Time Saving Tips for Your Favorite Holiday Traditions

We recently surveyed parents and most rank “decorating the tree” as their number one holiday tradition. While others rate visiting Santa, watching holiday movies and building a gingerbread house among their holiday must-dos. How is a busy parent to fit it all into a scant few weeks of holiday time? Take a look at these time-saving tips for planning, organizing and enjoying favorite family holiday traditions.

How to Save Time On Your Favorite Holiday Traditions

1. Decorating the Tree (and the house)

  • No more scrambling to find the time and choose a tree – pre-order from a local nursery, church or school selling Christmas trees. You’ll have the perfect tree, with your specifications, waiting for your pickup at a pre-arranged date and time. Some sellers will even deliver it to your doorstop.
  • Consider an artificial tree. While there are those who couldn’t fathom the thought of foregoing the real thing, there are plenty of converts who insist on a faux tree for many reasons, including the ease and speed of setting it up.
  • Determine how you want your decorated tree to look, whether it be a color scheme, a feel (old-fashioned or modern), or make a commitment to homey, handmade decorations. Having a look in mind will keep you from buying loads of unnecessary ornaments or stressing over how to decorate it.
  • Spend a few minutes on Pinterest to find kids crafts that will entertain your kids and serve as decorations. A few of our favorite finds, include:Pinecone Tree via little black door
via little black door
via little black door

Beard Cutting Countdown Calendar via La Classe della Maestra Valentina

via La classe della maestra Valentina
via La classe della maestra Valentina

Snowflake Ornament via Red Ted Art 

via Red Ted Art
via Red Ted Art
  • Rely on Mother Nature to help decorate the rest of your house, too:
    •  When you’re picking up your tree, buy an evergreen wreath for the front door and pick up some boughs or even just scrap cuttings to decorate the mantel, top an entryway table or tie to the banister.
    • Gather a few winter branches or sprigs of holly to plop into vases and jars for instant tabletop décor.
    • Have a fireplace? Why not stack a neat pile of chopped firewood indoors for a woodsy, wintery atmosphere. It’s nice to know a warm fire is at your ready.
  • Invest in sturdy, reusable containers for organizing your holiday decorations. Stores such as Target and the Container Store offer bins and boxes designed for strings of lights, fragile ornaments and wreaths. While it’s tough to add another expense to the already-stretched holiday budget, think of these organizers as a worthy investment. They will save you time and expense, keeping your decorations safe and making it faster and easier to decorate next year.

2. Visiting Santa

Do your homework and plan ahead to avoid wasting your day away in an unbearably long line for Santa:

  • Veteran, Santa visiting parents advise that you can find the shortest lines at a store when the venue first opens, during weekdays and early on in the season.
  • Lesser known or less popular locations for visiting St. Nick are often far less crowded than places like the Herald Square Macy’s in NYC. If you can’t give up the thought of seeing the Big Guy in the Big Apple, consider Santaland Express at Macy’s. Reservations are available up to 48 hours in advance. You can reserve using the Macy’s app on your smartphone (iPhone app/Android app) or in person at Macy’s Herald Square at kiosks located in the Cellar and 9th Floor.
  • Accept that no matter where you go, you’re most likely in for a long line. Be prepared with snacks and small toys to keep the kids entertained while they wait.
  • Consider sneaking a peek instead of sitting on his lap. Many places offering visits with Santa will allow you to get up close to the big guy without waiting in line if you’re willing to just sneak a peek and maybe get and give a little wave, instead of having a seat on his lap.

3. Watching Holiday Movies

Disney’s Frozen is the new holiday movie of the season, but it’s hardly your only option. Opt for watching favorites at home by hosting a fun movie night or leaving a movie with a babysitter for a special treat to enjoy while you’re away. Thanks to Let’s Lasso the Moon for this excellent round-up of favorite holiday movies for kids of all ages.

