The holidays can be hectic, but it's also a wonderful time to be together as a family. How do parents get holiday tasks done — and...

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The holidays can be hectic, but it’s also a wonderful time to be together as a family. How do parents get holiday tasks done — and involve their kids? The Times asked local parents for ways their kids like to help with holiday traditions. Here are some of their responses, edited for space.

“I have the kids [ages 2, 4 and 6] finger-paint wrapping paper to use for our relatives’ gifts. I also use some of the art projects they bring home from school for wrapping paper. They love it, the family loves receiving it, and it shrinks my pile of art we need to save.”

— Lynnette Muenzberg, Seattle

“We make cookies with our 2-year-old twins (they are actually good at everything from mixing and shaping to decorating and, of course, eating), which the boys help me deliver to various neighbors. Last year, we made Christmas tree decorations together, but the boys slowly destroyed those as they were hanging on the tree (colored pom-poms and sparkles were just too tempting to not-quite-2-year-old toddlers).

— Wendy Fritzke, West Seattle

“Our family drives to a tree farm every year and we ‘help’ Dad chop down the tree. When we get home, we get out all the boxes of decorations, and the kids decorate the tree and help decorate the house. The kids [ages 9 and 5] love to remember the ornaments from all the years before. Also, we put up Santa pictures from every year since our first child was born.

“Another activity is sending out holiday cards to all our friends. My kids love to put the stamps and return-address labels on all the envelopes. Our older son likes to organize the mailing list and label the envelopes for each person. “We also like to make cookies and cut them in shapes of angels, Santa, snowmen, etc. Then we frost and decorate them. This brings back great memories for me, as I remember the specific cookie cutters that my mother had (some of them have been handed down to me) and the great times we had making Christmas cookies.”

Put ’em to work!


More ways kids can contribute to holiday prep.

Cards: Write or decorate cards for teachers and special relatives (so you can check them off your list).

Gifts: Pick out and attach bows to wrapped gifts. Older kids could pitch in on a gift-wrap assembly line.

Grocery shopping: Scan ads to find the best deals on shopping-list items. As an incentive, offer to split savings with them. Help carry bags and put away items in low cabinets.

Cooking: Wash vegetables, shred lettuce, mix ingredients, mash potatoes. Stick toothpicks into chunks of food for appetizers, put out snacks, carry dishes to the table.

Decorations: Set the table, make and decorate place cards, slip cloth napkins into rings.

Entertaining: Greet guests as they arrive; take coats. Older children can take requests for hors d’oeuvres.

Cleaning: Explain how everyone chipping in makes it easier to find time for fun holiday outings. Mix cleaning with decorating (“Once this shelf is dusted, we can hang the garland.”) Offer to pay children for extra chores (money they can use for gifts for friends or family).

Stephanie Dunnewind,

Seattle Times staff reporter

— Heather Ortega, Redmond

“I have a 4-year-old girl who loves to make cookies. She gets to mix in and add ingredients, pick out decorations at the store and decorate a few of the cookies at home. It can be a mess, but I often put the mixing bowl in the sink to catch the lost flour. I give her about six cookies to decorate, and I decorate the rest. The hardest thing is letting go of my perfectionist nature and allowing her to be creative. This year I am going to try ornament dough and see what she comes up with. She also loves to help clean and decorate.”

— Jeanne Portelance, Seattle

“We collect pine cones and evergreen branches from around our neighborhood for our mantel to decorate as fresh garland. It smells good and looks beautiful with twinkling lights. [They also help] bake cookie plates for our neighbors to enjoy and create Christmas boxes to donate at our church for Operation Christmas Child.”

— Tera Jones, Bellevue, mom of a 6-month-old, 3- and 5-year-olds

“We have twin girls, Natalie and Chloe, who are 3 now. Last year was the first year they helped me make a treat to leave for Santa.

Natalie and Chloe love cupcakes, so even though they were just 2, they helped put the paper cups in the molds and helped hold the beater while I beat the mix. After the cupcakes were baked and frosted, they sprinkled the colored sugar on top all by themselves. We also have a Christmas book called “Santa Mouse,” where Santa recruits a lonely mouse to help him deliver presents. Last year, it was their idea to leave a piece of cheese out for Santa Mouse along with the cupcakes. Of course, on Christmas morning they were delighted to see that all of the treats had been eaten.”

— Karen Hinkey, West Seattle