25 Days of Ideas for Holiday Family Fun

There are so many ways to have fun with your family around the Holidays. However, it’s very easy to get caught up in the stress and crazy-busy schedules during the Holidays that we forget to stop and have some fun. (What do you mean we forgot to get a present for your Spanish teacher? Why has the cat eaten all of the curling ribbon? I can’t wait for that gift to come out. Where did I put the Christmas cards that I bought last January on sale?) So, as a way to remind myself to plan some fun for the family every day during the Holiday Season and not become the Grinch, I will be sharing some fun ideas every day. From reading Holiday-themed books before bedtime to watching your favorite Christmas specials to finding that perfect craft or cookie recipe, I hope I can inspire you to do something every day to keep your family smiling during December. Smile and wave kids … smile and wave.

DAY 1 Holiday Family Fun Ideas

Bear Stays Up for Christmas
Read: Tonight we read Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. While my kids are a little too old for this picture book, it is still a Holiday favorite. The illustrations are too cute and the rhyming words are perfect for lulling everyone to sleep. (I want some of the cookies that Bear makes his friends!)

Ziggys Gift DVD
Watch: We didn’t have a lot of time to watch anything after dinner and homework but we snuck in one of my all time favorite Christmas shows – Ziggy’s Gift. I was a huge Ziggy fan growing up and the first time I saw this Christmas special I was bawling. Guess what?After watching again tonight, I’m still tearing up. I love this story about the true meaning of giving and forgiveness at Christmas. My kids love the thief. Go figure.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
Bake: We are in the process of renovating our kitchen and haven’t had an oven for about 6 weeks now. Because I can’t bake, I have been dreaming about homemade Holiday cookies for several nights now. But if you have an oven, go ahead and make these with your kids. They love rolling the cookies into a ball and then rolling them in powdered sugar. Sure, it makes a mess. Sure, these cookies are pure butter. But that’s why I love them. Here’s a recipe that is close to how we make them, only we use ground pecans because the kids don’t like the texture of nut pieces in the cookie.

Craft: I’ve been on the hunt for some really cute but really easy Holiday crafts to do with the kids. You know the kind where I don’t need to spend all day shopping for supplies, doesn’t take three days of drying time to complete, and actually looks cute when finished. Well I found a fun site called Homemaking Fun and I liked their idea for making Magical Reindeer Food to sprinkle in the snow. If you are lucky, you’ll have everything you need in the house already.

Elf on the Shelf
Pure Fun: If your family has adopted an Elf on the Shelf, tonight is the night to start. At least in our house it is. (Some people start the day after Thanksgiving, some on December 6th which is St. Nicholas Day, and some on the 15th because they only want to hide the Elf for 10 nights.) You choose. Never heard of Elf on the Shelf? Well, this post explains it all.

We’ll be sharing ideas every day for 25 days but we’d love to hear your favorite way to have fun during the Holidays. Please share them by leaving a comment here. Check back tomorrow!

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun · Cooking with the Kids · Family Celebrations · Family Fun Ideas · Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions · Reading with the Kids

Family Traditions – Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbreadhouse photo
Another Holiday tradition that we do every year with the kids is decorate a Gingerbread House. We buy the kit where the pieces are already made and all we have to do is decorate. (Saves a huge amount of time!) We have even used old Halloween candy as additional decorations for the house as a way to get rid of the “less than desirable” candy that the kids never ate.

If you are looking for recipes to make the gingerbread pieces yourself, kits or tips on how to best tackle a gingerbread house barn raising, try the Fork & Bottle site.

One year we branched out and made a gingerbread stable since my daughter loves horses. We’ve also made a gingerbread train. You can find the gingerbread train kit here. We even found a Gingerbread Hannukah Cottage online. If you know of any other cool gingerbread kits out there, let us know. We’re always game for trying a new twist on a favorite family activity.

However, if you want to avoid the sticky mess and try something new this year, we found this great idea on the Alpha Mom site to build a cardboard Gingerbread House. Very cute!

Here’s a question for you. Does your family eat the gingerbread house after you have made it? We don’t. We let it sit out for a few days as decoration but we don’t eat it. (No, not the gum drop buttons!) However, we want to know if you do.

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Tags: Cooking with the Kids · Family Fun Ideas · Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions · Ideas for family projects

10 Ideas for Family Holiday Traditions

A Stimulus Package for Fun Family Holiday Traditions – 10 Ideas to Banish the Bah Humbugs!

