Holiday Stories for Solstice and Christmas

Mother reading to a child

As you create holiday traditions with your children, read to them. Read stories that explain each holiday, stories that help your children understand their role in the holiday, stories that explain how your family relates to the holiday. Read stories that spread joy of celebration. And, collect a pile of books you love to read over and over.

This year, knowing that holidays can sometimes creep up on us, I’ve posted holiday stories that you can find online at the last minute—the REAL last-minute when you can’t run out and buy a book.

It’s not too late for solstice today or Christmas next week. Here are a few holiday stories you can find online.

How to Build a Snowman with Your Sister

“How to Build a Snowman with Your Sister” is a short, sweet story of a raccoon boy and his little sister building a snowman. Read the text yourself, and look at the few illustrations. This is part of a collection at TLC (television channel). They have more stories, if you are looking for short, winter stories that aren’t necessarily connected to a holiday.

Lynn Plourde, The Blizzard Wizard

I love that “The Blizzard Wizard” is read aloud by the author in this video. Watch her reading and turning the pages of the book so you can see the illustrations. The story isn’t holiday focused, but it is a simple story of a wizard who makes snow for children who are eager for winter play. 8 minutes long.

Starhawk, A Visit to Mother Winter

“A Visit to Mother Winter” tells the story of two very different sisters who visit Mother Winter. This is one of the stories I read to my children. They are teenagers, but we read it last night for solstice. They still love hearing holiday stories. This is not necessarily a religious solstice story. It could fit into any winter holiday celebration.

If you are looking for a book, I love The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for Winter Solstice. I have this collection.

Twas the Night Before Christmas, read by Santa

This is a fun video of a Santa reading to children the story of Twas the Night Before Christmas. If you don’t have a copy of the book, this is an easy way to fit the story into your Christmas. He doesn’t show the illustrations, but you get to watch the children listening. 4:44 minutes.

My favorite Christmas movies are the Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials, like Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Those are available on DVD. If you need a Christmas movie for children quick, you can find the full movie of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too on YouTube. (The books are better, but it’s there if you need it.)

Is your library still open? They might have a few Christmas stories left. Need a list? Check out Buzzfeed for 20 Children’s Christmas Books to Read Aloud. They give you a quick summary of each story AND why you should read it.

Have a bright Solstice, a Merry Christmas, and a beautiful winter holiday season.

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5 Holiday Gifts Made in Canada

Ringley Organic Teething Toys

 

When you want to buy your gifts close to home, we can help you find a big selection of natural toys and other gifts made in Canada. These are a few of our favorites at bynature.ca.

Organic Teething Toys
Handmade in Toronto, Canada

Ringley natural baby toy made in Canada

Ringley teething toys for babies are made in Canada with untreated Canadian maple and 100% organic terrycloth. You know when babies are teething they look for textures that feel right. The smooth, natural wood and the nubby terrycloth give variety. Your baby can easily hold on to the ring while gnawing away to soothe sore gums. Ringley baby toys are among our best sellers.

Wee Urban Organic Cotton Sleep Sacs
Made in Canada

Wee Urban cotton baby sleeping bag

Wee Urban Baby Sleep Bags solve the problem of babies kicking off covers because the covers move with the baby, keeping baby warm all night. Easy zip opening for quick nighttime diaper changes. Made with soft certified organic cotton and bamboo viscose fleece. The sleep bag made with cute prints is also Made in Canada.

Anointment Natural Skin Care
Handmade in Canada

Anointment natural skin care for babies balmAnointment makes a full line of natural skin care products for pregnancy, baby, and for parents. Anointment uses food-grade ingredients and healing herbs, so you know their salves, oils, and soaps are safe for the whole family. Check out the gorgeous shaving set for Dad. And, the chocolate mint lip balm is a perfect stocking stuffer. Smells so nice! Anointment natural skin care for adults and for babies.

Padraig Wool Slippers for the Whole Family
Handmade in Canada

Padraig handmade wool slippers for the family

Padraig slippers are soft and breathable—a perfect shoe for tiny, developing baby feet. Each pair is handmade with 100% natural wool. Durable leather sole makes these non-slip. We like these slippers so much, that we carry them in sizes for the whole family. You can get a matching set for Christmas morning.

Natural Wooden Rattles
Handmade in Canada

Natural wood baby rattle made in Canada

This elegantly shaped woode rattle contrasts maple and walnut woods for a striped effect. All safe and natural wood oiled with hemp or flax. Each rattle is handcrafted by a family in their home workshop in Southern Ontario. They use wood from a local, family-owned sawmill that has been responsibly managing lumber for 50 years. A beautiful toy all around. This is an heirloom for a baby on your list.

Holiday gifts made in Canada

Visit bynature.ca for more holiday gift ideas. Look for the tiny maple leaf logo to find products Made in Canada.

Halloween Stories for Children

Mother tells Halloween story

If you are trying to avoid the candy-focus of so many Halloween celebrations, you will probably want to create your own family traditions that your children will look forward to.

