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30 Exciting Christmas Traditions for Kids to Start This Year

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How can I make Christmas amazing?

Christmas is already the most amazing holiday for kids. But if you want to be THE BEST MOM EVER!!! (not an official award), start by including some of these fun Christmas traditions for kids in your yearly festivities.

All the things your family does leading up to the holiday and those special things you do year after year are the things your kid will look forward to each year, especially the older they get.

Baking cookies, picking out a Christmas tree, driving around to see Christmas lights, splitting Christmas day between grandparents: these are all the great things from my own childhood that have stuck with me throughout my life.

Even if you’ve never had family traditions up to this point, it’s not too late. Kids are only little once and only in our homes for a short time.

It’s the memories we make as parents that our kiddos will remember long after they have opened the gifts and stopped playing with the toys. Your family Christmas traditions are your unique way of making Christmas amazing for your little ones.

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What are some family Christmas traditions?

family of four at a Christmas tree farm
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1. Christmas tree shopping

One of my best memories from Christmas as a child was going tree shopping. Every year my dad and I would go in search of the perfect tree. (Not too tall, not too skinny, not too crooked.) We always got a poinsettia for my mom and we’d head home.

There are many Christmas tree farms that even let you cut down your own tree.

Maybe you have your reliable artificial tree tucked away in storage. (This is how I roll now.)

In that case, let your kiddos help take the tree out of the box and put it together. It’s a great way to learn teamwork. And colors and numbers, depending on how your tree goes together.

It will be a much better memory than if they just sit and watch you do it.

mom, dad and baby decorating the tree
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2. Decorate the tree together

Once you’ve dragged that tree home from the tree farm or out of your attic, it’s time to decorate!

I am very OCD when it comes to ornament placement on my tree. But now that I have a toddler, all bets are off. It’s got to be safe for him and non-breakable for me. (It’s easiest if you just leave the heirloom ornaments in storage for a couple of years.)

Now that he’s able to help more, it’s absolutely time to include him in decorating the tree. And if your kiddo is a bit older, give him a specific job to do. Maybe he’s in charge of the bottom half of the tree or he gets to place the tree topper (with help of course).

It’s the things you do each year that make Christmas traditions for kids so special. So include them in the fun early, and they’ll have something to look forward to year after year.

decorated Christmas cookies
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3. Bake cookies

This is the yummiest Christmas tradition for kids for sure. My family gathers together most years to bake a few dozen cookies. We usually gift them to friends and family. Of course, we always sample a few ourselves.

This Christmas tradition can be especially hard if you’re a new momma, when you’re not getting much sleep or you’re breastfeeding around the clock.

If you still want to give it a try, opt for only one batch of cookies. Or even try a no-bake recipe.

And if you’re kiddos are older, let them in on the fun. Put them in charge of using the cookie cutter or adding certain ingredients to the recipe. Just remember to watch them around the stove.

And don’t worry about the mess. Think of all the fun memories you’re creating as a family.

family photo with grandparents, parents and grandkids
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4. Take a family photo

You should be sure to include the “official family Christmas photo” on your list of Christmas traditions for kids. Because it’s always fun to see how everyone has changed over the previous year. And it’s even better if you can get everyone in clean clothes, facing the same direction for a change. (No judgement here.)

This is also a great photo to use as your Christmas card.

But don’t forget to take more than just that one photo. Take one on Christmas morning before the presents are opened. Take one on Christmas Eve in your matching pajamas. Take one while you’re at the Christmas tree farm or decorating the tree. And definitely take one after everyone is covered in flour and icing from your cookie baking extravaganza.

At the end of the day all you have are the memories you made, so be sure to capture the fun while it’s happening. And don’t forget to get in the photo too, momma.

Santa with dog
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5. Get a photo with Santa

Photos with Santa are a great Christmas tradition for kids, especially for baby’s first Christmas or those early years when your kiddo believes in the magic.

But what if your kiddo hates sitting on Santa’s lap? Or once your little one hits the age where it’s not cool anymore? (That’s a sad day for lots of mommas.)

You never want to force your little one into something that can be a very traumatic experience for him. Instead, make it a family tradition where everyone gets in the photo with Santa.

Mom or Dad can hold a child that’s not too keen on old St. Nick. And while your older child still might think it’s lame (is that even a word kids use these days?), your family has been doing it for so many years that it would seem strange to have a Christmas without it.

For even more fun, wear Santa hats or ugly Christmas sweaters or include your fur babies.

