Christmas is a great time to celebrate Jesus. However, it is also a very busy time, so we need to be intentional.
Each year I try to prioritise three activities to help us:
- explore the story of Jesus’ birth
- pause and pray
- bless others
The list below is a collection of ideas, one or two of which might be just right for your family this year.
Why not chat as a family about what you enjoy doing at Christmas, and which of these 3 you do best (explore, pause and bless), then look at this list to find one or two new things to do to ‘boost’ the areas in which you’re maybe not quite as strong.
This list is organised into categories to help you find something which will work for your unique family. Many activities could be in more than one category and where possible, alternatives and variations are included.
Please tweak and adapt them to make them work for you!
Something to do every day
Buy one or make your own with transfers or by pressing modelling wax onto a plain candle.
Light it once a day as a moment to pause and thank God for good things. You could use my most popular FREE Christmas download: 25 different ways to be thankful.
Variation: You could use a simple prayer which you repeat slowly each day:
“Jesus, light of the world, Come into our darkness.” There are four ideas of things to think about around this prayer on this post.
You get a FREE bookmark with the 25 ways to be thankful thanks prompts with the Christmas Faith at home mini-mag; only £6.
Fill 24 pockets with a section of the Christmas story and a chocolate coin. You could make this using numbered envelopes glued onto a ribbon.
More about how I’ve done this here, including links to my easy-peasy pdf download of the story split into 25 pieces for you – just print and cut and fill your pockets! Plus a printed version on little cards: little cards.
There are, of course, many wonderful Advent Calendars out there (I’m having a coffee one this year!) but if you’re wanting one where the stickers tell the story, there is only one for you.
It has a bright and beautiful A3 picture to which you add a sticker every day as you read a short section of the Christmas story from the mini-book which comes with it.
I’ve made it, so I’m biased, but I think you’ll find it’s a really simple, easy and fun way to explore the Christmas story together! Get yours here
Buy or borrow 24 books (preferably Christmas ones) then unwrap and read one a day. (Wrap them in Amazon packaging or cloth to save on actual wrapping paper.) Here are 24 great books to consider.
Variation: Grab a basket and put all your vaguely Christmas-related books into it. Look out in charity shops for new ones, and look through my reviews to choose one new one for this year.
Ways to explore the story together
Create a nativity scene out of Lego (or Duplo (or wooden blocks or Stickle Bricks…). Look at the story in the Bible and choose which characters and structures to build.
There are examples and links to instructions to follow using your own bricks here
6 Read the Christmas story in four parts
Read the whole Christmas story from the Bible, either in four sessions or maybe even in one sitting.
7 Listen to the whole Christmas story
If you love audiobooks, you could try listening to the whole Christmas story from the Bible. There are many versions available including the whole thing for FREE here:
Variation: You might find it helpful to keep little hands busy while listening, so why not pair this activity with a nativity colouring or other art activity (see below for ideas).
Compare different Bible versions of the Christmas story. Look up the verses above in different translations and play spot the difference. Which version do you like best? Why? Younger children could compare different children’s Bible versions.
You could gather Bibles in your home and compare them – adults and children’s Bibles – or you could compare some of the hundreds of versions available at Biblegateway.
9 Play with your nativity set
Get a set which can be safely played with including a Jesus who can come out of the manger. Then play! Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Use it to act out the Christmas story as you read it from the Bible
- Loan the characters out to people, e.g. take the characters on ‘outings’ to school or church
- Take photos of your set and use them to make your Christmas cards or decorations for your tree
- Make a mini video of the story using a camera or mobile phone with your characters in the starring roles. See more ideas here
10 Dress up
Dress up as the characters from the Christmas story and chat about why you’ve chosen each character and what you think they may have been like. What part do they play in the story? Could we leave them out and still have all the story we need? You could make tunics out of pillowcases and headdresses with tea towels and a ring of elastic.
