Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are the traditions and things we celebrated as a family altogether during the Christmas holiday season at home. My mother, especially, always made it a point to be extra festive and decorate everywhere and involve us in the holiday traditions, even while juggling 3 kids and a full-time job at night. As a mother myself, I try to think about those Christmas traditions and festivities I want to make an effort toward so that my sons will look back on their Christmas memories with a smile on their face. This year is the first year I have one child in school full-time as a Kindergartner, and at home, I am working to balance working part-time and caring for twin toddlers. The holidays can be an expensive time of year, and not to mention, time consuming – what with finding time to shop for everyone, decorate, wrap gifts, and send out Christmas cards. I’m not sure that I’ll get to doing every thing on this list this year, but there are plenty of options to choose from that I know I can fit into our busy daily life to bring them the Christmas spirit.
I am still figuring out the best way, place, and time to put up our Christmas tree so that it isn’t completely sabotaged by a duo of twin toddlers, but in the meantime, I’ve rounded up a list of some inexpensive ideas I have tried with my kids in past years, that are quick and easy for even a working mom of “twins plus one” to try out this December.
1 - Make a gingerbread house – you can find a simple gingerbread house at your local supermarket or pharmacy store this month for around $10 (even cheaper if it’s after December 25th). I let the kids get messy, eat some of the candy, and do our best to put our gingerbread house together. It’s a fun activity that the whole family (even little’s) can engage in that will be fun and memorable.
2 - Christmas cookie cutters to draw OR bake – lots of baking goes on during the holiday season, and holiday cookie cutters are usually available at lots of stores this season, so try picking up a pack and making some cookies, either home made or the store-ready cookie dough. I usually let my younger kids play with some of the cookie dough while sitting on their high chairs, as my older child and I actually do more of the baking together in the kitchen. And if you’re not into baking, then just use the cookie cutters as stencils to do some drawing or coloring.
3 - Read a Christmas Story – find a Christmas related story at your local library or order one on Amazon or pick up in a store and make it a point to read it a few times this holiday season. Our personal favorite this year has been It’s Christmas, David! By David Shannon – it’s a fun, short read, well-loved even by my toddlers with all the bright pictures. You can amp up the creativeness factor and try writing a Christmas story of your own together at home with your records – let them orally say the story, while you record.
4 - Dance party to Christmas holiday music – this is one of my favorite things to do during the holidays. Just turn on the holiday music channel from your local cable provider, or YouTube, or whatever music app you use on your phone or TV (106.7 is our fav radio station). Let the music blast and dance and sing with the kids! Sometimes we get really into it and let our oldest blow bubbles to make it feel like an even more fun Dance Party (somehow I always have bubbles around at home).
5 - Salt dough ornament project – this is a project we do almost every year together that I discovered on Pinterest one year. Salt dough projects are super simple, involving just 3 ingredients, water, salt and flour. We usually do a hand or foot salt dough ornament for our tree at home, grandma, daddy’s office, etc. Mix together 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, and 1.5 cups of warm water and knead for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough and cut it into circles or with cookie cutter shapes, then place your child’s hand/foot into the salt dough mixture. Use a straw to make a hole in the top to hang your ornament later and simply bake on 250 degrees for 2.5 hours. Once it’s cooled off, you can have your child paint it with any shade of acrylic paint. And you’ve got a sentimental ornament for years to come.
6 - Make Christmas cards – have your child write and/or draw Christmas cards that you’ll mail out to close family members this season. And if you’ve bought photo cards, like I usually do, then the kids can help address the envelopes or draw pictures on them. The fun part is taking them outside to drop the cards into the mailbox together.
7 - Dress up and put on a show – use some props around the house related to the Winter holidays (like hats, scarves, gloves, headbands, earmuffs, coats, etc.) and ask your kids to put on a Winter show for you to watch! Let them practice and plan it before show time. If they’re old enough, they may be able to create some of their own props using paper and crayons/markers.
