Holiday Traditions from Around the World

Family Holiday Traditions

According to Webster’s, a tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. Traditions are so special and so unique to each family. There are traditions that many families do, and many traditions that only a few families do. My favorite of our family traditions is matching pajamas. When I was a little girl, probably around 5 or 6, my mom made matching night gowns for the two of us, and my teddy bear, Brownie. I can still see the royal blue paisley pattern and feel the weight between my fingers of the quilted fabric. Those jammies were my most prized possession, and years later got an honorary square on my t-shirt quilt. Every year since then, my mom and I have done matching pajamas for Christmas. Over the years we’ve added a couple sisters in law, kiddos, and my brothers to the tradition. It makes for silly pictures and a nice memory for the whole year whenever we pull the pajamas out of the drawer.

Here is a list and a little background of some favorite Holiday traditions from around the world:


  1. Find the Pickle: Origins of this tradition are thought to come from Germany but have also been said to come from the United States. Some families will hide a glass ornament pickle on the tree. The family member that finds the pickle on Christmas morning, receives an extra present.
  2. Three Kings Cake: There are many traditional foods and sweets associated with the Holiday season. “The Spanish have a tradition called Roscón de Reyescelebrated on January 6, during celebrations of Día de reyes (Kings’ Day), to commemorate the arrival of the 3 Wise Men. This Christmas cake is usually topped with crushed almonds, candied fruits, and powdered sugar, and sometimes stuffed with whipped or almond cream. There’s usually a baby Jesus figurine (or a dry fava bean to represent him) stuffed inside the cake, and the lucky person who finds it gets to buy the following year’s roscón.”
  3. Book Exchanges: This is sometimes seen in classroom parties but is also very common in Iceland where people will exchange books on Christmas Eve, then spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. The tradition is part of a season called Jolabokaflod, or “The Christmas Book Flood.”
  4. Gifts From the Wise Men’s Camel: In many cultures, gifts are given to children from different ‘people.’ In my family, we receive socks from Frosty every year. “Syrian children receive gifts from one of the wise men’s camels, purported to be the youngest and smallest in the caravan, who fell down exhausted at the end of the long journey to Bethlehem.”
  5. Advent Calendars: Advent calendars start on December 1st and are a countdown to Christmas day. They come in many different forms from a small set of drawers with small trinkets, to pictures with chocolate inside. The first known Advent Calendar can be traced back to 1851.
  6. Yule Goat: The Yule Goat is a Swedish tradition. The goat is made of straw and believed to help guard the Christmas Tree. Straw is a typical Christmas decoration in Scandinavian homes, as it represents Jesus being more on the manger.
  7. Christmas Lists for Santa: Writing wish lists for Santa is a common tradition in the United States. Children send them by mail, hand deliver them, give them to their elves, or have their parents send them to the North Pole. In Germany, it is traditional for children to decorate their Christmas lists with pictures and then leave them on the windowsill overnight.
  8. Trimming the Tree: Christmas Trees are decorated differently from home to home, some with tinsel and garland, some with popcorn strings. In Finland, families decorate the holiday tree with geometric mobiles made from straw.
  9. Parades: Parades are a tradition in many cultures with floats, music, and small prizes or candy given to children. In Jamaica an extravagant parade takes place called Jonkanoo also takes place after the traditional “Grand Market” celebration which is a festival and market that is filled with shopping, eating, and lots of dancing.

The beautiful and wonderful thing about traditions, is that they are unique to each family. They are ever changing and evolving and are for everyone. Here’s to wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and amazing memories from your family traditions, new old and ever changing!




November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Nearly 30 million children and adults in America are living with diabetes and another 86 million are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The disease is taking a devastating physical, emotional, and financial toll on our country. If you are fortunate enough to not already be battling this disease, please take these preventative steps to help your family stay healthy.

  1. Get more physical exercise—Exercise can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and boost your sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range.
  2. Get plenty of fiber— It may help you reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control, lower your risk of heart disease, and promote weight loss by helping you feel full. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Go for whole grains—Whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat,

including various breads, pasta products, and some cereals. Look for the word “whole” on the package and at the first few items on the ingredients list.

The signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in children usually develop quickly, over a period of weeks. Look for:



20 Ways to Give Thanks

With the Holidays upon us and Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted to share with you a few ideas how we can show thankfulness this holiday season. Spreading joy and doing something nice for others is fulfilling and can be a great lesson for the whole family. Children learn best from watching your modeled behavior. Below are a few things that you can do with your children, and a few things that you can model for them to teach the importance of showing gratitude and thankfulness.


I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! Please be safe in whatever way you choose to spread some joy and thankfulness this Holiday Season.


