45 ways to make Christmas magical for kids

Kids putting ornaments on trees

As parents, we want to make the holidays feel magical for our children. We want to bring the season to life, giving them memories to look back on and experiences they’ll want to recreate with their own kids someday. But let’s be honest—creating Christmas magic takes more than just making a wish.

Well, take a deep breath and a sip of that cocoa, parent friends. We’ve got 45 simple, creative ways to make Christmas magic. Read on for ideas and suggestions that will take you from the start of the season through the big day.

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Build anticipation  

Looking forward to Christmas is one of the best things about it. Try these ideas for getting your kiddos into the spirit.

  • Set a day for decorating the house together and make it a big event. Play Christmas music, plan a special menu and treats and get everyone involved. You can plan this whenever it works for your family: the day after Thanksgiving, the first day of December, the last day of school. Just mark it on your calendar as your family’s holiday season kickoff.
  • Advent calendars are a great way to count down days—and teach children to answer the “when is Christmas” question themselves. Find some adventurous Advent calendar approaches here.
  • Share your favorite Christmas stories. Start a tradition of watching a movie or reading books every night. This amazing light-and-sound version of The Night Before Christmas would be a great choice.

We’ve got lots and lots of ways to count down to Christmas—from clocks to calendars and puzzles to pop-ups.

Advent calendar

Set the scene  

Christmas magic is all about the sights, the sounds, the smells—and yes, the tastes. Here are some ways to transform your home into a sensory wonderland.

  • Add little touches around the house to make it smell and sound like Christmas: Put out holiday-scented candles, diffusers and soaps. Listen to holiday music playing softly in the background or a little train chugging around the tree. Snuggle up under a cozy blanket you only get out at the holidays.
  • Load up the car, crank up the music and head to a Christmas tree farm to pick out a tree.
  • Give the kids a space in the house—their own rooms, their play spaces, a spot in the family room—or a miniature tree to decorate however they want.
  • Get the kids “help” making special Christmas-only treats. If you need recipe ideas, we’ve got you covered. And double covered.
  • Look up holiday recipes popular in other cultures and make one together as a family. (Here are a few to get you started.)

Enjoy the outdoors  

Whether you live in a winter wonderland or where it’s warm year-round, making Christmas a beautiful season can take the magic to the next level.

  • Make a tradition of driving around in the evening as a family to look at Christmas lights around town. Play Christmas music, bring along a thermos full of cocoa or hot cider and find the neighborhoods that go all out.
  • Turn paper bags, a little sand and some LED tea lights into luminarias to line your sidewalks and driveway.
  • If it’s a white Christmas (or just a white Thursday-before-Christmas), dilute some food coloring with water and spray designs, messages and patterns in the snow. Or make snow people, snow pets and snow forts.
  • If you live somewhere without snow, make your own by kneading together baking soda and shaving cream. Make some to build your own mini-snowman—or have a mini-snowball fight, if that’s more your snow-jam.

Santa is watching  

If St. Nick is part of your family’s tradition, here are a few ideas:

  • Making sure Santa can deliver presents can be a big concern for little ones. A Santa Key that lets him get into your house if you don’t have a chimney can relieve those worries.
  • If you’re up for some daily creative hijinks, enlist some help from Elf on the Shelf to keep track of naughty and nice behavior.
  • Encourage your kiddos to write letters to Santa.
  • Track Santa’s progress all December long on the official NORAD site.
Sleep over on christmas

Christmas magic for the littlest kids  

The littlest children have the biggest senses of wonder, which means lots of opportunities to create magical memories.

  • Supersize everything. Go over the top with trees, lights, inflatables, etc. and watch your little one’s eyes get extra big along with the decorations.
  • Let your kids put Christmas lights up in their room. A string of fairy lights gives a magical glow at bedtime, and they’ll get to keep the wonder close all season long.
  • If it’s your little one’s very first Christmas, it’s a great chance to start traditions like picking out a special ornament or getting a snapshot with Santa. Here are even more ideas to make a first Christmas extra special.
  • Little kids grow and change so much every year, so don’t forget to capture the magic! Here are some photo ideas for your littlest ones. You’ll love looking back on them for years to come—and so will they.

Christmas magic for older kids  

At some point, kids get over things that used to wow them. But don’t worry: There are still ways to get bigger kids (or, let’s be honest, nearly full-grown adults) in on the magic.

