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Christmas Ice Box Cookies #BecelAd

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

This recipe was sponsored by Becel. I was compensated for writing this, but the opinions are mine and the yumminess of the cookies will be all yours once you’ve baked them!

These Christmas ice box cookies make a wonderful holiday gift.These Christmas ice box cookies are one of my holiday favourites. With the candied cherries and pistachios, they look like bits of Christmas on a plate! Making the dough ahead of time and slicing before baking makes them all very uniform in size which makes them look even prettier.

Christmas Ice Box Cookies Recipe:

1 cup Becel® margarine (*see note below)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup candied cherries, quartered
1/2 cup currants
1/4 – 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios or other nuts (I use pistachios because of the colour)

*Becel® margarine can replace butter 1:1 in any of your favourite holiday baking recipes for an alternative, and is ready to use straight from the fridge! It has no artificial preservatives, flavours or colours and is made from simple blends of plant and seed oils.

In a large bowl, cream together Becel® margarine and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla.

Stir the flour, baking soda and salt together and mix in. Add the cherries, currants and nuts. Mix and shape into round logs approximately 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs and chill overnight or for a few days. The dough can also be frozen.

When you are ready to bake them, slice the dough thinly. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet and bake them at 375° for 6-7 minutes (until lightly browned). Cool.

These Christmas ice box cookies made a wonderful homemade holiday gift.Cookies make a perfect homemade holiday gift. According to a recent survey conducted by Becel, 3 out of 4 Canadians agree that DIY gifts are more thoughtful than store-bought gifts.

One of my favourite things about giving baked goods for Christmas is that the making of them is something that my kids can participate in. Granola Girl helped me with every step of making these Christmas ice box cookies from helping me cut the nuts to slicing the dough. I know that she will be beaming when she hands them to our friends and neighbours! 

Becel® helps Canadians #BakewithHeart and Gift with Love this holiday season, offering a single, customizable recipe that guarantees soft & chewy cookies for the ones you love.

christmas-ice-box-cookiesInexpensive ideas for gifting cookies:

  • Place them in a mason jar and wrap ribbon around the lid. Attach a gift tag to the ribbon.
  • Wrap an empty Pringles can with decorative paper and fill with cookies before topping with a bow.
  • Buy a beautiful plate from a second hand store and deliver the cookies on the plate.
  • Place them in a gift bag decorated by your kids.
  • Create a cute paper bag and toothpick pouch.
  • Fill plastic cups and wrap with cellophane and tie with ribbon

Make multiple varieties of cookies at once with Becel’s expert-tested Anything Goes Cookie Dough simply by splitting it and adding your favourite mix-ins to it.

What is your favourite holiday recipe to gift to others?

I Spy Christmas Sensory Bag

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I love to make crafts and activities with the kids based on books. It’s a fun way to help reinforce what they saw in the book. The inspiration for this I Spy Christmas sensory bag is the book I Spy ChristmasI Spy Christmas Sensory Bag based on the I Spy Christmas bookLast year, we made a Christmas Counting I Spy Sensory Bottle and the kids really enjoyed discovering what they could see inside it.

This year, after reading I Spy Christmas and finding the hidden things within its pictures, I made this simple I Spy Christmas Sensory Bag.

To make this Christmas sensory bag, all you will need is:

  • medium sized resealable bag
  • coconut flakes
  • bag of small Christmas shaped buttons or small Christmas themed trinkets

We actually found a bag of flaked coconut that was very expired when one of my sons was helping me clean out the pantry so it was perfect to use in this sensory activity rather than wasting it.

Place the coconut and Christmas shapes inside the resealable bag and close. For younger children, you can also add packing tape folded over the top so that they can’t open it.

Ours included shapes like a Christmas tree, gingerbread men, stockings, and most importantly, baby Jesus. After all, it is Him that we celebrate at Christmas and Him that I most want my kids to focus on even in a simple sensory bag. Jesus is the treasure waiting to be discovered in this sensory bag and in our lives.

Join our free 5 part email series Sensory Solutions and Activities and get our Sensory System Behaviours Easy Reference Cards.

i-spy-christmas-sensory-bag-squareThis activity is part of a series of activities with children’s Christmas books. Follow along this week to see the fabulous ideas! 10 bloggers, 10 books and 10 days of Christmas Activities inspired by children books that are faith based. Make sure to follow along, you can take a look at the schedule over at Inspired by Familia blog. Here are our fabulous bloggers: Inspired by Family, Meaningful Mama, Teaching Mama, Beautiful Messy Motherhood, Happy Home Fairy, Simple home Blessings, The Chaos and the Clutter, Creative Family Fun, True Aim Education and Sunshine Whispers!

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Christmas Counting I-Spy Sensory Bottle

christmas-i-spy-sensory-bottle

Melted Snowman Sensory Bottle

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

In the words of my kids, this is the “cutest sensory bottle ever”! I came up with the idea to make a melted snowman sensory bottle when I was at the craft store and saw an adorable snowman making kit. I imagine what would be left of a melted snowman and found a way to represent it in a discovery bottle.