Tell your children stories. Help them see holidays as time to sit and reflect with family

Over time, you might develop your own family stories. Until you get there, I have a few last-minute suggestions for stories.

Our Halloween

For my family, Halloween in our big holiday of the year. It’s our new year. We focus on what is happening in nature as it gets colder outside but the snow hasn’t yet fallen—or hasn’t yet stayed. We rake leaves, jump in them, then rake them again. We draw on our pumpkin—our one pumpkin that grew this year—then we cut it up to make soup.

And, we tell stories. We tell stories about ancestors in the tradition of Day of the Dead, Ghost Festival, Samhain, and All Souls Night. We tell stories about the season. We tell funny stories.

We also have fun dressing up and going to parties with friends, but we reserve a part of the day and night for our family celebration.

Halloween Stories

Tell stories out of your imagination, stories that pull your children in as the adventurous protagonists. My children still love this, and they still tell one another stories. They write stories, comic books, novels, animated tales. They expect to be part of the adventure.

If you aren’t quite ready to make up stories for your children, you could collect stories and books, experimenting to find your favorites.

It’s a bit late to be looking for books for this year, so I’ve gathered a few Halloween stories you can share with your children right now.

For very young children, 2-4 years old. “Little Orange House” is a short, active story that will surprise little kids. I don’t want to give it away, so you’ll have to watch to see the surprise. Nothing scary at all. Watch the video, and look at the collection of other non-scary stories and songs for young children. You will need a couple of simple props to tell this story to your children.

For young children, 5-7 years old. “The Witch Who Was Frightened of Halloween” is an audio story, 9 minutes long, about Katie, an ordinary little girl who happens to be a witch. You can read or listen to this story.

For older children, age varies. If you want to venture into more scary stories, how about choosing old stories and folktales. American Folklore has a dozen spooky but not quite turn-your-hair-white frightening stories for children. These aren’t the sweet, predictable stories often written for young children. These are stories collected by folklorists from old tellers of tales. If you need more horror or fright, look for their “Scary Stories” and “Supernatural Stories.” You can either read or listen to these stories.

It’s Your Halloween!

To create the holiday you want your children to have, it only takes a little preparation and a little time to bring the focus where you want it to be for your family: nature, the season, celebration, fun, and maybe a little bit of scary screaming. Happy Halloween.

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Make Homemade Holiday Gifts

Child making homemade christmas gift

The assault has begun. Last night I saw an advertisement for a major toy store—let’s call it The Major Toy Store—trying to wash parents in the message that the only toy that will make their kids happy for the holidays is a big, plastic toy.

The advertisement plot line was this: a bus full of kids on a school trip are bored stiff by a teacher telling them how to recognize different trees by the shape of their leaves. But, it turns out the teacher was only joking. He is actually a clerk from a toy store, and he’s taking them to play at the store.

As my husband watched this, he said to me, “I’m surprised parents haven’t pressured the store to withdraw this ad yet. You should find out if people know about this.” So, I’m finding out if YOU know about it. Have you noticed this anti-nature messages in pre-holiday advertising for parents and kids?

If you intend to have a nature-centered holiday season, it’s time to make your plans now to be sure it is your natural message your children get—not the message that nature is boring and plastic toys are fun.

Making Homemade Gifts

One way to show your children the value of homemade and natural gifts is to make homemade and natural gifts.

If you are already a little crafty, 30 minutes on Pinterest should give you several months of crafting fun for you and your kids.

If you need directions, check out our DIY Envy series from last year. Most of these are appropriate crafts for adults or older children, though any child who knows how to knit can make cotton washcloths.

Make soap. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Make Soap!” The directions for melt-and-pour soap are very easy, and the results are beautiful. This isn’t really an activity to do WITH kids because of the hot soap, but they could watch from a short distance away. Requirements: reusable kitchen equipment and soap to melt.

Homemade DIY soap

Make cotton washcloths. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Knit!” You only need to know one stitch, knit (not even purl) to knit these simple, cotton washcloths. These could be a great holiday gift for friends and family. This project works for parent or child. Requirements: knitting needles and cotton yarn.

Knit cotton washcloth

Make a soft doll. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Sew!” This project is the most complex of the three, but all of the stitches are quite simple. You could even sew the whole doll by hand, but it would probably be a week-long project rather than an afternoon project. I included a lot of photos and step-by-step instructions to get you through the project. Once you tackle this, you are ready for a bigger handmade doll project. Requirements: sewing machine, needle and thread for hand sewing, fabric, wool for stuffing, rice or glass beads for weight.

Easy Sew Doll

Make kitchen towels. “DIY Reusable Kitchen Towels.” If you have a serger, it’s super quick and simple to make (not paper) kitchen towels. I added snaps to these, but you don’t necessarily need snaps. Requirements: serger, fabric (terry toweling and decorative outer fabric).

Reusable Kitchen Towels

Gift Crafts for Kids

Every parent and grandparent probably has a shelf ful of kid-crafted gifts. We love seeing what our children make. These wool craft posts give basic directions for a few potential holiday gifts.

