Christmas Day is one of the MOST special days of the year, and so it’s definitely worth putting some intention behind your plans. It’s a time where we need to make sure we’re remembering the REAL reason for Christmas, and inspiring your family to celebrate thoughtfully.
It would be pretty difficult to run out of things to do on Christmas Day with family – but I’m pretty sure your version of “meaningful” doesn’t include sitting around trying to avoid thinking unkind thoughts about your relative who gave your child a mini lawn mower that lacks volume control. Usually by around noon we’re ready to relax and take a nap, and it can definitely be tough to not give in to that. My point is, if you wanna do something actually MEMORABLE, planning ahead can help keep you motivated to do so.
Here are some of MY favorite things to do on Christmas Day with family (altho a lot of these things would be great throughout the entire month of December!)
Christmas Day activities for Families with Small Children
If you’re part of a family with small children, remember to keep it simple.
The excitement of Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and some new toys (assuming your family does gifts) is a LOT for a young child or toddler to experience in a short period of time. I would discourage you from adding more than one or two extra activities to your day, and remember that too many visitors can be overwhelming for them.
Just like the rest of your life right now, the decisions you make regarding the things you do on Christmas Day with family are going to be kind of dictated by your kids.
If they’re having a bad time, you may have to cut your Christmas Day activities short, so plan accordingly. I usually like to get the most important stuff out of the way first, when my kiddos are more likely to handle it well.
Related: Christmas Breakfast Ideas
Don’t feel pressure to make the day super extravagant – staying home and celebrating the birth of Jesus (maybe find a fun craft to go along with it) is ENOUGH. Here are just a few ideas that I personally LOVE.
Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ
Reading a Story
There is really no better way to remember and celebrate Jesus than to read the story of his birth. Take time to read the Christmas story together, which you can find in Luke 2. This classic set of versus reminds us all of how Joseph and Mary came to be in the manger and how the angels announced His birth to the shepherds nearby. This beautiful passage pairs great with a manger scene and some of your favorite Christmas hymns. A bunch of them come straight out of these bible versus, which will help your little ones relate this joyful holiday to Christ and his sacrifice.
Watching a Movie About His Birth
Watching a movie about the birth of Jesus Christ can be a great way for kids to gain a basic understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. Personally we really liked the movie The Star because it is animated and very entertaining for my little ones.
What better way to honor Him then to provide service to the needy? Younger kids may have some difficulty in understanding the importance of charity work, but this is the time in their life where they will begin to watch and learn from our example. Here are a few things you can do.
Donate to Local Organizations
This can usually be done throughout the season at any store, as they will usually have someone outside ringing a bell for donations to charity. Even donating a few coins you may have leftover helps someone out there, and a few coins can add up quickly if everyone is giving.
Donating also helps bring the attention of Christmas away from receiving presents, and helps remind everyone that it is more about bringing people together. This doesn’t necessarily need to be done on Christmas Day, but it will always make you feel happy that you did so.
If you would like to take it a step further, you could also look into donating actual items. Some families will even ‘adopt’ a family for Christmas. This will usually mean that they will purchase Christmas presents for the children, which can be shoes, coats, or even a new toy.
All kids probably have a few things they could do without. Encourage yours to go through their belongings and choose some of the ones that they’ve outgrown to donate to a local charity or toy drive.
Volunteer on Christmas Day
This has been rising in popularity, especially among families who want to share the holiday spirit with those who aren’t as fortunate. Volunteering for a little while on Christmas Day can add new respect for your family and everything you get to do together on that day.
Volunteering options can be found anywhere, especially around this time of the year. Many people will volunteer at homeless shelters or even help collect donated items for other families.
You can also make a meal together with your kiddos and deliver it to another family in need. Getting to have your child witness that kind of gratitude knowing that it is due to THEIR actions is priceless.
More Things to do on Christmas Day with Small Children
This can be as simple or extravagant as you would like it to be. Crafts are important for improving motor skills, and they’re also going to bring out your child’s creativity. I’m always amazed at what my kids manage to create. A wreath is nice because you can pack it away and get it back out every year to use as decor. If nothing else, a Christmas Day craft gives you a piece of that special day back that you get to keep forever.
The easiest material to make a wreath would be with simple foam paper. I know it’s not the same as a REAL wreath, but these are easy. Your kiddo can cut out shapes and decorate them, which makes them feel a lot more involved in the process. Not to mention a flat decoration will be easier to store with the rest of your keepsakes.
If you would like something more realistic, you can go grab a fake wreath from the craft store – they’re usually pretty cheap and easy to decorate. Go for a “scavenger hunt” and find some cool nature-esqe items to attach to the wreath. If you don’t have the energy or time for that (because many of us moms just don’t!) go to the store and grab prefab wreath decor. There’s no shame in this, and it’s a safer option than handing scissors to a young toddler.