4. Building a Gingerbread House

via Simply Recipes
via Simply Recipes

If you’ve done this before, you know that assembling these tiny, candy-bejeweled creations is far more work than one would expect! Make it easier, faster and tons more fun with these helpful tips:

  • Leave the assembling to the experts. Order pre-baked, pre-assembled gingerbread houses to avoid the painstaking task of building a house that stands and stays standing. You can order through a local bakery or online.
  • If you insist on building your own (or forget to order a pre-assembled one!), opt for using graham crackers instead of gingerbread. It’s far easier.
  • Take advantage of free, downloadable templates for creating a house out of rolled dough.
  • To hold your house together at the seams and keep the candy from falling off of it, use Royal Icing. Here’s the recipe from Simply Recipes.
  • Shop in advance for kid-friendly decorating tools and materials. Keep it simple by using these time-tested favorites: gum drops, candy candy, licorice strings, small lollipops, and peppermints. Buy more than you think you’ll need, since your builders will likely devour much of it before it ever makes its way to the gingerbread house! If you have tiny tots involved, remember that candy can be a dangerous choking hazard and small pieces should be avoided if little hands are involved.

With a little advance planning and expectation setting, these popular holiday traditions can be a wonderful way to enjoy the holidays with your children. By keeping it simple and relying on the helpful tips shared above, you’ll be able to focus on the fun and keep the stress and expense at bay.

UrbanSitter.com is always ready to meet your childcare needs – any season of the year.

10 Creative Ideas for Entertaining a Toddler (in the dead of winter!)

With temperatures reaching inhumane lows across the country, you or your sitter are likely trapped in the house with the kids and in near desperate need for new ways to keep them entertained. Save your sanity with these fun ideas for keeping little kids happy and engaged.

10 Creative Ideas for Entertaining a Toddler (in the dead of winter!)


1. Fill the tub or the kitchen sink! It’s time to bathe the toys, give the Barbies a spa day or host a car wash. If you really want to surprise your kids, hold the water and instead fill the tub with dried beans or rice and let them scoop and fill to their hearts’ content.

2. Build a slide or tunnel for toy cars to race down and under, using a piece of cardboard atop stacks of books or copy this creative masking tape roadway. Take it a step further with a DIY wasabi race track.

via Le Jardin de Juliette
via Le Jardin de Juliette

3. Create a fort by draping blankets over chairs and other furniture, and pretend it’s a house, boat or a plane. The opportunities are endless. If your kids love forts, consider creating this no-sew teepee from The Handmade Home.

via The Handmade Home
via The Handmade Home

4. Throw a dance party. Crank up the music and let loose. Get in on the fun and you can knock out your daily workout.

5. Brave the outdoors and create an ice skating party for dolls or action figures, a la the one by Happy Hooligans. She also has an ingenious post on making paint for painting the snow.

via Happy Hooligans
via Happy Hooligans

6. Set up a stage for an impromptu puppet show with dolls or sock puppets. Here’s a handy tutorial for making your own sock pocket, via One of a Kind Gift Ideas.

7. Toddlers love to push and pull things. Take a toy wagon or baby stroller outside and let them “mow the lawn” or plow the snow.

8. Taste test the art supplies!? Yes, break the rules and let them eat the paint with edible finger paints. You can stress less about the mess, since they are made with condensed milk. Super simple!

via Healthy Mama Info
via Healthy Mama Info

9. Reminisce by going through family photo albums and watching videos made when they were “young.” Slightly older kids will enjoy the walk down memory lane, too. You can take it a step further by talking about their family tree.

10. DIY Matching Game. Use whatever you have on hand, from the socks in the drier to cut lengths from a few spools of ribbon to keep a toddler busy matching.

via The Fickle Pickle
via The Fickle Pickle

What’s your favorite Winter-time activity? Have you made/done any of the pieces on this list? Tell us in the comments!

Find your perfect babysitter any time of the year at www.UrbanSitter.com.

Fun Craft Trio for Winter

Looking for a creative way to keep the kids entertained on a rainy or snowy winter day? We’ve found a trio of adorable crafts for kids that celebrate the season and may entertain you (or your sitter) as much as they do the kids.

DIY Cut Leaf Cars

Before the last leaf falls, grab your chance to create a fun afternoon with your child. Take a walk to enjoy the fall foliage and select your favorite fallen treasures. After a warm lunch or cup of cocoa following your walk, tackle this simple craft that’s just right for practicing scissor skills. Draw a simple car outline on a leaf and have your child cut the lines to create a car. You’ll want to do the windows, as an XActo will work best. Via The Art Room Plant.

via The Art Room Plant
via The Art Room Plant

Recycled Egg Carton Owl

The creative minds at Art and Soul Preschool came up with this ingenious use of an egg carton after observing that pieces of the carton looked amazingly like owls. And they do! See their site for step-by-step instructions, or simply use the photo as inspiration, cut sections for eyes and bodies, and let kids “build” an owl from the pieces. It’s best to paint the sections first, and glue them together once dry.

via Art and Soul Preschool
via Art and Soul Preschool

Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

Help keep feathered friends fed through the winter with these easy bird feeder ornaments. You can hang them on a tree in your backyard or at the park. This recipe doesn’t require peanut butter, like many others do, so it’s also great for taking to your child’s classroom for a fun, fall party project. Recipe provided by Prudent Baby.