How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences are typically held twice a year, which may look a bit differently this year. At AppleTree & Gilden Woods we will be conducting 10-minute conferences by phone to ensure that each family gets a chance to touch base with their child’s teacher. Whatever your conferences may look like this is a chance to get one-on-one time with your child’s teacher to give and to get insight into your child’s progress socially and developmentally. Here are a few tips to make the most of your Parent-Teacher Conference.

How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

  • Tell your child’s teacher about your child. You are the person that knows your child best. Be sure that your child’s teacher knows everything that they need to be able to best care for and educate your child.
  • Share things that are happening at home. If you have recently had a family member move in to live with you, had an illness in the family, or other life change (i.e. divorce or new baby), let your child’s teacher know. This will help your child’s teacher be prepared to support your child cognitively or emotionally as needed.
  • Be sure to ask questions both about cognitive skills and social skills. Attending AppleTree & Gilden Woods isn’t just about education, it’s also about the forming of early friendships and learning to play and learn cooperatively in a group.
  • Discover personal strengths to encourage and develop in your child. Personal strengths will be skills and interests that your child will take beyond school.
  • Request areas that your child needs to improve in. Be open to this constructive feedback and don’t be defensive. These meetings are opportunities where teachers can note something that your child needs support to master before it becomes anything more. After the conference, consider ways that you can help to support your child to improve. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher or the Program Director for ideas of resources to extend learning from school to home.
  • Make notes & be prepared. If there are things that you want to be sure to touch base with your child’s teacher about, write them down as you think of them before your conference so that you can be sure to make the most of your time with your child’s teacher.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a follow-up meeting if necessary. If the conference isn’t long enough to discuss your items, be sure to talk to your child’s teacher or the Program Director to schedule another focused appointment. Drop-off times in the morning can often be rushed and won’t allow both of you to be fully focused on the conversation.

Child-friendly Kitchen Gadgets

Meal time is a wonderful way to spend quality bonding time with your children. Invite your children to help with age appropriate tasks in the kitchen the next time you are preparing a meal. Below are fun kitchen gadgets that can help bring some silliness into the kitchen and promote playfulness and use of the imagination. Always use your best judgment when allowing your children to help in the kitchen and make sure that the utensils used are age appropriate.

Try these family shaped baking tools and play dolls all while preparing a delicious meal with your children.

These colorful fish shaped measuring cups are sure to bring a smile to your young chef’s face.

This dinosaur pasta scoop is perfect for the budding paleontologist in your family.

This monkey riding a unicycle makes the perfect pizza cutter.

These bear paw oven mits will be more for the adult but are sure to get a giggle from your children!

Let your child help set the time and practice numbers by using this adorable pig timer.

Keep the fun in cookie baking with this adorable dancing pigs rolling pin.

Turn breakfast into story time with these different shaped molds for fried eggs!

Fall Family Bucket List

Fall is upon us! The mornings are cooler, the sun is setting earlier, and the leaves are starting to show us how beautiful they can truly be. It’s time to break out the boots and scarves and get ready for one of the best seasons mother nature has to offer! We are especially lucky here in Michigan that we are able to experience fall to its full potential. Below is a Fall Family Bucket List to help you and your family enjoy every aspect of fall. Print off this list or make your own with your children and have them check it off all season.

Helping Your Child Develop Friendships

It’s back to school season and often with the start of a new school year comes a new set of classmates. Although there may be some familiar faces in your child’s class there are likely some new faces as well. For some children, meeting someone new is an exciting opportunity to make a friend! For other children, making a new friend feels a bit out of their comfort zone.

Have you ever wondered how you can encourage your child to make new friends? Developing the skills to make friends comes with time, however there are some things you can do to help your child establish and strengthen those skills.

The best way to teach children about the skills for developing friendships is to model them, or in other words practice what you preach! It’s important to talk with your child about these practices but follow the conversation with a real life example to help reinforce the concept. Again, these skills take time for children to develop, however with these tips you can support your child in establishing new friendships.

Nurturing Meaningful Conversations with your Children

Do you ever ask your child a question only to get a one word response? They get home from school or a play date and you are excited to hear all about their experiences! All you’re looking for is a simple conversation that is somewhat meaningful and yet all you get in response is “good.” There’s a chance that we are asking the wrong questions. Of course we want to know all about school and all about the play date, but we are giving them the opportunity to end the conversation short by asking a question that requires a one word reply, otherwise known as a closed-ended question. We need to try and ask more meaningful, open-ended questions.

When adults ask children open-ended questions it provides them opportunities to expand their language development (verbal, receptive and written) and learn vocabulary. It also allows children to share how they think or feel. There is no right or wrong answer. When adults listen to children’s responses and continue the conversation it validates the child’s thoughts and feelings. Children’s creativity and problem solving skills can also be developed as a result of being asked open-ended questions.

