Need a few ideas to celebrate Christmas with your toddler? This list of age-appropriate activities for older babies & preschoolers includes crafts, ways to give back, and new traditions for the whole family.
One of the most popular holiday posts I've ever done has to be my 25 Days of Baby's First Christmas post. One day, when (now 6-year-old) Emmie was a baby, I was really just brainstorming ways we could celebrate the holiday season with her – and as I thought of things, I decided to make a little post. Tens of thousands of pins and 6 years later, it's still going strong – so many new moms and dads check it out every year.
As a follow up, I thought I'd brainstorm a few ways to celebrate the holidays with a toddler as well! Now that Jackson is solidly in the toddler stage, I'm kind of having to remember some of the ways we celebrated with Emmie. I have a few old favorites and a few new ways below!
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- Make a Christmas countdown chain. Who else remembers making these as a kid? This is definitely something an older toddler/preschooler could do – promotes great number awareness and is fun for them to link together!
- Have a shape scavenger hunt. For example, draw a circle on a piece of paper and have them find every Christmas item they can that is that shape (ornaments, cookies, wreaths, etc.).
- Make your child's favorite Christmas cookies. Ask them to pick a flavor (peppermint, chocolate, caramel) and make a special batch of Christmas cookies just for them!
- Make gingerbread play dough. Such a great sensory activity. I'm a big believer in the power of the sense of smell in memories – using something like the scent of gingerbread is a great memory maker!
- Make ornaments for their own tree. My kids have Christmas trees in their rooms. As long as you think it's safe for your child, I highly recommend it – they love having something that's their own and being able to decorate it however they'd like.
- Let them play with the nativity set. If you don't have one of these nativity sets, I think it's an absolute must for younger kids. My kids have such a better sense of the nativity and what it means because of this one toy!
- Have a Polar Express day. This showed up on my baby's first Christmas post, but I'm repeating it here because it's my absolute favorite thing to do with my kids during Christmas. I used to do it when I was a teacher too…it is so much fun! Make hot chocolate, put on your pajamas, read the book, watch the movie, and even print tickets and hole punch them for your kids. I've you've never read the book or seen the movie, they're both absolutely magical.
- Make blessing bags for the homeless. These can include simple things like shelf-stable foods, toothbrushes, soap, and hand warmers. I like to keep a few in my car for when we see others in need. This is a simple activity that toddlers can help with that really teaches the true meaning of the season.
- Write a letter to Santa. Of course, you're going to be writing this for your child, but it's so much fun to see what they have to say to Santa. Let them dictate and you write – they can even draw a picture for the big guy!
- Give your child a disposable Christmas camera. Now, it goes without saying – there have to be ground rules. Make sure your child knows that the camera is only for snapping special pictures, not taking 25 pictures of the rug in the first 10 seconds. 😉 But, this can be a super special way for your child to capture their own memories of the Christmas season.
- Unwrap a book to read on Christmas Eve. Allow your child to open one present on Christmas Eve – a favorite Christmas book to read that night before bed! These are a few of our favorites.
- Pick an international Christmas tradition to start in your family. Pick a tradition that's new to your family from another country – there are so many different and diverse options! From Feast of the Seven Fishes to the Christmas pickle, you can definitely find one that fits your family.
- Let them color Christmas cards to send to family. Pick 4-5 immediate family members to receive a special Christmas card from your child. Let them decorate with crayons, stickers, glitter – make it a sensory experience!
- Give them access to the Christmas tree. Alright, I feel this one being controversial – but, as long as you're confident your child is old enough to not injure him/herself, don't rope off the tree. Let them touch the (shatter-proof) ornaments and really experience it. I promise, their memories will be worth picking up ornaments for a month!
- Make a list for Santa. Another one that they'll dictate, and you'll write…this would be perfect to do the day you go see Santa!
- Have a birthday party for Jesus. Make a cake, get party hats, and even blow up balloons.
- Have a Christmas lights tour. One night, let everyone in the family bundle up in jammies and drive around to look at Christmas lights in your town. You could even serve hot cocoa (or chocolate milk) and cookies as a treat.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen. This is great to do a little bit (or even a little after) Christmas – volunteers are needed year-round. Sure, toddlers can't do much, but they can witness you helping and explaining to them why they're there.
- Attend your town's parade/Christmas events. We have a fun parade that we attend every year, as well as a carriage ride through the downtown historic district that is always so much fun.
- Make Christmas baked goods together. If you make baked goods for Christmas every year, get your kids involved! Yes it will be messy and yes they won't know exactly how to do it, but trust me, it's so worth it.
- Let them pick out a gift for a sibling (or cousins). We take our kids to pick out gifts for siblings every year. The siblings appreciate it so much more knowing that it was picked just for them.
- Deliver Christmas gifts to your neighbors. We make our cinnamon rolls for the neighbors every year and love to deliver them just before Christmas Eve – they're a great treat for Christmas breakfast.
- Make reindeer food to put on the lawn on Christmas Eve. This is an easy little activity that kids love. This site even has a free printable.
- Start a Christmas memories interview. This is a tradition that could continue for years to come…it would be fun to compare the years!
- Make salt dough ornaments. We made these exact ones a few years ago with Emmie and they are still some of her (and my) favorite ornaments.
And, above all, make sure to soak up every second of the holiday season – not only does the season go by fast, but their toddler years do as well!
You can see more of my Christmas posts here (or via the links below).