Category: holidays/celebrations

Happy Holidays!!
(“…brought to you by ___”)

By , December 3, 2008 8:03 pm

This is a post I should have written about two months ago. Two months ago when all the cheap plastic decorations first made their way into the supermarkets, Walmarts, Kmarts and Any-Other-Marts in the United States. Here in the U.S., shoppers have been regaled with muzak versions of The Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night since well before Halloween (October 31st) this year.

Now that we have finally gotten that pesky little Thanksgiving holiday over with, the commercial Christmas onslaught can begin in earnest.

On my Thanksgiving cross-country trip, I realized what I have been missing without TV for all these years. Ads. Hundreds and thousands of ads promising me the best Christmas ever (what is that anyway?) if only I purchase a new Best Buy flat screen TV, or Macy’s cashmere sweater, or Zales diamond necklace, or _______ (insert advertised product in blank) for my loved one.

I had forgotten what it was like. Although I had a fabulous trip, I was quite relieved when I was finally home and able to retreat to the refuge of my quiet house to end the commercial attack on my psyche.

And here comes the part that I should have written about three months ago when I first detected the initial stirrings of faux holiday jolliness in the stores:

Since many readers are probably new to Unplug Your Kids, I should let you all know that last year while suffering a holiday existential crisis, I wrote a series of posts entitled Christmas/Holidays Unplugged in which I explored alternatives to the traditional American commercial holiday experience.

I know it is a bit late now that December is already here, but if anyone is in need of a bit of inspiration, or encouragement, or alternative holiday ideas, then hopefully you might enjoy some of these posts.

I have listed them all here and linked to them so you can click on what sounds interesting to you. I hope that someone will find this helpful! 

(Also:  If you find a topic interesting, be sure to read the comments too since readers often left their own wonderful insights and suggestions.)

1) Merry Christmas

2) Unplug The Christmas Machine (a book review – very inspirational book if you are disillusioned with Christmas/Hanukkah)

3) Making a List and Checking it Twice (what does your holiday really mean to you?)

4) Holiday Prep – Part 1 (Introduction)

5) Holiday Prep – Part 2: Help! Holiday Prep Makes Me Miserable!!

6) Holiday Prep – Part 3: Help! I Love Doing it All, But How Can I Find Time to Do it?

7) Celebrating Advent

8) Commercialism in Your Mailbox?

9) A Holiday Linky Assortment

10) The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma (Real? Fake? Living? What else?)

11) Buy Handmade

12) Donate this Year Instead of Gifts

13) Santa Lists and Sponge Bob (dealing with kids’ gift requests)

14) Combating Commercials (fighting the effects of toy ads)

15) Help!  Too Much Stuff!! (ideas for cutting down on the amount of “stuff”)

16) A Post as Small as a Stocking Stuffer (“nice toy” stocking stuffer ideas)

(Thanks to Everystockphoto and phtographer”tandemracer” for this photo. View license terms here.)

Happy Halloween!

By , October 31, 2008 3:28 pm

Wondering what to do with all that candy?

Check out my Candy Fairy and Candy Bank posts for some alternatives to eating it!


A Knitting Birthday Party – Unusual Party Ideas

By , June 11, 2008 12:11 pm

Are you tired of birthday parties at the pool, Chuck E. Cheese’s, or the local bowling alley? But perhaps the thought of entertaining a large group of over-excited kids at your house fills you with dread? The solution: Think outside the birthday box.

My good friend Wishy‘s daughter recently had an original and totally fun party at a local knitting store! Her daughter had become fascinated with the idea of learning to knit after watching her aunt knit, and announced that for her 8th birthday she wanted to have a “Knitting Party.”

Wishy was understandably perplexed, but gets a Mom of the Year Award for researching the possibilities instead of just saying with a sinking heart: ” But wouldn’t you rather just go to the pool like last year?” (Like I probably would have done).

She called up our one, tiny local knitting store and asked them if they ever did birthday parties. Well, no they had never done a birthday party, but they said that they thought it sounded fun and would be willing to give it a try.

Ten 7 and 8 year-old girls (including my oldest daughter) went to the party and learned how to knit a book mark. The shop gave each girl needles and yarn and they had three instructors on hand to help the girls. All Wishy had to do was bring the cake, plates, napkins, and drinks.

The girls had a ball and each went home with a completed book mark plus a goody bag put together by the shop containing more needles, two more balls of yarn, the directions for the book mark, and instructions for a pot holder to try at home.

The girls had fun, even the shop-owner claims to have enjoyed it (and hopefully has gained a few future customers), and now ten little girls (and Wishy) know how to knit.

That beats Chuck E. Cheese’s any day!