Variation: Download props from an Etsy shop to make your own Nativity Photo Booth. Get your whole family to dress up and take a photo – perfect for Christmas cards or just some funny pictures! See more here
11 Christmas story photobook
Divide the Christmas story into 4 or more sections then create a picture for each section. You could dress up and pose, use a nativity set or create pictures using felt or wooden blocks, natural materials or whatever you choose! FreePrints produce 20-page photobooks for £8.99 using a phone app. More here
Look at the Bible text and see what messages could also apply to us today, for example, the angel often starts by saying, “Do not be afraid”. Write these messages, or a modern phrase meaning the same thing onto big stones and put them out in your community for people to find. You can download a resource to help you do this here.
13 Intergenerational creative Bible study
If you are familiar with the Christmas story and would like to explore it in more depth, why not try out this open-ended resource which works for people aged 7-107? It includes Bible passages to read, questions to think or chat about and a challenge for each passage. It comes FREE download with the Christmas Faith at home mini-mag
Or you can buy it separately as a download here
14 Family play
Have fun making your own nativity play at home with your family or add a few friends. Have a narrator read the Christmas story from the Bible with each family member speaking the words of their character. You can get the full text here.
Variation: Download a free family play which works with any number of participants.
15 Tell the story and make art using nativity theme craft items
I love looking through the Christmas craft items for things which we can use to explore the story together. Baker Ross always have lots of things, and I think these little wooden shapes lend themselves to so many ideas!
- Set the scene up on a piece of colour paper or cloth as an invitation to play (NB they are REALLY small, so not suitable for under 3s). I put these out and my children immediately set up this scene in the picture. There are 45 pieces, so lots to play with.
- Tell the story from the Bible or a re-telling in a book, and invite listeners to move the characters as the story is told.
- Use play dough/clay/Fimo to make a little stand to help them stand up. You could also use the clay to create scenery (e.g. houses)
Ways to pray together
Peel a satsuma or other segmented fruit. Take it in turns to take one segment and pray for God to bless someone you know, perhaps mentioning something specific then eat the segment and pass the fruit.
Write or draw on balloons something you love about Christmas. Play some (preferably Christmas) music, and challenge everyone to bop the balloons towards each other, keep them off the ground if at all possible. When the music stops, everyone should catch one balloon, and use the word or picture on it to thank God for something about Christmas. Repeat.
18 Christmas card prayer bingo
Create a sheet with 8+ images and/or words which appear on Christmas cards e.g. manger, robin, Christmas trees. Assign each image a prayer which you will pray for people who send you a card with that image on.
You could use this downloadable version.
19 Family thanks
This is a really simple but powerful way to affirm each other in your family by letting each other know what you’re thankful for about each other.
Invite everyone in your family to write a note to each other person in the family thanking them for something specific that they are thankful for. For example, “I’m thankful for the way you make me laugh and are always ready to share jokes.”
Fold up all the notes and put them in a jar. Choose a time of day that you will take one out and do one a day until they are all gone.
If you want to do this for Advent, you’ll need to divide the number of people in your family into 24 and print extras to ensure there are that many notes.
If you’d like some inspiration for your notes, you can download this resource which has slips of paper with thanks prompts to help you.
Ways to bless other people
Put aside 24 items and give them to your local food bank. Make sure you do this a week or more before Christmas to give the food bank a chance to give the food!
Find out where your local one is here
21 Clay ornament blessings
Make clay ornaments with words of blessing on to give to people as ornaments. You could write or stamp words which describe blessings which you pray God will give them, such as courage, peace, joy, strength. You could buy air dry clay or ornament clay and give one to everyone who visits or deliver something to you house. More here
22 Peppermint cream stars
Make peppermint creams, dipping one half in chocolate (yum!) and give them as a gift to a friend of neighbour. You might like to add a card with a prayer for them to know guidance and joy, like the wise men did who followed the star.
23 Jesus Rocks
Paint stones white then add a beige circle face at one end. Use Sharpies to draw eyes, nose and mouth on the face and lines to make the face look ‘wrapped’ in white cloth. Write the tag #JesusRocks on the back then hide the rock for someone to find it. You could add hay under it and a little note suggesting people either re-hide it for someone else to find or take it home and look after it.
Cooking and eating activities
24 Jesus Birthday Cake
Make a birthday cake for Jesus. This could be done at any time, but many families like to do this on Christmas Eve. What will you put on yours?
