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25 fun holiday activities
How to embrace the season and reconnect with family
The holidays are a special time for families: Seeing a child’s face light up at a display of holiday lights. The delicious smell of cookies and your partner sneaking one more from the tray. Holiday activities and traditions that connect with every generation. Opening gifts and seeing faces of joy and gratitude.
Yet these holiday family activities can also be a point of stress. Between the presents, the special occasion clothes and the food and beverages, the holiday season can get expensive. Plus, how are you going to keep the kids busy for two whole weeks of vacation? The holidays are a time for reconnecting with family, revitalizing your own energy and renewing your appreciation for the gifts of life. But to truly experience that, you must eliminate stress this holiday season.
How? First, make sure your holiday spending plan is in order. Then take a minute and get creative. Get your kids off their phones and make some precious memories together with these free (or very cheap!) and fun holiday activities.
1. Make gingerbread houses
Gingerbread houses are one of the best holiday family activities you can do with your partner or family members of any age. If you have the time, skip the pre-fab houses from the supermarket and make your own gingerbread.
2. Holiday lights tour
Put down your devices and be fully present as you walk or drive to the best-lit houses in town and let everyone decide which houses are their favorites. Make your trip extra cozy with a Thermos of hot chocolate and some holiday cookies as a snack. Stay in the here and now: you’re making memories.
3.Pinecone bird feeder
This kid-favorite is super simple. Let your child hunt for a pinecone, then slather it in peanut butter and roll it in birdseed. Hang from a tree or bird feeder (preferably near a window) and watch out for delighted birds (or squirrels, as the case may be).
4. Decorate your front door (or your child’s) like a present
With a bit of wrapping paper from the dollar store and either a ribbon or bow, your front door is transformed into a giant gift. Break out the glitter, markers and stickers, if you dare!
5. Holiday movie night
The movies you watch with your children will become future traditions for them to share with their own children. So gather round with a bowl of air-popped popcorn or pistachios and select your favorite holiday movies for a night that’s sure to please the whole family.
6. Popcorn and cranberry garland
Popcorn garlands double as a fun family activity for older children and an inexpensive decoration for the tree. Add some color to your popcorn garlands by using red cranberries, and ask your loved ones to help you drape the boughs with festivity.
7. Red and green paper chains
Crafts can easily be turned into fun holiday activities that also cultivate gratitude. Cut and glue strips of red and green paper to create a paper chain to hang indoors. On each “link” in the chain, write something you are grateful for.
8. Go caroling
Music transforms our mindset in just a few seconds – and those who cannot easily get out love to have visitors bring them a bit of holiday cheer. Ask your kids what carols they’ve learned and print out the lyrics for a few songs before heading to your local hospital or nursing home. You’ll bring joy to many hearts and stay warm inside at the same time!
9. Attend a holiday production
If you know a young person in school, chances are they will have a holiday performance. Support them, and their school, by attending. This is also an excellent way to express your gratitude to teachers and even friends who are involved in theater or performance groups.
10. Make ornaments
Making your own ornaments can create sweet memories you can pull out year after year, and they cost next to nothing. Bake gingerbread men and punch a hole in the top for a ribbon to hang before you bake. Or create ornaments out of cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks or even fruit.
11. Play in the snow
When was the last time you truly let snow bring you joy – instead of getting caught up in the shoveling and salting? If you are blessed with snow this year, make the most of it! Snowmen, snow angels, snowball fights and snow forts offer hours of fun for all ages.
12. Donate gently used toys
Holiday activities are a great opportunity to instill empathy and caring in your children. Before the kids get new toys, have them go through their playthings and pick out a few gently-used items to give to a child who could use the comfort of a new toy. Gather up the selected toys and donate them to a women and children’s shelter.
13. Send holiday cheer to soldiers stationed overseas
Fun holiday activities can involve both family bonding time and giving back. Send a bit of holiday joy to a soldier stationed overseas by having your kids make a few holiday cards.
14. Advent calendar
An inexpensive advent calendar will give your kids something to look forward to every day in the countdown to Christmas – and provide a fun family activity you can do every single day.
15. Paper snowflakes
Paper, scissors and some strategic folds and cuts are all that are required for the beautiful creations that will soon grace your windows or walls. Make them into a chain and bring them to friends and family as an affordable, personalized gift they’ll love.
16. Make cookies or other holiday treats
Although you may not want to keep too many treats in the house, there may be others who would love the kindness of home-baked goodies. Consider those who may not have family nearby or have to work over the holidays.
17. Holiday party games
If you’ve got an older group of kids, then gather round the table or fire and have a night of fun for free with holiday party games. Or create your own family traditions, like Tony and Sage have done.
18. Write letters to Santa
If your little ones believe in Santa Claus, have them practice their letter-writing skills with a letter to the North Pole. With the Greetings from the North Pole Post Office program, you can even get a letter in reply, complete with a North Pole postmark!
19. Visit a living nativity
If you want to participate in religious Christmas activities for families, see if there is a living nativity to visit near you. Often churches or local theatre companies will put one on for free or a minimal entrance fee.
20. Make colored play dough
You can make your own play dough out of flour, salt, and cream of tartar, plus water and food coloring. Young kids will love playing with red and green (or blue and white) play dough, and you’ll love that it’s cheap and free of scary chemicals.
21. Holiday books from the library
Save money and have fun taking the family to the library to pick out a pile of holiday books that can be read over and over again before being returned. Make a note of favorite books and buy them when they’re discounted after the holidays.
22. Sit on Santa’s lap at the mall
No list of holiday family activities is complete without a visit to Santa. Head down to your local mall to snap a picture of your little ones with Old St. Nick. The pictures are often affordable – and worth it.
23. Have a family slumber party under the tree
Young children love “camping” indoors, so grab pillows and blankets and spend the night sleeping underneath your Christmas tree. You’ll create memories they’ll cherish forever.
24. Have a fancy dinner
If you’ve already bought the clothes for other holiday events, you may as well have fun getting to where the fancy grab again. Light candles, turn down the lights and enjoy the giggles of a special night. The best part? This activity works with your whole family or to reignite the spark with your partner.
25. Roast marshmallows or chestnuts
Try your hand at roasting chestnuts or creating a new memory by (carefully) roasting marshmallows in your fireplace. Put on “The Christmas Song” and sing along for extra effect.