12 Days of Fun (and Cheap!) Christmas Activities for Families
Looking to start some simple yet heartwarming Christmas traditions with your children? These kid-friendly indoor and outdoor activities for all ages will help your family bond over the holidays — without breaking the bank. Also, print our Christmas Fun Checklist full of even more holiday activities!
Make Gingerbread Houses
Making houses out of gingerbread seems to have stemmed from Hansel and Gretel, the German fairytale published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm. So crafting gingerbread houses is one old-fashioned activity to try with your kids, and the possibilities are endless. Follow these instructions for an easy gingerbread house.
Go on a Holiday Lights Tour
There's bound to be a Clark Griswold wanna-be in your neck of the woods! Pile the kids in the car, put on some Christmas tunes, and drive around to homes or neighborhoods known for their over-the-top Christmas lights displays.
Make Wreaths (Real or Paper Ones)
Everybody loves a festive wreath! Take the kids outside for a quick winter walk to gather evergreen branches and pinecones, trim some from the bottom of your Christmas tree, or just buy some at the store. Attach your greens to a foam or wire ring (a bent metal coat hanger works well) and allow the kids to decorate it with ornaments and bows. Or make this preschooler-friendly paper wreath featuring tracings of your child's cute little hands.
Have a Christmas Movie Night
For kids old enough for some extended screen-time, spending an afternoon or evening watching Christmas movies is a must! (You could also spread out your movie marathon over the course of a week.) Let each family member choose their favorite holiday flick to watch with the family. This list of all-time greatest Christmas movies should inspire your choices.
Make Popcorn and Cranberry Garlands
Have some leftover popcorn from your movie night? Upcycle it! Make some homemade garlands for your family's Christmas tree, doorways, or mantle. All you need is a needle and some thread or fishing line. Try using fresh cranberries, too. Younger kids can count out the berries or popcorn to make a cool alternating pattern, and parents or older kids can do the threading.
Play in the Snow
If you have white Christmases in your area, this idea might go without saying. But we can all use a little reminder to get outdoors and play — especially when the winter chill sets in. Remember all the things you did in the snow as a kid (pre-video games!), such as building a snowman or fort, making snow angels, and going sledding or ice skating. There's something more magical about outdoor winter play around Christmastime, so get your clan off the couch!
Bake Christmas Cookies
Peanut-butter blossoms! Spritz cookies! Gingerbread men! There are just too many tasty holiday cookies to choose from. Here are some of our family favorites. Children of all ages can get involved in the kitchen on "cookie day." Younger kids can add pre-measured ingredients, stir the bowl, and decorate cooled cookies. Older kids can pitch in with almost any steps, with your guidance.
Go Caroling or Have a Sing-Along
Yes, some families do still go Christmas caroling door-to-door, including mine! Homes where you know the residents might be more welcoming than total strangers in this day and age. (If you're lucky, you'll be invited in for some spirits and snacks!) If singing in public isn't your thing, a family sing-along at home can be just as fun. Print out this booklet of Christmas carol lyrics.
Attend a Christmas Concert
If your family really isn't musical, leave the fa la la-ing up to someone else. Check out the events calendar at your child's school or in the local newspaper for free or inexpensive holiday concerts, Christmas pageants, and other performances open to the public. Most schools and churches have something entertaining to offer, and it's great to support the local arts.
Craft Homemade Christmas Ornaments
Decorating a Christmas tree is probably already on your to-do list. Make this holiday tradition even more special by adding a new kid-made Christmas ornament each year. Mark the year on your ornaments so that you can keep track of when each cutie was created!
Have a Hot Chocolate Buffet
Mmm... There's nothing like a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a cold December night. Kick it up for the holiday season by making a buffet of toppings for your cocoa. Some ideas include whipped cream, marshmallows, crushed candy canes, shaved chocolate, chocolate chips, and cinnamon dots. Get creative! The kids will love customizing their hot cocoa — a fun and easy activity for Christmas Eve.
Donate Toys to Charity with the Kids' Help
Finally, show your family's giving spirit this holiday season by shopping for a toy or two to give to Toys for Tots or another local toy drive. Since your kids are the toy experts, let them do the picking (within your budget). It will brighten your Christmas and someone else's. Since the kids are also surely expecting new loot this year, go through their toy box together and find the (gently used) toys they're willing to part with for charity. It's a good lesson in selflessness (and moderation!). Merry Christmas!