Watch Christmas Movies
This is a Christmas Eve classic event in many families, but I’m definitely ready to relax and watch a movie pretty early into Christmas Day. It’s SO important to make sure that we instill the real meaning of Christmas in our kids (honoring our Lord and Savior), but it can be difficult to find movies portraying this that will actually hold our kid’s attention. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch other types of Christmas movies – because we can do both things!
For a movie that is all about the celebration of Christ’s birth, go watch the animated movie The Star. It was on Netflix last year and I’m not sure if they’ll have it again this year – but since it was a relatively big hit I imagine you can find it somewhere. The story is relatively accurate and it’s done very well (and younger children will LOVE it).
Your kiddo is probably not gonna love MOST Christmas classics (we can blame fancy special effects for that), but there are a select few that younger kids will likely – such as Muppets Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman.
Depending on how old your child is, it doesn’t hurt to start a movie tradition. A friend of mine watches the same Christmas movie with her partner every year, and it’s become a special activity that they both look forward to each year. Spend time thinking about a movie that you could watch over and over again, and make it the consistent “thing to do on Christmas Day with family” for your family. Your kids will grow up one day and maybe do it with their own children.
Build a Gingerbread House
Building a gingerbread house is SO much fun – but let me share with you what makes it a great Christmas Day activity (especially with younger children).
We build gingerbread houses to use as an edible decoration. But young children could give a rats butt about decorations – they just want to EAT the gingerbread house (and who can blame them!) Making this activity on Christmas Day means that it makes sense for your child to go ahead and start eating it right away. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough that they’re already full from Christmas sweets and they won’t want to eat it, but I wouldn’t count on it.
If making gingerbread houses is what you’re going to do on Christmas Day, let go of your expectations of what this is gonna look like. A younger child will be much less capable than an older child, which means it’s going to be a LOT messier and it’s very unlikely that all of the candy will make it onto the house. Remember that this is supposed to be FUN (and it totally is!), so let go and have fun with it.
Have older kids? Get everyone their own gingerbread house, and talk through your creative processes throughout!
Make Christmas Ornaments
We’ve all seen the Christmas tree FULL of homemade ornaments. Maybe it’s your MIL, or maybe you’ve begun one of your own. While homemade ornaments don’t make for the “perfect” looking Christmas tree, the feeling you’ll get looking at your imperfect ornaments is WAY more heartwarming – which is a piece of what the holiday is about, right? Every year you can add to your homemade ornament collection – especially if you prioritize it by making it a Christmas Day activity.
Depending on the age of your kids, it is usually safest to start with a plastic base for your ornament (glass and kids rarely go well together). The base of your ornament is pretty limitless – you can grab 2D pre-cut ornaments in the shape of a Christmas tree, or go for a traditional plain plastic bulb.
Go look at Pinterest if the ideas below don’t fit your needs – you’ll be surprised at the creativity of some people. Decorating a plain ornament? Pick up some paint, paintbrushes, glitter, and glue to get started. Then take a walk down the craft aisle at your local craft shop. You’ll be shocked at the options, and picking out supplies can make a great bonding activity in and of itself. You can grab some googly eyes (if your child wants to make an animal), or some little gemstones if you’re daughter is going through a princess stage.
A fun idea for some is to purchase a clear sphere ornament so that you can make a snowglobe inspired ornament. Grab some accessories to put inside that ornament. Personally I like the idea of using snow-like powder with Christmas charms inside, but the sky is the limit here. I also like the idea of putting a special little note inside the globe – a sort of time capsule if you will. Include one thing you (or the person making the ornament) is proud of this year, or something they want to accomplish. Open them up and discuss it next year – see how you did.
These are also great to make for gifts to give family members – grandparents LOVE kid-made ornaments, regardless of how they turn out. 😉
If you have older children, enlist them as your helpers to guide the little ones. Having extra eyes and hands while you’re using messy art supplies will always help with the stress factor.
Here are a few fun homemade ornament ideas to check out:
- Here’s a TON of homemade toddler keepsake ornament ideas from Mommy Enlightened
- Lolly Jane’s embroidery hoop ornaments
- I Heart Crafty Things’ photo ornaments
Go on a Christmas Lights Tour
Light shows are always popular around this time of the year, and many people enjoy visiting them to inspire some holiday cheer. The best part about these tours is that you are usually able to stay in your car.
While there are some that do allow you to walk through them, the majority of these encourage you to stay in the warmth of your car and enjoy them from a distance.
Light tours will usually involve a cover fee that goes per car and will have a set radio station that will go along with the lights. You can then drive through and enjoy the lights and music with your family.
These are usually only open in the evening, as the lights are best enjoyed in the dark, so make sure to plan for this.
Bonus… if you’ve chosen a route that doesn’t involve getting out of the car, let everyone wear jammies. Everyone loves an excuse to wear those matching Christmas PJs.
Make Christmas Cookies
This is a tradition that most families always participate in, and for good reason. Depending on your favorite cookies, you can make a large batch with your family and enjoy them through the holiday.
If your family has a younger child, most parents will then leave a plate out for Santa Claus. This depends on your family’s traditions, but making your own cookies and filling the house with that amazing smell will always inspire holiday cheer.
