76 Winter Activities for your Family
So, you’re dreading pounding the pavement for Christmas shopping, family is arranging holiday plans, Christmas will be here before you know it. Don’t get burnt out!
Grab the kids and make some memories! Bring out the joy of Christmas!
38 Fun Fall Activities for your Family was such a hit, I had to go big for winter!
I’ll be sure to come back and update with pictures as we check things off the list!
Out of the House Activities – Snow or Sun!
Within the last few years, I’m sure you’ve heard all the kids singing, “do you want to build a snowman?” from Frozen. Say YES! Then let them enjoy their creative side while building and decorating. Be sure to take an old scarf, buttons, carrot, hat, or whatever you have lying around!
Make sure they’re bundled up tight and let them flop in the snow and see who can make an angel then stand up and leave no butt-print.
Better yet, have them create a scene full of snow angel people in different positions and interacting. Be sure to have your camera out for the laughter that will, no doubt, ensue.
Get ready for some serious competition! Dodgeball with snow will get out every ounce of energy they have in them!
If you’re not somewhere with natural snow, take a day (or weekend) to visit the closest mountains to you. If there’s no mountains for a day’s journey from you, pull your search engine up. A lot of cities will have festivals that include ice skating, Santa, live reindeer, a field of machine-made snow, etc. Go visit!
Build a sandman at the beach
If you’re in a climate that has the opposite of cold, head to the beach and make a snowman in the sand, complete with sunglasses and a beach towel scarf. Then have the kids lay down for some sand angels!
Complete the day with writing Merry Christmas in the sand and taking a family photo then grab a bonfire pit and enjoy your weather!
Have a family photo shoot
Get those coordinated outfits together and hire your professional photographer. OR save yourself time, money, and heartache by taking some fun group shots while you’re out… or in… creating memories!
Have everyone gather at the Christmas Tree lot, or snuggle up in PJs on the couch or in front of the tree as you decorate it. Pull out the camera while everyone is covered in flour from making cookies and treats in the kitchen.
If your town doesn’t have an ice rink on a regular basis, head to the internet for answers! Pop-up ice rinks are increasingly popular. A lot of cities are springing for them to enhance their town’s holiday festivities!
Find a nearby spot to grab desserts or hot cocoa after! Don’t forget extra socks!
Even if you live in the middle of a concrete jungle, chances are there’s a big park or camp site somewhere near you.
Make a day of it and visit an out-of-town restaurant, visit a Christmas festival in another city and go for a hike in the fresh air and trees.
Drive & walk to look at Christmas lights
Post-Thanksgiving, most people will get their lights and decor up pretty quickly. If your block doesn’t seem too festive, look up news articles for your town and the surrounding cities from last year and scout out headlines about Christmas decorations to pin point the good stuff.
Most times, there will be some sort of designated “Candy Cane Lane” in your town. Some even have contracts to sign when you buy a house on a certain block that you must decorate for Christmas each year from a certain date to another.
One of my family’s traditions was to have all the kids jump in a truck bed (DO NOT do this!), drive over to Candy Cane Lane in our town while blasting music, singing carols, and wearing Santa hats. We would then go admire each house and see how they had out-done themselves from the year before.
I’m on the lookout for something similar to start a tradition in my new town!
Nothing says winter like an old fashioned sled or huge inter tube hurling down a hill. When I was a kid, driving up the mountain to go to Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, or Santa’s Village, you could always see dozens of cars parked on the side of the mountain road.
The first sign of snow! Even if it was a 20 foot square of powder, all the kids would scream for their parents to stop the car so they could go touch it. Even if you got on a tube and slid for 10 feet on a basically flat surface, you were the happiest kid on the planet!
If your town has a patch of snow for snowball fights, chances are there’s a hill somewhere in there where you’ll see little ones racing up and down.
Head to your local resort with bunny hills and grab a pass for the day for your little one to learn to ski or snowboard. If they’re older, jump up on the ski lift and tread the hills together.
Visit a year-round Christmas Store
Most towns have one. A mom and pop store that has Christmas joy year-round. These types of stores go all out when the holiday their store is based upon rolls around.
Think of Duncan’s Toy Chest is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York or what Buddy Turns Gimballs into in Elf. The owners and managers live for getting their stores to explode. Take your camera for the endless photo opportunities!
Let your kids each pick out one ornament to take home for the tree. The endless possibilities will make this difficult, but they’ll have a collection of their own ornaments you can give them as a wedding gift or “First Christmas Away from Home” gift.
