Things to do with kids leading up to Christmas
November 27, 2017 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Usually I get into the Christmas groove early and easily, but for various reasons that's not happening this year. Still, I need to make things fun and memorable for my 7 year old. Please help me come up with a list.

This year Mr. Kitcat has been working out of town a lot, we have a new house, I'm pregnant, plus we are spending Christmas on the other side of the country with relatives this year. There's just so much going on that I'm overwhelmed and I've lost all sense of what I'm supposed to be doing to get our Christmas on. Can you please help me compose a list, with the goal of making Christmas memories for my daughter? I also have to figure out which of these things will be done at home and which will be done at grandma's house. Here a few typical things we do, nothing out of the ordinary:

The writing and mailing of the Santa letter
Buying, erecting, decorating the tree
Decorating a huge batch of sugar cookies

posted by kitcat to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Twinkle tour of holiday lights in the neighbourhood. Optional hot chocolate in a travel mug.
posted by nathaole at 1:37 PM on November 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Sit (take a break!) and let her watch some Xmas movies.

Your question confuses me a little. Are you looking for things that will help you feel the Christmas spirit or are you looking for thing ALL GOOD MOMS (not a real thing) do? Because there's nothing on that second list other than continue unconditionally loving your kid.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:41 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is there a Tuba Christmas near you?
posted by sciencegeek at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, a 5 hour drive to Tuba Christmas, one of only 7 in Canada! Sounds like a fun adventure for someday.
posted by kitcat at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2017

My library has a join-in caroling event that is free and festive, and many towns have tree-lighting ceremonies. If there's a nearby amusement park, sometimes they do a winter wonderland thing on the weekends around the holidays. A child who likes dance might have fun at The Nutcracker; a theater fan might like a kid-version of Scrooge. Holiday movies can be a nice tradition, too! Ice skating with friends?
posted by xo at 2:08 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, taking to see the town Christmas tree and lights is always festive. We are also doing a Christmas crafts party with cousins (last year we had the kids decorate gingerbread houses). I always loved painting ornaments as a kid. Oh -- last thing, we have a local train that does a Christmas holiday lights ride.

I feel what you are saying, I tend to feel worried I'm not making holidays special enough for my kid. I am sure you're doing more than fine.
posted by JenMarie at 2:18 PM on November 27, 2017

Ok first, take to heart what raccoon409 said. You're doing a good job! There's so much emphasis on forcing kids' childhoods to be "magical."

That said, I totally understand that you want to do some things in the Christmas spirit! I agree that watching holiday movies is fun and easy. Everyone remembers watching [insert favorite holiday movie here] with their family every year.

She's about old enough to sit through The Nutcracker. It's, like, amazing to go to a professional ballet at [insert fancy location here] and get super dressed up...but it's also fun to go to a community production.

I would recommend ice skating, but since you're pregnant you might want to hold off on that this year, or find another adult to take her.

Making gingerbread houses is super fun. You could also probably find some easy crafts to make (perhaps an ornament with her photo or something?). If you don't want to wade through Pinterest, you could buy a kit. I love Creativity for Kids kids, they come with absolutely everything. Melissa and Doug is great too. Snowglobes perhaps? Glitter ornaments?

Also, you can't go wrong with an advent calendar.
posted by radioamy at 2:23 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Buy a premade advent calendar (like Lego) so she can open one thing a day.

Hit up michaels or the dollar store for prepackaged Christmas crafts she can do by herself (and give as gifts?)

Buy some Christmas books she can read to you while you lie on the chesterfield with your eyes closed

Have her go through her old toys and choose some to donate and some to pass along to her new sibling (get her paper and tape so she can wrap them)

Learn some Christmas carols together to serenade daddy when he comes home

Trade off play dates with her school friends so she will be occupied for an evening/afternoon with a friend at your house and then later you get an evening/afternoon all to yourself.

Look for a local panto, community ones tend to be really good.
posted by saucysault at 2:26 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Buy pre-made cookies and decorate them together with regular frosting and sprinkles.

Make easy gifts - handprint art, sticker art, cut outs as teacher gifts, grandma & grandpa gifts, dad gift. (Protip: Most of this just involves you being in the room, if pregnancy has got you too tired to do more).

