Dads get a lot of flack around this time of year because it seems like we don’t do as much as Mom to get ready for the holiday season. And sure, while we aren’t always the best at remembering what time the school pageant is, or which family members we need to buy presents for, or who needs to be where by when, we definitely play a big part in making the holidays special for our kids.
Studies have shown that when fathers are affectionate, supportive, and involved, it greatly affects their children’s cognitive and social development. It also instills an overall sense of well-being and self-confidence. The Christmas season is the perfect chance to slow down, take a break from work and school, and appreciate the gift of being with each other. What better opportunity to spend quality time with your kids, share in the magic of the season, and create memories that will last a lifetime?
Here are 16 of our favorite traditions that you can start right now with your kids, and will set the perfect tone for a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas! (Name that movie.)
Cuddle up together on the couch in matching pajamas, grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch a holiday movie. See any of your favorites on our list?:
- Home Alone
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
- The Santa Claus
- Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
- The Polar Express
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Jingle All the Way
- A Christmas Story
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Miracle on 34th Street
- White Christmas
- Holiday Inn
- Die Hard (for the teens)
Get outside. There’s nothing like fresh air when you’re all going stir-crazy, so pile on the layers and head out the door, whether it’s to hike, ski, sled, explore, make a fort, or start a massive snowball fight. This is the stuff childhood memories are made of for kids.
Have a gingerbread house making contest. Plan a Zoom date with Grandma and Grandpa for the end so they can be the judges and pick a winner.
Devise a Secret Santa among your family members and help them pick out gifts for each other. If in-person shopping isn’t feasible this year, try carving out a specific time to do a virtual shopping expedition with each child. While you’re at it, do some research on what to get your honey this year. If you’re already scratching your head, check out our gift guide with our favorite recommendations she’s sure to love.
Go get your Christmas tree. It’s one thing to be on #TeamRealTree, but cutting down your own takes it to a whole new level. Make the trek out to a Christmas tree farm and show your kids how they did it back in the old days. While you’re decorating at home, share some of your own childhood memories with your kids, and tell them the stories behind your most cherished ornaments.
If you need a reminder about the reason for the season, read this: Remembering What the Season is All About
Read Christmas books together. Make it extra special by recording yourself reading them. What a great gift that keeps on giving—someday your children might even play it for their own kids. Looking for a new tradition to start: check out this 12 Days of Christmas Book Tradition idea from our sister site.
Do some quick research for some local drive-thru light displays, or jump in the car and drive around neighborhoods, ranking the best ones.
Get the kids up early on Christmas morning to make breakfast. If you’re feeling especially creative, try making snowman pancakes! Use bacon for a scarf, marshmallows for snow, chocolate chips for eyes, and a carrot for a nose. Believe us, the smell of a delicious breakfast cooking is a surefire way to get Mom up so you can finally open presents.
Run barefoot in the snow. There’s something exhilarating about darting around on a fresh blanket of the white stuff, then dashing inside for some hot chocolate when Mom starts yelling that you’ll get frostbite.
Design a nature scavenger hunt with a holiday theme. This works especially great for toddlers who are natural hoarders. Have them look for things like pinecones, acorns, leaves, rocks of certain shapes and sizes, evergreen trees, animal footprints, birds, berries (make sure to monitor so berries don’t end up in curious mouths!), etc. Honestly, this is such a fun idea for any season, and there are so many variations to try, so we compiled a list of our favorites. Check it out here.
Play a board game together. Some of our team’s favorites that all age groups can play include Exploding Kittens, Mouse Trap, Jenga (and of course, big-blocks Jenga for Dads who like to go big or go home), and Cauldron Quest.
Start a special advent calendar tradition. Have each child pick one and open it together every day of the month. Now they come in all sorts of creative designs and themes, like an awesome LEGO calendar where each day has a small piece that makes up part of a larger scene.
Give Mom the morning to herself (or even better—the whole day). The kids will love the special time with Dad and never forget the memories you make together. Even occupying the kids with a video game tournament or going on an annual Christmas Eve lunch date could give Mom the extra time she needs to create that holiday magic—or take a break!
Have a Star Wars marathon. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to a new Star Wars movie coming out around this time of year, but there’s no other franchise we associate with so many happy Christmas memories. And yes, we know it’s winter, but we bet summer grilling supplies are all on sale, so check out some of these awesome Star Wars-themed must-haves.
Give back. Kids model what they see, so take an afternoon to drop gifts off to a homeless shelter, deliver cookies to an elderly neighbor, or write a letter to someone in the military. Soldiers Angels is a great place to start if you would like a pen pal.
Embrace the magic of Christmas. On Christmas morning, make your kids sit at the top of the stairs while you go down to “check” that Santa has come . . . use the time to turn on the lights on the tree, get a pot of coffee brewing, and turn up some Christmas hymns for background music. You’ll totally amplify the anticipation and excitement in your kids and set the entire mood for a day full of wonder and joy.