An Advent tradition can help re-center your family in the midst of a hectic season to focus on the important aspects of the holidays. Here are ideas that take less than 20 minutes to put together for a season full of fun and meaning.

1. Tree of Gratitude.

Counter the “gimme” nature of Christmas by focusing on the things you’re already thankful for. Each day help your kids write or draw something they’re thankful for on pretty paper tags. Hang them on a small Christmas tree or with the decorations on your regular tree. By Christmas, your tree will be a symbol of all the joys in life.

2. Commit to a generous act each day in Advent.

Make a list of 25 acts of kindness on small slips of paper for children to choose from a jar each day. Be realistic! For preschoolers, this might include “open the door for someone,” “feed the dog,” or “help mom bake cookies for the neighbors.” Keep in mind your child’s skill level and interests, and make the projects simple and fun.

3. Candle time.

My standby trick for settling down a rambunctious group of preschoolers is to invite them to help me light the prayer candle. (Practicing good fire safety, of course!) Each evening, gather your family for a few minutes of quiet cuddling. Turn off the lights and help your children light a candle. Read a Christmas book, a devotional or sit and watch the candle glow.

4.Share the gift of love.

Wrap a small, empty box. Pass the box around the dinner table. The person holding the box says one nice thing to the person to their right. It might be a thank you, a compliment or a well-wish. “I hope you get what you want for Christmas.” “I like your hair.” “Thank you for helping me tie my shoe today.” Because the kids are young, they may need help thinking of something to say, especially at first. Through the month this will get easier for them to do. It’s a habit worth teaching!

A word from experience – don’t make a busy season more stressful by trying to do Advent perfectly. It might not work right this year, maybe not even next year. Like everything else in parenting, you’re in it for the long-haul. So if you miss days or have nights where the kids don’t want to participate, give yourself a break. The important thing is you’re taking steps now to help your kids grow into an understanding of Christmas that is rich and meaningful.

Amelia lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter and pets. Together they enjoy spending time in the garden, venturing to new places, soaking up the mountain air and the occasional sock wrestling match.