Christmas cards, envelopes and pen
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6. Send Christmas cards

I’m all about sending Christmas cards, but my favorite cards to send are photo cards. People love getting updates on your family, and I think pictures are much easier than writing a family letter.

So all those pictures you’ve taken while doing Christmas things really come in handy here.

Or use photos taken throughout the year. I’ve used a mix of newborn pictures, Halloween costume pictures, vacation pictures, and Christmas pictures. Maybe your little one had a big achievement this year (kindergarten graduation) or you found out you’re expecting.

Make sure you order your cards early enough to get them addressed and mailed out before the big day. But I’m sure people don’t mind receiving cards even in the days after Christmas.

And I know some families who wait to send out New Year’s cards or even Valentine’s cards (since it’s a less busy holiday).

family of four in matching pajamas
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7. Get matching pajamas

This is a nice tradition to start with your kids when they’re small because they need new pajamas each year. And nothing is cuter than tiny kids in festive pajamas, especially if they match. Check out this adorable set.

It’s a great idea for Christmas morning pictures as well because we know moms love photos.

And if you want to get it on the fun, get some matching pajamas just for you and dad. That way you’ll have a set for year after year.

mom and dad reading a book to baby
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8. Gift Christmas books

I love giving books as holiday and birthday gifts. It’s something your kiddos are more likely to use once they no longer play with their toys.

And if you’re into the 25 days of Christmas gifts (or just 12), Christmas books make the easiest gift for each of those days. You could even just save it for a special gift on Christmas Eve.

Check out my favorite toddler Christmas books for some inspiration.

child holding a pop-up Christmas book
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9. Read Christmas books

So if you’re gifting Christmas books, you may as well spend some time reading them.

If you decide to give books each night leading up to Christmas, this makes a wonderful Christmas tradition to include as part of your child’s bedtime routine.

I’m especially fond of this personalized version of Night Before Christmas.

child writing a letter to Santa
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10. Write a letter to Santa

Writing a letter to Santa has to be one of the most exciting things for kids at Christmas. So make sure to include this on your list of Christmas traditions for kids each year.

You could have your kiddo give his letter to Santa when you take that family photo.

Or you could use one of the many services out there that will send your child a response letter from Santa Claus.

A better way to get a more personalized response letter from Santa is by using the US Postal Service. Just write your own response to your child’s letter, recalling moments that have happened over the past year (grades, making the sports team, being a good sister). Follow the online mailing instructions, and a customized Santa letter will be on the way.

strawberry crepes with cool whip
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11. Prepare a Christmas morning breakfast

This is a great Christmas tradition for kids. You can choose to go all out with a bacon, eggs and the works.

Or make it super kid friendly by making your waffles into trees or turn pancakes into Santa.

Use strawberries and raspberries for a festive feel. Add powdered sugar for a sweet treat that resembles snow.

Use chocolate, strawberries, cool whip and powdered sugar to make those tasty looking crepes above.

boy and girl dressed as elves
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12. Become an Elf on the Shelf family

Ooh the infamous Elf on the Shelf. You either love the idea or hate it. I get it. I’m torn myself. (It’s a lot more to remember during an already busy time of year.)

Fortunately for me, my little guy is still too young to understand the concept, so I have some time before an Elf is making an appearance here. (Although his cousins have already asked if we have an Elf.)

But a common question I hear from other moms is: what do you do when your kiddo starts school and the other kids have an elf that visits them? (Man, these other kids sure do make the holidays tough on moms!)

The best response I heard (from a mom who has an Elf, but doesn’t enjoy finding a new spot every night)… their Elf knows they are a family who enjoys their privacy, so it just stays in one spot instead of creeping all over the house.

Exhausted moms come up with the best ideas.

toy car on monopoly game board
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13. Have a family game night

So my family is all about board games! We have an entire closet just for our games. It’s gotten really out of hand actually. (That’s a story for another day though.)

