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Parent's Corner

Making New Family Traditions for the Holidays

By: Pamela Brill

Once you have your first child, the holiday season seems to take on even greater significance. You can hardly wait to take your little one to visit Santa, play the dreidel game and bake holiday treats together. "The spirit of the holidays is really heightened when you have children," says Jill Seiman, lifestyle blogger at Glamamom.com. "They are experiencing everything for the first time and it's the perfect opportunity to establish your own traditions based on your family's values."

But before you go out and buy matching mommy and me aprons, remember that your baby can't quite grasp the concept of holiday celebrations just yet. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't share the spirit of the season with your child from the get-go. For families looking to create their own first holiday memories, either for their first child or the latest addition, consider these suggestions from lifestyle experts and parents themselves.

Capturing Precious Moments

For first-time mother Audrey Kingo of Brooklyn, NY, the holiday season is the perfect reason to catch up on picture-taking. But instead of going behind the camera herself, Kingo decided to hire a professional to photograph her family, including her 15-month-old son, Jay. "We used the holidays as an excuse to invest in professional family photography for our holiday cards," she says. "We're not as good as we should be about snapping pics throughout the year, so it seemed like a good time to take special photos and capture my son at this age."

Also focused on creating special memories for her growing family is Kelly Smith of Northport, N.Y. This Christmas will be the first for her 4-month-old daughter, who joins Smith and her husband's 8- and 7-year-old son and daughter. "It is very important for me to have our own traditions as our family grows," she says. "In early December, my mother and I take the kids into New York City to visit Santa at Macy's and see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. This year, it may be a little more hectic than the last few years but I wouldn't think of skipping it."

Those merry-making traditions continue back at home, too. "When we pick out our tree we always cut off a thin slice from the bottom of the trunk," says Smith. "We write the year on it and also a little something to remember the season by. It becomes a special family ornament." On Christmas Day, they open presents and eventually venture off to the beach and take a brisk family walk. "It has become our favorite tradition of the year. No matter the temperature, we always make it to the beach, snap a few photos and reflect on the past year," she notes.

Making Your Own Memories

If you're stumped on how to make the holiday season special for your child, consider what lifestyle expert and host of TheHappiHouse.com Happi Olson has to say: "Think about things you already do during the holiday season—bake cookies, watch Christmas movies, drive around and look at lights—and then add a kid-friendly twist to them," she offers. "It could be [making] homemade hot cocoa, [wearing] matching reindeer antlers or [singing] a favorite Christmas carol."

For kids who are still too young to participate in the festivities, keep in mind that simply being present is its own special gift. "Make the extra effort to unplug (disregard the work e-mail and forget the grocery list) and focus inward on family," offers Olson. "The time spent together—without distraction or agenda—is the most special thing you can offer, even if you little one may not remember it years from now."

Seiman of Glamamom.com concurs. "The true meaning of the holidays for most people is spending time with friends and family and showing your appreciation for those who make a difference in your life, which doesn't have to cost a penny," she says. "Simply spending uninterrupted time with your children taking in the joys of the season will help instill this idea in them too." For hands-on time, she recommends reading together (for suggestions, see http://www.glamamom.com/kids/bedtime-stories-holiday-season) or visiting your local library or town hall for community holiday activities. "The key is to wholeheartedly participate in these activities as a family and continue on with the ones that really resonated with everyone," says Seiman.

Happy Holidays!