Go out for seasonal coffee & hot cocoa
I encourage you to ask around for an actual coffee shop. Skip the Starbucks and go to an established cafe with comfy chairs and sofas, books and board games lining the shelves, and drink a fun minty hot chocolate or gingerbread latte from a real mug!
Meet Santa & get pictures
Find out Santa’s schedule before you head to the mall, local hotel, or holiday festival. Try to avoid a huge line and get a great experience.
Ask around to friends about which Santa’s helpers they have visited in years past and which helper makes the most magical moments.
Pick out a Christmas Tree as a family
Load up the family and head out to your local tree lot and get picky about the perfect tree. Open up a discussion in the car on the way of what details make for a perfect tree and watch your kiddos go on the hunt.
If you’re up for a Griswold Christmas, research the cut-your-own farms near you and search through the great outdoors for the perfect evergreen.
Go to your city’s tree lighting
City Hall, Main Street, or the park. Most cities will put up an impressively large tree for all to enjoy. They will usually advertise in the paper or on the city’s website for a fancy ceremony to light the tree for the first time in the season.
Some ceremonies will be simple but beautiful while others will have the choirs from each school sing, have a hand bell choir play, the marching band play, have a reading of a Christmas book, or have a full festival with booths from local businesses.
Take towels & blankets to an animal shelter
Sadly, animal shelters are never empty. A lot of shelter have outdoor housing for animals or no heating in the large warehouses. Donating some towels and blankets that aren’t being used in your home could provide a comfortable new bed for these future pets.
Write out a list of who you are going to be purchasing gifts for (Try doing this as early as possible, or have a running list all year long!). As people talk about things they need, write it down! If you can’t afford what they need, perhaps get something that coordinates with it.
Take the kids out to help you discover worth-while gifts for loved ones. Have them pick out wrapping paper, a gift for their teacher, or a secret gift for their sibling.
Go to a Christmas play or concert
If you don’t know someone who is in a performance, head to the newspaper or school calendar. All choirs and bands have holiday concerts and most community theaters have a holiday-themed show closing out the year.
Go on a Christmas decor scavenger hunt
When you head to your local Candy Cane Lane or light festival, make a list of common Christmas symbols and make check lists , bingo cards, or picture boards.
The competitive side will come out as the kids try to spy each Santa, reindeer, snowman, candy cane, teddy bear, candle, icicle lights, etc. among the decorations.
Visit a garage sale for fun gift exchange
If you have the need for a unique gift, take a weekend morning to scout the garage sales for something you can flip into a unique gift.
This is also a great way for kids to pay for something they want to give as a gift to a friend, sibling, or loved one. They get to pick something out themselves and pay for it (since it will probably be within thier budget).
Their imagination will run wild as they try to find something they think someone else will enjoy.
Go to a pottery & paint store
Find your local Color Me Mine type of store and grab a plate, bowl, and mug to paint. You can make personalized cookie plate, milk mug, and treat bowl for Santa and his reindeer.
It will be easily recognized as it’s taken out of the boxes each year and will be a wonderful decoration full of memories.
Stay at Home – Crafts
Make paper snowflakes & hang them
Put on your creativity hats and get to folding and snipping fun patterns. Pick a big window and display them with fishing line, ribbon, or tape them to the window itself.
Make it out of pine cones from your nature walk, ribbon from a shopping spree, candy canes from the dollar store, or trace hand prints on green paper and make a 2D wreath.
Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Jo Ann, floral and craft stores will have empty wire or styrofoam wreath bases that you can create wreaths with over and over.
If you’re partial to a big, fancy store-bought or mom-made wreath on the front door, let the kids create wreaths for the doors of their room.
Make holiday cards to send out
Sure you can get fancy photos taken, printed, and send those out. You can also have your kids write letters and draw pictures to send out to loved ones. I’m sure Grandma would appreciate a hand written letter from her grand kids.
Make a box to send to deployed service members
Send some comforts of home to a deployed service member or platoon. Let your kids help pack a box to be sent overseas.
Kits will be in stores before you know it. Get out cheap plastic tablecloths from the dollar store or party supply store and cover everything. Table, counter, chairs, floor. Icing will be everywhere. Grab some small bags of fun candy at the store and let your kiddos go wild with creating a scene or let them work together to build a town.
Go grab a thick cardboard presentation board and build on top of it to keep your creations on display for the season.
Make your own wrapping paper
Get a big roll of brown paper at the craft store. Roll it out on the table and have the kiddos draw holiday pictures, write song lyrics, stamp or paint. Let it dry, then re-roll and use as regular wrapping paper.
You can also get some plain wrapping paper and write on it once gifts are wrapped instead of using gift tags.