Leave one side off a gingerbread house to make a stable, and use the chimney pieces to make a manger. Add people and eat! The IKEA gingerbread house works well! See more on how to turn it into a nativity scene here
Variation: Add people to your scene using ready-made or homemade gingerbread people decorated with writing icing. Can you use it to tell the story?
26 Angel bakes
Bake jam tarts or cookies using an angel cutter and give them to a friend, neighbour or a delivery person. If appropriate, offer to pray for them, including a prayer that God will bring them good news, just like the angels brought good news at the first Christmas. For more activities using your angel cookie cutter, see below. More here
Art and crafts activities
Create a picture using washi tape on paper, paint over it then when the paint is completely dry, remove the tape. Like this
Variation: For a more sophisticated piece, use artists mask on canvas boards to paint pictures or Bible lettering of Bible words or sentences which speak to you. (I’ve done four small canvases with these words on each: Wonderful Counsellor; Mighty God; Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace.)
See here for ideas on creating a Bethlehem town scene in this way, as well as a link to my favourite cheap-as-cheese washi tape!
28 Crown Christmas cards
Cut out a little crown from card, or buy tiny wooden ones from a shop such as The Range and get everyone to create their own style of Christmas card using a crown to represent Jesus the baby also being the king of Kings. See more here
29 Peg Doll Nativity
Make a nativity set using peg dolls, wrapping each in a piece of cloth attached with loom bands. Add two dots for eyes and use them to play the Christmas story.
Variation: Paint the wooden peg dolls using the instructions in this article.
Variation: Use a glue gun to attach nature’s treasures (leaves, acorns, beech nuts, small stones etc) as accessories to each person. For example, glue two oak leaves in a ‘V’ on the back of one to make an angel, a small rock in the middle of three as gifts for wise men, a leaf as a cloak for Mary and Joseph, and a stick on the side as a staff for a shepherd.
Order the I-spy colouring poster or download a smaller version and spend time together colouring and listening to Christmas worship music and meditating on the wonder of the story and what it means for you.
Click here for a link to a free audio version of the Christmas story in the Bible.
These cute little books are a fab way to explore Bible stories from the perspective of a character in the story.
This could be one of the characters (Mary, Joseph, Gabriel!), or someone who observed, one of the crowd or family of the ‘main protagonist’.
Thinking about what they saw and heard, what they might have felt or said helps us get deeper into the story and also discover what the story might mean for us.
Of course, you could do this without making a mini book, but they might be just the thing for:
- People who listen and process more easily while doing something with their hands
- People who like to respond in a creative way
- People who like to make something to remind them of what they’ve discovered
- People who like cute books! (I think I am probably all four of these!)
Full details on how to make them here
32 Names of Jesus Tree Decorations
Read the Christmas story, looking out for things said about Jesus (usually by angels) then create Christmas tree ornaments with words or symbols representing who Jesus is.
Make your ornaments out of Fimo, Shrinkits, beads on letter pipe cleaners, or whatever you choose!
You could take inspiration from Isaiah 9:6
Things to do with candles
33 Wreath prayers
Create a traditional candle wreath with four candles and one in the middle. Light one in the first week of Advent and say prayers. Light two candles in the second week, and so on. Light the middle on Christmas Day. When you light your candles, you could read a Bible passage about light or pray light-themed prayers.
34 Candle prayers
This is a simple prayer using two candles which can be prayed during Advent and throughout the year! We use it every Friday as part of our Shabbat meal:
We bless You, Lord our God,
who has given us Jesus, light of the world.
Thank you that whoever follows You
will not walk in darkness
but have the light of life.
Read more on candle prayers here
Things to do with stars
When I read the story, I notice that it guided them to a place they could worship Jesus and that when they saw it, they were filled with joy.
We all know someone who could do with some guidance (help making good choices for the future), some more joy or helping to find a place they can connect with Jesus.
Invite everyone to choose someone they would like to pray one of these things for.
Pass around a bag of chocolate stars, inviting everyone to take one, hold it, say their prayer for their person then eat the star.
