It's just a few days before the midterm elections when I meet Busy Philipps at the W Los Angeles in Beverly Hills. She's wearing a purple dress speckled with pink heart-shaped polka-dots and bubblegum pink lipstick to match. It's not exactly what I had in mind when I imagined meeting the person who I knew best as Kim Kelly from Freaks and Geeks, but Philipps has clearly catapulted far beyond her first TV role into the successful actress, Instagram icon, late-night talk show host, author, and mom of two that she is today.
She's fervently typing on her phone before we begin talking. "I'm trying to post about voting," Philipps tells me before looking me straight in the eyes and offering up a compliment about my skin. I feel immediately at ease as we begin chatting about how she plans on spending the upcoming holidays with her kids and parenting in general. According to her, there's nothing that can truly prepare you for being a parent. "It's all so much harder than you thought it was going to be, and it's so much better than you think it's going to be," she says. However, she has learned a thing or two about being a mom since having her two daughters.
Ahead, Philipps shares some of her family traditions, how she keeps her kids (and herself) from spending too much time with technology, and the best way to approach traveling with young children over the holidays. Here are just a few of the actress's best parenting tips.
On Holiday Traditions
When it comes to creating holiday traditions with her kids, Philipps turns to the classics. They do Elf on a Shelf, they bake, they make ornaments by hand, and they make gingerbread cookies. "We do a lot of baking around Christmastime," Philipps tells me. "We always do a sugar cookie so that the kids can decorate, and, honestly, I use Martha Stewart's recipe for sugar cookies. They're the best," she admits.
Along with a little help from Martha Stewart, Philipps makes a few of her own sweet confections over the holidays, some of which have been passed down through her family for generations. She makes lemon squares, crescent cookies (a family recipe that resembles a Mexican wedding cookie), and a candy called sea foam, which she learned how to make from her grandmother. "She always used to make it for Christmas, so I try to carry on the tradition," the actress explains.
Staying away from technology is also an important part of the holidays for Philipps and her family. She offers her kids at least one activity a day that lets them do something with her hands like using Play-Doh, making slime, or baking. "Just to get them away from the screen and break up the monotony of having no school when you're on holiday," she tells me.
Despite her large Instagram presence and busy schedule, she tries just as hard to limit her own technology use. "I think it's just about making a concerted effort to not always have your phone attached to you, so just kind of break the habit of it," she says. Her trick is to leave her phone plugged in her room while she's home so she can go a few hours without thinking about it.
When she and her kids do use technology, it's usually for something like going on the Michaels Kids website to make their Christmas gift lists. Philipps recently partnered with the craft company and loves finding her daughters gifts from the retailer that are also activities like art kits and Play-Doh.
On Vacationing With Kids
No family holiday would be complete without tackling the often dreaded task of traveling with young kids. Philipps, however, has an unexpected method for dealing with the challenge. "I don't know if this is a popular sentiment, but I think that you need to think about it in terms of it's going to be terrible so anything less than terrible is a win," she says, candidly. For her, it's all about going in with low expectations. "You just have to know that it's going to be a nightmare."
Her tips for surviving? Make sure you have plenty of snacks your kids like in your carry-on and prepare activities that go beyond watching TV or movies because even children get bored of their screens eventually. "Especially on long hauls, there's only so much TV they want to watch, so make sure you have little craft projects," Philipps suggests. Also, specifically when traveling over the holidays, she recommends packing little presents that your kids can open mid-flight.
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Up next: how to decorate every room for the holidays (with only $100 at Target).