7 Free Ways to Create a Memorable Family Christmas

I’d like to say that December only brings cozy opportunities for family bonding and reflecting on the meaning of the season. The reality is, however, that we are bombarded with long lists of things to do. And the lengthy lists are only part of the problem. The tightened purse strings make it feel even more difficult to shower people with love.

If you’d like this December to be different, it can be! Here are 7 ways to show your children how much you love them without throwing out your list or digging deeper in your pockets.

1. Read to Them

This is about more than homework reading assignments. This is about time and bonding.

There are few things more special than reading a book with your little—or not so little—one. Take 10 minutes, usually that’s about all it takes, and snuggle up. Get close, grab a blanket, and share a great Christmas story. You can find plenty at the library to enjoy together. You can even wrap a library book for a special surprise.

2. Have a Winter Picnic

Who says picnics are just for the summertime? Not kids!

Make some hot chocolate or tea and put it in a thermos. Bundle up and head outside with a big blanket or two and some mugs. You don’t have to go anywhere fancy—we’ve even done this on our back deck! Just enjoy being together in the fresh air.

The kids may give you a crazy look at first, but giggles are soon to follow. For an extra special treat, try doing this under the stars.

3. Enjoy a Candlelight Dinner

Think about what everyday life was like long ago. Enjoy dinner by candlelight and feel how peaceful it can be to sit by the warm glow of a flickering flame.

Kids are sure to love blowing out the candles when you’re done—so make sure to have a candle for each child!

4. Give a “Gift for a Day”

Before you think this involves reaching for your wallet, keep reading.

My kids are almost always asking to use something that belongs to my husband or me. Maybe it is a lip gloss or a flashlight or a tool. It could be a pretty scarf or even a special mug.

Wrap up the coveted item and give it to your child with a note reading, “This is something of Mommy’s that is usually just for me. I’d like for you to use it today because you are special as can be.”

5. Bake Together

The holidays usually have us mixing and baking at some point. Take some extra time and hand over the wooden spoon.

Sure, it may take longer. Yes, it will be messier. But letting your children help shows that you value their abilities, and that they are more important than a stress-filled to do list.

And I’ve never met a child who doesn’t like to lick the spoon!

6. Enjoy the Lights

There are few things that evoke squeals like twinkling Christmas lights. You don’t have to make a big night of searching for lights either. Just take time to enjoy the ones you see.

Maybe take a different route home from basketball so you can see the great lights on a street you don’t usually drive on. Go a block or two out of your way to drive by the town tree.

If little ones cry, “I didn’t get to see it,” like mine sometimes do, make a quick u-turn and go by again. You’ll only be losing minutes, but it sure adds up to them. And the squeals are worth it!

For larger light shows, check out Central California Parent‘s listings of Seasonal Celebrations, including places to enjoy Christmas lights!

7. Designate Family Movie Time

Christmas is filled with all kinds of movies. Whether you’re looking for something funny or heartwarming, taking an evening and watching a Christmas movie together is a memory worth making.

There is a bonding that occurs when you sit together and enjoy a holiday movie. So don’t worry about wrapping gifts or addressing the Christmas cards for a night.

A tradition of the family watching a Christmas movie together will be held dear for years to come. Whether you spend it with Buddy the Elf, Charlie Brown, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll feel good knowing you took the time to be together!

These are just a few of the ways we’ve been able to show our children love and create memorable family Christmases without spending a dime.

What would you add to the list?