Amy’s Free Ideas

Seasons > Christmas > Activities for the home: Fun Ways to Celebrate Christmas > 14 Ways to Celebrate the Christmas Season With Your Kids

1. Decorate the whole house--not just a wreath on the front door, and a tree in the living room. Sprinkle little touches of Christmas throughout the house. If you look at my ideas in Decorations for the Home, you might get discouraged that you could never do that much. But  it takes time to build up a collection--I have been collecting Christmas decorations for over 20 years. Each year, buy a just few things that you really like, and you will be surprised at how quickly your own collection grows. For example, a candle in the bathroom window, a snowman by the kitchen sink, and a small tree in your child’s room are a few things you could buy to expand your Christmas decorations.

2. Listen to Music--This is another easy way to create Christmas magic. Where to find the music? Obviously, music stores sell Christmas music, but if you wanted to pay for music, you would already have a collection, right? There are internet sites that play Christmas music year round, and all you have to do is find a style you like, and play it from your computer. Just google, “Christmas music on line” or see below:

Accuradio seems to be an easy website to figure out, and you don’t have to download a player or log in to listen:

Jinglebell Jukebox  has limited music, but you don’t have to download a player to listen, and it offers a google translator option for Japanese (including menus and song titles,) and others:

Live 365 offers access to many stations, and includes occasional ads

3. Food--Eat special treats all through December, not just on Christmas Day. In America, making Christmas cookies with your children is a popular activity. If you do this with your children, let them eat some right then as well as Christmas Day. My children love drinking hot chocolate, hot apple cider, or spiced tea. They also like making peppermint bark, when we could find candy canes. I have memories of eating orange peel candy and Poppycock when I was a little girl. It doesn’t really matter what the food is, as long as the kids like it, and it is only served during this season--you are creating happy memories. To make peppermint bark, melt chocolate, and spread on a tray covered with tinfoil. When it hardens, add a layer of white chocolate, but before it hardens, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy. Break into pieces and enjoy! If you don’t like the flavor of mint, sprinkle with nuts and dried fruit, or broken toffee candy, or crushed coffee flavored candy.

4. Read books and watch movies--Every year my husband reads a new Christmas story  aloud to the children. They would clamor, “Don’t not stop!” Sometimes he gave in, but usually he stopped anyway, to make sure the book lasted for several days. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was one book that we read every year. You may think that reading aloud only works for young children, but if you start when they are young, you are creating a tradition that can be continued right through their teen years--we still read out loud when our girls come home from college, at their request! This is an especially easy way to create memories--no preparation necessary, other than buying a book. Finding a book or movie is much easier to do in America than in Japan. In America, new ones are churned out every year, in the hopes of making money. But if you look, you can find things even in Japan. A few years ago, The Nativity Story, a movie about the birth of Christ, was shown in theaters, and is now available on DVD.  A Christmas Carol, a classic based on Dicken’s book about generosity, is also available on DVD in Japanese. If you read English, Amazon is a good source for books, and i-tunes is a good source for on-line movie rentals. 

Word of Life Press, Japan, home page in English

Search for The Nativity Story (The title is Maria in Japanese) and A Christmas Carol:

Word of Life Press site in Japanese, sells Christmas decorations and children’s books, too

Amazon sells all manner of books and goods world wide:

go directly to Children’s Christmas books

Amazon in Japan:


5. Attend church and concerts--many churches offer free concerts and programs during this season. Find out what is available at churches near you, and take advantage of these options. Again, other people are doing the preparation for you, so all you have to do is attend. Just make sure it is age appropriate. You may not want to take a kindergartener to a candle light service, but an elementary aged child might enjoy the music. Most churches in Japan have a Christmas party for children on one of the 4 Saturdays leading up to Christmas. Look online to find churches near you:

6. Give gifts--If children only receive gifts at Christmas, the focus is on what they will get, and so they are only thinking about themselves. On the other hand, if children give gifts as well as receive them, it is an amazing chance to help them learn to think about other people. If they do it every year, they can become quite good at figuring out how to make other people happy. This is one of the best ways to teach the joy of giving--when children give gifts. This takes a lot more effort than just giving presents to your children, but it is so worth it!! If you only give them gifts, and do not expect them to give anything, you lose the chance to teach them generosity, and instead, teach them selfishness--Christmas is all about what they are going to get. On the other hand, when children give gifts, too, it turns into a teaching tool to instill the values of generosity and kindness-- it forces them to think about others and how to bring joy to other people. When they have worked hard to buy or make a present they are sure will make the other people happy, they can hardly wait to see the look on the person’s face when they open the present. The fun of Christmas morning changes from being excited about what they are going to get, to being excited about giving--how happy the person will be when they get the present the child has prepared. Warning: if you give your child money to buy “nice” presents, this lesson will not be learned--it becomes a present from mom that the child only picked out. In order to learn this lesson, it needs to be from the child’s own money, saved up over time, or a gift the child spent time making. If the child has little invested in the gift, the giving of it will also have little value. Whether your children still believe in Santa or not, they can really benefit from the learning the joys of giving.

