I posted a few weeks ago about a countdown to Christmas you can do with your children that was accompanied by a list of festive activity ideas. As I’ve been browsing around and thinking about what traditions I would like to incorporate for my small family year after year, I compiled a list of ideas that I just had to share. Several of which incorporate themes of giving and selflessness that I think should remain at the forefront of the holidays and be taught to our young ones from a very early age. My big dilemma now is being choosy about which ones we’ll realistically have time for each year – if I could I’d do them all! I hope you find something that seems fitting and enjoyable for your family each holiday season!
1. TOY BAG FOR SANTA. Each year your children fill a special bag with toys they are ready to get rid of and give to children who need them more. They leave the bag of toys out by the tree on Christmas Eve and “Santa takes the bag back to the North Pole to shine up the toys and give them to children who need them”. I love this one because it gives our children ownership over the process of cleaning out toys, can be done from a very young age, gets them thinking about others who have less than they do, and its an easy way for mom and dad to keep the house clutter-free. Well, more clutter-free than usual. 🙂 If your children are older you could also have them fill a bag and take the bag themselves to a church drive, hospital, or other cause where their toys could be accepted and donated.
2. PRESENTS FROM MOM AND DAD. Most kids today have entirely more “stuff” than they actually need. Christmas time is packed with gifts from family members and usually their needs are already met thanks to mom and dad. Until our kids are a bit older, we’ve adopted the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” gift giving idea. We get them one present per category. There’s no need to stretch your budget beyond your means to get mass amounts of gifts (especially when they’re little and their favorite toy is a plastic water bottle!).
3. SANTA VS. PARENTS. I really like the idea of having one (or two) special gifts from Santa, and the rest being from mom and dad. I think it will take away a sense of entitlement from some mystical being, and encourages gratitude. Santa still comes, he just isn’t the one that fills under the tree! Plus, for traveling families at Christmas, it would be much easier to hide one or two “Santa” gifts as opposed to hiding all of them!
4. POLAR EXPRESS. I have to do this one. It just seems like too much fun and excitement! On a random night leading up to Christmas, hide “Golden Tickets” in the kids’ beds that are their ticket to your Polar Express. As mom (or dad) gets the kids ready for bed upstairs, the other parent is downstairs secretly popping popcorn, making hot chocolate drinks, and putting them in the car. As the kids climb into bed, they see their ticket and get excited knowing that instead of sleep, they’re going for a fun ride with the family! Put on some slippers and a jacket, and head for the car! Turn up the Christmas music, enjoy your treats together, and drive around looking at all the cool Christmas lights! You could even make a Lights Scavenger Hunt list to enjoy as the Polar Express rides along!
5. CHRISTMAS EVE BOX. Make a Christmas Eve box for your children to look forward to each year. Things to include could be: pajamas everyone wears that night, a new movie to watch, popcorn to make, fun drinks, or even a new board game to play that night!
6. TREATS FOR NIGHT SHIFT WORKERS. The truth is while many of us are fortunate enough to spend Christmas Eve at home with our families, there are many people who have to work the night shift and keep some of our essential places of business and service running. As a family, make a plate of food and treats, and drive them to somewhere you know the workers would appreciate the gesture. It could be as simple as driving through your local 24-hour drugstore’s pharmacy window! Let them know people appreciate their hard work that night!
7. CHRISTMAS COLLECTION JAR. Decorate a fun glass jar as a family, and leave it out in a special place all year. Family members can drop spare change or a few dollars into the jar whenever they feel like it throughout the year, and then at Christmas time you can choose someone or some place that could really use it and drop it off. It could be a family in need, a shelter, school, charity, or religious organization. Consider including a note that explains the tradition!
8. 25 BOOK COUNTDOWN. This one is a no-brainer for the teacher in me – I love it! Over the course of the year watch those sales and collect 25 new books to wrap and open each night leading up to Christmas during the month of December. Can’t afford to buy them? Check several out from your library, wrap them up, and when you’re done you can return them – the element of surprise will still be there!
9. CHAIN LINK OF GOOD DEEDS. Use 25 strips of construction paper and a stapler to make a chain link countdown to Christmas of good deeds. Brainstorm things that would be simple, realistic, and kind to do for others during the month. They could be as simple as “saying hi to a new friend at school” or “calling great-grandma before bed” or “taking our dog for an extra long walk”. Each day you take off a link, and do the good deed you’ve written down. Help our children realize that good, kind deeds can be done in the simplest of ways all the time!
10. KIDS CHRISTMAS TREE. If you’re like me, you love having a beautiful, “adult” Christmas tree in your home. Having an adult Christmas tree and including your kids in the decorating might not mix though! Consider having a smaller “kid tree”. They can decorate it however they want, as many times as they want, and it might be a good place to include all those homemade ornaments they’ve made over the years. It’ll be fun for them to see their ornaments, and you get the best of both worlds!
11. CHRISTMAS SLEEPOVER UNDER THE TREE. This one is pretty self-explanatory. After the excitement of Christmas day, gather all the pillows and blankets and have a family sleepover by the tree! Pop in one final Christmas movie to enjoy together, get in some extra snuggles, and reflect on how much we have to be thankful for. Who doesn’t love a good sleepover?!
Whatever the tradition, I hope you enjoy this time with your loved ones and have a very merry holiday season!