37 Prayer stars
Christmas can be a tough time of year for many reasons and can include feelings of grief and loss. Use this simple activity to review the good and the difficult things of this year. Make cardboard prayer stars to go on your Christmas tree with smiles or sad faces on to acknowledge your feelings of joy and sorrow. You can find this activity in Josh has to stay in hospital, part of the Held in Hope series of books for children age 2+ dealing with sickness, death and bereavement.
38 Star cards
Use a star cookie cutter to print with paint onto plain cards. This simple activity is easy for all ages, and gives you a reason to chat about the role of the star in the story and pray a star-related-blessing on the people the cards are for! (E.g. that they would be guided well, that they would find what they are looking for, that they would be filled with joy.)
Variation: Buy some Sticker Christmas Cards, have fun creating the scenes using the stickers, and chat about what blessing you could pray for the person you’re sending the card to.
Things to do with angels
Use an angel-shaped cookie cutter to print paint over a large sheet of paper. You could also make Christmas cards and gift tags in the same way. Chat about what the angels do and say in the story. What part do they play in the story? What would the story be like without them?
40 Angel bunting
Create a throng of angels like concertina paper people then decorate them. You might do this with glitter, shiny foil and such like, or with words which the angels say in the story. As you create, you could chat about what the angels do in the Christmas story. Use the angel throng to decorate your house.
Things particularly good (but not exclusively) for under 5s
41 Felt Nativity
Cut simple people shapes out of felt and use them on a felt backdrop to create the nativity story. You could add a green hill shape on the backdrop. Simple people shapes could be cut out using a gingerbread man cutter as a template then add simple extras, such as hair or headdresses, belts, tunics and cloaks.
You see more details and download a free template here
42 Christmas finger puppets
Make simple puppets then use them to re-tell the Christmas story. You could even film it and share it with friends and family. Younger children will enjoy simple felt finger puppets like these
43 Christmas lolly stick puppets
Colour photocopy pictures of the Christmas story characters from a book you own and glue lolly sticks on the back. Set up a cloth across a chair or table to be the theatre and share the story together.
44 Lolly stick stable
Glue 5 lolly sticks together to create a pointed roof on a house, then glue a piece of paper in the frame you have created. When the glue is dry, draw or paint a picture of the Holy Family, including any additional characters you feel appropriate. You could make a giant version using sticks, creating a centrepiece of Christmas art for your home.
45 Explore with old Christmas cards
Work together to sort them into two piles: ones which feature something in the Christmas story and those which don’t. Then choose four of the cards and use them to re-tell the Christmas story. Then you could use them to make a Christmas story collage. More here
46 Christmas story treasure hunt
Write or draw the Christmas story onto a series of cards, hide them, find them then put them in the right order to re-tell the story together. This could also be done with clues using pictures printed from the internet. You could use these cards
47 Explore St Nicholas
Explore the story and traditions around Saint Nicholas using books and websites. Chat about which of your traditions remind you of his story. Get more ideas including book recommendations here.
48 Explore nativity art
Search online for nativity art, and look at how the same stories have been depicted differently by different artists. You might like to look for pictures of the angel visiting Mary, the angels and the shepherds, the shepherds visiting Jesus and the wise men arriving. Which picture do you like best? How does its speak to you? Which one is helps you see the story from a different perspective? What would you create to express how you feel about this story?
See more here, including collections of pictures I’ve found.
Variation: The Glorious Impossible is a wonderful book for exploring the story using classical art, with a re-telling of the story of Jesus by the talented writer, Madeline L’Engle, with illustrations which are actually frescos by Giotto! For more on this see how I’ve used it here.
49 Christmas carol bingo
This is a fun way to listen to carols. Simply pick some of the most common words found in your choice of carols and add them to a DIY bingo sheet. Listen to the carols and challenge everyone to put a cross through the word when they hear it. The first one to make a line of crosses wins!
You can get a carol bingo download here
50 New songs for Christmas
I love to invest in a new album or playlist each Christmas. I probably have Christmas music on earlier than you, but whether you start in November or Christmas Eve, music is a great way to connect with God over Christmas. I love Pentatonix!