Here’s a list of ideas to stimulate you into creating or adding enduring Holiday Traditions for your family. Have fun!

1. Holiday Tea Party. Mother & daughter, sisters, friends, Grandma & Granddaughters. Check out your favorite place or host one yourself.

elf on the shelf on tree

2. Hide ‘n Seek Traditions. A fun way to usher in the Holiday Season is with Holiday hide and seek traditions like Elf on the Shelf , which we sell at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com because we love it so much, or the Christmas Pickle.

3. Bake Holiday Cookies. There is no better way to spend quality time with your family than in the kitchen cooking, eating and talking. Or, try a new cake recipe each year. Everyone at the table gets to vote on their favorite recipe. Check out our post on making Gingerbread Houses.

4. Create a Holiday Scrapbook. Together as a family, create a scrapbook of the previous Holiday family gathering. Everyone can decorate their own page and it’s a nice way to sit and talk about what you enjoyed last year.

5. Holiday Movie Marathon. Pick a day, keep your jammies on, and watch your favorite Christmas specials or movies. Everyone can choose their favorite show and you can watch them back-to-back together. If you have any home movies of Holidays past, this is the perfect time to watch.

6. The Competitive Holiday Spirit. Why not organize a Holiday Olympics to get the competitive juices flowing? If you have a Nintendo Wii console, your family can see who’s the best at bowling, tennis, or 3-Point Shoot-Out. Or, make a contest out of the Holiday tasks you need to do – Who can wrap a present the fastest? Who can untangle the first string of lights?

7. Extreme Gift Exchange. Sometimes the weirdest gifts are the most memorable. Why not inspire some creativity in your family by creating an oddball gift exchange? Have everyone in the family come up with some silly ideas for a gift theme and then sit back and laugh as the gifts are opened. Some ideas we have done in our family include:

  • Give a piece of funny (or incredibly ugly) artwork (kids and adults can draw pictures for their contribution, too)
  • Funny T-shirts
  • Socks (the uglier the better)
  • Pick a country out of a hat and buy a funny gift that represents that country
  • Choose a letter out of a hat and the gift must start with that letter
  • 8. Have Fun Giving Back. Teach your kids the importance of helping others. Help pack Christmas Care Packages for the troops. Buy gifts from the giving trees at local libraries and YMCA for kids in need. Have a wrapping party where everyone in the family wraps their “giving” gift. Create cookie care packages for a local nursing home. Make bird seed “ornaments” with Styrofoam, peanut butter, and bird seed to decorate trees outside and feed the birds in winter.

    9. Make the Annual Ornament. Every year, pick an ornament that everyone will make together. Put them on the tree or give them as gifts. Don’t forget to mark the year.

    10. Create a Neighborhood Decorating Contest, Progressive Dinner or Tree Looking. Get all of your neighbors to put out Snowmen each year. Then have a party and ask everyone to vote on who has the best “themed” decorations. Or have a progressive dinner where people get to go “tree looking” and see everyone’s Holiday decorations.

    Help us add to this list. Tell about some of your favorite Family Holiday Traditions.

    Read all of our posts on the ingredients of our Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions.
    Part One – Book It!
    Part Two – Prepare Now!
    Part Three – Spice It Up!
    Part Four – Make it a Party!
    10 Ideas for Family Holiday Traditions

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    Tags: Family Celebrations · Family Fun Ideas · Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions

    A Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions – Make it a Party!

    Fourth Pres Holiday concert
    Here is our last list of “ingredients” to help you brainstorm, plan and enjoy family Holiday traditions. To make your holiday traditions more fun and memorable, don’t forget to add these: “Make it a Party,” “Rediscover Your Family Room” and “Ask the Experts.”

    Make it a Party. No one said that you have to limit family traditions to just family. (Some families need to bring in some ringers to add more fun to the proceedings. Hey, I’m just saying. Not every family is a barrel of monkeys.) Some of our favorite traditions involve our best friends or neighbors. Every Christmas, we have a gift exchange with some of our closest friends. We always try to invite friends to our Holiday meals who might be home alone that year. We also meet our best friends every year for the Fourth Presbyterian Church Holiday Concert in downtown Chicago. We have gone for several years now and the kids love it. We head down to the Church for the concert, performed by the Tower Brass, and then walk around Michigan Ave. looking at the lights before grabbing dinner. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the season and experience the beauty of the city during the Holidays. (FYI-This year the concert is Dec. 19th at 5 p.m.)

