Last Updated December 21st, 2018

15 Cheap And Fun Family Christmas Activities

15 Cheap And Fun Family Christmas Activities

The Christmas season is a great time to take a break and do some special things with your family. When you aren’t dealing with the rush to get the Christmas decorating and shopping done, it’s time to enjoy yourself. These fun family Christmas activities don’t have to take a ton of time and they’re nicely affordable for most budgets.

This isn’t about choosing a Christmas tree and decorating it – odds are you already know that one. It’s also not about moving the Elf On The Shelf, although I have some geeky ideas for that one elsewhere. Instead, this post is about fun family Christmas activities you may not have considered. No doubt some will be traditions you already enjoy, but hopefully some will be new to you or inspire further ideas.

Go See The Christmas Lights

All the houses decorated for Christmas are one of the great parts of this time of year. You don’t have to go far to see houses lit up for Christmas in most places. You can just take a walk around the block.

If you want to see the really amazing houses, however, you may have to do a little research to figure out which areas near you have coordinated to make a neighborhood display. These neighborhoods are fun to drive through, so long as you’re careful to watch for pedestrians and for other cars stopping suddenly.

Best of all these displays are generally free. All it costs is the gas to drive there.

Build A Gingerbread House

Making a gingerbread house with the kids can be a lot of fun. You can bake the gingerbread yourself if you like, buy a kit, or cheat like I do, and use graham crackers.

Most people use royal icing to hold the house together and to decorate. Chocolate can be used as well. Get some candy to bring in some color and flavor, and everyone can have some fun.

You can build a larger gingerbread house as a family, or have everyone make their own.

Watch Christmas Movies And Shows

There are so many Christmas movies and shows on television this time of year. It’s just a matter of finding out when your favorites are on.

Make up some popcorn and other fun snacks, and it’s a cheap and easy evening as a family.

Local movie theaters may also play Christmas movies.

It may cost a little more, but you may be able to find live performances of Christmas plays in your area as well.

Make Caramel Corn

Caramel corn is surprisingly easy to make, and so much fun to eat. It sounds really messy, but the cleanup isn’t bad at all once you realize that the stuck on caramel dissolves nicely in water. And the delicious caramel corn is well worth it.

If you want something a little fancier, drizzle it with dark chocolate and milk chocolate. It’s super easy and the results are worth it.

Bake Cookies

What cookies most say “Christmas” to you and your family? It’s time to make them.

Let each person pick a favorite cookie to make if you want a large supply of them. We keep it pretty simple and make a large batch of chocolate chip cookies, which we then decorate to give them a bit more of a Christmas flair.

If you like a large range of cookies, make plans with other families for a cookie swap. This way no one has to make a bunch of different types of cookies, but you all get a variety to enjoy.

Make Peppermint Bark

I have to be honest. My kids don’t seem to like peppermint candy canes that much. Of all the candy they may get at this time of year, they’re the most likely to be sitting around until the end.

Make them into peppermint bark, however, and they’ll disappear quickly.

Peppermint bark is super easy to make. You can do it with chocolate, peppermint extract and candy canes with very little difficulty.

Make Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Homemade Christmas ornaments can be a lot of fun to make. They also help create great memories of the year you made them.

There are many lovely Christmas ornaments you can make at home. Here are a few ideas:

Check Out Local Christmas Events

Have you looked for free holiday events in your area? You may be surprised at what you can find.

The town I live has a Christmas parade and a Winter Fest with tree lighting every year. Both are a lot of fun for the family. The people in the parade often throw candy for the kids, which gets them quite excited. The other towns in the area have similar events.

You can also look for places that have free Santa photos in your area. Many malls have Santas that you have to pay for pictures to visit, but sometimes you can find them for free as well. Bass Pro is one store that lets you get free pictures with Santa.

Donate Or Volunteer

Your family may be doing pretty well right now, but what about others? Christmas is a lovely time to start volunteering, although volunteers are needed year round.

It can be challenging to find volunteer opportunities that you can do with kids, but they are out there. Use sites such as VolunteerMatch to make this easier.

