Many thanks to Monica Wiedel-Lubinski, who is guest posting for us today. Monica writes a monthly post for (cool) progeny, reminding us all how to get back to nature with the little cuties in our life.

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Despite the chilly weather, a heart-felt feeling of gratitude warms the soul this holiday season. After all, everyone has something to be thankful for. Love and gratitude is what the holidays are supposed to be about, right? So forget the commercial hype for a while and try these tips which encourage your family to express appreciation for blessings big and small.

Make a list, check it twice. As a family, write out a list of things you are grateful for (favorite blanket, mom’s chocolate chip cookies, or kisses from baby sister). Little kids can “write” or draw pictures on the list. Hang the list in a special place where family members will see it frequently. Older kids could write words of thanks on small stones and place them in a garden or flower pot. In the spring, plant something that will help your gratitude to blossom and grow!

Give to others. Send family members on a mission: fill up a bag with items you don’t need or use anymore. Think toys, books, clothes, food, etc. Make a family trip to donate these gently used items to a local shelter for people or animals. It’s a great way to recycle, plus there’s a bonus: we all feel more grateful for our creature comforts when we realize how much we take for granted.

Remember those who help you. There are many people who make life easier, like the people who collect garbage or deliver mail whether it’s one hundred degrees, raining, windy, or below freezing. Teachers, doctors, and dentists also help us on a regular basis and deserve our thanks. Take time to say “thank you” by writing a card or leaving a basket of special homemade treats.

A neighbor in need…Even if you don’t know your neighbors (or, especially if you don’t know them!) make a gesture to acknowledge them during the holiday season. Cut paper snowflakes from the cartoon pages of the newspaper or use recycled gift wrap and write a sweet poem or uplifting quote. Leave the snowflakes on the front door for a downright neighborly surprise!

It’s a wild life. You can encourage your children to develop respect for your local wildlife by providing nourishment for animals in winter. Use a pinecone, bagel, or stale heel of bread to make a bird feeder. Tie a piece of twine or raffia onto it first, and then slather the feeder with nut butter or shortening. Cover your creation in birdseed and hang outdoors for the animals to enjoy.

Keep them near and dear. Make a point to tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Go beyond a routine “I love you,” and state specifically what makes you feel grateful or loved. Not feeling chatty? Write a love note! Use ribbon or yarn to fasten twigs into picture frames, which can display your special messages of love.

As you share gratitude for the things you cherish, the winter doldrums will melt away. Enjoy this beautiful, snowy season and celebrate your blessings with the ones you love.

Monica Wiedel-Lubinski is the Director of The Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center. For more great ways to share nature with your children, visit www.ExploreNature.org.