Have the kids sit down and write letters to Old Saint Nick. You can go with a gift list or prompt them with “I want, I need, I will wear, I will read” and get ideas for clothes, books, and what they think they need instead of a big list of wants.
Letters to Santa don’t have to be gift wishes. They can ask Santa questions, send something to Mrs. Claus, or write a thank you letter after they receive their gifts.
Go out and grab some fun fabric, a pattern for stockings (or make your own) and get to cutting! You don’t need sewing skills to make stockings! You can use fabric glue, hot glue, or can grab some yarn and a yarn needle and lace them shut.
No one will have stockings like yours and they can be a keepsake for your kids.
Get some good old fashioned construction paper, cut it into strips and let the kids link them together and staple or glue as they go.
Make long strands to hang up around the house, or make a strand and rip off a ring each day as you count down to Christmas.
Check out my tutorial here!
Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup salt, 2 tsp cream of tartar in a pot. Add 1 cup water, 1-2 tsp vegetable oil, 1 tsp peppermint extract and turn to medium-low heat and stir. As it starts to solidify, add red or green food coloring until desired color. Remove and knead.
Enjoy! Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 months!
If you live in an area with no snow or your little one isn’t a fan of the cold, throw 3 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup of hair conditioner, mix, and let the play begin. Put on a cookie sheet or large bin to control the fun.
Make a thank you gift for your teachers
Have your kids write a note, glue together some candy, or pick out a pair of slippers and socks. Thank your teachers for molding your crazy child into a star pupil.
Get out some card stock and let the kids go wild with cutting, stamps, stickers, markers, crayons, glitter, whatever you’d like. Grab a hole punch and some string and attach them to your gifts!
Make a dining room table centerpiece
Let your kiddos go down the holiday aisle and pick out some coordinating pieces. Head home and let them arrange the items in a fish bowl or hurricane vase.
Pick out a new table runner, some candles, and some fun ornaments and let the kids go to town decorating down the middle of the table. Who knows? Maybe this will make them want to come to the dinner table to admire their masterpiece.
Write letters to yourself for next year
Before you finish packing up the Christmas decor, have everyone sit down and write a letter to themselves for next year. Perhaps include the presents they got, what they did that year, what they want themselves to remember for next year, their new years resolutions.
Then pack it away with your ornaments and such. Each year, as you get out your items to decorate, let the kids laugh at themselves from the year before. Make a scrapbook of them. Your Christmas time capsule letters.
Decorate your table cloth or tree skirt
Instead of opting for an ornate tree skirt or table cloth, let your family put their stamp on it. Get out the paint and make a spiral of growing hand prints on your tree skirt or have the kids write their names and a memory on the table cloth.
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminium foil and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Let the kids lay out their lifesavers into fun designs, throw a metal hook on them and throw in the oven until melted. Then remove to let them harden. Pull off of the foil an hang them up.
This can be done with jolly ranchers, life savers, or peppermints. Just throw down metal cookie cutters and they’ll take that shape.
Decorate ugly Christmas sweaters
Grab some cheap cotton pull over sweaters at the store. Go to the miniature tree decor section and grab some miniature bells, bows, ornaments, garland, etc. Get the puffy paint out of the craft drawer and let them go wild with making their creations.
Stay at Home – Activities
Crack out the board games from the hall closet and let the friendly competition begin. Enjoy some cider or hot cocoa while the cards, game pieces, and dice roll!
Everyone pick out things to donate
Start a tradition. Have everyone make room for new things by picking out clothes, toys, etc. for donation. Inspire their giving hearts while making sure you don’t end up with a house fit for hoarders.
Snuggle up on the couch, turn off the lights and enjoy a Christmas classic by the glow if the tree.
Check out the Ultimate Family Christmas Movie List!
Dance party to Christmas music
Break out the CDs, records, Pandora stations, ipods, and computers. Let the hits roll and dance like nobody’s watching. Be sure to sneak some videos to embarrass them in a few years.
Host a fancy holiday party
Your kid is going to be growing out of that fancy dress or suit in months. If the only place they’re planning on wearing it is a Christmas concert or church, throw a “fancy” party where everyone dresses up, drinks out of fancy glasses, and eats tiny little snacks.
Grab some small canvases and let the kids make some holiday creations that can be hung on the wall each year.
Build a blanket fort & watch a Christmas Movie
Take apart the couch, bring in the dining room chairs, all the extra sheets, blankets, and pillows and build a luxurious fort to have a movie marathon in.
Read Christmas Books as a family
Pull out all of the Christmas books you have. Place them in a basket by the fireplace, display them on a bookshelf, or wrap them up and let the kids unwrap a book each night.