Many places are looking for donations as well. Homeless shelters and food banks may need food. Animal shelters need supplies for their animals. Children’s hospitals need toys for the kids who are spending the holidays there, and of course there’s always Toys For Tots. Sometimes your children’s school may have toy drives to donate to as well.

Use this as a start, but remember that charities need volunteers and donations all year. Don’t make this a one time thing if you can do more.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

A Christmas scavenger hunt can be a fun way to change up the opening of the Christmas gifts. Find places to hide some of the gifts and give the kids clues instead.

Alternatively, you can make up a list of things that might be spotted in outdoor Christmas decorations and see who can fill out their list first as you look at the decorated houses in your area.

Family Game Night

This is a great time of year to make a little extra time to do things as a family. Playing games is one way to do this.

If there’s a game you’ve been considering for the family, this is the excuse you need to get that game as a special treat. Playing games together is a great way to get everyone talking and just plain having fun.

Make Homemade Christmas Gifts

Making Christmas gifts at home can be a lot of fun, and it really shows a lot of thought to others.

Just consider the things you like to make. I sometimes make chocolate truffles to share with family, as well as the usual cookies. You can also make ornaments, sew things, knit, or whatever suits your style.

Read Christmas Stories

Reading together as a family is a good idea in general, but reading Christmas stories together can be even more special. Classics such as The Night Before Christmas have been enjoyed for many years, but there are lots to choose from.

If you don’t have the stories you want on hand, head out to the library to see what they have, or see what’s available in an electronic version. Most libraries now have access to electronic versions of a wide range of books. You may have a little trouble getting the story if it’s popular, as they’re limited in how many electronic versions can be checked out at a time.

Go Ice Skating

This is a great time of year to go ice skating. In addition to indoor rinks that are available year round, some cities set up seasonal rinks at this time of year.

Have A Snowball Fight

Do you have snow in your area, or at least near enough to drive to? Take the family out and have a friendly snowball fight.

But if you’re like me, and snow is nowhere to be found for hours around you, you can still have a family snowball fight. You just need to get a little creative.

We usually use cotton balls for our no snow snowball fights. They’re cheap and not terribly messy. You won’t want to use them for anything else after they’ve been thrown around, but that’s okay.

If you don’t mind a mess, you can try this snowball toss game that uses shaving cream. Yes, it’s a lot messier, but mess can be fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 23rd, 2016

How to Teach a Reluctant Child to Cook

 

How to Teach a Reluctant Child to Cook

Some kids start out early loving to cook. My kids, not so much. While they all went through the “mommy’s helper” phase when they were little, they all lost interest in cooking and meal preparation early on. They have all been very reluctant to learn how to cook.

The solution, fortunately, has not been too difficult, although none are enthusiastic about the job most days. These are some of the steps I took to bring my kids from reluctant to cooperative and occasionally enthusiastic cooks.

Set Up a Schedule

Pick a day of the week that your child will help out with at least one meal. With three kids, this means I get help in the kitchen quite often. They know which day is theirs, and that if there’s a particular recipe they want to make, they need to tell me in time for grocery shopping. If I don’t know what they’d like to make, I may not have the ingredients on hand.

Start With Favorite Meals

What do your kids like to eat? Teach them to make their favorite homemade meals first. There’s a reason why all of my kids have helped make homemade pizza.

Don’t feel bad about allowing them to use premade ingredients. If you aren’t comfortable making homemade pizza crust, for example, buy a crust from the store. We have also used meatballs from Costco and other shortcuts in recipes.

Cooking doesn’t have to be dinner, although it has usually been the most convenient for us. If your child wants to make breakfast or lunch and there’s time for that, go for it.

Don’t Forget Desserts

If there’s one thing kids love to make, it’s dessert. Allow them to sometimes pick a dessert to make along with dinner. I don’t allow dessert to be the only thing they make that day, but it can be a part of the meal.

The great part about making dessert is that many of them can be made early, or even need to be made early. Many desserts need to cool before they can be eaten, which makes it easier to prepare the dinner that goes with the dessert.