    Our neighborhood has a tradition of having a house decorating contest with a snowman theme. Each house on our block tries to decorate with as many snowmen as possible. We then all meet for a party at a neighbor’s house. During the party the whole group puts on their coats and marches around the block in the dark and the cold, voting on which house has the best snowman “spirit.” Try it with your neighbors this year and let the competition and laughter begin. (If anyone knows how to create a giant snowman to put up on our roof, let me know. We really want to win this year.)

    Rediscover Your Family Room. There are so many activities around the Holidays like plays, concerts, and parties to keep your family in the fun. But don’t forget to stay home. It can be so nice to just relax, maybe light a fire, admire your decorations, and have fun in your home. Stay in and watch Holiday movies. Bake Christmas cookies one night and listen to your favorite Holiday music. Invite some friends over to see your tree, try a new recipe, or see your handmade Menorah. Best year, wear your Holiday PJ’s while you are doing it all. It’s your house after all.

    Ask the Experts. The final ingredient to planning on having more fun this Holiday season is to ask the experts – other families – what traditions they enjoy during the Holidays. I recently started speaking at various Moms groups on “How to Create Family Holiday Traditions” and I love listening to the ideas that they share with me on what their family does to create memories. (I have to admit, I love the silly and funny traditions the best.) So, ask your extended family, neighbors, and friends what they do each year and see if you can find some inspiration. Don’t forget to check out the local websites that list what Holiday activities are going on in your area for events you might want to check out. Your local newspaper or local parenting sites like www.kidwinks.com here in Chicago are perfect for ideas. Or check back tomorrow when we’ll start our series “Stimulus Package for Fun Family Traditions – 10 Ideas to Banish the Bah Humbugs!”

    Do you have any Holiday Traditions that involve more than just your family? We’d love to hear about them.

    Read all of our posts on the ingredients of our Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions.
    Part One – Book It!
    Part Two – Prepare Now!
    Part Three – Spice It Up!
    Part Four – Make it a Party!
    10 Ideas for Family Holiday Traditions

    [Read more →]

    Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions

    A Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions – Spice it Up!

    Baking Christmas cookies

    Baking Christmas cookies

    In the third part of our recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions, two additional ingredients we suggest for “spicing” up the family fun is Be Creative and Try Something New.

    Instead of putting on your Santa Hat, try putting on your creativity/imagination hat and think about ways to amp up your existing Holiday Traditions. If your family has a tradition of cutting down a real tree every year, try wearing Santa Hats or dressing like lumberjacks this year to give the event a little silliness and flair. (Oh yes, I’ve seen Office Space and know that “flair” has a negative connotation but in this case changing up the way you do your traditions can be good.) Every year, ask the kids to come up with a new twist on a favorite tradition and you may be amazed at how fun it can be just brainstorming ideas. If you all bake Holiday cookies together, try a new recipe or one that sounds really wild to be adventurous. If your family runs in a local Turkey Trot or 5K race before Thanksgiving dinner, make T-shirts with a funny saying so you look like a team running together. If you talk about what makes your thankful at the Thanksgiving dinner, this year try bringing something to show everyone instead of just talking.

    The other ingredient to creating family Holiday traditions is to Try Something New this year. Be adventurous and try a new activity that you’ve heard or read about. If you love it, do it again year after year. So, if you always go to see the Christmas Carol play, try the Nutcracker Ballet this year. If you have never had a real Christmas tree, try cutting one down this year and see if you like the difference. If your kids are a little older now, try going to Midnight Mass. Invite other people to your Hannukah celebration to teach them about your traditions. Try making your menorah this year instead of using the family favorite. Or, buy a candle making set and have the whole family make candles this year for the Celebration of Light. (I’m not Jewish but I asked my friends about their traditions and looked and online for ideas. I found a really nice article on Hannukah traditions to do with your kids.)

    Check back for our next post in our series for How to Create Family Holiday Traditions. Missed the first two – Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions and Plan Now?

    How would you add a little more spice to a Family Holiday Tradition? We’d love to hear your stories.

    Read all of our posts on the ingredients of our Recipe for Creating Family Holiday Traditions.
    Part One – Book It!
    Part Two – Prepare Now!
    Part Three – Spice It Up!
    Part Four – Make it a Party!
    10 Ideas for Family Holiday Traditions

    [Read more →]

    Tags: Family Celebrations · Family Fun Ideas · Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions

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