This melted snowman sensory bottle is adorable!When I set out this year to create a new sensory bottle every month, I worried that I would run out of ideas, but they always come from some inspiration or another.

It’s the middle of November and where I live in Canada, there’s usually enough snow to have built a snowman family in the yard by now but as of today, there isn’t any snow on the ground so this melted snowman sensory bottle really got the kids’ imaginations going.

melted-snowman-sensory-bottle-squareMaterials needed:

  • large empty water bottle (I used a Voss water bottle because I like the shape of them)
  • 5 dry black beans
  • 3 black or grey buttons
  • 2 colourful larger buttons
  • orange sponge, cut into the shape of a carrot
  • 2 twigs
  • small piece of fabric, cut in a rectangle
  • 2x 5 oz. bottles of clear glue
  • scissors

Empty the water from the water bottle and squirt the clear glue in. Add warm water to almost fill the bottle and add the lid back on and then shake the glue and water together for a bit to combine. Little ones are often very helpful with this task!

Add the other items into the bottle. The twigs are for the arms, the black beans for the mouth, the fabric strip for the scarf, the dark buttons for buttons, the colourful larger buttons for the eyes, and the carrot shaped sponge for the nose.

melted-snowman-sensory-bottle Add the lid back on and your melted snowman sensory bottle is ready to use for play. If you have younger children, you may want to hot glue the lid in place so they can’t open it. As with all sensory and exploration activities for kids, adult supervision is of course recommended.

Join our free 5 part email series Sensory Solutions and Activities and get our Sensory System Behaviours Easy Reference Cards.

Christmas I Spy Discovery BottleChristmas Counting I-Spy Sensory Bottle

Snowflake Discovery BottleSnowflake Sensory Bottle

Surviving the Holidays With a Child With Anxiety

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Christmas used to be my favourite time of year. I embraced all of it, the decorating, the crafts, the baking, the get togethers, the festivities, even the shopping. In the past five years of so, Christmas has become more stressful. Several of our kids struggle with the holidays for various reasons. Some of our kids can’t help but to sabotage big days (you can read a bit more about why that is in this article by another adoptive mom) while others find it challenging due to their sensory issues or anxiety.

Christmas is usually a time of excitement and fun for everyone, especially children, but for kids who struggle with anxiety, it can be a stressful time. Here are some suggestions on how to make holidays the best they can be.

The holidays can be a huge challenge for kids who struggle with anxiety. These tips can help.Image Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

Talk to them about it.

Being up front with your kids about the possibility that their anxieties might be heightened during the holidays just makes good sense. One thing that can be very helpful to explain to children is how in our bodies, excitement and nervousness can feel the same. When we are excited, our stomachs can get butterflies, our heart rate can speed up, we can feel jittery and these are the same things our bodies feel when we are nervous. Teach them to take a moment when they recognize those signs and ask themselves “Am I excited or am I nervous?”. Doing this easy exercise can make a big difference. You may also want to tell them that it is normal to feel both excited and nervous at the same time.

Open a discussion with them about how they are feeling about the holidays. What worries or uncertainties do they have? What situations are most difficult for them? What parts of the holidays are they looking forward to? Is there anything that they are especially dreading?

Once you establish how they are feeling about the upcoming holiday preparations and festivities, remind them of their coping strategies. Encourage them and let them know that you believe in their abilities to handle this, but reassure them that you will be there to help them through.

Prepare them.

Children with anxiety often like being given as much notice as possible about what to expect. There are tools you can use such as charts or calendars to show them when the holiday events will occur. This should also be something you talk about with them ahead of time.

It is also helpful to explain in as much detail as you can what to expect at each event. How many people will be there? Will there be a gift exchange? (those numbered gift exchanges where people can steal gifts from others can be a nightmare for our kids with anxiety) Will it be a sit down meal or a less formal one where you make a plate and go sit down wherever? If so, where will your child sit? Will you help him get his food?

Will there be a Santa there? Decorations or lights that bother his sensory issues? Will there be games played? Will he have the option to sit out of the games or activities if they prove to be too stressful for him? How long will you stay?

It is also very helpful for some kids to know that there is a quiet place they can go if it all gets to be too much for them. Discuss with them where this might be. If it is at the home of a relative or close friends, perhaps there is a bedroom that he could go to for some quiet and to compose himself if need be. If it is at the home of someone less familiar or at a venue, perhaps the bathroom or your vehicle (with supervision depending on age) would be more appropriate.

Role play.

The more prepared a child feels for a situation, the less anxiety they will feel. We role play all types of situations here. You can role play how to greet people at the gatherings, how to ask where the bathroom is, interactions with other kids, and anything more specific to the situations they will be in.

