The holidays are a special time for all children, but toddlers and preschoolers help keep the rest of us young with their awe and delight at simple holiday pleasures. No matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s a wonderful age to share family traditions—or introduce new ones.
We’ve rounded up 25 things you can do with your toddler or preschooler this holiday season, many of which are FREE! Looking for more ideas? Consult our Event Calendar and follow us on Facebook—we've got many, many more!
Meet Santa and lots more at Westchester Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam. Photo courtesy of the event
1. Go for a winter hayride, glow in the light display, catch a circus show, and enjoy the carnival rides at Westchester Winter Wonderland (Friday, November 23–Monday, December 31).
2. Dine with Santa and tell him about your secret wishes.
3. …or line up for the annual phot op and whisper in Santa’s ear.
Spend the day with Frosty and Friends in his hometown of Armonk. Photos courtesy of the event
4. Give Frosty his due at this multifaceted celebration on Sunday, November 25, in Armonk, said to be in the town on which the song is based.
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Go for a ride in horse-drawn carriage during Rye's Mistletoe Magic. Photo by Susan Miele
5. Ride a pony and visit the numerous activities and treat stations town-wide at Mistletoe Magic on Sunday, November 25, in Rye.
6. Decorate a candy house (while doing a good deed) at the Bedford Free Library on Thursday, November 29.
7. Watch the sky light up with fireworks and a lights parade on Friday, November 30, in Poughkeepsie.
8. Make a teddy bear, visit the petting zoo, and loads more at New Paltz's historic-themed Holiday on Huguenot Street on Friday, November 30, and Saturday, December 1.
9. Boogie along to holiday and other tunes with preschool fave Laurie Berkner Band on Saturday, December 1, in Tarrytown.
10. Make your own gift wrap in metallic paint (though it might be too special to use!) on Saturday, December 1.
11. Celebrate the Festival of Lights on Sunday, December 2, with a giant-menorah lighting, arts and crafts, a magic show, and, of course, dreidels and gelt.
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Ajkun Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker makes a great first ballet experience for kids. Photo courtesy of the company
12. Short attention span? Take the little ones to a kid-friendly performance of The Nutcracker.
13. View the toy trains and a seven-foot poinsettia tree, meet Santa, and warm up by the fire pit at the Holidays on the Hill Train Show, on Saturdays and Sundays in December.
14. Watch a community tree lighting.
15. Craft nature-themed decorations and sip hot cocoa on Saturday, December 1, at the Trailside Nature Center.
16. Celebrate St. Nicholas Day in historic Dutch style on Saturday, December 1, in Yonkers.
17. Settle in for storytime and hot cocoa with Mrs. Claus on Sunday, December 2, at the Cross County Shopping Center.
18. Make a menorah for Hanukkah on Thursday, December 6, at Home Depot.
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Hop aboard the Northern Lights and Santa Express trains in Thomaston, CT, for an opportunity to visit Santa Claus. Photo courtesy of the railway
19. Take a (real) ride on the Polar Express
train throughout the season…
20. …or cozy up with cocoa, cookies, and Polar Express storytime on Friday, December 7, at Barnes & Noble—and don’t forget the PJs.
21. Even new or non-readers can participate in Holiday Picture Bingo on Monday, December 10, at the Yonkers Riverfront Library.
22.Howl with the wolves at the Holiday Howl at the Wolf Conservation Center. Friday–Sunday, December 21-23, and Wednesday, December 26.
23. Make holiday treats for the bears, then watch them open and enjoy them at the Bear Mountain Trailside Museums and Zoo on Saturday, December 22.
24. Learn etiquette while savoring tasty delectable at the Children’s Holiday Tea on Thursday, December 27, in Beacon. Pinkies out!
25. Y’know the big ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square? Skip it, and opt for the balloon drop at noon on New Year’s Eve day in New Rochelle. Much more civilized.
BONUS: Feeling intrepid? Take a jaunt to one of the top Christmas towns and villages we rounded up throughout the U.S.!
This originally posted in 2016 and has been updated for 2018.