Giving back: four ways for children to be charitable this holiday season

The following is by contributor Jaimie.

Whew–the holiday season is well upon us and seems to have crept in out of nowhere.  Or is it just that way for me?  No matter what your belief system, it’s easy to get caught up in the gifts, treats, decorations, and family rituals and overlook those less fortunate.  This holiday season, let’s work hard to give our children positive opportunities to be compassionate and focus on something other than sugar and flashy new toys.

Need some concrete ways for how to get your children thinking about giving?  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

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Charity Focus: The Mother Bear Project

As we were planning this year’s Home for the Holidays, it was important to all of the editors at Simple Living Media that we include the tradition we started last year:  a charity focus.

We wanted to dedicate a day amidst the giveaways and other festivities to shine the spotlight on some truly great organizations who are dedicated to doing good things for others.

Each editor picked a cause near and dear to her heart.  This year I returned to my favorite charity, the Mother Bear Project.

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Cultivating an attitude of gratitude at home

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings….” ~William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is just around the corner here in the United States. I love that this holiday serves as a reminder to pause and give thanks for the abundant blessings we have. However, the practice of gratitude should extend beyond November, don’t you agree?

I strive to weave appreciation, thankfulness, and acknowledgement into our family’s day to day life. Here are a few favorite ideas from our home, and I hope you’ll share your gratitude practices in the comments, as well. [Read more…]

Simple projects for exploring your family tree with your kids

The following was written by editor Kara Fleck and originally appeared in November 2010.

November is here, which means that it won’t be too long before the official start of the holiday season.  Families will gather, some of whom we haven’t seen since last year (or perhaps longer).  Around holiday tables, families will share stories, remember loved ones no longer with us, and celebrate new generations.


This can also be a time of year for remembering loved ones who are no longer with us. My oldest daughter has been especially interested lately in stories about my husband and I’s grandparents (her great-grandparents) and in the various branches of our family tree.

We’ve been talking with Jillian about things like how her Grandpa Fleck loved peanut butter and how thrifty and creative her great grandparents were.   We’ve been discussing personality traits we share and  looking at photos and seeing familiar facial features.

We have been making phone calls and sending emails, talking to other family members in an effort to learn as much as we can about what the generations who came before us were like.

I feel like it is important to find out the stories of our family history so that my kids can get to know their ancestors as more than just names, but as people with dynamic personalities whose lives contributed to who we are today.

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Six tips for starting kindergarten

The following is by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not-Ever-Still Life.

Are you and your precious baby about to embark on that journey known as formal education? Are you a little nervous? My sweet eldest starts 1st grade in two weeks, which means we’re kindergarten experts. She’s shy and anxious (and frankly I’m a little shy and anxious) and kindergarten is such a BIG change from everything that comes before it. But if we could do this, you can do this! Here’s my advice:


Envision the toughest parts: are they getting out of the car? Letting go of each other’s hands at the bus stop? Go stand on that corner of sidewalk and hold hands and let go a dozen times. Say fake-goodbyes. Role-play until you giggle.

Ask to visit your classroom. Walk the halls from the front door to class, and from class to the nearest bathroom. Take pictures when you’re there, and look at them from home. Imagine coloring at the blue table and sitting on the circle rug for morning meeting. Imagine what a school day looks like in that space.

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