We’ve always played games after Thanksgiving dinner and on New Year’s Eve. It’s a fun family tradition while you polish off the rest of that turkey or sauerkraut. It could even be something to do on Christmas Eve to keep the kids from asking if it’s Christmas yet.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas themed board games:

  1. Don’t Break The Ice (ages 3+) – Enjoy some winter fun with a classic game.
  2. Pin the Nose on the Reindeer (ages 3+) – It’s the classic blindfold game played at kids’ parties. Or you can choose to Pin the Nose on the Snowman.
  3. The Santa Claus Game (ages 3+) – Deliver presents as you race across a winter wonderland. Fun spaces will have you singing and shouting Ho, Ho, Ho.
  4. Santa Claus Go Fish (ages 4+) – Use this holiday deck to play the classic card game. Easy to read cards allow younger kids in on the fun. Instructions are included for Old Maid and Slap Jack for even more excitement.
  5. Santa’s Sleigh Ride (ages 5+) – Race other Santas to deliver presents in this educational (shh!) Christmas game.
  6. Christmas Scavenger Hunt (ages 6+) – A family holiday scavenger hunt with no extra preparation for you. Choose an indoor or outdoor hunt, playing on teams or as individuals.
  7. Christmas Rush (ages 7+) – Holiday cards add an exciting twist to this Christmas version of the card game Spoons.
  8. Christmas-opoly (ages 8+) – A Christmas themed version of the classic game. Watch out for Santa’s naughty list!
  9. Clue: North Pole Holiday Edition (ages 8+) – Find out who stole the presents in this holiday version of the classic who-done-it game.
  10. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Board Game (ages 8+) – Be the first to find all the misfit toys in this fun game that combines elements of Chutes and Ladders with Sorry.
Christmas traditions for kids: family of three with Santa hats and gifts

What are some good Christmas traditions?

person placing rocking horse ornament on tree
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14. Get a new ornament for your tree

I love highlighting the milestones of my family with Christmas ornaments. And there’s so many to choose from: new home, new baby, new parents.

You could even decide that your Christmas tradition is to get each of your children his own ornament each year. One day, he’ll have a tree of his own, and he’ll have all the decorations he needs.

outdoor Christmas lights with tree
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15. Take a drive to see Christmas lights

Driving around your neighborhood to see Christmas lights is one of the easiest (and cheaper – hooray!) Christmas traditions to start with your kids.

Check out everyone in your neighborhood. If you can’t find any good ones, check the next town over.

Make it more fun by having a Christmas light scavenger hunt or Christmas light bingo. Make cards before you head out with all the different lights you may encounter. All white lights, icicle lights, red and green, blinking, spotlights, inflatables; the list could go on and on.

And the first one to get bingo gets a prize. Maybe he’s the first one to open a present on Christmas morning, or she gets to pick the movie or book that evening. Something simple that you don’t have to shell out any more cash for.

For even more Christmas light magic, you could visit a nearby park or zoo that has decorated for the occasion.

5 days on a countdown to Christmas
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16. Prepare a Christmas countdown or advent calendar

You could easily make your own Christmas countdown, by hanging paper chains or making a felt tree with numbered ornaments. You could get this countdown to Christmas advent calendar, if you want something with no prep work.

My biggest issue with an advent calendar is those little boxes that you have to fill with candy or gifts. My guy is too little for chocolates, and he would surely choke on anything that would fit in those boxes. Plus, why do we need to buy even more gifts?!

I found the perfect – at least I think it’s perfect – answer! Write down the title of different Christmas books on a slip of paper, and place one in each of those tiny little boxes. Each night, have your child select a number and that is the book your read that evening.

kids sitting in front of nativity under the tree
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17. Set up a nativity

As a kid, I had a porcelain nativity set that I wanted to share with son. But he’s a rambunctious toddler and it’s porcelain. So that’s a no go.

Instead, I gave him this nativity set, and he loves it. It’s perfect for those chubby little hands and has made a great teether from time to time.

It’s also nice to use as a traditional nativity to set under your tree. The pieces are separate, so you can easily retell the Christmas story. And you don’t have to worry about it getting destroyed.

woman reading a Bible
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18. Read the Christmas story

While we’re on the subject, go ahead and read the Christmas story. Try The First Christmas for an easy-to-understand version for smaller kids.

Or dust off your Bible and read Luke Chapters 1 through 24 throughout December to get the whole account of the life of Jesus.

people standing in a church listening to a choir
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19. Attend a worship service

Many churches offer a Christmas Eve service or even a Christmas morning service. Some hold candlelight services or put on plays and sing Christmas songs. If you’re not affiliated with a church, ask a friend or neighbor for a recommendation.

woman holding a donation box
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20. Make a donation

Donations come in all forms, and this is the perfect time of year to share your abundance with others.

You could opt to make a cash donation to a charity. Purchase food for a food bank. Have your kiddos donate toys they no longer use. Or even donate your time.

This is the time of year for giving, and it’s important that we show our children what this looks like.

girl opening a Christmas gift
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21. Gift presents to a child on an Angel Tree

While this kind of falls into the donation category, I feel that this is more specific.