7. Christmas lights --Children don’t get to go out after dark very often, so just taking an after-dark-walk can be a fun event, but to go looking for a Christmas lights can be a really exciting way to celebrate Christmas. If there are lights in the neighborhood, you can take a walk after dark to see them, but if there are none nearby. Another fun way to look at lights is to bundle the kids into the car once they are in their pajamas to go looking for them. Of course, if you already know where Christmas lights are, it avoids disappointment of not being able to find any when you have the children along. When your children get a little older you can have a lighthearted competition to be the first to spot the next lights. Buying something yummy to eat or drink on the way can add to the fun.

8. Advent wreaths --are usually made with fresh greenery, but it is fine to use an artificial wreath from the hundred yen store. The important thing is to have 4 candles and light one more candle each Sunday until Christmas. Just be careful that the greenery doesn’t catch on fire--the first candle can get quite short by the fourth Sunday. Candles burn longer if you freeze them first. If that first candle gets too short, I “cheat” that last Sunday and use 2 new candles, and the candles from the second and third weeks. Any color of candle is fine, though Lutheran and Episcopal churches use 3 purple candles for the 3 Sundays leading up to Christmas, and a pink candle for Christmas day.

9. Stockings--make or buy a stocking for each of your children (Hundred yen stores sell these, but look early because they sell out quickly.) Fill them with yummy things to eat and fun things each child will enjoy. Put these next to their beds on Christmas eve after they have fallen asleep. In the morning, they will be delighted to discover so many fun things, and eat some of the goodies--it will buy you a few more minutes to stay in bed, too. As they get older, It gets harder to find inexpensive things that will delight them, but don’t let that stop you. This is a tradition they will not want to give up--I heard of one daughter who liked stockings so much that once she grew up and couldn’t come home for Christmas, her mother sent her a filled stocking every Christmas! Once your children hit middle school, they might even surprise you with a stocking--my children made one for me, and when I was in middle school, my brother and I made one for my parents, too.

10. Advent calendars can be a fun way to help children look forward to Christmas. There are many styles on the market, including paper, felt, wood, and metal. Some are made with pockets, others are made with little doors. Many have a piece of candy to eat each day until Christmas. Sometimes the 100 yen store sells felt ones for a 1000 yen. This may seem expensive compared to other items in the store, but most felt advent calendars cost 3-4000 yen, so it is still a good price. You can make them pretty inexpensively, too.  For my children, I made a felt banner with pockets, and each decoration in the pocket represented what we were going to do that day--decorate the Christmas tree, make Christmas cookies, shop for presents, or wrap presents, etc. If the next day’s decoration didn’t suit our schedule, I would rearrange what was in the pockets so the day’s activity fit our schedule.

11. Nativity set--These figurines can be be a good way to teach young children the true meaning of Christmas. If they are made of wood or a sturdy material, the children can play with them. If you want a pretty set made of glass or ceramic, you can get one of those, as well, just display it out of reach. There are several fun things you can do with young children. You can buy a star-shaped night light and line up the wise men figurines next to it. The wise men follow the star all through the house during the Christmas season--each time someone finds them in a new place, that person moves the light and wise men to another plug. Another idea is to have straw next to the manger. Every time someone does something nice for someone else, they put a straw in the manger to make the manger soft for the baby Jesus. On Christmas morning, put the baby Jesus in the manger before the children get up, since that is what we are celebrating--Jesus’ birth.

12. Birthday Cake for Jesus--Since Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, many families make a birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Children can relate to the birthday cake if they get a birthday cake every birthday.

13. Service projects are a great way to teach children to help the less fortunate, and is best learned by doing it along side the parent. When they see the parent doing it, they understand that this is something that the parent values, and they are more likely to adopt this as a value for themselves--both because they see the parent doing it, and because they gain practical experience from doing it themselves. The possibilities are limitless. You can make cookies for old people, or sing Christmas songs, or put on a play for them at a retirement home. If you know an old person who lives alone, you can do yard work or fix-it jobs around their homes as well as taking them prepared food. You can give money to a charity, or help feed the homeless, or prepare and deliver food baskets to the poor, or invite an orphan or single person to celebrate Christmas day with you.

14. Secret angels--Many families use this as one more strategy to teach their children kindness. Draw names early in December and keep the name you chose a secret. All during the season, do nice things for that person, then on Christmas morning, everyone tries to guess who their secret angel was. Younger children will probably need help in coming up with ideas for doing nice things for their chosen person.  Just a few examples could be: for Dad-- shine shoes, wash the car, make cookies; for a younger sibling--read a book to them, play with them, make their bed for them, do their chore for them, let them choose the TV show to watch, buy them candy; for Mom--wash dishes, sweep the floor, put the groceries away, etc. etc. As with service projects outside the home, service projects in the home also have limitless possibilities, but your children will need hints and help the first few years. It is an important life lesson to learn, so it is worth the effort.

     Create a world of Magic to celebrate Christmas