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25 simple (and often thrifty) holiday activities to do with your kids

Paperchains are a fun and easy holiday activity for kids.
Paperchains are a fun and easy holiday activity for kids.
Photo by Ruby Johnson, Paperchains by Johnson children

As adults and parents, we often make the mistake of assuming that bigger means better. However, in the eyes of a child, the magic of the holidays often lies in the simplest activities.

In the spirit of going back to the basics, I've compiled a list of 25 simple (and often thrifty) activities to include on your December calendar. You just may find a few that become traditions in your home each year.

1. Rent/buy your very favorite Christmas movie from your childhood, and watch it with your children. Popcorn and hot cocoa are nice additions!

2. Go ice skating

3. Take a holiday lights tour. Load the kids in the car, or better yet, bundle up and walk through your neighborhood.

4. Bake cookies. Don't worry about perfection, the kids will be so proud of their creations.

5. Go caroling

6. Let the kids open one "door" of an advent calendar each day of December leading up to Christmas. Trader Joes has one filled with all-natural chocolate, or pick up one from LEGO that contains a toy for each day.

7. Make homemade hot cocoa and marshmallows. Not only do they taste soooo much better than their store-bought counterparts, you know exactly what is (and is NOT) in them.

8. Treat the birds this year by stringing cranberries and popcorn. Hang your garland on a tree outside, along with a peanut butter and birdseed covered pinecone

9. Build a Christmas puzzle together.

10. Let the kids create their own crafts with last years recycled Christmas cards.

11. Read your favorite childhood Christmas book with your kids.

12. Host a cookie exchange with neighbors or friends.

13. Volunteer at a shelter or nursing home.

14. Take the train downtown and look at the store's Christmas window displays.

15. Take a "nature walk" through a nearby forest preserve or walking path. Let the kids collect items to make their own seasonal crafts or decorations.

16. Have a candlelight night. Have dinner and read bedtime stories by the light of the Christmas tree and a few candles. Flameless LED candles are an even safer option with little ones around!

17. Make paper snowflakes

18. Make "digital snowflakes," too.

19. Check out local high school or college theater departments for Christmas productions.

20. Let the kids make their own Christmas stockings. Felt is a good no-sew choice, and easy to customizefor each member of the family.

21. Make paperchains. Cut strips of patterned Christmas paper (or just construction paper.) Give the kids a glue stick and let them go to town. My kids were so proud to hang their chain as garland on their own "kids' tree" this year, and as an added bonus, it kept them busy as I baked the Thanksgiving pies!

22. Host a holiday movie marathon. Don't forget favorites like the Grinch, Home Alone and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

23. Sing Christmas music karaoke. Eggnog or Swedish Glogg for the adults can make this even more fun!

24. Check out the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry

25. Read The Night Before Christmas. Don't forget to leave some of those homemade cookies for Santa!

What special activities are part of your family's traditions? Share them in the comments section below!!