Plan Fun Meal Days

The week that school started, I told each of my kids that their meal that week would be either “eat dessert first” or “breakfast for dinner.” They got to pick which one. They were also allowed to suggest their own ideas for a fun dinner, but to my complete lack of surprise, none did. Only one wanted to make breakfast for dinner – the others wanted dessert first on their nights.

My son was the one who chose to make breakfast for dinner, and he got a lesson on how complicated it can be to make a big meal where everything has to be warm at the same time. We made chocolate pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit salad. Naturally, we started with the fruit salad, as that could just sit in the fridge until dinner. Making the rest took quite a bit of effort on both our parts to keep up. We both had fun, of course.

Be Flexible

I’m very flexible with my kids and cooking, especially during the school year. If they have too much homework or they’re just exhausted, they’re excused from helping. There’s time enough for them to learn about the occasional monotony of cooking a meal when they’re older and it has to be done every day no matter how they feel. If they learn to enjoy cooking when they’re younger, the monotony shouldn’t be as bad when they’re older. I hope.

Why Should You Teach Your Kids to Cook?

If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your kids about cooking, there may be times when you wonder why you should bother, especially with young children. Aside from the fact that they will need the skill as adults, there are excellent reasons to teach your children to cook.

1. They will understand food better.

Cooking is how kids learn about what goes into making a healthy meal, and what food looks like before you combine the ingredients to make a meal. There was that show a few years ago where children had trouble recognizing common vegetables. Getting them involved in food preparation (and including vegetables in your everyday diet) will help ensure that they know about a wide range of foods.

2. They will be more confident.

When my kids started cooking, they were very nervous about the heat from the stove and oven. They’re still cautious, but they get more comfortable every time, as they learn that it’s not that hard to deal with the heat and not get burned. The exception is my youngest, as she’s still small enough that it’s hard to reach things on the stove, never mind the oven.

It’s also important that kids get comfortable using knives. When their movements have been more tentative with knives, they have been at greater risk of hurting themselves, as they haven’t held things safely for fear of the blade. As they gain confidence and knowledge, they’re safer. That goes for a lot of things in life.

3. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook.

This is a real help if you have a picky eater. While it’s easier to start with foods they love, as your kids get more comfortable you can start challenging them a little. You can have them cook things that aren’t favorites, try new recipes or unfamiliar ingredients and get creative in the kitchen together. The pride of accomplishment can make kids more willing to eat things they might not have been willing to try otherwise.

4. It eventually takes stress off you.

Teaching kids to cook is not always fun. Sometimes it’s just a pain. But in the long run, as they get old enough to cook without your direct supervision, it makes your life easier. You don’t have to cook when you’re tired from a hard day – you can have one of the kids handle it. You might even save some money by not needing to eat out so often.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 22nd, 2010

Have a Tea Party – Free Fun Friday

Tea parties these days are the classic territory of the little girl. She dresses up and serves a beverage to her favorite toys and maybe a friend or two.

Nothing wrong with doing this as a family, though.

Take some time and make it a little fun. Maybe make some cupcakes or another treat. If the kids don’t like tea, serve lemonade. Just relax and have fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 15th, 2010

Learn Family History – Free Fun Friday

What do you know about your family’s history? Have you discussed your family history with your children?

This can be a fun thing to do together, especially if grandparents or other relatives are visiting. Talk about things that each family member has done in their lifetime. Talk about family stories they know.

Many families have one or more members who really get into genealogy for a time. I had an uncle write a book on our family history, including plenty of stories about those ancestors he could find such information on. That book is a great resource for talking about my side of the family.

If you get into this one, it can last for years, and you can easily take notes and make your own family history book. There are tons of online resources to help you learn about your family history. It might just be your new hobby.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 27th, 2009

Make a Family Cook Book – Free Fun Friday

I know it’s Black Friday, and it’s just about impossible to think about doing free things when there are so many great sales out there. I prefer avoiding the crowds, and so I’m sticking with the Free Fun Friday thing.

This week my suggestion is to make a family cook book. Figure out what everyone’s favorite recipes are. Type them up and print them out.

I like to use a 3 ring binder and sheet protectors so that I can organize my recipes as I like and not worry about the inevitable splashing that happens when I cook.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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