What are your best Christmas memories from when you were a kid?
The buzz of the season, parties, traditions, movies, and stories are all things that rate highly among our team. Interestingly, while we remember some pretty cool gifts, they weren’t as memorable as those other things.
For kids, their currency isn’t money or “things,” it’s imagination. The magic of Christmas tends to be hung up in the stories and traditions that grip our imagination, rather than the idea of getting a bunch of presents.
This got us wondering how to make Christmas magical for kids without resorting to buying piles of presents. What can we do that will create fond memories in the years to come?
Here’s our top 12 ideas...perhaps you could even run them as a “12 Days of Christmas” activity!
#1. Become an elf
Giving is a great habit to nurture in our kids, and the Christmas season lends an especially magical touch. You could establish a tradition that at least one day before Christmas, your family acts as “Santa’s elves,” there to make magic for others.
You could even dress up in elf costumes, if your family enjoys that sort of thing. The idea is to give to others, either through your time, service, or physical gifts. For example, some siblings we know spend a day doing Christmas baking before packaging it up to bring smiles to the faces of their neighbors.
While 2020 might look different with social distancing, there might be other ways your “elves” can be of service. Raking leaves, shoveling snow, or helping with other chores might be just what someone in your community needs.
#2. Track Santa
Did you know that NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa for more than 60 years? Just to capture your kid’s imaginations even further, they use a myriad of tools, including satellites and jet fighters.
NORAD gathers a special bunch of more than 1,500 volunteers who also help answer the many questions they get about Santa. How does he manage to deliver gifts to the entire world in 24 hours? According to NORAD intelligence, Santa doesn’t experience time how we do so there is some time travel involved (kids love that idea).
#3. Catch Santa in the act
There are a few mobile apps available that help you to hold onto the magic of Christmas with your kids. What would they say to Santa being caught on camera in your house? Here are some apps to check out:
For further Christmas fun, here are a couple more app options:
- Message from Santa - Kids can get personalized calls and leave voicemails. They can even have a text chat.
- Find the Scout Elves - If your household does Elf on the Shelf (another great way to hold onto some Christmas magic), then your kids will probably love playing games with scout elves, earning certificates and seeing how Santa trains his elves.
#4. Grow a candy cane
Have younger kids? This is a pretty cool idea from “Growing a Jeweled Rose.” Kids get to grow their own candy cane (with the help of an adult) from the peppermint candy “seed” to the sprouting candy cane.
#5. Snowballs -inside or out!
If you live in an area where it snows, don the wooly hats, mittens, and gloves and make the most of winter play. Sledding can be enjoyed by all ages and snow shoeing is manageable starting around age 5. Then of course, there’s the family snowball fight…
What if you don’t live in a snowy region? You can still bring the winter magic by making “fake snow” like the recipe shared here. It is moldable for things like snowman building and the kids will love the feel of it. Indoor snowball fights are a blast (year round) with these balls of fun.
#6. Make your own ornaments
Homemade ornaments are great to give loved ones and often have a treasured spot on the tree for years to come. There are many possible ornament crafts out there, so we’d suggest starting with something that you have the bandwidth and materials for (rather than having to buy lots of supplies you wouldn’t normally have).
One that tends to be popular with kids is any sort of dough ornament they can design, bake, and decorate how they like. There are a few different recipes for this, but here’s a reliable one for baking soda dough.
If you want to go big, creating giant yard ornaments is trending on Instagram and Pinterest this year. You could go for classics like giant candy canes or decorative balls, or throw in a twist to remember 2020 by. Santa in a mask? The elves on Zoom? Below is an example of a simple idea you could involve the whole family in making - give everyone their own pot to decorate!
Another tip is to make it a fun environment when you get into any sort of Christmas craft. Put on music, set the activity up so that everything is easily accessible, tell jokes and make it a good family time. You’ll look at a particular ornament years later and say “remember when…”
#7. Have a countdown
Most kids love being able to check off the days until Christmas. Of course, there’s the traditional Advent calendar, but you could come up with some other creative countdown. Here are a few ideas:
- 25 stories of Christmas (mark them off on a whiteboard or similar)
- Countdown by filling up Santa’s beard (this link has a free printable)
- Make counting down a fun math activity with healthy snacks (see this link)
#8. Try a new “tradition”
Holidays have different meanings and associated traditions in other parts of the world. Kids can enjoy finding out about those different places and trying out a new tradition, for example: a foreign food, craft or story.
You could even work this in as part of your Christmas countdown - 25 traditions of Christmas. They may be fascinated to learn that countries in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Christmas in summer; or that St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in Europe on December 6, where kids leave their shoes outside their doors to be filled with treats.
#9. Create a scavenger hunt
Almost everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. The writer here remembers a Christmas when all the kids spent an hour running around outside, before being led back by the clues to stockings of treats that were hung as the adults watched.
It was memorable, magical, and a great way to keep kids entertained for a period of time!
You could make the scavenger hunt for gifts (like this article from Stuffed Suitcase) or perhaps even to find the pieces to an activity you’re doing, like crafts or baking. Or, what about finding the ornament for the top of the Christmas tree?
#10. Create a magic key
Do you live in a house without a chimney, or a very narrow chimney? Sometimes kids start to question how Santa could possibly get into their house when it’s obvious the chimney is too small.
A solution? The magic key. This is a special key you can either buy or make that only Santa can use to get into your house. You can see a Stuffed Suitcasecraft tutorial for one here.
#11. Have a “special outing”
There are often cool, holiday-themed programs at your favorite zoo, theater, or train station. Or, why not tour the Christmas lights? Many towns put out maps so people know which neighborhoods to tour and admire the lights.
In this time of social distancing, something like a special family hike or snowshoe expedition could also be memorable and magical. Pack thermoses of hot chocolate and everyone’s favorite snacks, then find a beautiful place to hike to and share in the magic of Mother Nature. Consider tying in a Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt to add more fun.
#12. Prioritize family time
We all know that it’s the parents, grandparents, and other loved adults who bring the Christmas magic for kids. One thing they really want is our time.
Over the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the preparations - stressing over food or where you’re seating everyone for dinner. It can really help to take a step back and consider what you can do to make more family time and make it special.
For example, if you’re often stuck in the kitchen for hours, what preparations can you get the kids involved with the night before so that less time is spent in the kitchen on Christmas? Or, what can they help with directly on Christmas Day to allow for more family time?
The holiday season is magical, especially for our kids. These suggestions are just some ways to “hold the magic” for a bit longer. The currency of kids is imagination and it’s the moments that capture them that they’ll remember into adulthood.
Finally, wishing you all a safe and happy festive season from all of us. Remember, it’s not about the grand gestures and huge “things,” it’s the moments together that really make magic.