Warmest Winter Wishes
Welcome to my Winter newsletter! Despite the dark, cold mornings and the shorter days, I can't help looking forward to Winter, there are just so many ways to make it fun, and so many things to enjoy! Wrapping up warm in soft, furry, and woolly clothes and blankets, lighting up the dark with candles, bonfires, and Christmas lights, and smelling all those wonderful winter spices and seasonal treats cooking in the oven! Make the most of Winter with your family by enjoying the best that this season has to offer - it doesn't have to cost very much, and you don't have to travel very far to make sure you and your child experience the magic of Winter. Below you will find all my best tips for enjoying this beautiful season in a holistic, mindful, and sustainable way!
As soon as the evenings get darker and chillier, I get out my woolly socks, wrap up warm in my faux fur blanket, and like to have a candle burning for maximum hygge (is that still a thing?)! I think the best way to enjoy the changing seasons is to embrace their differences, and be mindful of those changes with all your senses: touch (warmer, cosier fabrics), smell (the frosty air, logs burning), taste ( seasonal foods and recipes), sight (how the natural world changes), and sound (Christmas carols, ice cracking, fireworks, rain hammering on the rooftops!). Now is the time to introduce your child to these sensations!
I hope you enjoyed Halloween! Did you cook your pumpkin afterwards? Don't worry if you didn't feel yours was in the right state for cooking, why not buy a smaller, culinary pumpkin now and give it a go. Pumpkins were one of the first wild foods to be cultivated, and were considered a sacred food by the Native Americans (not to mention the fact that Cinderella's magical carriage started life as a pumpkin!) - there is more to the pumpkin than just Halloween! They are high in Vitamins A C, and E, and packed with antioxidants, iron and luteine. Just like most seasonal vegetables, pumpkins provide just what we need at this time of year - nature provides for us seasonally to keep us nourished and healthy. Don't let your beautiful pumpkin go to waste, try roasting it in the oven, and then turning it into a soup, a pie, a curry, or even a tray of muffins!
Speaking of health, this Winter more than ever we will be trying to stay well, and trying not pick up any bugs and germs. Keep your child's (and your own!) immune system in tip top working order to fight off those bugs by trying to follow these 10 immune system boosters:
Tips to boost immune system in children:
Eat more fruit and vegetables (a rainbow of colours)
Increase sleep (3 to 12 year olds need up to 12 hours)
Frequent hand washing - make this fun with playful and colourful soaps
Throw away your child's toothbrush after any illnesses
Eat one portion of white fish and one portion of oily fish each week
Reduce sugar intake - this lowers white blood cells and immune response
Echinacea, black elderberry, Vitamin C and garlic have immune boosting powers
Probiotic supplements can also help
Mental and emotional well-being - lots of hugs and kisses and reassurance!
With the evenings drawing in, Winter is the perfect time to stay indoors and doing things that take a little more time - playing board games, introducing your children to old movies, getting out the box of old family photo albums, or your old box of vinyl to play to your family, and baking from scratch (no shortcuts!). Children love baking, so accept the floury mess that will follow, and get them baking gingerbread, mince pies, stirring hot chocolate in a pan,
Spending time outdoors is also important, even in the Winter months, and whatever the weather, you can still take your kids outside, just make sure they are really well wrapped up! Get outdoors and let them see the sleeping trees, the frosty ground, the frozen puddles, and the animals and birds that are still out and about, and not hibernating or flying south for the winter. Seasons provide wonderful learning opportunities for children, and they are natural explorers and little scientists. Why do the leaves fall from the trees? Why does the puddle freeze overnight? Why does the robin stay for the winter? Which animals are hibernating?
Risky activities are often the most exciting and memorable for children, so why not take them ice skating, fire up a bonfire or fire-pit, get some sparklers for the back garden (teach them a little history about Guy Fawkes!), or show them how to light a log fire indoors. Many children now experience elements of the Scandinavian-style forest schools as part of their own school curriculum, and taking risks and learning about the world outdoors are two of the main principles of forest learning.
