• Ambra Baldwin Hart

Make It About "Presence" Not "Presents"

The Holidays

Make it about presence….not presents!

This holiday season, the Woodland team would like to encourage you to be mindful of your Presence with your family more so than the presents you may purchase. Regardless of how we celebrate the holidays, we could all be more present in the moment, present with our children, and lean into the joy that can be kindled together.

In the spirit of our take on this season of giving, we have put together a list of ideas that will help you create memories with your children, create joy for yourself and others, and offer ample opportunity for presence.

Family Gatherings:

During your next family gathering, consider a few of these simple suggestions.

  • Leave a basket by the coat closet or front door for your guests to place their cell phones in. By leaving the distractions at the door, you and your guests can be more present for the time you are together.

  • Purchase or create a “chat pack” of cards to leave out on the table for conversation starters. Have questions that kids can enjoy as well as adults, such as “what is your favorite winter activity outside?” Or “what do you remember most from the winters when you were younger?”

  • Have a game day/night with board games and card games. Peaceable Kingdom is a company making cooperative learning games that are very engaging for children and fun for adults as well. Get out some of the classics like Marbles or Pick Up Sticks for a trip down memory lane!

Giving Back to the Community:

Start a new family tradition of giving back to your community during this holiday season (and always). Here are several organizations to consider connecting with this year:

  • 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc


  • Bayview Foundation


  • Centro Hispano of Dane County


  • Goodman Community Center


  • Jewish Social Services


  • Nehemiah


  • Neighborhood House Community Center


  • St Vincent de Paul Madison

(608)442-7200 x424

  • The Road Home Dane County

(608)294-7998 x306

  • YWCA Madison


This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant to offer suggestions for you and your family to give back to our community. We encourage you to contact organizations of interest to see what they may need and how your children can be involved as well. Please remember that while giving during the holiday season is lovely, many of these organizations need support outside of the holidays as well.

More than your everyday “toy”

Let’s face it, we will still buy our kids gifts this season. We have some great ideas that aren’t your average everyday toy that are sure to bring joy to the family this holiday season.

  • Children’s cooking and baking supplies - real tools that are child-sized including wavy choppers, small whisks, rolling pins, measuring cups, kids hot pads, and a cookbook so your child can join you in the kitchen.

  • A flashlight or headlamp, rope or cordage, binoculars and field guides for outdoor adventures.

  • Hammer, nails, a hand drill, a child-sized saw, child-sized work gloves, screwdriver, screws, and scrap lumber for an open-ended building kit. Package it in a plastic tub with a lid for easy storage when not in use.

  • A greenhouse/grow light, small pots, potting soil, and seeds for an indoor growing experience. Lettuce or spinach seeds can grow food indoors for the whole family!

  • A magnifying glass, bug habitat, and insect field guide for when spring comes and you can explore the backyard together.

  • Passes to the children’s museum or other “experience”

  • High-quality art supplies and real art paper

  • A houseplant to care for and watch grow

  • Books, Books, and more Books! Reading to your child is one of the best things you can do for him/her!

“For Small Hands” offers many items for children that you may recognize from the classroom. This company is a “sister” company to Montessori Services, where we often order classroom materials. When you shop with “For Small Hands” you can earn credit for our school to use when you enter the school code 121736 at checkout.

We also encourage you to read this article as it has many many fantastic suggestions!

Regardless of how you and your family choose to celebrate this season, keep in mind that the biggest present you can offer to those you love is your presence. We hope that you will consider joining us in making a commitment to being more present with those around you during this busy season.

Remember - it’s about presence….not presents.


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Tel: 608-256-8076


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1124 Colby Street

Madison, WI 53715

Photos by Kelly McKenna Patterson