Christmas Traditions for Kids
If you have fond memories of Christmas and all the hullabaloo that leads up to it, I can bet you want your kids to feel the same way! Whether you’re just getting started with your family or just need new ideas for making Christmas special, I have some suggestions for fun Christmas traditions for kids that will make this, the most sparkly of seasons, SUPER magical!
We have a bunch of December traditions with our kids, but it has taken a few Christmases of experimenting to find the ones that work best for us.
It turns out that all the Christmas traditions that seemed so effortless when you were a child took a little bit of planning on the part of your parents. (OK, A LOT of planning. But I have so many treasured memories because of them, and they taught me the true meaning of Christmas. So, it was all worth it! (Thanks Mom + dad!)
In this list of traditions, you’ll find many that focus on teaching the true meaning of Christmas and many more focused on making fun memories together as a family.
I like to include a blend of each for my family, but every household is different. It is only important that you pick the traditions that are meaningful to you and the ones you love. Prepare to get in the spirit – we’ve got a great list ahead!
25 Christmas Traditions to Start with Kids
With so many ways to celebrate the holiday season, I’ve put the traditions into groups to help you find the information you’re looking for – and get your Christmas wheels turning!
By no means do I do all of these traditions every year with my own family. (Hint: You don’t NEED to do a tradition every single year for it to be a tradition or for you to make good Christmas memories with your family.)
It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg or be stressful. Those are the last things you need at Christmas, right? I’m all for keeping Christmas simple and frugal.
Consider this list as a place to jump off into the deep end of what is Christmas planning when you have kids. Ready, set, jingle!
Christmas Traditions to Start With a Baby
You don’t HAVE to start a Christmas tradition when your kids are babies. You can start at any time. (In fact, my family has introduced plenty of new traditions in the past few years, even tho we’re all adults now!)
You’ve never lived too many Christmases to start a new tradition with people you care about. It is never too late to bring some extra specialness to Christmas.
That being said, there a so many incredibly touching traditions you can start with your baby and continue as your children get older. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Family photo with cute matching pajamas
It is so much easier to take a nice Christmas picture when you’re all wearing matching pajamas! No need to color-coordinate several articles of clothing across family members. Besides, it’s super frugal because you’re not wasting money on fancy clothes you might not wear again. And, c’mon, it’s super cute!
Open a gift on Christmas Eve will be a favorite tradition for kids
It’s so special to open a gift under the twinkling tree, with the magic of Christmas Eve all around. Here’s an idea: If you don’t do Christmas pajama photos, then this gift could be a nice set of pajamas! This way, in the morning, when you’re busy capturing all those Christmas memories, everyone looks cute in their PJs.
Skype call to far-away family
Being away from family during the holiday season can be really hard. If grandparents or other loved ones live far away, you can still make them part of Christmas tradition. My husband’s family is overseas from us, and this allows us to spend part of the day together, and the kids get to tell them all about their new gifts.
You can plan to have dinner together or dessert by bringing your computers right to the table. Or “meet” under the tree to open gifts from each other during the call.
Buy a special ornament each year
A new ornament to commemorate each Christmas with your child will grow your ornament collection. It will be something your child will treasure as they enter adulthood. We put ours in stockings for Christmas morning, and when we take the tree down, everyone’s ornaments go into their stocking to keep them ready to go for the next year.
Salt dough fingerprints and footprints
Salt dough ornaments are inexpensive, easy to make, and last for years. You can press your baby’s finger (or foot or hand) into them before baking to capture just how tiny and precious those little prints are. They can be painted to add some pizzazz or left plain, depending on your style. (Handmade ornaments make great gifts, too!) Even tho this is a Christmas tradition for kids, it’s also sort of for parents… you KNOW you are gonna treasures these prints!
Christmas Traditions for Families with Kids of Any Age
While the traditions you start with your baby are worth continuing, there are some fun Christmas traditions for kids that you just can’t pass up. Most of these can even be done with toddlers with a little help from mom and dad.
Elf on the Shelf
OK, not everyone’s going to love this one. (It’s not for me… Jill has some great elf ideas, however!) Some parents just love the elf, and some want him to go right back to the North Pole. One thing is for certain; if you do decide to do the elf, be ready to commit! This tradition is one you can’t just set aside one year and pick up the next, and you need to remember to move it. Every. Night. Make a game plan before you get started on this one!
Kids of any age can help make Christmas cookies. Younger kids might stick to the stirring and the decorating, while older kids might be ready to try a recipe of their own. Either way, set aside a day in December to make Christmas cookies. Sweet treats and Christmas just go hand-in-hand.
Gingerbread houses (are a family favorite Christmas tradition for kids AND grownups at our house)
You can make your own gingerbread and buy all the sprinkles and candies and icing to go on it, but honestly, it’s usually cheaper to buy the kit, and the gingerbread is ready for construction. You could also use icing, graham crackers, and a random assortment of snacks you have around the house (cereal and pretzel sticks) to make simple houses.
PRO-TIP: this is one Christmas traditions we do with our kids EVERY year, and from one mom to another… THIS IS THEIR PROJECT. Get out of the way, let them do it. It will be a special work of art. Take pictures, because every year they get just a little better, and it’s fun to look back at their past houses.
Pick a Christmas read aloud (or several) and have everyone take turns reading. You’ll be surprised that even older kids will get into a reading of the original A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. For younger kids, stick to picture books.
Pick a night where your whole family will sleep around the Christmas tree sleepover-style. You could play some board games, have popcorn, and watch a Christmas movie. It’s great family time that the kids won’t forget. This could easily become a favorite Christmas tradition for kids AND grown-ups!