Other unusual birthday party ideas:

  • A visit to a fire station
  • Visit a zoo, petting zoo, or alpaca farm
  • See if you can tour a movie theater (many will allow school groups to tour, why not a birthday group?)
  • Horse birthday: See if a local riding school or club might allow your group to come and give each child a short, guided ride on a horse around the arena
  • Airport birthday: Visit your local small airport (I’m not talking O’Hare or JFK here). Picnic on the grass and watch the planes take off and land. Better yet, if you know someone who owns a plane, see if your friend would allow the kids to take turns sitting in the pilot’s seat. If your pilot friend has a handheld aviation radio, borrow it and tune it to the local airport frequency (the airport employees or your friend can help you with this) then the kids will be able to hear the pilots talk.
  • Go Geocaching: Pick an easy one and give each child a small object to leave in the cache in exchange for taking one out. (You should probably try finding it on your own first to make sure it is easy enough and to avoid disappointments if it can’t be found).
  • Go Letterboxing: Perhaps the kids could each create their own stamp before heading out to find the box. Be sure to pick an easy one. (Again, better do a trial run on your own first).
  • See if your local pizza parlor would let you bring some kids in for a tour and to make their own pizzas. My daughter’s Brownie Troop did this and the girls loved it.

I’ll post more ideas as I think of them. Do you have any easy but unusual party ideas?


For a charity party idea, please read about my daughter’s Humane Society birthday party.


Cool knitting cake designed, baked and decorated by Wishy’s talented husband! Photo courtesy of Wishy.

A Post as Small as a Stocking Stuffer! (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , December 15, 2007 9:52 pm

I had a fun post planned on ideas for Christmas stocking presents, but alas, it shall have to wait. I have just realized that I have spent so much time advising others on how to prepare for the Holidays, that I am not prepared myself!

Although I feel like simply collapsing into bed with a cup of tea and a warm dog or two, I shall have to do a bit of online shopping .

I’ll try and get that post out before it is entirely too late to be useful. But for now, if you want some ideas for nice, “tried and true” (by me) gifts that will fit in a stocking, I refer you to my stocking stuffer category.

Hope it’s useful!


(Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.)

Help! Too Much Stuff !! (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , December 10, 2007 11:41 pm

So how do you reduce the sheer VOLUME of gifts? Giving fewer gifts to the children is a great start (Dawn had a good idea: Jesus only got three presents on his birthday, so kids shouldn’t get more than that either).

Whatever your reasons or rationalizations, the sooner you start with fewer presents the better. If kids have been having 20 Christmas presents a piece their whole lives and you suddenly cut them back to 3 at age 12 or 13, you had better have some REALLY GOOD REASONS. So remember: Get your gift quantity issues settled sooner rather than later.

How to cut down on other family gift excesses and commercialism? Here are some ideas, a few thanks to Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season , but most thanks to me!

** Agree to no adult gifts.

** Give (or request) a family gift instead of individual gifts (for example: a game, puzzle or craft that everyone can do together)

** Agree to an all handmade Christmas. Either make simple gifts for each other, or buy only homemade gifts from local craft fairs or Etsy.

** Decide to do only funny gifts. For example I know a family who spends all year checking garage sales and thrifting for those little shell covered animals to give each other as a joke. Each has to cost less than $2. They all have a good laugh (priceless, right?) and display them proudly on a shelf in their home. It is quite funny!

** Do a lottery: Each family member picks a name and finds a gift for that person only. My best friend growing up was from a very large family and that is what they did. This is a very good solution for big families.

** Give coupons as gifts. I know that the most precious gift that anyone could give me would be a few hours of babysitting. Think about your talents. Do you knit? How about a coupon for a sweater. Do you cook? A dinner for two, or four or six. You get the idea.

** Christmas ornaments? How about having adults exchange only ornaments, either handmade or store bought. That way, each year when the ornaments come out, you will think of the family member who gave it to you.

** Books only. Each person makes a gift of the book that they enjoyed the most during the past year.

** A recipe exchange? Everyone gives their favorite recipe of the year.

** Christmas Stockings only? Honestly my favorite part of Christmas giving is the stocking. I love the challenge of finding presents that are small enough to fit in a stocking, but that the person would genuinely like to receive! A bunch of small, little things can be really fun.

** Give all living gifts: Plants only (indoor or outdoor depending on what your climate is like in December). Every time someone sees the plant that you gave, they will think of you.

** Do all charity gifts. Make gifts to a charity in a family member’s name. Usually you get a certificate or something tangible to present to that person.

** A family “Wildlife Christmas” – Ideas: gifts of donations to wildlife charities, bird feeders, bird houses or bird baths (especially heated ones if you live in a cold climate), live butterfly kits (if you live in a climate mild enough to release them in winter, otherwise wait until spring to order the larvae), ladybug or bee houses, bat houses, or butterfly houses.

** “Pick a Charity Christmas” where everyone agrees on a particular charity or cause that they would like to support. Everyone tries to be creative in giving gifts related to that cause: shopping from a specific charity’s website, buying crafts from a particular country to benefit local craftspeople if that is related to the cause, donating in someone’s name, agreeing to donate a certain amount of time for that cause (in the form of a coupon?), etc. etc. etc.

** How about for an elderly neighbor: A coupon good for a fall leaf raking, a lawn mowing or a driveway shovel, or a batch of cookies made by the kids?

Any other ideas??

(Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.)

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