Little hands decorate cookies for the first time. Little legs swing on tall chairs, waiting for a holiday feast. Little smiles become big when the first ornament is placed on the tree.
Between gift-giving and travel, the holiday season can feel expensive for families. But, so many cherished holiday memories don’t cost a dime! There are plenty of family-friendly, free events that don’t require you to spend money. Here are a few of our favorite free things to do for families with small children to help create moments of joy and wonder over the holidays.
Take a Walk Around Your Neighborhood to See the Holiday Lights
As the days get shorter and the sun sets earlier, bundle up in a warm scarf, strap on your LÍLLÉbaby carrier, and take your little one on a walk around the neighborhood. Christmas lights, colorful inflatable decorations, shining Christmas trees in the window, all create a magical atmosphere. Finish up with hot cocoa and cookies around the kitchen table while you talk about your favorite displays.
For toddlers and preschoolers, print out our FREE Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt Printable to keep them engaged and excited throughout the walk. See how many things you can find!
Have a Family Movie Night
If you have access to streaming services, cable, or a collection of old Blu-Rays — you have everything you need to enjoy an incredible holiday movie night at home. Put on a holiday favorite, pop some popcorn, and cuddle up together on the couch under blankets.
Write Letters to Santa
If you celebrate Christmas, this is a fun annual tradition. Have your little ones write and decorate letters to Santa (and get some good intel about their Christmas wish lists along the way!). Save these letters to cherish in years to come, and see how their handwriting, spelling, and wishes change over the years.
Do a Community Service Project Together
There’s no better feeling than giving back—that is, except the feeling of giving back and getting your little ones involved in the service. Pick an activity that works for your children’s age. Little ones may hang out in the carrier while your hands are busy. Here are a few service projects that smaller children can be involved in:
- Help clear snow from a neighbor’s walk
- Make homemade holiday cards for a local retirement home
- Work together to pick out little used toys and clothing for donation
- Help collection donations for a local food drive
Find a local ASPCAs and Animal Humane Society with a reading program, allowing kids to practice their reading skills while giving shelter animals some much needed interaction
Make and Decorate Cookies
Make homemade cookies and let little ones try decorating on their own. Be prepared for some messy fun as frosting and sprinkles are applied to the cookie… and all over your table. Don’t forget to take pictures of all the culinary masterpieces before they are gobbled up.
Whether you are hanging ornaments on the tree or setting out the menorah, find a way to involve little ones. Allow them to help with simple tasks so they can enjoy being your helper and making the holidays special around your home. You might invite them to hang non-breakable ornaments, help you decide where specific decorations will be placed, or give them a pile of construction paper and glue sticks so they can make home-made decorations to add to the colorful cheer in your home.
Make Homemade Cards
Break out the glitter, markers, and stickers and let the kids get creative with homemade holiday cards. Not only is this a fun holiday activity for kids, the recipient is equally delighted. Have your kiddos draw pictures and write some sweet notes for far away grandparents, cousins, or friends they can’t see as much as they’d like.
Find Local Museums and Activities that Offer Free Admission
Around the holidays, many museums, art galleries, city centers and holiday farmers markets offer access to fun events, live music, parades and holiday installations at no cost. Local cities may also host events, including Christmas tree lighting and Menorah lighting events. Check your local new sites and community groups to find a schedule of your local opportunities.
Help Prepare a Meal for a Neighbor
Using the foods you already have at home, you can make the day a whole lot brighter for your neighbor. Spend some time cooking with your kiddos and bring someone in your area a dish of baked ziti, a homemade soup, or a plate of latkes—they’ll love every bite, knowing it came from the heart.
Sing Carols Door to Door
There’s no better way to spread holiday cheer than with some festive songs. Bring your kids along for some local caroling and they’re sure to not only remember the quality time you spent together but also just how happy their holiday songs made the people who got to enjoy hearing them.
You don’t need to break the bank to make the most out of time with your family this holiday season. The key ingredient to creating memories that last a lifetime is simply togetherness! Happy Holidays!