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Easy Christmas Traditions for Toddlers

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The holiday season is officially upon us, and we all know what that means for moms everywhere: over-commitments, high expectations, endless to-do lists, and breakdowns all around.

It seems like, with all the parties and events and gifts and crafts and travel that go along with the holidays these days, some of the basics get lost in the shuffle. The holidays are such a prime time to build lasting memories and traditions with our kids, and yet, it all feels so daunting.

But Christmas traditions for toddlers don’t have to be stressful. They don’t have to be time-intensive, or overwhelming, or any of those words that cause your blood pressure to creep all the way up to your ears.

{A-hem, lookin’ at you, Elf on the Shelf.}

Easy Christmas Traditions for Toddlers -  delivering Christmas cookies to your neighbors

Especially with toddlers – they’re so easy to delight, even the smallest change in routine feels like pure magic to them.

Easy, Fun Christmas Traditions for Toddlers

Our traditions are pretty Christmas-centric, but I’m sure you could easily adjust them to fit whatever holiday your family celebrates. Be sure to leave me a comment if you have some great Hanukkah traditions to share with other mamas!

Tradition #1: Annual Christmas ornaments

My favorite tradition growing up was our yearly Christmas ornament. Each year, my parents would pick out a new ornament for each of us, and one for the whole family.

Our individual ornament always represented something we did or were interested in that year, so it’s so much fun to look back at them now and remember all the little details and stories behind each one.

Tradition #2: Christmas Countdown Advent calendars

Everyone loves a good Christmas countdown, amiright?! Growing up, we always had the same felt Christmas tree calendar we used every year (and still do at my parents’ house!). My husband’s family always went the chocolate advent calendar route. Either way, this is definitely a tradition that’s carrying over to for our kids.

But, believe it or not, my 3-year-old doesn’t really like chocolate (MONSTER), and my 1-year-old is still dairy-intolerant, so she can’t eat most chocolate. Lucky for them, there are tons of awesome advent calendars these days.

They’ve got everything from Little People advent calendars (this is the one our kids got – and loved – last year, and they actually still use the junk that came in it!), Hot Wheels advent calendars, to squishies countdown calendars! What a time to be alive!

We also started doing a Reverse Advent Calendar last year. Each day, we open a door, and it tells something we can do for others – donate to a food bank, give to the church offering, donate warm clothes to a shelter, send a Christmas card to troops overseas, etc.

Incorporating charity and helping the community into your Christmas traditions for toddlers is SUCH an easy way to grow their hearts for others early on.

Tradition #3: Matching family Christmas pajamas

We started doing this as a family two years ago, and it’s been one of my favorite traditions. (I don’t care if it’s cheesy!)

It’s become more trendy over the past couple of years, so it’s gotten MUCH easier to find matching sets for the whole family.

Easy Christmas Traditions for Toddlers - Matching family pajamas

We all get into our matching PJs on Christmas Eve, so we wake up in them on Christmas morning, and then keep them on all day on Christmas Day.

Some of my favorite matching family PJs options this year:

Tradition #4: Deliver holiday cookies to the neighbors

Okay, don’t roll your eyes at me here! I know, I know, this is supposed to be an easy list of holiday traditions. Baking cookies – with a toddler, nonetheless – does not fall into that category.

I’m not saying you have to bake fancy, special Christmas cookies. Heck, you can make a basic chocolate chip cookie, or, even better: BUY COOKIES AT THE STORE.

I promise, your neighbors will not judge. And your toddler definitely will not care. My kid has infinitely more fun at Target, parsing through the bakery department to find the perfect, prettiest, tastiest-looking cookies he can (all while nomming on his free kids cookie, obvi), than he does in the kitchen with me screaming at him not to spill that, or to put that down, or no don’t eat that yet!

Your toddler will love being an official North Pole Helper by delivering joy to your neighbors, and you’ll love having an excuse to actually MEET your neighbors, if your ‘hood is anything like ours.

Tradition #5: The Four-Gift Rule

I’m not gonna lie, I get a little crazy when it comes to Christmas gifting. It turns out, it’s really easy to stress me out at the holidays, and the looming promise of senseless clutter, flashing / singing toys, and downright junk is my kryptonite.

So I force our extended family to abide by the One-Gift Rule: one gift per person, per child.

Easy Christmas Traditions for Toddlers - the Four Gift Rule

And to keep ourselves in check, we abide by the Four-Gift Rule: Want, Need, Wear, Read. You can read more about the rule and keeping the holiday gift overload at bay, but the gist of it is: each kid gets something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

It’s a win-win for everyone. Kids get to open lots of gifts, we get to not waste money on things they’ll only care about for 5 minutes before becoming bored with.

Tradition #6: Angel Tree shopping

Picking a Christmas Angel to buy gifts for was one of my favorite things to do with my mom growing up. We’d go to the mall, browse through all the angels on the massive tree, and pick one that sounded just right for us.

Then, we’d go around the mall, picking out clothes, shoes, a stuffed animal, and a toy for him or her. It really solidified, at an early age, how much better it feels to give than to receive, and that’s absolutely something I want my own kids to feel, too.

Even at 3 years old, I like to get my son excited about shopping for his Christmas Angel. Now that we have two kids, we’ll start picking out two angels, so each kid can have someone to help shop for.

Tradition #7: The Christmas Eve Box

This is a new tradition we’re starting this year. Growing up, I always got to open one present on Christmas Eve. My brother and I loved picking out which one we wanted to open, inspecting each gift under the tree to find the ~best~ one (but of course the *best* ones were never under there yet…).

I loved that tradition, and have wanted to continue it for my kids, but with the Four Gift Rule in play, I didn’t want to waste one of their four designated gifts.

Enter: the Christmas Eve box.

The kids each have an adorable little Christmas Eve-themed box filled with goodies to create the perfect family movie night:

The kids will open their Christmas Eve Box after dinner, and then we’ll all snuggle up for a special family movie night.

Tradition #8: Christmas morning movie

Screen time doesn’t count on the holidays, okay?!

Every morning, as soon as we finish opening presents, we put A Christmas Story on the TV – a true classic. We don’t always sit and watch the whole thing together – there’s just so much to do on Christmas Day – but we all have our favorite parts, and we all end up back around the couch laughing together throughout those 90 minutes.

See – holiday traditions for toddlers can be easy!

Even if you just picked a couple of these traditions to start with your family this holiday season, you’d be able to start seeding tons of memories for your toddlers, and still maintain your sanity for the holidays (hopefully… maybe).

Got any other EASY holiday traditions for little kids? Share ’em in the comments!

Holiday Gift Guides

And if you need some ideas for holiday gifts, while you’re at it – check out my latest gift guides!

Fun & EASY Christmas Traditions for Toddlers – the holidays don't have to be stressful, mama!