Christmas lights and decorations help us forget how dark and bleak it can be outside, and in the eyes of your child can turn your house into a magical vision from a storybook. Spend time together gathering decorations from outside - holly, ivy, berries, and pine cones can all be turned into beautiful decorations for your home, especially when wound together with some fairy lights or ribbons. Why not try solar fairy lights this year to decorate your home (check out Solar Centre). And whether you choose a natural Christmas tree or an artificial one, you are still bringing the magic of the outdoors indoors. Eco-Age have a wonderful guide to choosing a more sustainable tree this Christmas.
Christmas is the perfect time to share a little family history with your child - whether it be through Christmas decorations and recipes that have been passed down through the generations, telling your child about how Christmas was different when you were a child, or talking about about members of the family who may no longer be with us. What do you remember most vividly doing as a child at Christmas time? Choosing a tree? Being taken to church or to look at the window displays at the big department stores? Watching your mother work her way through an old family recipe? Pass these on to the next generation (don't just leave it to the movies to share the magic of Christmas past!).
How best to explain Christmas to children in our multi-faith, multi-culture and highly digitised society? By telling the truth! Christmas is a Winter celebration of mixed origin, none of which needs to be discredited. I advocate the telling of the Christian Christmas story of baby Jesus in the manger (a story of poverty, kindness, and destiny), AND the pagan story of the winter solstice celebration (a story about how our survival depends on the light and warmth of the sun), AND the modern European/American story of Father Christmas (aka St Nicholas) travelling from his toy workshops in the North Pole to deliver toys via reindeer driven sleigh (a story of hard work, gift-giving and gratitude). They all add a little magic to the Winter, and will help your child understand that there is more to Christmas than just a chocolate advent calendar and stack of presents.
SNOW! Will it snow? Will it not snow? Are those few flakes going to turn into a flurry? Will it settle? Is the ground dry enough? Has it been too wet? The English are known to take the weather very seriously, and snowflakes are no different! I know many adults (myself included!), who still get excited about snow, and for children, snow is simply one of the most magical things that can appear during the Winter time. I recommend that whatever the time of day, whatever you might be doing, you drop everything, quickly wrap your child up, and rush them to the window to watch the snowflakes falling.
While I would like to recommend an emphasis on cooking, decorating, the natural world, and sharing the magic of Winter together with your children this Christmas (rather than excessive gift giving!), here are some of my personal favourites for mindful, sustainable Christmas gifts and wrapping this year:
Visit Naturally Wrapt for eco-friendly gift wrapping alternatives ("life after sellotape is good!")
Try Ruby and Bo for plantable cards and eco-friendly stationary
Check out Vegan & Friendly for fab vegan and eco-friendly clothing and gift ideas
Visit Nurture Collective for lots of wonderful eco-friendly kids clothing and toys
If you know an expectant or new mum, head straight to Cradle & Tonic for the perfect gift!
And if you know a toddler who is a little tricky at mealtimes, check out one mompreneur's creation to solve dinner time struggles at Munchy Play.
Finally, here are five ways to be a little more mindful and sustainable this year:
Five ways to be a little more mindful and sustainable this Winter:
1. Feed the birds, and talk about animals and hibernation with your child
2. Eat seasonal foods (they contain exactly what we need at this time of year!)
3. Help the homeless and the less advantaged families in your area
4. Support your local small businesses when choosing gifts this year
5. Look for sustainable Christmas trees, decorations, wrapping and gift options
November is going to be all about Dads for me, so get in touch if you would like more info on my upcoming free online parenting surgery all about Dads, would like to contribute to my upcoming Dads-themed blog post, or would like some tips on how to improve your Daddy Status with your child!
Visit the rest of my website to learn more about child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting! And check out my other blog posts for loads of other useful tips and advice, including lots of great tips from pre- and post-natal nutrition and exercise specialist Emma West (who will be returning to my blog soon to talk all about weaning!).
Get in touch for more information on any of the topics mentioned here or elsewhere on my site, I would love to hear from you! Merry Christmas!