a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to consign yourself to a dull holiday season. We’ve compiled a list of fun events for families that won’t tax your wallet. It’s holiday magic on the cheap!
Readings “Keen insight into the inner world of children.” —Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.
CALM THE EARLY YEARS
Cool-Headed Strategies for Raising Happy, Caring, and Independent Three- to Seven-Year-Olds
Laura S. Kastner, Ph.D. “Kastner masterfully guides parents through the complex maze of parenting.” —Yaffa Maritz, director, Community of Mindful Parenting
,cause parenting is a trip!
Great gift ideas! ParentMap.com/ourbooks