Every year I buy one new Christmas book, so now we have a stack of books that we put next to the tree. We read one or two a night. They get put away again until next Christmas so they have a special feel. I imagine you could accomplish this either via Amazon or the library.
posted by vignettist at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

1. Christmas movies are great, but so are holiday TV episodes. You can check those out here.
2. Does your daughter enjoy making videos? Would she be excited to record herself telling her sibling-to-be about Christmas, family traditions, etc?
3. I think saucysault has a great idea. Do you have nearby friends/neighbors ready to do fun things for the holidays? You could put the word out in a low-key way that your kiddo would be especially excited to participate in these things with friends. I'm sure you've got folks in your circle that would be happy to help a pregnant friend get a little downtime while also sharing some fun holiday activities. I know I loved seeing other families' traditions during various holidays.
posted by annaramma at 3:12 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

The stuff I remember from being a kid at Christmas is an Advent wreath with candles (FIRE!!!!), obsessively arranging a little group of decorative angels, and reading Christmas books out loud. All easy and can be done at home and made more festive with snacks, treats, music, etc.

I think a very important thing to remember with kids, at holidays and in general, is that they haven't been alive very long so it doesn't take much to delight them. Almost all of my favorite childhood memories were completely normal, easy to implement things that my parents imbued with magic, largely by declaring them special and exciting.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:25 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kids’ holiday books make a great tradition and travel well, if you’re worried about what you can take on the road. I’m still attached to the edition of A Visit From Saint Nicholas that was read to me and that I later read to nieces.
posted by kapers at 4:52 PM on November 27, 2017

If you are interested in an advent calendar and have Amazon Prime you can still order one to arrive before December 1st. There are a wide variety, but I just ordered the Tsum Tsum Countdown to Christmas on as it was on sale for $26.

We also travel and take a Christmas book or two. I have quite a few Christmas books that I put away until this time of year.

Christmas crackers can be fun, too, at the grandparents, before or after dinner. Again, a wide variety, last year I got a musical one that was a hilarious failure of us trying to make tunes with the little bells. This year I opted for racing penguins.

I am not a a fan of the elf on a shelf, and the thought of being pregnant and trying to figure out something for the elf to do and remember to do it every night sounds exhausting, but Pinterest is awash in ideas if that appeals to you. Of course, you could also have a less active elf, chose your own idea of what the elf means and it would be fun to secretly transport the elf to the grandparents and have it surprise your daughter there.

Lastly, a meet up with Santa would be nice, if you're up to it. I find the mall Santa scene hectic and not much fun, but if you can go at an off time it makes a big difference, you might be able to call and check hours and ask about quiet times. The last few years we have found other events with Santa and it's been really nice. For example the local paint your own pottery has an event where you choose from 3 Christmas-themed pieces and Santa is there. We have also gone to the local botanical garden which has an event, that sort of idea. I just googled our city name and visits with Santa, and got a list of different possible places, including free events.
posted by dawg-proud at 8:21 PM on November 27, 2017

I think the main thing would be to figure out how to do the things you've always done before while you're busy and when you're across the country, if possible. If the stockings are always stuffed with a certain kind of candy, buy it locally in case they don't have it there, for instance. If you generally go to a midnight candlelight Catholic mass, maybe try to find something similar instead of ending up at a daytime Presbyterian service.

Beyond maintaining some stability, I wouldn't try to do anything that will further stress you out. But anyway, here's my list:
- Switch household music to Christmas music
- Mail cards to relatives (does she sign them?)
- Have her help pick and wrap presents for key family and friends
- Decorate the tree
- Put up exterior lights
- Put up some interior decorations (e.g., garland, stockings over the fireplace)
- Take an outing to see twinkling lights and / or snow (our town doesn't get cold but still has ice skating somehow)
- Sing carols somewhere
- Mull cider a lot

Since she probably has more time than you do, maybe she can be in charge of certain things, like decorating the inside of the house. She can make snowflakes, draw pictures of Christmas trees etc., maybe even put out garland? Don't stress yourself out. Happy holidays!
posted by salvia at 12:51 AM on November 28, 2017

We went caroling our first year in this neighborhood and it was definitely memorable.

