Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Playlist: Holiday themed family fun

Inside or out here are several low-cost activities that spread the holiday cheer

The second wave of the holiday season is here, and we’ve got some simple ideas, that won’t cost a lot of money, to incorporate festive fun into outings, arts & crafts, movement, and even snacks! Pick and choose what sounds fun for your kiddos and what works for your family, and enjoy! 

Christmas tree science, Hanukkah games, holiday recipes and outings, plus a few ideas on how to give back with your kids. 

The last of those Thanksgiving leftovers have been gobbled up, and December has arrived. For some of us, this means warmth, cozying up with family and friends, marshmallows over the fire, and other treasured traditions. For others, it can be dark, overwhelming, and even hard. This list of ideas is meant to help caregivers sustain the excitement, energy and magic in children around the holidays, and also, just get us through. Because…whew! 



Jingle Bell Run, anyone? There are several kids dashes and 5k events happening around Seattle, all raising money for great causes. Take your pick! Here’s our large list of races around the Puget Sound.

More ways to move: 

Sensory & STEM

Remember your baby’s first Christmas or Hanukkah, when all they really wanted was to play with and chew on the wrapping paper and bows? I’m very much in that phase with my 9-month-old. It’s as simple as that when it comes to creating holiday-themed sensory play for your youngest kids. Here are some ways to use items around the house to develop fine motor skills, curiosity, and more. 

  • Holiday Wrapping Sensory Bin. Fill a bin with bows, boxes, bags, and whatever you’ve got lying around. Let preschoolers use tape and scissors to explore the materials and build. (Image source:

  • Jingle Bells Sensory Bin. Throw together some metal bells, magnets, rice, and other textures to introduce kids to magnetism and which materials attract or repel.

  • Christmas Tree STEM. Lots of ideas for how to incorporate the theme of Christmas trees into science fun. Build a giant tower out of plastic, green cups, or a smaller tree out of jingle bells. Learn about physics and balance in the process, and knock it over when you’re done!

  • Melting Christmas Tree Science. A squishy baking soda plus water mixture is molded into a cone (using a paper plate) frozen in the freezer, and the magic happens when vinegar is added. Include green food coloring and glitter for fun embellishments! (Image source: Little Bins for Little Hands)

Check the Seattle’s Child Family Holidays Pinterest page for more ideas!

Holiday Family Fun: Food

December is an excellent month for staying indoors and cooking or baking for the family, so why not get the kids in the kitchen to help? My preschooler loves to get his little step stool and apron and get in on the action of cracking eggs or adding spices, and I’ll take all the help I can get! And of course, these are practical life skills, so it’s a win-win. Here are some sweet treats to make with your tykes, including the classic graham cracker “gingerbread” house. 

  • Mini Graham Cracker Houses. Little edible artworks that are super easy to do, and will make you the coolest parent in town, hands down. You just need graham crackers, an assortment of candy, and icing or melted chocolate for the “glue.” Here are some great tips for making it into a party (pre-assembling the houses is encouraged).

  • Reindeer Chow (snack mix). We loved our Halloween snack mix so much, we decided we needed a winter holiday version, and here it is! Pretzels, Muddy Buddies, M&Ms…oh, so yummy.

  • Festive & Healthy Holiday Treats. I love the Christmas Vegetable Cups and the Grinch Fruit Skewers (grapes, strawberries, bananas- have the kids assemble on a toothpick!). And, super easy, decorate a Baby Bell Cheese with a construction paper Santa belt- voilà! (Image source: My Mommy Style)

  • Christmas Sugar Cookies. In our house, it’s not December unless we’re cooking up batches of sugar cookies and getting crafty with the icing and sprinkles. This is a classic tradition that many kids love, and involving them in the process is a no-brainer.

  • Potato Latkes for Hanukkah. Crispy, golden, flaky potatoes. What’s not to love?

  • Donate canned food. Many local organizations are collecting non-perishable food items, and this is a great activity to incorporate into winter traditions like an advent calendar. Check Hopelink, University District Food Bank, Ballard Food Bank, or Northwest Harvest.



Winter-themed art can be calming, simple, and beautiful. Holiday crafts are bright, cheery, and often easy to do. Here are some ideas for both. 

  • Hanukkah Activities. Potato prints, dreidels, the Star of David, Menorahs and more. This page has tons of ideas in a straightforward format. The best part? You can find most of the materials to make these projects around the house.

  • December Crafts for Preschoolers. I love the Rainbow Fish Ornament, Tissue Paper Wreath, and Kwanzaa Kinara. These art projects offer a little bit of learning about various cultural holidays for each one.

  • Snow Paint! Mix glue, shaving cream, and glitter; the possibilities are endless!

  • Winter Tree Nature Art. Go outside, collect some twigs, and assemble on paper. Then, add white paint using Q-tips to make snow! A fun 3-D art project and excuse to get some fresh air. (Image source: Fantastic Fun & Learning)

  • Happy Penguins. Deep Space Sparkle is one of my favorite websites for kid’s art. I did this project with my kindergarten class and they LOVED it! So bright and colorful!

  • Tissue Paper Holiday Lights. My preschooler and I did this one (honestly, I didn’t do much- it’s a great independent project). You need colored tissue paper; we used wax paper for the backing. I recommend painters tape to hold it in place while they work. This involves lots of cutting and gluing practice and makes lovely window art!

  • Holiday Craft Market. Don’t feel like breaking out the paint and glue? Grab the kids and head to any one of these artist-inspired markets that will be sure to put you in the holiday spirit.


Out & About

With around two weeks of vacation from school looming in the coming days, we better get to planning opportunities to get out of the house and play! Here are some holiday-themed happenings during December:

  • The Fairmont Hotel Teddy Bear Suite & Tree Display. Another freebie, this is a great outing for families any day of the week. See the gorgeous trees in the lobby, and then head upstairs to view the private teddy bear room.

  • While you’re downtown, visit the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village, where architects combine with chefs to produce intricate, fascinating candy houses. This is a huge Seattle holiday tradition that is well worth a visit. Donations welcome.

  • Holiday Lights. Visit one of the many fabulous, illuminated spaces in the greater Seattle area, and you won’t be able to help getting into the spirit of the season.

Cozy reads and more gifts of service

  • Check out this succinct list of heartwarming reads for the holidays, which covers a variety of age groups. You might find some gift ideas here, too.

  • With all of the consumption that happens this time of year, my kids are getting older, and I feel the importance of teaching them to give back. This year, we’ve changed up our advent calendar to be about service to others. Here is a list of 12 days of holiday service projects that I found helpful. And even more simple, perhaps for the younger crowd, 25 random acts of kindness.

Read more:

Find more holiday events around Seattle

More ways to give this holiday season

About the Author

Leah Winters

Leah Winters is the Calendar Editor for Seattle’s Child, and a former K-8 teacher with a Masters in Art Education from Boston University. She is also the mother to three young boys, ages 8, 5, and 1.