I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
Are you looking for fun activities and traditions for your family to enjoy as you prepare for Christmas this year? Are you looking for ideas that can be enjoyed by toddlers and younger children, as well as older siblings? Are you looking for the best children's books to read for Christmas? Over the years my family has tried out various activities, and particular ones have been requested year after year. From baking, to advent wreaths, to homemade ornaments, to special children's books, and more, here are our top five traditions that have made it into our permanent rotation, and we plan to continue doing year after year—at least while we have a little one in the house.
#1: Unwrap Christmas Books to Read Every Day
Who doesn't love unwrapping a gift? My kids always look forward to unwrapping Christmas-themed books each day and then snuggling up to read them.
- At the end of November I pull out my stash of Christmas books that I have kept stored away the rest of the year. I wrap up a couple of Christmas-related book for each day of Advent (the time leading up to Christmas). I try to select one that is about the Biblical account of Christ's birth and one that is fictional.
- Every day I pull out one wrapped book set and put it under our Christmas tree. (I keep the rest of the "gifts" stowed away in the closet so that my toddlers do not tear into them ahead of time.)
- Each of my children has a different day of the week when they get to be in charge of the holiday activities for the day. The child of the day gets to unwrap the book. We read the stories together.
- Over the years I have accumulated a personal collection of our favorites. Instead of buying the books, you could simply check them out from your local library each week.
Our 5 Favorites for Young Children
We have so many favorite Christmas books, but there are particular ones that my children will grab up and read over and over again. These include:
- The Story of St. Nicholas: More Than Reindeer and a Red Suit by Cheryl Odden is about the the true St. Nicholas. It has beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story line. It is produced by Voice of the Martyrs.
- Christmas Lizard by Cory Edwards is about a pet lizard who climbs a Christmas tree and hears about all the reasons why people think Christmas is important (Santa, getting gifts, spending time with family, etc.) Finally he realizes the true reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus.
- Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner is a fun book about the games snowmen play at night, explaining why they look droopy in the morning.
- Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson is about a mouse who keeps trying to move into the nativity scene and eventually learns who the baby is.
- The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Emma Kragen is a cute book based on the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and features a different set of dogs for each day. It has a surprise twist at the end.
My Favorite Children's Christmas Book for Young Children
#2: Create Something Together Every Day
Under the Christmas tree, the child of the day will also find a gift bag that has some activity for us to do that day.
- Three days a week we make Christmas ornaments. I love Truth in the Tinsel's blog because they have a short Bible passage to read each day along with a craft to make (if you buy the book, that is). What is so wonderful about this is that the crafts are made from materials I already have around my home, and they are crafts that even my 18 month old can do, as well as my 8 year old! We also will make ornaments from Oriental Trading Company or from craft sets I picked up at after-Christmas sales the previous year. We keep some of the ornaments, and we give away some. They look very pretty on top of a plate of home baked sweets! Because my oldest son does not always want to create crafts anymore, he has now taken on the roll of helper.
- Once a week we bake a Christmas treat. I love using very simple recipes that allow for my children to be actively involved in the process, not just in mixing together the ingredients, but also putting decorations on top. I posted my favorites below. I will freeze some of the cookies and then use them to make gift platters for some friends, the library workers, our postal delivery woman, AWANA listeners, Sunday School teachers, and others. This year I plan to also make a weekly visit to our local nursing home, so we will bring cookies there too.
- Twice a week we create cards to mail to widows in our church or to take to our local nursing home.
- Once a year as our activity we decorate a gingerbread house. I love the pre-assembled ones that just require icing and candies to go on top. Everyone works together to make one large one, or they divide in pairs if we have a gingerbread village that year.
Our Top 4 Favorite Cookies and Treats for Young Helpers
- For Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies, young children can dip the cookies in sugar before baking them, unwrap the Hershey's kisses, and place them on the cookies after they come out of the oven. (*Tip: I have been making these for over a decade. Recipes that include shortening taste the best!)
- For Pretzel Rolo Turtles, young children can lay out the pretzels, unwrap the Rolo candies and place them on the pretzels, and then push down the M&M's once they have come out of the oven.
- For Russian Tea Cakes, young children can roll the dough into balls and dip them into colored sugar.
- For Snowman Cookies, use any cookie as a base. (We bake chocolate chip cookies when I have time, or we just use store-bought cookies.) Frost them with vanilla frosting (or icing). Let children make faces using chocolate chips for eyes and mouth and candy corn for the nose.
#3: Decorate the Christmas Tree Together
Every year we decorate our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.
- We invite over any relatives who are visiting. I put on some Christmas music, pull out the hot chocolate and marshmallows (even though it is frequently still in the 70s where I live), and pull out the boxes of ornaments for the children to use to decorate the tree.
- We use mostly non-breakable ornaments, and most of them are homemade by the children.
- The children honestly do delight in seeing what they have made over the years, and they always bring back plenty of sweet memories.
Personal Photo Ornaments
My mother-in-law started giving each of my children a personal ornament each year that had a photo of them in it. Yes, it requires actually printing out pictures, but I can handle doing that once every year. The children love getting to pull out their own photo ornaments and see the progression of how they have grown over the years and get reminded of activities, accomplishments, preferences, etc. from past years.
#4: Celebrate Advent Each Evening
We make sure to emphasize the true reason for the season by celebrating Advent each evening.
- At dinner we light a candle or candles on our Advent wreath. It is simply 4 or 5 candles. Some years we add a fake wreath. We read the designated Bible passage(s) for the day and sing the Christmas carol for the week. Then the child of the day gets to blow out the candle(s).
- Each child gets a turn reading from a lift-the-flap Advent Calendar.
- We end the evening with the child of the day opening up the door on the Christmas Countdown Advent Box. The child of the day passes out a piece of candy (usually an M&M or Skittle) to each sibling and then takes out the ornament to be hung. I would love to someday get one that actually has Christian symbols on it, but we received this one as a gift many years ago. Since it still functions, we continue to use it.
#5: Attend Christmas Functions
We also love taking advantage of all the fun activities happening this month!
- We take advantage of what is offered in our local community. We always attend the Christmas parade. We admire Christmas lights, whether that is through driving through decked out neighborhoods or by attending the Festival of Lights at the state park. Because we live in Florida, we also go to a Snow Festival every year to enjoy the faux snow!
- We also love to party with friends! We usually host and attend Christmas parties such as cookie swaps. Another one of our favorite parties was my friend's Birthday Party for Jesus event that included a "Florida Snow Fight" using flour. Each family brought a 5 lb. bag of flour and goggles, which occurred after we read about the birth of Jesus & enjoyed birthday cupcakes.
Do You Know the Real Reason for Christmas?
© 2015 Shannon
I'd Love to Hear from You! What Is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?
Shannon (author) from Florida on November 26, 2018:
firstname.lastname@example.org on November 26, 2018:
Wow! Great ideas!
Shannon (author) from Florida on December 02, 2015:
Thank you so much for the kind comment!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 02, 2015:
These ideas are truly fantastic. I like the celebration of advent every dinner time.