Family Christmas traditions are the best for creating core childhood memories for your little ones. Absolutely Mama Editor Carly Glendinning lists her favourite ideas below.
Don’t forget your little one’s soft toys
If your little one has a treasured soft toy, wrap a special present for them under the tree. My daughter has a troupe of furry friends she can’t leave the house without and I love the idea of dressing them up in party hats for the big day too. And how cute would a teeny-tiny stocking for teddy be?!
Visit a Christmas tree farm
Going to a pumpkin patch has become a must for creating dreamy Insta-content, and the festive equivalent is visiting a Christmas tree farm. It won’t fail to make you feel Christmassy, and it’s fun to make getting your Christmas tree into an event.
Make a reindeer feast
I used to love leaving out a carrot for Rudolf and a mince pie for Father Christmas. If you’re looking for a way to entertain little ones on Christmas eve, how about making a reindeer feast? This could involve play food, homemade playdough, and magical sprinkles (aka glitter), to avoid food waste.
Create a family playlist
If you’re hosting lots of family for Christmas, get everyone involved by asking them to make a request to ‘Radio Santa’. Everyone should pick their favourite festive tune to create a family playlist that you can bring out year after year.
Start a Christmas decoration exchange
Buying Christmas presents for everyone (and their kids!) can get super expensive. To keep costs down, you could start a Christmas decoration exchange. Instead of presents, task friends and family with gifting a special Christmas tree decoration each year. Extra points given for anything personalised or collected on a special trip. These meaningful decorations can be brought out year after year.
Teach your little ones about giving back
Make space for new toys and help others who are not so fortune by asking your little ones to choose one item that they no longer play with every day in the run-up to Christmas.
Obviously make sure these items are in good condition and find a local charity who will be able to gift these items to children in need. If you can’t find a charity that will accept them, you could also sell them on a platform like Vinted or Ebay and then donate the proceeds to charity.
Make homemade crackers
Homemade crackers are more eco-friendly and more personal than shop-bought ones. You could even get everyone in the family to make one for someone else instead of doing Secret Santa. This would help keep costs down on presents, and be a fun conversation starter around the Christmas dinner table.
Have a Christmas eve slumber party
Get everyone some matching Christmas PJs and have a family slumber party on Christmas eve. I love the idea of everyone camping out under the twinkling lights of Christmas tree, but the temptation for little ones to open their presents might be too much! Let the kiddos sleep in your bed, ready to open their stockings in the morning. Failing that just have a really fun evening where you create a cosy den, and watch Christmas movies hunkered down together.
Stroll around your neighbourhood for the best decorations
We used to visit my auntie’s house in Brighton every Boxing Day when we were little, and the pretty streets lined with candy-coloured townhouses always had the best Christmas decorations in the windows. We loved to go for a walk and take in everyone’s creativity! If you live in a neighbourhood with lots of other families, you could even arrange a competition for the best festive window. That’s your Christmas crafts sorted with the kiddos too.
Start a festive family ‘yes’ day
You’ve probably heard of ‘yes’ days where your kids get to choose what they want to do for the day (and you basically can’t say no). How about having an annual festive ‘wish’ day, where everyone in the family gets to choose one activity. Maybe it’s ice skating, visiting Santa’s grotto, or going carolling. If you’re worried about it getting out of control, just set a budget for each person’s activity.
Set up some rules for gift giving
I come from a huge family, so we do Secret Santa to prevent gift-giving from becoming too expensive. We usually do one really nice present for the person we’re gifting to, but I love the idea of doing two presents – one that’s something they really want, and another silly one that has a £5 budget limit.
You could also theme the gift giving each year, and make it affordable. For example, it could be festive sweet treats where you all swap Christmas cookies etc. One year, my family did a Christmas stocking Secret Santa, as my parents said they were sad they never got one any more! That was really fun, as the presents inside were mostly quite silly.
Write a Christmas letter
One thing I love now that I’ve got a little one is doing a photo Christmas card to send around to our friends and family. We have family over in the States, who always used to go one step further and send a family letter chronicling everything they’d been up to in the past year. I think this is a really sweet idea in the age of video calls. If your kids are old enough to write, get them to pen a paragraph on themselves and keep these letters to show them when they get older.
Create a book Advent calendar
I love a personalised DIY advent calendar, and you can see some ideas of what to put in it here. Another really cute tradition to start with your little ones is opening a new festive-themed book each day in the run up to Christmas. To make it more eco-friendly, you could buy second hand. Be sure to pass the books along once you’ve read and enjoyed them.
Practise some ‘Niksen’
First there was the Danish practice of ‘Hygge’ and then it was all about the Swedish concept of ‘Lagom’. This year it’s all about another Northern European mindset: ‘Niksen’ – the Dutch practise of literally doing nothing. Whilst doing nothing when you have small children is basically impossible, we love the idea of slowing things right down in the run up to Christmas.
This year has been a particularly hard one for a lot of people, so I think we could all do with a stress-minimal festive season. Don’t feel guilty about skipping the umteenth visit to see Santa, and just shutting the curtains and having a Christmas movie-marathon day instead. Making it into a tradition will definitely ease-up the mum guilt.
Let everyone open one present on Christmas eve
I love the idea of a Christmas Eve box, filled with Christmas pyjamas, a book, and hot chocolate. It can get expensive to do this in addition to all the other presents, Christmas stocking, and an Advent calendar etc though. An alternative is to stay up until midnight on Christmas eve and let everyone choose one present to open from beneath the tree. You could also make a special Christmas eve dinner and open the presents afterwards.
Choose a different tradition to learn about with your little ones from another part of the world each year. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas tradition, it could be from a celebration from a different religion such as Hannukah, or Diwali. You could put the tradition into practice, or have a learning day where you read stories, or do crafts inspired by the tradition. And who knows, you might even discover a new tradition that you want to celebrate every year.