Christmas activities for kids- parents are always on the lookout for something new to keep those little ones busy while saving their own sanity. Here are a few ideas that I've actually done in the past--so I know they meet the child seal of approval.
(1) Unwrap a Book Each Night
One of our favorite activities with our children when they were very young was “unwrapping” a Christmas book before bedtime. Parents of little ones will really appreciate the big bang for the buck on this one! Getting kids excited to READ and GO TO BED (especially this time of year) is a life saver. My friend Laura gets credit for telling me about this holiday activity.
- Collect 24 holiday/winter related books- Finding books might seem difficult at first, but it is amazing how fast you can accumulate them as gifts, through used book sales, on clearance, or school book orders.
- Wrap them in various colored holiday paper
- Each night before bed, the child picks a “gift” to unwrap
- This becomes the story for family read aloud time
Enjoy this tradition while you can, they outgrow it so incredibly fast!
(2) Record a Story
My third graders used to love when I played The Polar Express, read aloud by William Hurt in my classroom. There is something so soothing and calming about being read aloud to- every child’s attention was captured.
Taking a tip from my classroom, my husband and I coerced grandparents into reading a story or two out loud and recorded their voices on our laptop. Our kids could listen to their “snowbird” grandparents read to them even though they were miles away, and even better, follow along with the words and pictures in the books.
- Grab about five or six children’s books
- Convince relatives or friends to lend their voices to the project
- Record them on your laptop, iPhone or other device
- Burn a CD for the child to play and supply the accompanying picture books
When my children were older, we put together a CD for their younger cousins as Christmas gifts. One nephew is obsessed with pirates. I bought a few pirate themed books along with an old favorites or two we were ready to hand down. Each of my children recorded a story or two and now my nephew had a very personalized, inexpensive, but priceless gift!
(3) Learn About the Christmas Customs From Another Country or Region
Tired of the turkey and inspired by a recent trip to Italy, my mother decided to host an Italian themed Christmas. Everyone was encouraged to bring something that would fit the theme. She didn’t know it then but she inadvertently started a new tradition which has turned out to be fun and educational.
Over the years, we’ve enjoyed a German, Polish, Italian, Mexican, and Cajun themed Christmas dinner. Cajun was probably the favorite among the men with gumbo, jambalaya, and my poor attempt at a King Cake. Along with the food, we add music and frequently include a new custom that everyone learns about for example, the lagniappe. (Look it up) We have definitely “let the good times roll” by changing things up a bit.
- Get ideas about Christmas around the world on the internet or by visiting the library
- You don’t have to do an entire dinner- one dish or dessert would be a start
- Take advantage of a local offerings that feature the customs of other countries- View the international Christmas trees at Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry. Visit Chicago's own Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza
(4) Expand a Book
Teachers do this all the time- taking a book and adding extension activities like a snack, craft, or game to it. We did something similar one year when the family took a break from the Christmas Around the World idea, and had a very Grinchy Christmas. Everyone is familiar with the story of how The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was a favorite for my son when he was about four. We watched the cartoon over and over, read the book several times, and I even made him a shirt. I took a black sharpie to a bright green t-shirt and freehanded the outline of a Grinch face. It was a natural theme for a family Christmas with a trivia contest and even stolen presents. While the kids were eating dinner, the Grinch stole and hid the presents, left them a note, and it became a hide and seek game of finding them again.
Another idea is a doll or teddybear tea party in the Fancy Nancy or Nutcracker theme.
Choose a favorite book and make a bigger deal of it by adding something to it this year.
(5) See a Play Based on a Christmas Story
Even though this is an extremely busy time of year, it is also the perfect time to enjoy the arts- music and theater. Performances of The Nutcracker are everywhere. With so many offerings, it is easy to find one that fits your budget and your child’s attention span. No sense in taking a pre-schooler to a highline performance when a community production will do just fine. I believe there is a Nutcracker showing locally that allows their audience to eat popcorn. (We all know the power of snacks)
A Christmas Carol has also been a favorite that we never get tired of seeing over and over.
Looking for more ideas, you might also enjoy this previous post on board games.
I have shared a few activities with you- I look forward to hearing what traditions and activities you follow at the holidays? I am hoping to find some new activities for tween and teens, since my children have outgrown most of these. Please comment, tweet, share, “like” on Facebook! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org