Read them in the living room while the kids act out the stories or have everyone snuggle in one bed each night and read them as a goodnight story.
Even if you’re a stickler (like me) and want your ornaments spaced out just so and in the proportionally correct place, let it go.
Let the kids carefully pick out their favorites and climb up and down the step stool to hang them. Put them up on Dad’s shoulders to put the star on. Enjoy the chaos.
Hang your home made wreath
Put your 3M hook or nail on your front door and let your little one hang their masterpiece.
Let the kids set up the Christmas Village & its citizens
If you have a Christmas Village collection, let the kids (carefully) design the city for this year.
My favorite thing as a kid was planning the lay out. Each year got more intricate with the roll of cotton snow, boxes underneath to add levels, and we picked out new pieces at the year round Christmas store each year.
Make a fire & roast marshmallows
If you don’t have a fireplace, rent a bon fire pit at the beach or camp ground, or gather around a grill!
Bust out the marshmallows and s’mores and enjoy the sweet treats.
Host a cookie or ornament exchange party
Ask over some friends or family and instead of bringing gifts, have each person bring their best cookies or bring ornaments and have a big exchange.
Ornament exchange: You can throw names in a hat and pick names to exchange one on one or play it white elephant style. Put all ornament in the center of the room. Assign each person a number. When it’s your turn you can either grab a new ornament from the pile or steal one from someone else. If your ornament is stolen, either steal another, or grab a new one.
Cookie Exchange: Have everyone bring at least 2 cookies per guest. You can set them out and have people vote for “most unique”, “most festive”, “best display”, etc. and award prizes (Cookie jars or jugs of egg nog). Or you can just bring cookies on a tray and exchange 2 cookies per person until your tray is filled with a plethora of cookies and head back home.
Camp out in the living room
Grab all the pillows, blankets, or sleeping bags you have. Turn out the lights, turn on the Christmas Tree, watch a Christmas Movie and fall asleep to the glow of the tree as a family.
Yes, your back may be sore in the morning. But the memories will last longer than the aches.
Write down New Years Resolutions
Have everyone sit down and write down their resolutions for the new year. Hang them on the fridge to remind yourselves what goals you have set for yourself.
If they stay up on the fridge all year and all of your goals are met, commemorate your success by rolling up your resolutions and putting them into a clear ornament or rolling it into a decorative scroll so you can be reminded of it each year as you decorate the tree.
Host an ugly Christmas sweater party
Now that you have made your very own ugly sweaters, throw a party to see what other friends and family can create. If you’re not a crafty family, head to a thrift store. they usually put out some lovely items in the winter that were considered fashionable 30 years ago and make for great party wear today.
Let the kids gently untangle them before the adults get up on a ladder. Ask the kids draw out their ideas of what patterns to hang them in. Or have the kids measure how long the lights are and figure out where the outlets are and have them do some math to figure out how many strands they need.
Solve a big Christmas Puzzle
Instead of spending $30 on a new board game (Why are they ALL 30+ dollars?!?), walk over a few feet and grab a huge $10 puzzle with a Christmas theme.
Pull out the card table and let the family work on it bits at a time when they get bored or get 2 puzzles and have a contest to see who can finish theirs first.
Let the kids decorate their rooms
If the kids are into Christmas and continue to try to be a part of decorating, get them some of the non-breakable decor and let them decorate their bedrooms.
Grab one of the mini trees at the tree lot and let them decorate it on top of their dresser. Let them hang a wreath they made. Hang a single strand of Christmas lights in their room.
Instead of everyone buying a gift for everyone, put names in a hat and draw. Now each person is responsible for one gift.
My family had all of the cousins do this for our annual family gathering. (Our mothers cheated and rigged it, but we loved it)
In this fashion, your wallet is not crying after the holidays. Everyone gets one gift “plus there’s the added fun of who gets who…whom”
Santa gifts don’t hurt your wallet and your creativity as badly if your son got a gift for dad, you got a gift for your daughter, etc. Simplify!
White Elephant gift exchange
Place all wrapped gifts in the center. Draw a number. Number 1 gets to go first and opens a gift for all to see. Number 2 (and so on) will then steal the gift number 1 has, or open a new gift.
If the gift you have is stolen, you may steal another or open a new gift. Each gift may only be stolen 3 times. If number 1 ends up with the same gift they started with, they may trade with anyone at the end.