Have a Cookie Party
If you have multiple people joining you for Christmas, then you can request that they also bring their own cookies. It is always fun to try other cookies, and it might introduce you to a new favorite cookie. Getting to see other traditional Christmas cookies is always fun to see.
This is also something that can be adapted to families that live far apart. Set up an online party and have everyone log in to show their best baked goods. This way also saves some of those holiday calories, since you won’t have to sample everyone’s treats.
Christmas Day Activities for Families with Older Kids
Christmas is a magical time for everyone, and it can be a great time to participate in different activities during this time of the year. Many families enjoy having a tradition. However, trying something new can always become a new tradition.
These ideas are ideal for engaging older children, and as you already know, that can be a challenge. Everything listed below is also great for younger children, but the trick is to get the big ones involved first, so the tweens and teens aren’t grumpy throughout the entire day. This is a challenge within itself, as you’re well aware.
Go Ice Skating
This is a fun activity for the entire family and can be even better if pair it with a few other activities that require you to go out. Be aware that ice skating can be very tiring along with being cold, so be sure to plan your day with this in mind. If you are too tired after skating, then you won’t want to immediately go to another overly active plan like sledding.
Have a Christmas Jam Session
Christmas music is a great idea if your family is prepping for the day, or even while hanging out together. Dancing in the kitchen to a classic song or even opening presents as it plays quietly in the background. No matter what, it is never a bad idea to have on to get everyone into the spirit of Christmas.
Wear Ugly Sweaters
Ugly Christmas sweaters are an iconic part of a large majority of family Christmas’s. This can be simply having an ugly sweater competition, or even making your own sweaters for the day. Either way, seeing these absurd sweaters can be one of the best parts of the day for many.
Host a Sweater Making Party
This is a great activity for the family to do together and fail together. The purpose of these sweaters is to be ugly, so buy some of the most outrageous Christmas items that should most likely not be on a sweater and proceed to struggle with attaching it all.
Many families will buy a large variety of items and sweaters to decorate together. Some of the basic items people will use are pipe cleaners, paint, pom-poms, glitter, and a hot glue gun. You can even get items like ornaments or fairy lights to string around the sweater.
Play Games with Presents
There are multiple games that involve exchanging presents. Many people enjoy them and find it a fun game to play after opening presents. You can do them whenever you’d like, but make sure to set a price limit and any other rules prior to the day.
If you have older children, you can give everyone a little notice and have them make a homemade gift to give during the games. This is a great way to save money and use things from around the house.
Try one of these homemade gifts, or get creative and make your own:
- Baked goods
- Jarred sauces
- Decorated pottery or vases
- To-go mugs
- Personalized reusable grocery bags
Do a Secret Santa
Secret Santa is great if you have a large family and aren’t able to get everyone a present. Instead, everyone will pick a name either out of a hat or any other method you can use to randomly select someone and only purchase them a present. This allows everyone to receive a present while also not overspending.
An important rule to this game is to set a budget, so everyone does get items that are equal. It is also smart to also have a favorites list for everyone in case someone picks a person they don’t know well enough to buy a gift for.
White Elephant can be played in several different ways, and it mostly depends on the people involved. This is usually a great game to play for either goofy or standard gifts. Everyone will agree with a budget, then purchase an item that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Wrap the present, make sure to leave your name off it, then bring it along. This is the part that can change depending on your family’s rules, but it typically involves the exchanging of the presents.
Have Christmas Breakfast or Brunch
Depending on your family, you may already be in the same household on the morning of Christmas. The best way to start the day is to have a large breakfast together before beginning to do anything else.
If your family doesn’t enjoy early mornings, then it is just as easy to switch to a brunch. There are plenty of fantastic brunch recipes that are Christmas approved, and even better, you can prep and refrigerate so you can pop them into the oven.
Family Phone Call
Not all families can spend Christmas Day all together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still talk with them. Thanks to technology today, families can use a video call to see the family that is too far away to spend the day with them.
While doing different things can be fun, sometimes the best option is just to keep it simple. Many of the previous ideas can work well with this idea, like having a Christmas movie marathon or eating breakfast together.
While Christmas is a good time to do many holiday activities, it can be just as magical to spend time with your family in front of a fire in your home. Layout some favorite snacks and bevs and just lay about all day. Once again, another fantastic excuse to get into those comfy and cozy matching Christmas PJs.
A word about Santa Activities
Santa may or may not be your family’s thing, but if it is that’s probably because you enjoy seeing your child believe in the “magic of Christmas”. There are many ways to enjoy the magic of Santa Claus with younger children, and you can do it while still respecting the real WHY we celebrate Christmas. If nothing else, putting some focus on Santa can hopefully steer your little ones into the direction of gratefulness for what he’s able to accomplish rather than focusing on the gift-giving.
Christmas Day is a great time to bond with your family and do a wide variety of different activities. This time of the year always has a wide variety of options for anyone to enjoy, and there is always something fun to do, no matter how old.