8 - Make a Winter Holiday Nature Box – you can make a box together, label it Winter Holiday Nature Box, or simply use a holiday gift box and take a walk around your neighborhood together to collect items that connect to the Winter Holiday. You can leave this activity open-ended and just include what you see as you go on your walk, or you can create a short list of things to look for, such as acorns, pine cones, evergreen leaves, twigs/branches, etc.
9 - Watch a Christmas Movie as a family – put on a movie one evening for your family to watch together that captures the essence of the holidays – some of the classics include The Grinch, The Elf, Frosty the Snowman, or you can find other holiday movies on Netflix or Amazon Video. I recently found a collection of Christmas cartoons through Amazon Video that are the exact versions of the cartoons I watched in the 90’s, and my son loved the “old cartoons.”
10 - Decorate your home together – even if it’s something as simple as having your child help unwind the tangled lights, or dust off the old decorations you dig up, or even holding and passing the tape to you, let the kids get involved and have “jobs” for helping decorate around the home. You can ask them where they think something should go at home. I let my younger kids play around with a few plastic decorations, while my oldest and I get the rest of the decorating done.
11 - Make hot chocolate – we don’t have hot chocolate very often in my home, so we try to make it a point to make it at least once on a weekend usually. I try to make this fun by buying marshmallows, crushing peppermint, and throwing in some cinnamon, so that my son is part of the “making” of the hot chocolate that we always have Daddy try first.
12 - Make DIY Gift Wrap – just grab a roll of brown paper, spread it out on the floor and let your kids draw or color on it. You’ll have some adorable gift-wrapping paper that will be sentimental and can be used on gifts you wrap for mom, dad, grandparents, or the kids.
13 - Get a personalized video message OR phone call from Santa (or both) customized for your child for free at https://www.portablenorthpole.com/en/home The site (or mobile app that you can download on your phone) offers different kinds of messages for your child: behavior focused, words of encouragement, congratulations, etc. My son always gets a kick out of this!
14 - Track Santa online – this is a really fun idea we tried out for a few days last Christmas season that you can do on your phone/computer at http://www.noradsanta.org/
15 - Cut out snowflakes together – cutting out snowflakes can certainly get messy, but it’s a fun activity that really just involves some white copy paper and scissors, and it’s great for encouraging the development of those fine motor skills in young hands. I used to do this with my middle schoolers I taught every December and hang up our snowflakes as decorations on the windows – you can do the same at home. There are some free printable’s for cutting out snowflakes you can find at firstpalette.com. If you aren’t afraid, you can even let the kids try using some glue and glitter to make their snowflakes sparkle – I think I’ll be waiting a few more years for that though.
16 - Sing happy birthday to baby Jesus with a cake & candles – this idea is to really help my young kids understand that the whole point of Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’ birth, so last year, was the first time we baked a small cake and sung “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, while my oldest blew out the candles. He still remembers this year, that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.
17 - Write & mail a letter for Santa – this idea is a little risky because I don’t want to give my child the impression that writing a wish list to Santa means he will get everything, so we write a letter of thanks to Santa and the ONE gift he would like to receive this year and why. Younger kids can simply draw a picture, or you could scribe for them while they speak their letter to Santa. We address it to the North Pole, and put it in an envelope for Mommy to mail out. You can also plan it out so you bring this letter to Santa during an annual Santa visit/photo.
18 - Look back at old Christmas family photos together – my son loves looking back at past Christmas photos with me, especially the ones of himself crying on Santa’s lap. It’s a quick activity that involves looking through photo albums or even just pictures on social media that you can share with your children of past holidays. He loves when I show him pictures of mommy’s Christmases from when she was little too!
19 - Put up a mini tree in the kid’s bedroom – my mom always put up a small Christmas tree in our bedrooms during December, and it’s something my son loves to do too. We buy a super small, inexpensive one that he helps decorates. It makes for a great “night light” during bed time, too!
There’s enough pressure to do all the things we need to do as mothers, and though I know we wish we could all do everything and more for these little people we love, I hope you get to spend some meaningful time with all your families this winter holiday season and start some traditions together that you will truly cherish for years to come.