Angel Trees can usually be found in stores, businesses or even churches. You select the name, age and gender of a child in your area. There are usually a few items that the child wants or some of their interests and hobbies. Return any gifts or clothes you purchased from the place where you selected the Angel in time for Christmas.

This is also a great way to teach your child about the importance of giving and empathy.

people walking outside through Christmas lights
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22. Go caroling or listen to Christmas music

Take your kiddos caroling in your own neighborhood or contact a local nursing home to set up a time to visit the residents to bring some Christmas joy to others.

No matter what you’re doing during your Christmas traditions for kids, listen to some Christmas music. Decorating the tree, baking cookies or playing Christmas games can all be made more festive by listening to your favorite Christmas songs.

What are some Christmas Eve traditions?

family of four watching a movie
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23. Watch a Christmas movie

Watching a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve is a great way to unwind and relax as a family.

Whether it’s that one movie you have to watch each year or it just isn’t Christmas (It’s a Wonderful Life, anyone?). Or if you decide to choose a different movie each year (picked by the winner of Christmas light bingo!). Or maybe you need something short for those little tykes. A Christmas movie is the perfect way to add some extra magic to your holiday.

three stockings hanging on a fireplace
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24. Hang stockings

Wait to hang those stockings for Christmas Eve for a fun Christmas tradition for kids. Since Santa doesn’t fill them until Christmas Eve, make a big deal about hanging your stockings. Maybe have your Elf deliver them early that morning.

Related: Great Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Toddlers

cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon stick
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25. Drink some hot chocolate

After a long day (and a busy month), curl up with some hot chocolate. Get some extras to add to this special cup: marshmallows, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, or your personal favorites. Let your kiddo pick which items to add on to make a personalized cup of Christmas goodness.

Save some of those cookies you baked to go along with your hot chocolate. And have a sweet treat wrapped up in blankets while watching that Christmas movie.

paints and painted reindeer ornament
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26. Make a Christmas craft

A Christmas craft is a great idea when you’re spending all of Christmas Eve at home. Of course, you can choose to do your craft earlier in December as well.

Make that paper chain countdown to Christmas. Or gift different craft tools in your advent calendar.

If you’re at a loss for ideas, try this ornament kit or these foam decorations. For the more adventurous crafters, try these embroidery hoops (directions are on Amazon) or even make your own Christmas wreath.

Christmas table setting with tree in backgound
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27. Prepare Christmas Eve dinner

A great idea to get your family together before the big day and to slow down and really enjoy this time with your family is by having a Christmas Eve dinner.

It can be as fancy or as casual as you like. You can use that fancy china you got for your wedding and have everyone dress for the occasion. School-age children will feel very special by being included in something that’s usually only for adults.

Or plan a pizza party and a make-your-own-cocoa-bar. Throw a blanket on the floor and watch a movie for a more relaxing evening, with no additional cooking on your part.

packages wrapped in green paper on table with red candles with tree in background
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28. Gift Christmas Eve boxes

Christmas Eve boxes are a great way to start the holiday a little early.

Include items like those matching pajamas, a special ornament, a holiday movie or book, some stickers, a game, or some treats like hot chocolate or candy canes.

Come up with a mix of something different each year. Or keep your family tradition the same each and every year so your kiddo knows just what to expect.

For even more fun, have your kiddo decorate his own Christmas Eve box sometime in December.

surprised Santa
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29. Track Santa

Tracking Santa is a fun Christmas Eve tradition for your kiddo. Use NORAD on Christmas Eve to track Santa on his journey across the world.

Visit NORAD as early as December 1 for fun facts about Santa, music, videos, and games throughout the month to get in the holiday spirit.

Santa arms holding a cup of cocoa and a cookie
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30. Set out treats for Santa (and his reindeer)

Don’t forget to set out those goodies for Santa and his trusty reindeer.

Get a cute plate and cup so Santa knows those are his special treats.

Add some carrots to the plate for the reindeer. Or make your own reindeer food from oats and edible glitter and sprinkle it on your lawn to make your house easy to spot.

Add a cute note for Santa (and the reindeer).


There you have it: 30 exciting Christmas traditions for kids that you can easily start this year. Your kids don’t have to be little to start a new tradition. Find the ones that suit your family best and start them this year!

What is your favorite Christmas tradition for your kids? Let us know in the comments.

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30 Exciting Christmas Traditions for Kids to Start This Year

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