Christmas Eve often takes a backseat to the 25th, but personally, I prefer the laid back day-before. You don’t have to worry about a big meal (unless you really want to), plus most people don’t have to work and kids start Christmas break. Plus plus, it’s Santa’s big night! Christmas Eve is the perfect time to remember old traditions or to start new ones with your family. After you have gone out for Breakfast with Santa, experienced some free holiday fun and attended a quirky NJ Christmas event -- Here’s a list of 12 fun things to do with your kids from tracking Santa to baking cookies to holiday crafts and more!
1. Bake Cookies: I have many fond memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom. Spritz cookies were a staple in our house. All you need is a cookie press (I have this one) and grab some sprinkles, colored sugars, red hots and any other decorations you like. Cookie presses make cute little cookies very easily. Plus the Spritz recipe is so easy to make (I use this one) and so much fun to decorate! My three-year-old loves decorating the little Christmas trees and wreathes with sprinkles (almost as much as he loved eating the sprinkles).
2. Be Charitable: There are so many ways to give back at this time of year. The many options can be overwhelming, but consider something like adopting a family in need, donating a meal or simply giving to a local toy drive. The New Jersey Division of the Salvation Army organizes an Adopt-A-Family Program. The program matches impoverished families with individual or group sponsors to provide for their holiday needs. Visit the website to fill out an application.
3. Track Santa: Norad will help you track Santa on Christmas Eve! Simply go to their web site on December 24th and get the kids involved with the tracking. You can also download apps for your iPad or iPhone. Kids love the excitement of seeing where in the world Santa is flying over to deliver presents!
4. Send a Personalized Message from Santa: Portable North Pole gives you the opportunity to send a special personalized message from Santa right to your child. You can choose to a “nice”, “naughty/nice” or “naughty” child. (You can also send to a naughty or nice adult). Plus, many other options…let the fun begin!
5. Crafts: A little craft-making can go a long way, as far as keeping your kids happy and busy. Target sells craft kits for various holidays. This year I purchased a penguin and Santa’s sleigh kit. You can hang your newly-made decorations around the house or give as handmade Christmas presents to the family! Or, if you’re feeling a bit more creative, have the kids decorate ornaments for the tree. Buy some plain plastic Christmas ball ornaments, glitter and paint and let the little artist within emerge!
6. Gift Wrapping: It has to get done anyway, so why not make it a family affair? Kids love to help out – let them wrap or decorate packages with ribbons, bows, etc. Put on some Christmas music, gather round the fire (or the annual Yule Log on TV or check out this cute YouTube version) and be merry together.
7. Look at the Christmas Lights: Take the kids out for a walk or drive and check out the local Christmas lights. It may be a simple activity, but it really gets the whole family into the holiday spirit. End your journey with hot chocolate at your favorite cafe or make some at home. You can’t go looking at holiday lights without hot chocolate!
8. Open a Present: There are many customs out there when it comes to the holidays. One that was always a favorite in my family was the much-anticipated Christmas Eve present! We were only allowed to open one and it was always new pajamas (that we would put on immediately), but it was something we looked forward to and made the evening more special.
9. Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Start an old-school tradition in your house and read this classic before bedtime on Christmas Eve. You can also read it right from your computer here or watch a YouTube version set to the soundtrack of Perry Como. There is also an app for your Apple device. Whichever way you do it, you will be sure to enjoy starting a new tradition with your little ones.
10. Draw a Portrait of Santa: Break out the crayons or markers and have your child draw his best Santa portrait. Santa will surely love to see himself through your kid's eyes. He might leave it behind for Mom and Dad to keep though, so be sure your child signs and dates it! If your family chooses to draw Santa's portrait each year, it's a real pleasure to see your child's artistry grow and mature.
11. Leave Snacks for the Reindeer: Santa gets all the love! Don't forget about Rudolph and his crew before the kids go off to bed. Leave apples, carrots, or maybe some celery sticks for the eight tiny reindeer who will surely need a pick me up when they touch down at your house. Kids can toss these snacks on your front stoop or lawn and if the fruits and veggies have some big bites taken out by morning, it will only add to the magical feeling.
12. Leave Milk and Cookies for Santa: It’s the last thing a lot of us did before going to bed as kids on Christmas Eve. Have your kids write out their letters to Santa and leave them with some treats for the big jolly guy. Pull together some of the other things you’ve done during the day and maybe your child will be excited to leave him a craft, ornament or some of the cookies you just baked together. Whatever it is, your kids will be eager to help prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus!
Originally published 2013