It can be difficult breaking the habit of always asking closed-ended questions. Here are 10 examples of open-ended questions that may help adults break that habit!

September is Safe Sleep Awareness Month

September is National Safe Sleep Awareness month. At AppleTree & Gilden Woods we are committed to providing infants with a safe place to grow and learn. For this reason, AppleTree & Gilden Woods have a policy in safe sleep practices for infants to also include providing a safe sleep environment and ensuring all teachers are trained on safe sleep annually.

We support and respect your parenting decisions but want to make sure you take this opportunity to learn important information to help keep your infant safe.

SIDS stands for sudden infant death syndrome.  This term describes the sudden, previously thought unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year of age.  Some people call SIDS “crib death” because many babies who die of SIDS are found in their cribs.  But, cribs do not cause SIDS.  SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age. Studies show that breast feeding is associated with reduced infant deaths.  Here are some important tips for reducing the risk of SIDS.

Where is the safest place for my baby to sleep?

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep, not in your bed.  Place the baby’s crib or bassinet near your bed (within arm’s reach).  This makes it easier to breastfeed and bond with your baby.  The crib or bassinet should be free from toys, soft bedding, blankets, and pillows.

Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows the Safe Sleep rules.  Tell grandparents, babysitters, childcare providers, and other caregivers to always place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.  Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, even for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS—so every sleep time counts!

Free educational materials, including brochures, posters, decals and DVDs, can be accessed at:

5 Creative Ways to Make Bath Time Fun

Bath time can be a struggle. Whether you have a brand new baby, a rambunctious toddler, or a curious preschooler at home, a number of challenges can arise when it comes to bath time. Your child may know that this signifies bedtime and not be ready to wind down. They want to play one more game. They need a snack. Now their thirsty. Maybe your child just really does not like water. Whatever the cause may be, as a parent, we all know that sometimes it can be difficult. Even if you are one of the lucky ones with a child who loves a good bath, these tips are for you as well.

Bath time can be a great bonding time for you and your child and it can lend itself great learning moments. Here are five creative ways to make bath time fun for your children, and to capitalize on the little moments that make the best memories:

1. Spray Paint Bubble Bath: All you need is some food coloring, a few spray bottles, and some bubble bath. Add some warm water and just a drop or two of food coloring to the bottles. Shake well. Food coloring is completely safe but may seem like a messy option. Adding it to warm water will dilute it enough to avoid staining. Run the bath and add a healthy amount of bubble bath for optimum fun. Let your little one spray the bubbles and paint them all different colors. They can swish the bubbles and water around for a beautiful moving piece of art. The little ones will love this fun and easy bath time activity.

2. Glow Bath: For a fun sensory experience, turn off the lights, and let those bubbles glow! For younger children, add a bunch of glow sticks to the bath and turn off the lights. Check your glow sticks before adding them to the bath to ensure there are not any holes. We do not want the contents to leak into their bath. This is a simple yet effective way to make bath time a little different and a lot exciting. For your older children, make glow paint. For glow paint, all you need is washable fluorescent paint that you can find at any craft store, and shaving cream. Mix the two ingredients together and let your child’s creativity emerge. With shaving cream, it is important to be careful of sensitive skin. You may benefit from testing it on a small area of your child’s hand first before submerging them in the bath with it.

3. Ice Fishing: An ice-fishing bath is easy and fun for your child and can be altered to accommodate different developmental benchmarks and ages. To make your ice-fishing bath, all you need is to freeze some bath toys in a small container. Once you place the ice in the water, the objects will slowly emerge. This is where you can cater this activity to your child’s needs and likes. One idea is to add bath letters that spell out fish, for a fun word scramble. An ice-fishing bath is fun for all ages and is an exciting twist to bath time.

4. Pool Noodle Play: This activity is so simple and so fun. Cut up pieces of a pool noodle for a terrific water sensory activity. It is important to find the easy, fun way, when it comes to engaging and teaching your children. This activity is quick and easy to set up. It allows your child time to explore water, patterns, and color. Children love exploring things that float. You can even add things that do not float to push through the noodles. The variations and possibilities are endless with this stress free activity.

5. Themed Bath Night: Adding a theme to bath night is a simple and fun way to spice up bath time. Use objects that you have around the house; you could even let your child pick the theme or help pick out the toys. Add the toys to the bath and let their imaginations go. Letting your child play with toys in the bath that are not always bath toys will add an element of excitement to the activity. The possibilities are endless with this one: Color Night, Dinosaur Extravaganza, Pool Party, Car Wash, “Food” Fight… the list could go on.

You are now prepared to bring a little joy and a lot of fun to bath night!!

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