The holiday season is officially here, and while as adults, it can be a bit stressful, it's important to remember that for kids, it's all magic. While obviously, the grand finale is waking up on Christmas morning to find all the presents that appeared under the tree overnight, there's a lot of fun to be had in the weeks and days leading up to it, and most of it can be done from home and for free.
Whether it's finding new ways to pose that darn Elf on the Shelf, snuggling up in our PJs for a marathon of our favorite Christmas movies with our kiddos on the couch, or making cookies and ornaments with our kids to spread a little cheer to our loved ones, there are so many ways to make the season a bit more special for our little ones, even if some of our favorite traditions may not be able to happen this year.
Read on for the ways you can make the holidays even more magical this year. 2020 has been a ride, but we can make sure it goes out on a high note — at least, for our kids, anyway.
Elf on the Shelf
If Elf on the Shelf isn't already a tradition at home, this year might be a good year to start. It can be fun putting the elf in various predicaments at night (especially for those of us who love to get creative), and it's even better to see the kids' reaction when they find the elf in the morning. Need a little inspiration? There are tons of Elf on the Shelf ideas out there ready and waiting.
Read Holiday Books
Even if a bedtime story is already built into the routine, why not take the holiday season as a chance to change up the theme? Instead, read books about the holidays like The Night Before Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas together. Bonus points for reading the books together by the tree!
Have a Holiday Movie Marathon
Pop some popcorn, put on PJs (and Christmas socks are a must, BTW) and snuggle up for a night by the tree, watching family favorite holidays movies. There are tons out there to choose from, thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, and more than enough to make this a weekly thing from now until Christmas.
Bake Christmas Cookies
Doing tons of baking should be part of everyone's holiday traditions — who wants to turn down a chance to eat yummy cookies? This time, get everyone on board for the whole process of mixing the batter and decorating the cookies after they come out of the oven with fun icing and sprinkles.
Start a New Tradition
Is there a tradition from childhood that would be great to start now? There's no time like the present! Whether it's finally getting those matching stockings, taking annual holiday family photos, or even something smaller, starting a new tradition is a fun way to inject some extra holiday magic into the season.
There are many apps that will simulate calls with Santa that can be extra magical for younger kiddos who are all about the technology these days and need to get their requests in with St. Nick. And don't forget to also send a letter to the North Pole, of course.
Roast Marshmallows By the Fire
With the weather getting chilly, there's no better time of year to sit outside by a fire all bundled up and roast marshmallows. Eat them as they are or make s'mores — either way, it's a special treat and activity all in one that doesn't happen all the time, and it definitely brings the magic.
Decorate Their Bedrooms
Holiday decorations don't have to stop at the Christmas tree! Bring a little extra magic into the house with decorations in the kids' bedrooms, too — whether that means giving them each their own mini-tree to decorate, a string of Christmas lights hung along the ceiling, or even more.
Take a Christmas Light Walk
Pick a night where the weather isn't quite as chilly as usual, bundle up the family, and go for a walk after dark to look at all the holiday decorations around the neighborhood. Bring hot chocolate (and pets, if they're into that kind of thing).
Wear Matching PJs
Matching Christmas PJs isn't everybody's thing, but let's be honest: It's fun, and this year could use a little extra of that. Have the family vote on their favorite designs, and get everyone all dressed up for a fun night of watching movies and hanging by the tree. Don't forget to take a pic!
Count Down With a Fun Advent Calendar
There are so many Advent calendars out there, filled with everything from candy to cheese to socks to small toys — why not add one to this year's festivities? It's something to look forward to each day in December. Better yet, make one on the cheap with toys or candy from the dollar store.
Make Gingerbread Houses
Making gingerbread houses is super fun, so why not make a reality TV-style competition out of it? Each member of the family gets their own kit and builds and decorates their house (on a time limit, of course) and then upload the pics to Facebook or Instagram for friends and family to vote for their favorite. Whoever wins gets a prize!
Christmas Tree Camp Out
Throw a slumber party for the whole family near the Christmas tree! Build a fort, pitch an actual tent, grab some sleeping bags, or just pile up all the blankets and pillows in the house — no matter how it's done, it'll be magical and memorable. And keep the lights on all night long!
Keep it simple with supplies already around the house, or go to a craft store and pick up Christmas balls or acrylic ornament shapes to decorate with paint, markers, and glitter. Create ornaments to keep, to give away to family, or to exchange with friends who are also making their own ornaments — and depending on the kids' age, this can be as simple or as complicated as needed!
Decorate the House Together
Make decorating the house something that the kids are involved in (despite how much some of us might want every last detail to look absolutely perfect). Even just decorating the tree together can make some great memories. Make some hot chocolate and turn up the Christmas music!
Take Tons of Photos
And make sure to include both posed and candid shots. Making all this magic is going to be something everyone will want to remember ... and looking back on all the pictures years from now is sure to make the holidays in the future even more magical, too.
Write Christmas Cards Together
Chances are high that this year will be a little different than holidays past, and we may be apart from family and friends at a time we're used to spending together. To help ease the distance — and spread a little magic to loved ones — get the kids involved in writing sweet Christmas cards (and drawing pictures) for everyone.
One of the most magical ways to celebrate the season: Take time to truly be present. Sometimes, our kids just want our full attention, as hard as it can be to pull ourselves away from work emails, social media, and everything else that can distract us.
Leave Evidence From Santa & the Reindeer
Leaving cookies and milk out for Santa? Make sure there's evidence that he and his reindeer were there! Santa would probably leave behind a few crumbs... maybe a few boot prints on the floor or some glitter from the Christmas magic he brought. There are so many ways to get creative with this!
Help Them Make Magic for Someone Else
The real magic of the holiday season is making it a special time for someone else — that's why we love making it so memorable for our kids! It's the perfect time of year to teach them the joy of spreading that love, too, whether it's dropping off some homemade cookies to a neighbor, adopting a family in need to shower with gifts, or performing random acts of kindness for one another around the house.