November 25, 2009

{10 Ways to Give the Gift of Time This Season}

This year nearly 52 million households will be buying toys. But with this rough economy, do we have to spend money to buy that special gift for our children? Or can we do something instead which is sincere and from our heart, that will touch their little hearts even more?
My brother once took my daughter on a special outing to the Art Institute of Chicago and taught her to look at pointillism with squinted eyes. It was a moment of a lifetime for my daughter that has and will stay with her, forever.
In a similar act of genuine love, my daughter once made me a birthday presentation on her computer with all my favorite family members and my favorite movie stars set to my favorite song. It was the most precious gift I could have ever received.
With these priceless gifts in mind, here are eleven things you can do (FREE) this holiday:

 1. Free day at local attraction with a twist
Find out when your local museum or local attraction has a free day. Now make it a personal trip by going online and researching your favorite exhibit. When your family visits the museum, educate each other and make it a private museum tour.  

The Extra Yard:  Dress up in the theme of the exhibit.
2. Make a family movie
There are many sites that let you upload photos of friends and family members to an animated, holiday themed online greeting card. This will be a step above typical online greeting cards with a great personal touch. Check-out to create yours.
The Extra Yard:  Once you become an expert, show your neighbors how you did it.

3. Take the movies indoors
Instead of spending $10 a ticket to take the family to the movies, plus the cost of popcorn, soda, and candy, watch your favorite holiday movie at home and start a family tradition. If your movie selection at home is deficient, consider borrowing a DVD from the library.

The Extra Yard:  Be creative. If you are watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, dress up as “Whoville” citizens and eat “roast beast” for dinner.

4. Board game championship
Announce your family’s annual Scrabble or Charades (or other board game) bowl game for the holidays.  Make the championship real by printing rules, game brackets, certificates for winners, and play “home” and “away” games where each family member can host a game in their own room. Just think, a “home” game gives children a reason to clean the room.

The Extra Yard:  The winner gets to plan next year’s event.

5. Bake Holiday Cookies and take to neighbors
Find your favorite holiday cookie recipe and tweak it a little to make it your family’s own secret recipe. Bake cookies together, where every person has a role, e.g. the measurer, the mixer, the baker, the quality-controller, and the packer. Then take cookies to your neighbors and see them smile.  

The Extra Yard:  At the end of the evening, write down the secret recipe and hide it in a special place in the house.

6. Dress up dinner at home
Eating out can be special, but do we have to go out to have a special meal?  Why not dress up for a special night at home? Print the menu, light some candles, and make dinner special with everyone sitting around the table.

The Extra Yard:  Tip the chef by telling them the thing you love most about them.

7. Take old clothes to the local thrift store
Spend an evening helping every family member find one of two things to take to the neighborhood thrift store. Giving together as a family makes the holiday special.

The Extra Yard:  Take your family’s secret cookie recipe and hot chocolate in a flask and sip as you drive to the thrift store. Take the long way home and enjoy the lights.

8. Plan a day with grandparents or at a local elderly home
Holidays become special when you create a memory for someone else. Why not plan a day with your grandparents? Drive them around and enjoy the evening listening to old time family stories.  And if your grandparents are not in town, visit the local elderly homes and spread cheers by singing carols.

The Extra Yard:  Take pictures of your evening together and frame it for their holiday gift.
9. Plan a Family treasure hunt
There’s nothing quite like a good treasure hunt inside the house. Have each family member hide something special and write down a clue for the rest of the family.  As the evening unfolds, you will see the competitiveness overflow.

The Extra Yard:  When the game is over, ask each other about your clues and laugh when you hear the reasons behind them.

 10. Take a day off and give the gift of time to your child
Finally, the best gift you can give is that of time. Take a day off, turn off your cell-phone, and spend the entire day with your child.  No plans, just total enjoyment.

The Extra Yard:  Take lots of pictures and view them before you go to bed. You’ll have a smile on your face guaranteed.
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