3/4 cup birdseed (seed for small birds works best)
1/4 cup water
1 small envelope of Knox gelatin
Twine or string
Cookie cutters, molds or mason jar lids
Wax paper


Mix together the envelope of gelatin with 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer while stirring. Continue stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a minute. Stir in the 3/4 cup birdseed, adding a little more if there is liquid in the bottom of the pan. Lay cookie cutters out on wax paper and fill halfway with the birdseed mixture. Cut twine, knot the end and push the knot down into the birdseed. Continue filling with birdseed, covering the end of twine and knot.
Push the birdseed evenly into the cookie cutter until it’s full. Allow to dry overnight. Turning them over every now and then.
Remove from the cookie cutters and hang them in a tree.

via Prudent Baby
via Prudent Baby

Remember, if crafting is not your thing, these creative projects are perfect for passing along to your sitter to tackle with the kids while you’re away. 

5 Fun Winter Crafts for Kids

With kids spending a lot more time indoors during the dreary winter months, be sure to arm yourself and your sitter or nanny with a few fun DIY art projects to keep them occupied and entertained. Check out these five creative projects that are sure to keep everyone happy.


5 Fun Winter Crafts for Kids

1. Better than Play Doh
Why not whip up a batch of new play dough or goop for your kids to knead, mold and shape to their hearts’ content? Take your pick from one of these cool sensory play recipes that are sure to please. Whether it’s Peppermint Play Dohs, gold glitter goop or any of the others we’ve pinned to our Pinterest Board Crafts for Kids, you can’t go wrong. The recipes are quick and easy and truly can be rainy day lifesavers.

Play Doh via Raechel Myers
via Raechel Myers

2. Easy Stitch Cards
Try this not too easy, not too hard sewing project that works well for 4-9 year olds. It’s a budget-friendly craft that you can create with materials you likely have on hand or can easily find at any craft store. Thanks to Mini eco for proving the instructions AND free printable cards. Download the cards and print on colored card stock. She used orange, pink and yellow, but feel free to use your child’s favorites.

To make your sewing cards you’ll also need a hole punch, yarn, a blunt needle and a button or bead to tie at the end of the yarn as a stopper. Instructions via the blogger:

1) Simply print pdfs and cut out. Pinking shears can be used for extra flare.
2) Punch holes out (as pictured)
3) Have you child lace the yarn through the holes.

Sewing Cards via Mini Eco
via Mini Eco

3. Shimmery Snow Paint
Kids love a new art material and this one doubles as a fantastic sensory material. Plus, it’s perfect for winter. There are lots of recipes out there for paint that looks like snow, but this one tops the list for the most shimmery, realistic looking flurries. For the best results, refrigerate the shaving cream and glue overnight then let it warm up for about 10 minutes the counter before using.

Recipe via Growing a Jeweled Rose. You’ll need the following materials: shaving cream, white school glue, peppermint extractiridescent glitter or buffalo snow.

Mix equal parts of glue and shaving cream in a bowl – you can eyeball the amounts. Sprinkle in as much glitter or buffalo snow as you like. Add a few drops of peppermint extract and mix. You can add more glitter, if need be.

It’s fun for kids to use their new paint to create wintery scenes filled with snowmen. Colored construction paper works well as a background.

Shivery Snow Paint via Growing a Jeweled Rose
via Growing a Jeweled Rose

4. Paper House
This really cute paper house was created by the ingenious blogger at Say Yes to Hoboken as something to do with all of the cardboard shipping boxes that had piled up at her house after a bout of online shopping. With the holidays just past, you’re sure to have a few lying around, too.

Choose a box that’s a good size and shape for a house, a barn, a school, or any other structure your child would like to create, and follow the instructions provided at Say Yes to Hoboken. All you’ll need is paper, glue, scissors and a Sharpie. The rainbow shingles are the best part!

