27 christmas traditions

for families with 

little kids

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  It just loses some points in my book because it’s in the winter.  I’m just obsessed with sunshine you guys.  But Christmas still makes me joyful and warm and cozy inside.  Some of my best childhood memories involved family Christmas traditions.  My dad would dress up as Santa and drive in the streets of Cairo giving out candy to all the kids (that wasn’t creepy back then).  My little cousins would come over to put up our Christmas tree with us while we danced to Christmas songs and drank hot chocolate.  My grandpa would invite all the cousins over and we would have a feast and a sleepover.  It was a blast. 

But then we go through this strange period in our life, don’t we?  It’s like the phase of your life when you’re in a relationship or just married and you want to participate in some of your own family Christmas traditions and some of your spouse’s.  And then some things fall between the cracks.  Old traditions might fall apart and then you start unintentionally creating new ones.  It’s a bittersweet time.  The joy of Christmas is still very much there but it starts to take on a new shape.

Oh but nothing prepares you for the experience of Christmas you will have through your own children’s eyes.  I really didn’t see it coming.  I remember my first child’s first Christmas so vividly.  He was only 6 months old but we surrounded him with gifts and music and magic. (Check out the post I have on what to do with all the Christmas presents your kids get). And the stars in his eyes were a new joy to my heart.  Christmas was so much sweeter and warmer. 

It’s another transition period when Christmas includes babies or toddlers or little ones.  Even newer traditions are created.  But this time, they seem so much more important and precious.  They become part of the culture that joins you as a family and creates memories that will last all the way into their adulthood.  So as a parent of four little ones, now ages 6 and under, I have searched far and wide for the best ideas of family Christmas traditions for families with young children.  Here is a list of my favorite ideas.

  1. Go out and play in the snow as a family and then come inside for a snuggle and hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows. There’s nothing like rosy cheeks, red noses and warm cuddles.
  2. Build a snow man together. It’s so magical seeing him standing there and seeing them so blown away by him (even though sometimes, he looks pretty distorted).
  3. Build snow animals/creatures together. Imaginary ones even.  Give them names and check on them as the weather changes.
  4. Go to the local mall or a local event where you can have a visit with Santa. Don’t forget to take pictures.
  5. Watch a Christmas movie together. Some of my favorite toddler-friendly ones are “Frosty the snowman”, “Polar Express”, “Rudolph” and “Tom and Jerry – the night before Christmas”.  Don’t forget the popcorn. 
  6. Go through a coffee shop drive-thru and pay for the car behind you. Talk to your kids about what you’re doing and why and tell the cashier to say “Merry Christmas” to the driver.
  7. Make and decorate Christmas cookies. This is definitely one of my favorites.  The kids get on a crazy sugar high but then the silence that comes after bedtime is even sweeter than normal.
  8. Build an gingerbread house together. There will be eating of the candy decorations and the frosting before it goes on the house, but that’s ok.  It’s part of the fun – let it happen Mama!

9.  Make your own ornaments and have the kids hang them on the tree. You can buy empty ornaments at many dollar stores and most craft stores around the holiday season.

10. Buy tiny little gifts or treats and surprise them by putting the gifts on the Christmas tree when they’re not looking. I tell the kids that Santa must have come for a visit.

11. Play Christmas songs and have a dance party. Some of our favorite songs are “Silly Santa”, “Santa’s stuck up in the chimney” and “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”.

12. Make Christmas slime. Be careful.  This can get messy.  Prepare yourself and give rules on where it can be taken once it’s made.  I don’t love making slime because of the mess but there’s something so magical about Christmas slime (the glitter maybe).  Here’s the one I’m planning on making this year: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/12/santa-slime-recipe.html

13. Bake a dessert, wrap it, and give it to one of your neighbors. Talk to the kids about why you’re doing this and have them come with you to give their gift.  This is the banana bread recipe I usually use for giving away: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread/ 

14. Have a Christmas camp out night where everyone in your family sleeps in sleeping bags by the Christmas tree. It doesn’t have to be Christmas Eve.  Stay up late, eat cookies and read Christmas books using a flashlight under the blankets.

15. Decorate your home with some tinsel and garland on the staircases or windowsills. Be strong enough to let the kids make some decisions on where things go. 

16. Make salt dough cookies and paint them. When they’re still hot, you can poke a hole through them and turn them into ornaments.  Two activities – boom.  This is the recipe I’m gonna try this year: https://www.learning4kids.net/2012/12/09/how-to-make-salt-dough-recipe/

17. Visit a local Christmas market. We usually leave with a yummy Christmas treat.

18. Have breakfast food for dinner – and eat it on the floor right by the Christmas tree.

19. Drive around and look for Christmas lights around your neighborhood. Have the kids point out their favorites.

20. Go to a Christmas parade. Dress warm and maybe even bring some blankets.  Everything is better when everyone’s warm. 

21. Make a candy cane treasure hunt and make clues for the kids to follow. You can even tell them to pretend they’re elves trying to find candy treasures. 

22. Go skating as a family. It’s even more fun if you find an outdoor rink (maybe one on a lake?).  And of course, don’t forget to finish it off with hot cocoa.

23. Buy ugly Christmas sweaters and wear them together – these make the best family Christmas photos.

24. Start an elf on the shelf tradition that doesn’t need a lot of thinking. You could just tell the kids that the elf will randomly bring out treats when they’re being nice.  Then all you have to do is put a candy cane or a little toy in his hands every once in while. 

25. Do an interview with each of your children on Christmas eve so you’ll have a series of videos you can watch as your kids grow.

26. Get matching Christmas PJs – another awesome family Christmas photo.

27. Another one of my personal favorite winter activities that we do around the Christmas season is sledding. There is only one thing more thrilling than zipping down a snow hill at a million miles an hour with no safety equipment  – and that’s watching your kids do it.

Which one of these is your favorite idea?  Comment below to tell me what other family Christmas traditions you do with your little ones.