Plan Your Holiday Activities Ahead To Make Sure They Happen
A few years ago, I had all these Christmas family activities that I wanted to do, but before I knew it, it was Dec. 18 and we had done nothing. All we managed to squeeze in was a movie night. December is full of fun opportunities for families, but if you don’t plan them out, time will get away from you.
December is a hectic month filled with to dos. Unfortunately, with all that we have to do, we forget to savor family time. Since the year of missed opportunities, I began scheduling family fun at the beginning of December.
I start my family fun planning session by looking at various calendars to see what local events are scheduled. I review the Los Angeles Parents magazine website, online family calendars, Westways Magazine (local AAA magazine) and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.
Once I’ve made a list of the family friendly activities I’d like to try, I check the websites to find out pricing for our family of four. I pick out what fits in our budget and fill in the rest of the month with affordable or free activities.
Our weekdays are busy with karate, chess, basketball and general family life, so I only fill in Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t want to schedule every minute of every day since I have a 3 year old who requires flexibility, so I try to only purchase tickets to one activity a weekend at most.
Free Holiday Activities
Sadly, we’re not made of money. Surprise! I bet you aren’t either. While I want to attend every single Nutcracker performance and see every single holiday decorated theme park with the kids, we just can’t make money grow on our balcony.
That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy family-friendly holiday activities. It just means we’ll need to pepper in some free or low cost activities with the pricier ticketed events. We also prevent ourselves from getting over-tired or stressed. The last thing we want to do is run our 3 and 7 year olds around until they are exhausted and cranky. That never ends well.
Here are some of our free family activities that we’ll be doing together this month. You can also check out my post on holiday traditions for more ideas.
- Trim Our Tree: This is kind of a no brainer since, of course we’re putting up a tree! However, between going to pick out the tree and getting it decorated, it becomes a large time commitment. We play Christmas music and eat popcorn while we decorate our tree to make it an event.
- Christmas Movies: We own “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Charlie Brown Christmas” so we watch those each year. I’m planning to add “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to our collection since I think the kids would enjoy it. Basically, we’ll spend one evening each weekend enjoying a holiday movie in our pjs. This is a great Friday night activity after a busy week.
- Christmas Books in December”: I store the holiday books in a separate closet so that we only read them during that specific holiday. The boys enjoy them more and look forward to pulling out the holiday books.
- Baking Marathons: Both of my boys enjoy baking so we bake up several types of cookies and quick breads for family during the holidays. I have 26 cousins, most of whom are married with kids, and 22 aunts and uncles (both sides combined). We can’t possibly buy gifts for everyone. We bake and freeze as we go.
- Tour the Neighborhood: Take a walk or drive around new neighborhoods to check out the holiday lights. Since we’re in a condo complex, my boys get really excited to drive through neighborhoods with decorated houses.
- Give Back: The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to help your kids see how fortunate they are. You can usually find some community events that focus on donations for the homeless or low income families that can use volunteers for sorting or packing. If your kids aren’t too young, bring them along.
Ticketed Holiday Activities
Even though the activities take place outside the home, you can probably find some low cost family friendly activities in your area. Here are the activities I found in Los Angeles this December. If you happen to live in Los Angeles or are traveling to Southern California this holiday season, you may want to check them out!
- Christmas Concerts or Plays: Check out your local colleges to see if they have any free or low cost holiday concerts or plays. You may also find free holiday concerts at churches, museums or community centers.
- Holiday Light Displays: Does your hometown have special holiday light displays? In Los Angeles, we have a few options. We can take a holiday light boat tour, visit the Los Angeles Zoo for their LA Zoo Lights, take a holiday train or visit the free shopping areas outside Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
- Holiday Performances: If you want to have a special night out, consider taking your kids to see the Nutcracker or a holiday symphonic performance. My three year old is a bit young to sit through an actual ballet so this year I found a Nutcracker Puppet Show that I’m really excited to check out.
- Theme Parks: We haven’t done this yet since it is a pretty big hit to our budget this time of year, but most theme parks have special holiday displays. Knott’s Berry Farm becomes Knott’s Merry Farm, Disneyland decorates the park beautifully and Universal Studios has Merry Grinch-mas. If you have room in your budget and your kids are old enough to appreciate it, splurge on a trip to an amusement park. It’s a great way to spend the day together without screens or distractions.
In our family, the holidays are more about focusing our time on each other than big fancy gifts or activities. I try to focus on making the memories so that my boys will have fond memories of family time during Christmas like I do.
To kids, it really doesn’t matter how many activities you squeeze in or how expensive the tickets were, they’ll just have fun with mom and dad. How do you celebrate the season?