Get the whole family involved with holiday activities that'll help you savor the season. 
little girls sisters fall winter christmas
Credit: Pixabay/jty11117777

It's easy to treat the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year as a mad dash that you can only hope to survive in one piece. But a bit of pre-planning can make the season more manageable and meaningful—for you and your family. Grab the kids and make sure you check these seven tasks off your list so you'll be ready for the holidays.

1. Organize your family calendar

With a chock-full holiday schedule, surprise sleepover dates and overlooked recitals can mean serious drama for everyone in the family. Sit down with each member of your family and make sure you have every major event written down on a calendar that's visible to everyone. This is also a great time to fill your kids in on any events that may impact their schedules, like family trips or parties you'll be attending together.

2. Take a family photo for your holiday card

Whether you book a pro or DIY your annual family photo, it's a good idea to do this before the holidays hit. You'll treasure this annual tradition for years to come, and it couldn't be easier to plug your photo into a holiday card by Shutterfly to share with friends and family.

family building a snowman
Credit: XiXinXing/Shutterstock

3. De-clutter the toy collection

Your little ones are sure to receive a few new toys over the course of the holiday season, so this is the perfect time to purge their collection of worn-out, forgotten playthings. Get them involved in the process, setting aside toys in good condition to donate to kids in need.

4. Ask them to create a wish list

It may seem early to be creating holiday wish lists, but the biggest shopping days of the year hit right after Thanksgiving, and you'll want to be prepared. Give your kids a catalog from their favorite store to browse, ask them to create an online wish list, or just ask them to write a letter to Santa. Whatever the method, keep that list close so you're ready when the sales hit.

5. Start baking now

When you're frantically prepping for a dinner or a cookie exchange, it may be difficult to actually invite your kids into the kitchen to help you bake. That said, baking can be a great bonding experience that your kids will always remember. Avoid baking during high-stress times by starting now, freezing your favorite cookie dough, pies, and brownies for a super-quick fix when you need something sweet.

Stained Glass Holiday Cookies on white plate
Credit: Dane Tashima

6. Stock up on thank-you cards

Once the holiday gatherings begin, so will the gift-giving—and you should be prepared with thank-you notes for your kids to practice gratitude. Lead by example, making letter-writing a family event, and it's a good habit they'll carry into adulthood.

7. Make a family holiday bucket list

Take the time to sit down with your kids and talk about what they love about the holiday season, and you may be surprised. Maybe it's watching a certain movie together, or a special dish that you make. Perhaps it's a festive event you attended one year, or trimming the tree. Listen to what the holidays mean to them, and create an official family bucket list that you can have fun checking off over the coming weeks. It's a great reminder to slow down and make sure the season is meaningful for everyone in the family.