Cardboard House via Say Yes to Hoboken
via Say Yes to Hoboken

5. Bottle Cap Stamps
Create your own stamps with the bottle caps from water or juice bottles and small foam stickers. We can thank Vanessa’s Values for the idea and for helping us to keep our kids entertained by merely visiting the recycling bin for bottle caps and the dollar store for a handful of stickers. Simply glue stickers to the tops of the caps and use either a stamp pad or paint for the ink. Kids, little and big, will have a ball creating all sorts of project with their stamps – posters, cards, signs, etc.

Bottle Cap Stamps via Vanessa's Values
via Vanessa’s Values


Search for crafty babysitters at www.UrbanSitter.com.

6 Festive Kids’ Crafts That Are Good Enough to Eat

For busy parents and babysitters, what could be better than a delightful kid’s craft and a snack wrapped into one? Edible art projects keep kids entertained, engaged and fed without much fuss. This is incredibly helpful especially when you are preparing holiday meals and entertaining guests. These are also great projects to have grandparents or guests spearhead while you cook–or set these up with your sitter for a fun afternoon activity.

Edible Festive Kids’ Craft Projects

Fruit Gobbler Turkey

via Spoonful
via Spoonful

Unload some of your holiday dirty work by letting the kids create the centerpiece for the big Turkey Day table. This big turkey is loaded with fruits and veggies that your kids will love assembling (while you work on dinner), and enjoy gobbling up just as much. You’ll need:

Bosc pear (head), Melon (body), Cheese (beak and tail feathers), Red pepper (snood, feet and side feathers), Raisins (eyes), Grapes (tail feathers), Bamboo skewers, Toothpicks.

Find complete instructions at Food.com.

Hairy Spider

via Kids Activities Blog
via Kids Activities Blog

Forget about the Halloween craft featuring a fat marshmallow as the body of a creepy crawler. These hairy spiders are of the healthy variety and for tots fascinated by bugs and they work any time of year. We can thank Kids Activities Blog for showing us how to easily create a healthy snack with a chunk of banana dipped in flax seed, pretzels for spider legs and raisins for eyes.

Another Turkey to Gobble

via Cute Food For Kids
via Cute Food For Kids

There’s no shortage of edible turkey crafts to tackle. We think this guy is pretty darn cute and simple enough for little kids to handle without frustration. There are two options – a healthy one made with clementine sections and a “special treat” version that uses skewers of candy for feathers. Both work the same way: cut the bottom off of an apple, flip it around and stick it to the other end with a toothpick to create a stable base. Next, thread oranges or candy and marshmallows to toothpicks and insert for the bird’s feather. Create a head and face out of construction paper, and let your own little turkey stick it on the apple body with another toothpick.

Candy Necklaces

via Blondie and Brownies
via Blondie and Brownies

Creating candy necklaces is a smart activity to help kids practice counting and patterns and to improve their fine motor skills. It also makes for a great project for a party, since it’s relatively simple and low fuss. There are tons of options for edible bits to string for a DIY edible necklace. Think fruit loops, mini marshmallows, Cheerios and pretzels. Blondie and Brownies suggests buying a few yarn darners, essentially large-eyed needles, to help with the threading (she found a set of 7 at Walmart for under $2).

A Mouthful of Teeth

via Kid Spot
via Kid Spot

Apple slices + peanut butter + mini marshmellows = a mouthful of teeth! No detailed instructions are needed for this adorable and yummy craft. Simply slice apples, spread with peanut butter or a nut-free alternative (cream cheese would work well) for denture cream, and stick mini marshmallows along the “gums” for teeth. Voila! Who wouldn’t smile at these?

Cheesy Reindeer

via Cute Food For Kids

You may cringe at the thought or jump for joy, but November 29 marks the start of the Christmas season! Get your kids in the spirit by plunging into a wintertime craft. Adorable reindeer are perfect for little hands to create with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge, pretzels for antlers, olives for eyes and a bit of red pepper for a nose. Cute Food for Kids provides a handy tip – use a straw from a juice box to punch out tiny eyes from an olive, and a fatter straw to create the nose from a bell pepper.

Leave these handy craft activities with your sitter while you’re out holiday shopping – search for babysitters online at www.UrbanSitter.com.