Open a small gift on Christmas Eve
Make a Christmas Eve gift for everyone. New pajamas to be shown off on Christmas morning, new fluffy socks, a new Christmas book or movie, game or activity, key for Santa (for homes without chimneys), cookie mix to make Santa’s cookies, a bag of popcorn for the movie, or a gift from your Elf on the Shelf.
Bake and decorate Christmas Cookies
Make your favorite recipe and grab some festive cookie cutters at the store. Grab a few tubs of white icing and come food dye for a decorating party. The baking aisle usually also has gel icing, candy eyes, bows, glitter and sprinkles. Let the flour fly and make some fun memories.
Yes, you heard that right, BAKE ornaments! Check out my Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments here.
Search through the popcorn section for popcorn with NO butter… it may take a while! You don’t want it to make your tree oily and moldy! It is best to start with stale popcorn for stringing, so pop and let sit for 24 hours before diving in!
Have an old fashioned Christmas tree with home made ornaments.
I have 4 trees in my house every year. I always have one in my kitchen adorned with food themed decor…cinnamon applesauce ornaments, candy canes, popcorn garland, etc.
Get out that crock pot and make enough hot cocoa to feed a crowd!
6 cups milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups milk chocolate chips.
Set up a ladle, cups, whipped cream, candy canes, marshmallows, etc. and you’ve got a hot cocoa bar!
Get out that muffin tin from the back of that cabinet. Pick up some refrigerated cinnamon rolls at the store and a can of apple pie filling.
Press the cinnamon rolls into the greased muffin tin forming a cup, spoon apple pie filling into those cups (you may want to chop up the apple chunks into smaller bites).
Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Drizzle icing and enjoy!
Grab a jug of apple juice when you’re at the grocery store. Dump it into your biggest pot on the stove or into the crock pot. Add cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. For a fancy or creative cider, throw in oranges, vanilla extract, cranberries, lemon juice, honey, or caramel sauce.
Make a batch of cookies and take to a shelter
While you’re waiting for yet another batch to bake, jump online and find out what shelters are in your area. Figure out which ones take food donations of this kind (perishable & home made) and take your kids to deliver!
Take some time on Christmas Eve to make a special batch just for Santa to enjoy.
If you’d like to go for nontraditional, have your kids look around for some snack that Santa might enjoy after ALL of the cookies and milk he’s getting.
My mom and I would put out a Pepsi and an apple. That way he would get some caffeine to push through the rest of the night and an apple for a healthy bite or two.
Santa gets treats at almost every home, but aren’t the reindeer doing the most work? They deserve a treat!
Ask your kiddos what they think Santa’s reindeer would eat. A lot of kids will probably volunteer that they need some candy…so they can have a piece.
You might have a curious oyster on your hands who would like to know what they really eat. Let them do some research! (Leafy greens, mushrooms, occasionally bird eggs and they enjoy apples and carrots as a treat even though they would not find those in their natural habitat)
Toss some chicken broth, celery, carrots and spices in the crock pot in the morning. Add some chicken & noodles when you get home and… voila! Within an hour, dinner is served!
Grab some refrigerated pizza dough (or make it from scratch if you want to be the picture-perfect Pinterest mom), knead, roll, cut into the shape of a tree, stocking, candy cane, Santa hat, gingerbread man, etc. and let the kiddos decorate.
Bake and enjoy!
This is simple as pie! Grab some white melting chocolate and some candy canes or peppermints. Crush the peppermints to pieces in a food processor or double bag and take a rolling pin or hammer to them.
Met your chocolate in the microwave or over water on the stove top, stir in your peppermint dust & bits, spread onto wax paper on a cookie sheet and throw in the fridge to harden. Tale it out, break it apart and enjoy!
I make this every year and take it with me everywhere!
Traditionally, it is white chocolate and peppermint pieces, but you can get milk chocolate, dark chocolate, colored white chocolate, and kind of candy you want. The possibilities are endless!
Pro Tip: Even if these little dusty pieces do not get wet, they will become very hard and sticky in time. Be sure to wash your appliances as quickly as possible!
Christmas shaped pancakes
Pour your pancake batter into some fun shapes on the griddle. A triangle for a tree, a hook for a candy cane, a gingerbread man, a Santa hat… you may find it easier to pour a piece of a shape and let it begin to take form before adding on an additional limb or decoration.
Let the kids decorate with fruit or frosting.
If you have metal cookie cutters, you can grease them, place them on the griddle and pour the batter directly into them.
For easier fun, add some green coloring for Grinch pancakes or add red colorin to half of your batter and swirl for some festive cakes.
Toss some green food coloring into your waffle batter. Cut into triangles to let the kids cover with syrup, frosting, sweets, whipped cream, fruit.