The holidays are some of the most wonderful times of the year, though they can also be stressful at times. Remember the reason for the season and focus on spreading cheer to the little ones in the family. Help keep everyone focused and busy with these eight ways to involve your child in holiday fun and games.

Make Something Yummy

A woman handing a man a lemon muffin during a Christmas party.

Image via Flickr by shixart1985

Plan a day in the kitchen while the kids are home for the holidays. Baking Christmas goodies or cooking latkes for Hanukkah are fun and educational too. Involve the kids in every step of the way by letting them choose a recipe and help shop for ingredients. Have them weigh and measure each item as they read the directions from the cookbook. Be handy for the tough stuff, like taking hot foods from the oven and ensuring they know the difference between the sugar and salt containers.

Plan a Treasure Hunt

A pile of small toys and presents being prepared to be given as Christmas gifts.

Image via Flickr by tillwe

Plan a winter-themed treasure hunt with gifts hidden around the house. Prizes don’t need to be big or expensive. Any little treat is exciting to discover. This idea extends the gift unwrapping celebration and will make lifelong memories for the whole family. Make up a treasure map with clues to find the hidden presents, or search for templates filled with challenging riddles online. Modify this fun holiday game to reference your family’s favorite annual traditions and take the game outdoors, weather permitting.

Host a Jam Session

A young boy playing on a tin-can drum.

 Image via Flickr by

The holidays are always filled with music, from songs on the radio to tinkling decorations throughout the house. It’s the ideal time of year to encourage your children to make some music, sing, and dance along. Grab a bongo, a pair of shakers, or a tambourine, and get jamming. Don’t have any instruments on hand? Kick-start your family’s band by making your own.

Star in a Home Movie

Several middle-school kids standing backstage during a Christmas play.

Image via Flickr by humbert15 

Every culture celebrates the winter holidays with their own set of traditions. Whether you make merry for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or St. Lucia Day, make a movie depicting your family’s favorite stories. Dress up in costume, and get creative. Go ahead and get the family pets involved, too. Use mom or dad’s smartphone to record the skit and share the final production with faraway family and friends.

Unleash Their Creativity

Children working with a parent to decorate cookies.

Image via Flickr by AndrewEick

Looking for some fun arts and crafts ideas to while away the winter days? Painting is a wonderful way to express creativity. Get out some large sheets of paper, lots of paint and brushes, and go mad. Let your kids use their hands and feet to paint a Christmas tree, Frosty the Snowman, or their rendition of Santa. Hang up their creations for festive holiday decor throughout your home.

Why not get into jewelry making? Dash over to the local craft store and stock up on beads and findings. Just be sure to get appropriate materials for all of your children’s age groups. Even preschoolers will love stringing large wooden beads on a piece of yarn, and these pieces make great gifts for grandma and other loved ones.

Visit the Library

A pile of children's Christmas books.

Image via Flickr by nick.amoscato

Your local library is more than a place to check out books. Most of them offer movies and music rentals too. Make a day of your visit and encourage your kids to read a holiday book in a cozy nook, in addition to finding a few titles to take home. Helping your children grow a love of reading is one of the best presents you can give them, any time of year.

Another fun thing to do is to check out your library’s event calendars. Many branches offer immersive, interactive programming, including fun, hands-on holiday activities with stories, crafts, and refreshments.

Organize a Play Date

A small girl bundled up and playing in the snow.

Image via Flickr by wrightbrosfan

Parents have a ton going on during the holidays, and it seems like there’s never enough time in the day to entertain the kids and finish up your to-do list. Plan some play dates and invite friends over to keep them occupied for a couple of hours. You’ll have the opportunity to get some work done, and hopefully, other parents will return the favor.

Before the doorbell starts ringing, have a plan in place. Choose some games, such as holiday charades. There are countless printable versions online for older kids. If you haven’t played in a while, it’s easy. Participants split into two teams, and a member from each team draws a holiday-related concept or topic from a hat. Then, they must act it out without speaking. Whichever team guesses the answer correctly gets the point. The first team to 20 points wins a prize, like a sugar cookie or handmade ornament.

After a few indoor games and snacks, bundle the kids up for some outdoor play. If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate with snow, take your family’s wintertime fun outside. Grab your toboggan and sled down that hill out back or head to the park for a snowball fight. Your neighborhood is an entirely different place when it’s covered in snow.

Build a Snowman

A small boy working on building a snowman.

Image via Flickr by matsber

A snowman-building contest is a terrific way to burn off some cabin fever, especially if you’ve got teens at home. Start by finding the ideal location, then begin rolling the gigantic snowball base. Mom can provide the carrot nose and see if you can borrow a hat and tie from dad, or stick with the traditional scarf. Have a pot of hot cocoa and marshmallows on the stove, waiting to warm up chilly children.

This holiday season, prepare yourself with an arsenal of activities to keep little ones out of mischief. What family-friendly holiday-themed games gets your family moving and helps everyone enjoy this special time of year? Let us know so that we can add them to our list. Remember, during these chaotic months, it’s important to make time for the things that matter the most: spending time with loved ones.