One game we like to play before the holidays every year is one that teaches our kids how to graciously receive and thank people for gifts. I place pictures I’ve cut out of magazines in envelopes. I choose some things they would want such as toys and books and some like underwear and socks and others like kitchen gadgets and practical things they wouldn’t want at all (pink doll for a boy or nose hair trimmer for a girl just to add some humour!). We then sit on the floor in a circle and the kids “open” their gifts. As I hand them the envelope, I tell them who it is from and they then say what they would say to thank that person. I teach them that the reply has to be honest and positive and has to include a thank you. Teaching my son with Aspergers how to say something honest about it wasn’t difficult, but honest and still positive took years of practise for him!

An example would be a boy who “opens” a picture of a pink doll from Grandma. He would then say “thank you Grandma. I will be able to use this to play with my sister.” Another would be a child who “opens” the nose hair trimmers…”thank you Uncle Matt. I will share these with my dad!!!”. We’ve had a lot of fun with this role playing game over the years. On Christmas, some of the practise will fly out the window with the excitement and chaos, but some of it will stick.

Say no.

The holidays is a time where the calendar can be overwhelming even to those without anxiety. Invitations for tobogganing parties, carolling, work functions, cookie exchanges, year-end gatherings, family outings, concerts, church events, parties with friends, and more can create quite a busy month. Carefully consider the invitations and then say “no” to some of them. You may even have to say “no” to most of them.

One of our invitations this year was to an adoption agency Christmas party where there was going to be a Santa and we would have had to bring wrapped gifts for each of our kids. Santa would have been something that caused anxiety for one of my kids, comparing their gifts to the gifts of others would have been a major trigger for another, and finding time to shop for and wrap at least five extra gifts (as well as paying for them) would have caused me stress, so that was an easy “no” for me.

Consider what your kids can handle, what types of things they find stressful and use those factors to make decisions about your holiday schedule. There will of course be some events that may not be as optional, but cutting out those that are can make those that are obligations less stressful too.

Getting through the holidays with a child with anxietyImage Copyright: katarinagondova / 123RF Stock Photo

Maintain routine.

It is more important during the holidays than ever to keep the routines intact. Routines are critical for a child with anxiety to feel some sense of control and peace. There will be nights when you are out and can’t keep to the regular bedtime, but when you are home, stick to the routine. Keep bedtimes the same. Keep mealtimes the same. If there is a certain schedule you normally keep, stay with that during the holidays.

For kids who are used to going to school, not having school to go to can throw a wrench in the routine for them. You can lessen the effects of this by having them wake up at the regular time and go through the morning routine of eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, making beds and then choosing an activity that is low stress for your child. Perhaps that is schoolwork or something artistic or perhaps it’s playing outside. Since we homeschool, when I see that the lack of routine over the holidays is throwing my kids off, I will sometimes choose to toss a couple of school days into the holiday week just to get them back on track. It works really well.

Give them choices.

There are of course things that are non-negotiable and expectations that you will still have of your child over the Christmas season, but give them control over a few things. Allow them to choose things that they will see as important such as whether to open gifts before breakfast or after breakfast on Christmas morning. Also give them less important decisions such as whether to wear the red shirt or black shirt to the church service or where to hang their stocking.

Observe them.

You know your child. Watch them for signs that they are becoming too anxious. Listen to the signals they are sending you and earn their trust by acting on those. If you see that they are not able to cope at all in a certain situation, position yourself close to them and remind them of some coping strategies. If you see they are continuing to escalate, it may be time to head home early or take them outside for a walk to give them a break.

Focus on Health.

Christmas chocolates, baking and candy are not part of the Healthy Eating Guide! Be sure your child is getting proper nutrition even through the holidays. Even more critical than that, be sure they are well hydrated. Drinking water helps with anxiety and improves brain function at the best of times, so it is even more important during stressful times. Sleep is another factor to really pay attention to. All of these things contribute to easing anxiety and lessening the chance of meltdowns.

Bring comfort with you.

If your child has a special blanket or stuffed animal that they take comfort in, bring it with you to holiday events. You can also bring sensory balls that they can squeeze when feeling anxious or other items that help them calm down. We have made an anti-anxiety kit for our daughter and many of the items from that can be brought with us anywhere.

What tips do you have for making the holidays less stressful for your kids?

Parenting with Special Needs Series imageI’ve really enjoyed participating in a series with other special needs moms about surviving the holidays. Be sure to read their tips and experiences as well.

Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs | Natural Beach Living

Free Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids | Every Star is Different

Navigating Trauma and PTSD Over The Holidays | STEAM Powered Family

Holiday Myths & Autism | My Home Truths

Visual Christmas Schedule for Special Needs Kids | Life Over C’s

Surviving the Holidays with a Child with Anxiety | The Chaos and The Clutter

Questions Special Needs Parents Face During the Holidays | This Outnumbered Mama

26 Holiday Survival Tips for Autism Families | And Next Comes L

The Year That I Made Santa Claus Cry | Kori at Home

Conquering the Holidays: They Don’t Need to be Perfect | 3 Dinosaurs

Why I Canceled Christmas: What You Need to Know about Surviving Holidays | Carrots Are Orange