To prepare for the arrival of gifts coming into your house during December, encourage your kids (and yourself) to donate toys and items they don’t use anymore. You can make a special day of it with hot cocoa, cookies, and Christmas music while you clean. Then make the trip together to the church or donation center to drop it all off.
Even if you aren’t the craftiest mom out there, making Christmas decorations can be super fun, and there are so many great (and EASY!) ideas out there. It could be as simple as gluing some craft sticks together in the shape of a star and adding some glitter.
Christmas is a difficult time for many families, but it is also a time of giving. Help your kids make donations of new toys and books for toy drives or food to food drives. Have them help pick out the toys or the food or encourage them to use their allowance. Want more ideas on how to spark the spirit of giving? Here’s 10 ways for kids to serve others at Christmas.
Set up the Nativity
Setting up a nativity scene on the mantlepiece was always a special moment. It was like Christmas couldn’t really start without it being in place. Let children help you set up the scene and explain the significance of each piece as you do.
Advent Traditions to start with kids
Advent traditions play into the natural excitement and anticipation that builds the closer you get to Christmas morning.
An advent tradition can be as religious as you would like it to be. I’m going to share ideas for the faith-minded person as well as ideas for those who are just looking for a fun way to prepare for Christmas.
A lot of people use those cardboard pop out calendars with the little chocolates or small toys inside. I say skip ’em! The chocolate doesn’t taste very good, and the toys are usually discarded after minutes of play. Here are some ways to make your daily tradition a little more special.
Use an advent calendar
Put small treats or gifts in a wooden advent calendar that will still be around for your grandchildren. The treats inside are sure to be more exciting than those dime-sized pieces of “chocolate.” There are even some unfinished advent calendars you can decorate yourself to kick off the first year!
Read a Christmas story a day
You can wrap up your Christmas books and let your children choose one a day to read. (You don’t have to buy new books for this to be fun!) The wrapping adds a little fun, but it’s not necessary. We have a Christmas reading basket that I bring out at the beginning of December.
A Christmas craft or activity a day
This will take some planning, and you might want an easy backup activity up your sleeve for the busy days, but it definitely a ton of fun. Bonus: You end up with so many crafts to give away to family members that your new tradition has a dual-purpose! Making Christmas cards can be fun, even for little kids… here’s a great list of Christmas cards kids can make.
Put up a Jesse Tree
A Jesse Tree is a Christmas tradition meant to keep your thoughts on Jesus during the Christmas season. You decorate the Jesse tree with symbolic ornaments and read a story from the Bible each day. For more information on the symbols and scripture that goes along with a Jesse tree, check out this helpful post on Faithward.
Advent wreaths are a great way to infuse prayer into your Christmas traditions. You light a different colored candle each week of advent and say a prayer. Some people do this every day of advent, while others do it on Sundays only.
What about Christmas Eve traditions? I have a WHOLE post on that over here => FUN Christmas Eve Activities for families.
Christmas Day Activities for Kids
Having traditions for Christmas day will help make the day extra meaningful, but if your Christmas day already feels cramped with visits to and from family, don’t feel pressured to add more. The most important thing is that you enjoy your time with your family!
Open Stockings Before Breakfast
It can be SO HARD to wait to dig into those gifts, so maybe don’t make them wait! Open at least stockings before breakfast. (Here’s fun stocking stuffer ideas for smaller kids.)
Stockings can be traditions in themselves!
Handing out the gifts is a great Christmas tradition for kids
You can have a tradition around who hands out gifts. You can have a designated person or tell each child they have to pick out a gift for someone else. Of course, you could just do the free for all methods.
PRO-TIP: Put pictures instead of name tags on the gifts if you have kids who cannot read yet who want to take part in handing out gifts.
Eat something special for breakfast or brunch
I LOVE a Christmas brunch. There’s nothing quite like French toast casserole with a side of bacon or ooey-gooey cinnamon buns. If you have younger children, it is easier to put together something the day before because Christmas morning is BUSY with littles running underfoot.
Tell the story of Christmas
If you want to keep your thoughts on Jesus, then you can tell the story of Christmas every year. For younger children, a picture book like Jesus Calling: The Story of Christmas might be best, while older children might be more interested in hearing the scripture.
Watch the same Christmas movie every year
A favorite for Christmas day among many families is A Christmas Story, but it could be any movie really. Ideally, something you’ve seen a million times, so if you miss a part while putting together Barbie’s dream house, it’s no big deal. Here’s some of our favorite Christmas movies for toddlers.
Go see a movie
Movie theaters are typically open for Christmas evening showings, and there are often some fun new releases.
Make dinner easy
The tradition around dinner is going to depend on whether you do a lot of traveling on Christmas or just stay home. I like to plan something simple for dinner (if we aren’t visiting family) so that I can enjoy extra time with my family instead of cooking.
I really try to focus on having a good time with family during Christmas day and keep the planned activities to a minimum so that we call just rest and enjoy!
Pick Meaningful Christmas Traditions to do with your kids
No matter what traditions you choose to do with your family, they need to be meaningful for you. If you want to keep Jesus at the forefront of your Christmas celebrations, the Jesse tree, advent wreath, and reading scripture are for you.
If your main focus is to create as many family memories as possible, then reading Christmas stories, doing crafts together, and making cookies is the way to go.
You really can’t do it all! A few carefully chosen tradition will have more impact than trying to every single one of them. The most important thing is that you’re purposeful about the traditions you choose to do. If you’re looking for inspiration, I have a great post on how my friend Nicole planned an intentional Christmas.
As your kids get older, you might want to introduce some of these family Christmas traditions!