A list of free and inexpensive family activities that your family can enjoy during the holiday season.
*Originally published December 2015, but updated for the new holiday season!
This year we’ve slowed down to focus more on spending quality time together. In fact, I’ve done the bulk of my Christmas shopping from my phone just to avoid wasting hours at the store. If you’re a regular reader, you probably noticed that I’ve cut back on the number of posts I published this month. As my kids get older, I realize how fleeting time is and I don’t want to simply “keep up”. I want to be fully present for my family without worrying about a packed schedule.
Growing up, my mom always made a big deal about the holiday season and I try to do the same for my family. Our focus has always been on giving back, spending time together, and cherishing the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted to share some of our favorite family activities that are either free or inexpensive. I truly believe you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to enjoy the season and focus on what’s important. I hope these tips will encourage you to create new memories with your family and keep the focus on what matters most.
10 Frugal Christmas Activities For Families
1. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Keep it simple, but fun. You can even make it a friendly competition and offer an inexpensive prize to the winner. This is also a great way to get out of the house and check out the lights in the neighborhood.
Here are some excellent scavenger hunt ideas to help you get started:
- Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt by The Evolution of Mom
- Christmas Scavenger Hunt by Tightwad Blog
- Christmas Scavenger Hunt for Kids by Moritz Fine Designs
2. Drive around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights.
This is a ton of fun for kids of all ages. Put on a radio station that plays Christmas music, pack up some goodies and enjoy the ride. I suggest doing this in the middle of December since some folks like to wait until later in the month to put up decorations.
3. Read Christmas stories and drink hot cocoa.
This is a fun activity that truly doesn’t require any preparation nor money. Make your favorite hot chocolate recipe and pick out a book or two that your kids enjoy. To make it even more magical, do this while gathered around the Christmas tree.
4. Make holiday treats.
This is probably one of my favorite activities. It’s not about the treat itself, but about spending time with family in the kitchen. My kids love helping out and learning how to make our favorite holiday treats. I also love knowing that they’ll pass our favorite recipes down to their own children someday.
Need some recipe ideas? Check out some of our favorites:
- Double Chocolate Christmas Crunch
- Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Fluff Crackers
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
- Mini Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Cakes
- Dark Chocolate Coconut Truffles
- White Chocolate Muddy Buddies
5. Give some of those treats to your neighbors.
So you had a blast baking and decorating goodies with your kids. Now is a great time to pay it forward and treat your neighbors to some of your treats. It’s the thought that counts and I can assure you that your children’s “not so perfectly” decorated cookies will be well received.
6. Pop popcorn and watch your favorite holiday flicks.
We do this all month long and it’s basically a tradition in our family. Nothing beats a tub of buttery popcorn with a holiday classic. Some of our family’s favorites include (affiliate links) Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Elf and Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
December is also when Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family) plays Christmas movies all month long, so there is no need to purchase or rent any movies. Check out the full schedule here!
7. Make festive homemade pizzas.
Homemade pizzas are the perfect compliment to family movie night. But since we want to stay within the Christmas theme and make things extra special, try making festive homemade pizzas. The kids will have a blast creating these fun and yummy designs:
- Snowman Pizza by Watching What I Eat
- Holiday Pizza Wreath by Half Baked Harvest
- Christmas Tree Pizza by Rhodes Bread Bake-N-Serve
8. Set up a hot cocoa bar.
I love hot chocolate. It’s rare that I don’t have a cup each night throughout the winter season. My kids are pretty much the same way except they enjoy the toppings more than the hot cocoa itself. Instead of making your good old cup of hot chocolate, set up a hot cocoa bar that your kids will love. Put out a variety of fun toppings like mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, peppermint sticks, whipped cream and any other fun topping you have in the pantry.
Need some more ideas? Check out this amazing hot chocolate bar created by Kevin & Amanda.
9. Decorate sugar cookies.
I like to make my own sugar cookie recipe and icing for this one. I simply add food coloring to the icing to create a variety of festive colors, so the kids have several options. Allow your kids to get creative and do their own decorating with sprinkles and candies. I love to see my children’s creativity shine through their cookie creations. Plus it’s also fun to eat them afterwards. 😉
Need a few cookie design ideas? Check out this amazing round-up of 50+ Creative Christmas Cookies!
10. Build and decorate a gingerbread house.
You would think that a tween would no longer be interested in building and decorating a gingerbread house, but that’s not always the case. In fact, I recently purchased a kit that I snagged for 50% off at my local craft store and my 11 year old son has been begging me to open it. I thought he was past the gingerbread house phase and bought it with my toddler in mind. But even my teen is now looking forward to it
Check out these gingerbread house ideas for inspiration and tips:
- 5 Easy to Make Gingerbread Houses by Our Little House In The Country
- How to Host A Gingerbread House Party by Eat This Up
- Stress Free Tips For Making A Christmas Gingerbread House by My Name Is Snickerdoodle
11. Make homemade ornaments.
12. Donate toys to a local charity or fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
13. Make Christmas cards for soldiers overseas.
14. Go to story time at your local library.
15. Play Christmas music while making holiday crafts.
What are some of your favorite inexpensive Christmas activities? Feel free to comment and share!