(Never did that again, but no one has forgotten it!)
posted by wenestvedt at 3:07 AM on November 28, 2017

Get your kid to make Christmas decorations and participate by sitting down with her and planning the projects.

As kids we did a "Twelve days of Christmas" decorating project. The first one I remember was just made of construction paper. The first day we made a flat paper partridge-in-a-pear-tree cut-out of coloured construction paper and stuck it up on the wall. The next day we made two colley birds. But by the time we finished the five golden rings we switched to just one of whatever it was in the song. The maid-a-a-milking was the only 3D one of the set. She had a milk pail that was cut out of cardboard without a bottom, which was covered in tinfoil to make it into a metal pail.

This craft did not come pre-planned. I believe that books were used as an inspiration for the shapes of the pieces, so we copied outlines in pencil from illustrations in library books of the 12-Days with big colourful illustrations. They were put up on the long wall in our hall.

Later years we got into German paper cut 12 days of Christmas, or making paper chain garlands. For the paper chain garlands a good but small stapler is a must. We saved Christmas wrap from year to year to make crafts out of they went into the garlands along with happy memories of what was in each paper - but you can buy the wrap at the dollar store if you didn't save.

Paper snowflakes is also a lovely craft to do with her Little kids do simple snowflakes, adults don't upstage them but do simple ones too. As kid gets better and more ornate snowflakes adult snowflakes get more ornate too.

I liked angel chimes so much.

One Christmas craft or decoration activity every day for half an hour builds enormous memories.

Don't forget to watch the classic kids Christmas movies as a sit down together snuggle on the couch activity.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:33 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our Holy Family sometimes takes a long time to reach the Christmas Creche, traveling by way of the top of the china cabinet, the mantlepiece, over the computer, etc. They camp along the way. The shepherd (s) and his sheep go in and out of the stable, and possibly one day a fresh layer of straw, cut from dry yellow grass outside found on a lawn is brought in and lines the building. Meanwhile all geese, turkeys and chickens mysterious disappear from the farm set in the nursery, and go into hiding until well after Hogmany. A special poultry refuge is set up for them. We do a LOT of Playmobile.

The Holy couple and the donkey duly arrive Christmas eve, along with the pediatric ICU nurse with an incubator, but she lurks behind the stable to avoid ruining the ambiance. She is there just in case. Miraculous her assistance has never been needed and Baby Jesus arrives safely and easily over night.

Then the creche gets flooded with sheep, goats and shepherds and above the creche a host of angels come out. Every angel we got gets to join the chorus, and they play every instrument they can scrounge.

It is not until the end of the twelve days that the wise men, their camels and their retinue comes out, bearing gifts, which may include gold, diapers, frankincense, formula, myrrh and groceries.

When Christmas is over the little family leaves the creche, to head for safety in Egypt, escorted by a motley but very serious guard of Viking warriors, bikers and the entire police SWAT team, to ensure that we do not recreate the massacre of the innocents.

The first year you do the entire creche you might not want to embroider the story with pediatric nurses and swat teams and only do a little cut dried grass for straw, and the various legs of the journey across the furniture. This will ensure that your young one learns the story properly and doesn't get confused.

You might also want to read Luke, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas out loud to your young one. Or A Christmas Carol, in installments so your voice doesn;'t wear out. But again, keep it down to half an hour. And get your kid to read you a Christmas book too. Get picture books out of the library so they can choose what Christmas book they read out loud..
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:52 AM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

For years now, my neighbors and I have thrown a shindig where we haul all of our kids together in the living room and give them three different tree ornament crafts to make: things like clothespin reindeer, tea light snowmen, and pipe cleaner wreaths. I just scour the internet for cute ideas of varying difficulty and set things up, but this is totally doable just by going to a craft store and picking out some kits.

While the kids make their ornaments, the adults hang around drinking eggnog and listening to holiday music. And then we have pizza delivered. Everyone eats a slice or two and marches back home with their new ornaments. Our kids, now all teenagers, still love this tradition and like to marvel every year at the collection of ornaments we have hanging on our trees that they all made themselves.
posted by pinkacademic at 7:59 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

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