Make coasters or mats. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Weaving.” With a very simple loom and a long needle, your child can transform loose yarn into a heavy fabric. That feels like a big accomplishment to a child. Use these mats as coasters or decorative hangings. Required: loom, needle, and yarn.

Child weaving on a wooden loom

Make cord. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Spool Knitting.” Another craft to transform yarn uses a simple spool for knitting cord. Then, you get to think about what to do with all of that cord: knitting, weaving, decorating. Requirements: spool and yarn.

Child using a wooden knitting spool

Make wool balls. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Felted Wool Balls.” Wool balls have become a very popular, natural way to soften clothing in the dryer. The agitation from the bouncing balls flexs the fibers and makes towels, T-shirts, and diapers feel soft. This would be a fun craft that could be given as a great, educational gift to family members. This post includes several methods for felting the wool, from easy to very easy. Requirements: wool and water.

DIY Felted Wool Balls

We also have kids craft kits in the store for older kids to make lip balm, chocolates, friendship bracelets, bath bombs, and more.

You Decide Your Holiday Gift Message

Don’t just give in to the dominant marketing messages. YOU decide how you want to shape your child’s experience and expectations of the holidays.

If you need to start talking about the holdiays this early in order to have yours be the first message your child hears, take advantage of that time to make gifts. As you plan and make gifts, talk about the people you are giving to. Encourage your child to focus on the person who will receive the gift (if they have reached that developmental stage where they CAN think of the other person).

Make your holidays intentional and natural.

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Let’s Talk about Candy

Child dressed in Halloween costume eating cupcake

For parents who prefer that their children not eat everlasting gobs of sugar every Halloween, the holiday becomes a time to take a deep breath and figure out how we will navigate the choices this year. To candy or not to candy?

Switch to Better Alternatives

Within the dominant structure of treat or treat and begging for candy, or truck or treat, or school parties, or whatever is popular in your area, most options include a lot of candy.

One option is to participate but contribute better alternatives. Better alternatives to WHAT depends on your priorities. Is your family completely sugar free? Then maybe you look for sugar-free treats or natural sweets. Are you open to candy, but you don’t want to eat conventional chocolate? Then you might want to find bite-size fair trade chocolate. Organic? Plenty of that. Local? My grocery store has a dozen local chocolate choices, some organic and some fair trade.

So, the first question is: what part of the dominant celebration are you trying to avoid? Then ask how you can do that and still participate.

Or, Limit the Candy

Some parents who generally avoid sugar or chocolate or a list of other candy issues, relax the rules on Halloween. This approach avoids creating candy as the desired thing for a child, the thing they must have at all costs as soon as you aren’t looking.

The Switch Witch and the Magic Pumpkin are two ideas you can read more about in “Halloween Treat Alternatives.” The child chooses a few candies to keep then leaves the rest out for the Switch Witch or the Magic Pumpkin, who leaves a different gift.

I just said NO to candy when my children were small, perhaps less than 5-years old. Once my children were older, I let them keep what they gathered, but I limited them to one piece per day each. I don’t love this solution, but it worked those years when we participated in trick or treating with friends and neighbors.

Or, Switch Structure

Rather than accept the dominant idea that Halloween must involve candy, switch to another structure entirely. Have a costume dinner party for adults and children. Go to a maize maze in costume. Find a fun activity that celebrates the season without focusing on candy.

This is the option we choose most years. I like that this doesn’t put our choices as an alternative to candy but just removes thinking about the candy altogether.

Resources: Thinking about Candy for Children

We’ve collected a few of our past posts that you may find helpful.

Halloween Treat Alternatives

Four ways to shift focus from “Gimme Candy” to sweet memories, weird science, social activism, or community.

Sugar: 7 Reasons to Break the Addiction

Baby eating a sugar lollipopNot sure whether there is a good enough reason to skip the sugary candy altogether this year? Read through our seven reasons to avoid sugar and the studies that back up the reasons. Sugar is addictive, toxic, leads to disease, saps energy, shortens your life, and can make you stupid. How is that for reason enough?

How Are Families Going Sugar Free?

A spiral of sugarThese are baby steps to break the sugar addiction for a whole family. It isn’t holiday focused, but there are good and important steps you can incorporate into a changed holiday if you are ready to make the break.

Dark Side of Chocolate

The Dark Side of Chocolate is a documentary about child labor and slavery in the cocoa industry. Fair trade or skip it. You won’t find chocolate so sweet when you see this story.

Chocolate — It’s About Dignity and Sustainability

Child with Chocolate

I wrote this post about the good reasons to choose fair trade, sustainable chocolate a few years ago. There are so many more choices now. If you want to make change, you do have options.

My Conscious Choices, Your Conscious Choices

Reasons to create your own candy-free Halloween traditions vary: health, social justice, environmental sustainability, and so on. Not all of us make the same choices, and that’s OK. If you want help thinking through whether now is the time to make those changes, ask yourself the five questions in this post. There are no right answers. You are the only one who knows if now is the time for change.

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