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In just a few days, the Fall season will be over and we will be in full-on Christmas mode. With my kids growing as fast as the seasons change, it can be hard to feel like I’ve had the time to savor every special moment. Since we cannot slow down time, I want to be more purposeful in everything I do this Christmas season, and I would love for you to join me!
I have put together a list of 25 family-friendly activities that will allow you to savor time with your little ones and bring some extra Christmas-spirit into your home. I’ve made it super easy for you to keep track of your activities! You can “pin it” and save it for later, click on the image and save it to your computer, or you can grab the free printable version in my free resource library.
As you complete each activity, share a photo on Instagram using #joyfulchristmasbucketlist and tag me @abbybarstow so we can all see what you are up to this Christmas season.
Now that you are excited to join the fun, let’s take a look at what activities have made the bucket list this Christmas-season.
Family Christmas-Season Bucket List
1. Attend a tree lighting
You don't need to go all the way to Rockefeller Center to see a Christmas tree lighting! Most cities and even small towns have little Christmas tree festivities. In our little city, there is a big lighting ceremony every year with some sort of performance (usually run by a local theater company), Lancaster Central Market opens up in the evening for everyone to warm up and get treats, there's a traditional tuba concert, and of course the Mayor and usually some other important person pushes the button to light the tree. There's also an appearance by Santa!
2. Decorate a gingerbread house
I am so excited to make a gingerbread house with my 3-year-old this year (gulp...he'll be 3 1/2 the week of Christmas! 😱) although I do predict that he will be mostly interested in eating the candy and there may not be enough to actually decorate the gingerbread house.
You can make your gingerbread house the good 'ol fashioned way with graham crackers and homemade icing acting as the glue or you can get a handy kit!
3. Bake + decorate sugar cookies
How can you not make and decorate sugar cookies at Christmas time?? My all-time favorite roll-out sugar cookie recipe is from Design Eat Repeat.
4. Watch Elf
I cannot believe that it has been THIRTEEN years since Elf came out! It was an instant classic and a must-see Christmas movie.
5. Watch The Polar Express
William watched The Polar Express for the first time last year and I have spent the rest of the year trying to convince him that the DVD only works at Christmastime. 😂
6. Read The Night Before Christmas
A classic Christmas book to read your kiddos at Christmas time.
7. Give a gift to a stranger
The gift doesn't need to be big, it could simply be handing out candy canes to neighbors you don't know or paying for someone's coffee in the Starbuck's drive thru.
8. Decorate a Christmas tree
Even if you don't have a full-on, huge Christmas tree, you can still decorate a tree! Help your parents decorate their tree or set up a small windowsill one for your toddler to decorate. Or you could make a felt Christmas tree for your little one to decorate with felt ornaments!
9. Read about the birth of Jesus
The Santa stuff is fun but be sure that you teach your little ones the true meaning of Christmas. You can find Jesus' birth story in Luke 2:1-20 in the Bible. Or you can read a Children's version of the story in one of the Children's Bibles or books below.
10. Make a snowman
Even if you don't have snow where you live leading up to Christmas, you can still make a snowman!
▸ You can make 2-ingredient snow dough
▸ You can make a fluffy cotton ball snowman
▸ [affiliate link] You can go crazy and use SnoWonder Instant Artificial Snow to make some fake snow! We used this at church before but I can't remember if it is thick enough to make a snowman or not.
11. Watch It's a Wonderful Life
Fun fact, when I was in middle school I was in our high school's production of It's a Wonderful Life. I was just a background/townsperson but I had lots of fun! And I love classic, black & white movies and It's a Wonderful Life is not exception.
12. Make 100% homemade
There really is nothing like homemade cinnamon rolls! Even if you're not a big baker, don't be scared, they are much easier than you'd think and lots of fun to make! Here are some yummy recipes:
▸ Quick 45-minute Cinnamon Rolls from
The Recipe Critic
▸ The Best Cinnamon Rolls Recipe from Foodie Crush
▸ The Best Gluten-Free & Vegan Cinnamon Rolls from Fork & Beans
13. Drink egg nog
My husband loves egg nog. It doesn't even appeal to me. But I know it's a big Christmas "thing" so I am willing to try one of the dairy-free versions, just for you guys (as long as the baby lets me because so far I'm not able to eat/drink a big range of foods in this pregnancy).
14. Drink hot chocolate
Even if you live in a warm climate, you need to drink some hot chocolate at Christmastime, even if it's actually "lukewarm" chocolate. Add in marshmallows for an extra sweet treat.
You can get a hot chocolate mix, like [affiliate link] Starbuck's Classic Hot Cocoa Mix, or a [affiliate link] k-cup hot chocolate, or you can make it from scratch (try: Six Sisters' Stuff recipe for Disneyland's Hot Chocolate or The Glow Fridge recipe for Homemade Vegan Hot Chocolate).
15. Play in the snow
Even if it doesn't snow in your area, you can make some DIY snow to play with (like when you make your snowman). Here are some more options for DIY snow.
16. Hang mistletoe
17. Send Christmas cards
I looooove Christmas cards! Even if you don't have a big budget, order just a few for family, they will love getting some Christmas cheer in the mail. I recently shared our Christmas cards along with 5 ways to make your Christmas cards stand out, in this blog post.
18. Donate to charity/volunteer
Teach your little ones how to bless others during the holidays. If you have the time, many charities need volunteers to help serve Christmas meals or help with other Christmas-related events. Or you can simply donate a few dollars to your favorite charity to help bless others during the Christmas season.
19. Do an advent calendar
I haven't decided which calendar we are going to use this year, it's our first year doing one with the boys, but I know William will be all about it! Below are some fun ideas for your advent calendar but first, here are a few DIY advent calendar ideas:
20. Make a Christmas-themed music playlist
Even if you don't own a Christmas music on iTunes, hop on over to Spotify and create an epic playlist. A few of my favorite Christmas albums include:
▸ That's Christmas To Me by Pentatonix
▸ Unto Us by JJ Heller
▸ A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix
▸ Christmas by Michael Buble
▸ Let it Snow Baby...Let it Reindeer by Relient K
▸ A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him
▸ White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Yes...I do have an extremely eclectic taste in music.
21. Mail a letter to Santa
Have your little one write a letter, draw a picture, or dictate a letter to mail to Santa. Here are instructions from the USPS for how to write a letter AND how to write a reply from Santa to your child that will be mailed to them, complete with a North Pole stamp! I had no idea that the USPS went all out to help your kiddos get a letter from Santa, but they do! They request that the letters you wish to have mailed back to your child "from Santa" be received by the Anchorage, AK Postmaster no later than December 15th.
22. Take a drive to see
Do some Google-ing or ask your local Facebook friends for places to see epic Christmas lights. There are many paid drives you can go to or you can simply take a drive through neighborhoods to find houses decorated with lights.
23. Make homemade Christmas ornaments
Keep them for your own tree or gift them to friends and family. My Christmas board on Pinterest has lots of DIY ornament ideas as well as other fun Christmas-y pins.
24. Watch Rudolph
You can find Rudolph on TV throughout the Christmas season because it is classic!
25. Make and Give Cookies to Your Neighbors
You don't have to do anything fancy, just make some yummy cookies and arrange them on a paper plate and give them to your neighbors.
Which activities are you most excited to complete? Decorating a gingerbread house is going to be so fun with my 3 1/2-year-old this year and both boys will love going to see Christmas lights.
Don't forget to grab your printable checklist from the resource library. If you're not already subscribed to my email list, I've made it super easy for you! Just pop your name and email below and you'll get all the info for how to access the resource library and get your printable Christmas Bucket List (and tons of other freebies!).