5 Things to Make Family Events Easier for the Holidays

mom holding baby carrying ergobaby diaper bag

What do we all look forward to during the holidays (besides time off work)? Family events of course! Because when you gather with family, you gather with those you love. And if you’re like my family, you also gather around lots of yummy food and exchange presents.

But family events aren’t all hugs and holiday hams. There’s traveling with kids and deciding what to pack. There’s making food and cleaning up everyone’s messes. There’s making sure everyone gets along and is entertained. And if you’re a new mom, you may also be trying to figure out how breastfeeding during the holidays works. 

Too often little things add up to make the holidays stressful. But holiday family events should be enjoyed—not just something to try and get through. So how do you prevent stress around the holidays as a parent and make family events more enjoyable? You make the things you want and need to do, easier.


1. Simplify your holiday family plans.

If there’s one thing you do this year to make your family events easier, it’s simplifying them. Simplifying does a lot to make sure you  actually enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. 

Here are three ways to simplify (without feeling like Scrooge):


Have a simple menu that can include some store-bought food. 

What brings your family together? Food. What can also separate your family when you all get together? Food. Your family doesn’t need four types of salads or six different desserts, and the women (or men) don’t need to spend half the day in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family by incorporating a few ready-made items from your local grocery store. Everyone will remember creating memories together more than how many salads there were or if the food was homemade. And when you do need to be in the kitchen, consider doing your holiday prep while babywearing so you can still bond with your baby—just remember to keep your baby’s safety your main priority while prepping food. 

While we’re on the subject of food, the fewer dishes you have to do, the better. If you haven’t already, consider using paper or plastic tableware.


Cut down on gifts.

Buying and receiving gifts can be stressful and expensive, especially if you have a big extended family. See if your family wants to forgo your usual gift exchange and do a white elephant or kids gift exchange only. You could also plan a holiday movie or bowling night out as a family rather than buying gifts this year.


Trim your holiday traditions. 

Holiday traditions are fun, but are they all necessary? If most of your family doesn’t like making individual gingerbread houses at grandma’s house, don’t do them this year. If the grandchildren are all too old now, have someone read the story of the birth of Jesus rather than making the kids act it out. Have everyone in your family make a list of their favorite holiday traditions, take a family vote to determine the most popular ones, and then schedule your time with family to fit in the chosen traditions.


2. Have premade snacks.

[Source: cleanandscentsible.com]


Adults can wait a few hours between meals—kids can’t. So if your family events include younger kids, make snacks easily accessible to them. Set out fruit and veggie trays, crackers, and chips and dip on a small table. You could also have a snack drawer in the kitchen and/or fridge for kids to grab snacks as needed so the adults can focus on cooking, baking, chatting, etc.


3. Assemble easy holiday-themed, family-friendly games before the party.

You’ve eaten the holiday feast. You’ve opened presents. Now what? There’s a house full of kids to entertain. And while you’d love to nap or watch a Hallmark Christmas movie, neither of those things sounds fun to kids. But games are usually a hit and can keep kids entertained for at least 30 minutes (which at this point you’ll take, right?). 

Here are some easy holiday game ideas that provide fun for the whole family:


4. Pack clothes in plastic reclosable bags.

mom holding baby carrying ergobaby diaper bag

To grandmother’s house we go—but before you go, you have to pack. Rolling clothes may be your go-to packing method, but when traveling with kids, one of the easiest and most organized ways to pack is by putting each family member’s clothes in plastic reclosable bags. You can pack each day’s outfit in a separate bag, or put underwear, socks, shirts, and pants in their own bags. Oh, and don’t forget to label each bag. Not only will this keep your suitcases organized and allow your kids to dress themselves, but you’ve also got a place to store your dirty laundry for the trip home.

Plastic zip-top bags are also great at keeping your convertible diaper bag organized. Wondering what to pack in your diaper bag? Whether traveling by car or plane, you’ll need plenty of toys, games, books, and snacks to keep kids entertained. If your kids are old enough, let them choose what to pack. Then, throw in a few special toys and emergency snacks. Choose ones you normally don’t let them have so when they get bored (or your flight gets delayed) you can pull out these surprise items to keep them happily busy a little longer.

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5. Prep your kids.

How do you travel with small children? You get them involved early on, and then let them know what to expect. Some parents wait until the last minute to tell their kids they’re traveling for the holidays. I like to let my kids know at least a few days before. That way, they can help pack things they want to take. Letting kids know beforehand can  also usually work to my advantage to keep them on their best behavior until our trip. And if you want to try and mitigate any toddler meltdowns and keep them from feeling scared or overwhelmed, let your kids know what to expect at the airport and on the plane, especially if they’re first-time fliers. Read picture books about flying or act out scenarios, like what will happen at the security check. The more kids know beforehand, the safer they will feel in the moment.

What have you found makes your family events easier and more enjoyable during the holidays?

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Kirsten Metcalf is a writer, editor and mother to a hilarious but very strong-willed toddler and a beautiful baby girl. She started writing short stories in elementary school and years later became a sports reporter and editor. Now, she mainly writes marketing, religious and parenting-related blog posts. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer, Kirsten knew she wanted to be a mom. She knows being a mom is one of the most rewarding but hardest jobs out there, which is why she loves being able to share parenting knowledge and support to other moms through her writing. When she actually wins negotiations with her toddler, Kirsten likes to reward herself by watching KU basketball, eating cheesecake, or going on a Target run by herself.

November 10, 2021
November 11, 2021