It’s easy to get caught up in the consumerism of the holidays. I want to use the holidays as a time to teach my children that it’s not all about toys and presents. Any ideas?
–Charlotte, Gainesville, FL
The holidays are a time for our family to be mindful of our inner compassion. Food and treats are an integral party of holiday traditions. For our family, keeping animals off our plates is the ultimate way we show compassion to farm animals. Of course, there are other ways to show compassion during the holidays. Teaching children to be compassionate to other people will help them connect more to their world and to animals.
We have a cherished Advent Calendar in our house. For our young children who still believe in Santa, our Advent Calendar, otherwise known as our “Kindness Calendar,” is a way to praise our kids for showing compassion throughout the month of December and leading up to Christmas. Each day, our kids do something nice and Santa leaves a note in the Kindness Calendar praising them for their kindness. For example, if my four-year-old sees another child get hurt, they might go and check in on the other child and give them a hug. Or, they could ask a child who is alone to come join them in their game. Little, simple acts of kindness lead to greater acts of kindness. Sometimes I will plan an activity for my kids, too. I might schedule a time to tour our local sanctuary and feed the pigs. We will make a warm shelter for stray cats. My son had his own idea of taping paper toilet rolls together to make a mouse maze for the local rodent shelter. Anything that promotes kindness (heck, even if it means they don’t hit their sister for one single day), I’m all for it!
While keeping animals off our plates is surely a win for the animals, your health, and the environment this season, there are many ways of showing kindness during the holidays. Check out the sample Kindness Calendar below that you can adapt for your own family!
Ask Erika is featured exclusively with Generation Veggie
We are newly vegan, and as I was shopping for Halloween treats, I realized that my daughter might feel completely left out for Trick-or-Treating. What do other vegans do?
—Carlee, Providence, Rhode Island
I get this question a lot from my friends: “Do your kids Trick or Treat”? And, my answer is “Yes! Of course!”
My children do the exact same tradition as all omnivore children—they dress up and go door-to-door begging for treats. Does this kill me on the inside? Sure, my heart dies a tad. I hate the idea that we condone collecting massive amounts sugary, non-vegan candy as something fun. But, who wants to be the party pooper? I may as well be that parent that hands out apples and toothbrushes! I choose to pick my battles. I don’t want to take away a fun night of tradition or being with their friends just because of the food they collect.
My children dress up in their costumes and gather their goodies with their friends. However, when we get home, instead of sorting their candy into different piles—chocolate candy, coconut candy, hard candy, extra-large candy—we switch it up.
We have our own tradition of swapping the treats for toys. I go to a dollar store or Target dollar bins and load up on fun little toy goodies like punching balloons, Hot Wheels, boxes of crayons, coloring books, bouncy balls, or books. Then, I tell the kids that I have an even better surprise for them, and that they have to leave their candy bins in another room. They sit on the sofa with eyes closed in anticipation. I empty their candy bags and fill the same bag with the toys. For younger children, this is just as fun! The kids love it! They get more than the instant gratification of candy and instead get a fun toy they can play with over and over again. Other kids have seen this process in action at our house, and they asked for a toy instead, too!
There are several variations you can do with this concept. If the kids are older, you can swap out all the candy for one big present that they have been wanting for a while. If they are younger children, you can wait until the kids go to sleep and say the “Switch Witch” came in the middle of the night and swapped out the candy. I don’t do this because I like giving the kids their toys right away, but some parents enjoy playing up the concept of a Halloween Witch. If you still want to give candy to your child, that’s not a problem either! Just buy a lot of vegan treats and swap them out when you get home. The young ones won’t notice you doing it at all, and older kids don’t care so long as they get candy!
I believe that as long as your child doesn’t feel like he is missing out on anything, it’s a win-win. Good luck!
Ask Erika is featured exclusively with Generation Veggie
I’m new to this whole vegan thing. I’ve read so much about soy being a great source of protein. I don’t even know where to start. Do you have any suggestions on how to add it to my 9 year old son’s diet?
– Amy, Dallas, Texas
First off, congratulations! It’s always exciting to talk to newbies!
I’m a proponent of simple foods. Stick to whole soy foods, such as soybeans, soy nuts, tofu or tempeh. Fermented soy such as miso, can have a large amount of salt. More processed soy, such as soy patties or nuggets also can have a lot of added salt and sugar.
Another option is to drink your soy. While I prefer the taste of almond milk best, soy milk is a great animal milk replacement with tons of protein and good fats. Make sure that you look for Vitamin D fortified soy milk!
Tofu is so versatile! To start, just buy firm tofu, drain, and cube it. You can add any of your favorite marinades, such as BBQ, and add it as you would cubed chicken to recipes. Then go check out all the amazing tofu recipes on this site for more!
My favorite way to get my soy on? Straight up, soybeans! They can sometimes be hard to find fresh, but it’s easy in the frozen section. I buy them flash frozen, still in the pod. Just boil for 6-8 minutes and serve warm. My kids love squeezing out the beans. Who doesn’t love food that entertains?
Plant Powered Kids – YAY!
Ask Erika is exclusively featured on Generation Veggie
Hi, I'm Erika- Creator of Fresh Start Families, Ask Erika and Mommy of three taste testers!
I hope you embrace a Fresh Start for your family too!