  • Give older siblings a role in making magic for the younger kids in your family (or the whole neighborhood).
  • Bring back Christmas memories and create a few laughs by recreating a classic Christmas photo of all the kids together when they were younger. Same poses, same facial expressions, same everything.
  • Bring out the kid in everyone with a kids versus adults snowball fight—or a holiday-themed game night.

Christmas Eve magic  

So much of the magic of the season comes on the day and night right before Christmas. How many of these traditions does your family do?

  • If your family opens presents on Christmas morning, have one gift—like photogenic pajamas—that everyone gets to open on Christmas Eve.
  • Pick a favorite flick as a family and dub it your “Christmas Eve movie.” Start a tradition of watching it every year on Christmas Eve, and before long that movie will really make it feel like it’s almost Christmas.
  • Let the kids have a campout under the Christmas tree (or at least near it). Bonus points if you can sneak presents under the tree while they’re asleep.
  • Get creative about what food you leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve night. Making cookies together is always a fun choice (try this easy, no-bake Christmas wreath cookie recipe for a retro twist), but picking a different treat for jolly old St. Nicholas can be a fun way to shake things up. Reindeer mix or this reindeer crunch popcorn is a nice touch, too.
  • You know Santa is busy, so help him out. Write replies to your children’s letters—or have a friend do it, if your handwriting is too familiar. Once kids have gone to sleep, put on a pair of boots to make footprints in the snow or coming out of the fireplace. Leave chocolate candy in the yard to stand in for “reindeer droppings.” And don’t forget to eat the cookies…Santa’s probably full by the time he gets to your house.
christmas memory keeping

The reason for the season  

If your family shares Christian beliefs, finding ways to incorporate the biblical Christmas story into your celebration can make the whole season more meaningful.

  • Teach children the story of Jesus’ birth with a nativity set. Here are stories some families shared about the significance of manger scenes to children.
  • Read the Christmas story from the Bible before starting to open Christmas presents. You can let the oldest person read or the youngest who’s able to read or pass the Bible around and read a verse at a time.
  • Give little kids a tangible (and tasty) reminder of why you’re celebrating the season by making a birthday cake for Jesus.
  • Go to a Christmas Eve service or sing hymns together, finishing by lighting candles and singing “Silent Night.”
  • Focus on gratitude. Before opening presents or during Christmas dinner, go around and have everyone share a blessing they’re thankful for from the last year.

Magical memories  

So much of the magic of Christmas is wrapped up in memories and nostalgia. It’s a great time to create and save memories for kids and to share with them your own memories of Christmas growing up.

  • Light candles for loved ones you miss at the holidays and spend an evening telling favorite stories about them.
  • Share your own Christmas memories with your kids and talk about people from your family that your kids never knew. Help them understand more about the family and history they’re a part of.
  • Start buying an ornament each year that signifies a special memory from that past year. Then each year when you’re getting ornaments out, take time to reminisce about the moments you chose to commemorate.

Turn your Christmas tree (or trees) into three-dimensional scrapbooks filled with family memories with Keepsake Ornaments.

The magic of caring  

The Christmas season is also a great chance to remind kids that it’s not all about them and that there’s a special kind of magic in caring for other people, too.

  • Find a way to give back to your community or help people who need it as a family—collect toys to donate, find a place to volunteer, donate to a little free pantry or library or start one together.
  • Create a family Christmas card list for people you miss seeing in person and pick out cards together.
  • Take card-sending to the next level by throwing a Christmas card sending party.
  • Find a local organization that provides gifts for kids who might not receive them otherwise, and let your kids help pick out the presents.
  • Look for opportunities to serve your neighbors as a family (like shoveling snow).
  • Check out this article for even more ways to teach kids about giving during the Christmas season.

Slow. Down.  

One of the hardest parts of making Christmas magic is giving yourself time to slow down and enjoy it. Taking time to savor the season before it flies by is one of the most important steps you can take to make it feel magical.

  • Force yourself to put your phone down. If you have to, hide it in your room or somewhere else in your house where you won’t hear it. Then use your newly freed-up schedule to spend meaningful time with your family.
  • Set aside days during your holiday schedule for “just us” time: days where there will be no traveling, no shopping, no holiday parties, just time with the people who live in your house.
  • Last, but definitely not least, make sure to let yourself take in the magic of the season, too. It’ll be good for you and set a great example for your kids.