Tips for Creating Holiday Memories with Your Grandchildren

3 ideas to bring you all holiday joy

The holiday season is officially here — don’t wait to start celebrating with your grandkids! Begin the festivities now by trying these great ideas for activities you can do together during the next few weeks. Have something special planned for each visit you have (or each time you’re babysitting). That way, the time leading up to the main events of the season will be filled with extra holiday magic.

1. Give Back Together

This is the season of sparkly holiday lights, special holiday treats and dazzling parties for everyone to attend. But it’s also the season of giving. So why not get your grandkids involved in some charitable giving? A perennial favorite is Toys for Tots, which installs donation boxes in just about every neighborhood in the nation. If you can’t find one near you, just go to their website (www.toysfortots.org) and search using your zip code.

The idea here is to prepare a little box of your own by enlisting your grandkids to think of great toys they know other kids would love. Picking them out together is fun, so you could plan an excursion to a toy store. Be sure to ask your grandkids what they find so special about each toy they choose. It’s a valuable bonding opportunity that will give you lots of insight into what they think and how they like to play. Plus, it might give you some new ideas for when it comes time to buy them some presents!

Click here to read Inter-Generational Bonding: Activities for Grandparents and Grandchildren.

2. Spread Holiday Joy to the Birds

Valuing nature is an important lesson for young grandkids to learn. Caring for our feathered friends during winter is a great way to put those good values into action. Teach your grandchildren to be caring and kind during the holidays by planning to set out special treats for birds. Most home improvement and hardware stores make birdseed bells, wreaths and other festive holiday shapes. Why not make an afternoon of it?

3. Cookies, Cookies and More Cookies

There isn’t a more classic grandparent tradition than baking huge trays of holiday cookies with the grandchildren. To make it even more memorable, go for volume: make ten dozen cookies, not two dozen! And definitely go full tilt with the decorations — they don’t cost a lot and you definitely want extra, so kids can “experiment.” Two must-bake classics are gingerbread men and decorated sugar cookies. Don’t forget the frosting and special cookie cutters. Look for fun shapes like reindeer, snowflakes, snowmen, stars and 3D holiday trees that stand up on their own.

For more holiday classic cookie ideas, try Raspberry Linzer Cookies, Pfeffernusse Cookies and Classic Pecan Snowball Cookies (otherwise known as Russian Tea Cakes).

4. Get Theatrical

Dress up in holiday garb and get tickets for the nearest production of The Nutcracker. Every kid should experience this magical holiday ballet and since almost every local dance school puts on its own version each year, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a production close by. If you live somewhere where The Nutcracker’s done professionally, all the better. This is a holiday classic that has truly become universal: one that spans all denominations, cultures and backgrounds. As an alternative, these days many local theaters put on holiday renditions of plays starring beloved characters from children’s book and television series, such as Daniel Tiger and Junie B. Jones.

5. Create Your Own Traditional Advent Calendar

Nothing says “tradition” like an advent calendar. Obviously, this is one you’ll want to start sooner rather than later. But if you don’t get the ball rolling until the month of December has already started, don’t fret. Make the full calendar anyway, with 25 “doors” to open. Then, once it’s complete — whenever that might be — that first morning will be extra fun because the lucky person will get to open lots of doors… or envelopes, in this case, as you’re about to see.

There are virtually a million ways to make your own advent calendar. We’ve seen peg board ideas, elaborate wooden structures that look like dollhouses and some that involve creative uses for common household items like pocket mesh over-the-door shoe organizers! But one we love the most is a simple version that uses materials you can probably find around the house (or at a garage sale).

The main thing is to get your hands on a large picture frame and paint it in holiday colors. We like the old, traditional kind that look like crown molding, with a bevel. In fact, if you know someone who’s handy with wood, he or she could make the frame out of scraps of crown molding.

The calendar is essentially 25 tiny paper envelopes pinned onto a cork surface, each with a number rubber-stamped on them to denote the day. Fill them with surprises like tickets, candy and the tiniest of toys, and then pin them in five rows of five. Easy, fun and nice enough to use again next year. You may have just created a crafty family heirloom together!

6. Make Wood Ring Snowmen

Remember the handy, woodworking friend we mentioned would be helpful for making an advent calendar frame? Well, keep him or her around for this one, because it’s the cutest DIY holiday project ever. You’ll need wood slices in three sizes: small, medium and large. Picture them lying flat, with the largest on the bottom. Can you see the snowmen already forming? Paint them white, paint a face on the smallest ring, three black buttons on the middle ring and add a black top hat and tiny scarf. The assembly is simple — just search on “wood ring snowmen” and you’ll be sure to find complete instructions.

These wood ring snowmen are so adorable and they capture the holiday spirit so well, even if you don’t have a handy friend, you’ll be tempted to pick up a saw and cut the rings yourself! And if not, you can always order them online from a crafts website or a bridal website (believe it or not, they’re very trendy right now for weddings).

Happy Holidays!

We hope these ideas will help you rev up the holiday season with your grandchildren in the weeks to come. Even if your time with them during the holidays is limited to just a few days, you don’t have to miss out on all the fun. Just doing one of the activities described here can create memories they’ll keep with them forever.

For more information on retirement, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities:

By Acts Retirement-Life Communities

Acts Retirement-Life Communities is the largest not-for-profit owner, operator and developer of continuing care retirement communities in the United States. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Acts has a family of 23 retirement communities that serve approximately 8,500 residents and employ 6,200 in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. For more information about Acts visit actsretirement.org.

Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,

"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."

Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. Every dollar donated allows us to remain a free and accessible public service. What story will you help make possible?