christmas traditions for toddlers

25 Magical Christmas Traditions for Toddlers in 2023

Embrace the holiday spirit with our carefully curated list of 25 Christmas traditions for toddlers.

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Our guide covers the entire holiday season, from the start of December to Christmas Day, ensuring a magical time for your family.

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Our 3-year-old is thrilled to share our family traditions with her younger brother, who is celebrating his first christmas, and we’re also eager to start new traditions with them.

toddlers unwrapping presents

25 Christmas Traditions With Toddlers

our two or three-year-old will be thrilled with all the new experiences and activities. The younger the toddler, the simpler you can make the tradition, but older toddlers will love being able to participate this year.

This list of Christmas traditions for toddlers begins on December 1st and lasts until Christmas morning.

toddler advent calendar

1. Advent Calendar

I fondly recall receiving advent calendars from my mother. Today, there’s a vast array of choices, especially non-candy ones ideal for toddlers, although young kids may need help understanding they can open only one door per day

A few things to keep in mind. The younger the toddler, the harder it will be to explain they only get to open 1 door a day (speaking from experience!)

You can work around this in a few ways:

  • Don’t show them the actual calendar. Just give them a new toy each day at the same time. Make a big deal about how it’s their new Christmas treat for the day.
  • Help them open the door and then quickly put away the calendar in a special (non-reachable) place.
toddlers at christmas tree farm

2. Cut Down A Christmas Tree

A great outdoor activity for the whole family. If you have a local tree farm, bundle up and head out and let your toddler help pick out the tree.

Options like ‘this one or this one’ will help avoid a Charlie Brown Christmas tree choice if you let them pick ANY tree.

Some tree farms offer hot chocolate or sleigh rides.

If you are in a climate where trees are only available at a store let them tag along too. I remember going with my father to the local Home Depot and we always had fun picking them out together.

3. Make Memory Ornaments

Make durable and glass free ornaments to hang on lower branches.

Print photos from the year and turn them into ornaments by either helping your toddler make the popsicle stick frames or buy these frames from Amazon and let them decorate them.

Then hang them from the lower branches of the big tree or their own mini tree. The ornaments can be saved and reused/added to next year.

4. 12 Books Of Christmas

Start the ’12 Books of Christmas’ tradition, where your toddler unwraps a new book each night before Christmas. This not only educates them about the holiday but also creates a reusable tradition

Here are our favorite Toddler Christmas Books

5. Donate Toys

Before Christmas clear out some toys that are no longer used.   If you explain to your toddler that they are going to another boy and girl who needs them it can help them let go.  

Bring them along to the donation bin or drop off center.    

Here are two books that may help explain the concept of giving to charity:

Pass It On

It’s Mine!

6.   Make a list for Santa/write a letter.    

The USPS runs a fun program called Operation Santa where you can write letters to Santa and receive replies.

You also have the option to “adopt” a letter and can anonymously send a child gifts.

A nice way for a toddler to write a letter is to get some flyers from toys stores and Walmart and let them cut out the toys they like.   It can be a great activity to practice cutting and gluing.    

7.   Make Cards  

Christmas is a great time to say thank you for people who have helped you all year.   If your toddler is like mine, they love waving to the mailman and garbage truck.  

This year have them make cards for them and they can hand deliver them the next time they come by.    

You can add a gift card or other gift if you like as well.

8.   Adopt a family

When I was small, our house burnt down and we lost everything.   Our family friends had their children give us each a toy of theirs and it made a huge difference in how we felt.

Christmas is a great time to pay it forward. And it’s never too early to start the tradition of giving back!

If you know a family who has been particularly hard hit during the past year you can put together a basket of gifts and food and deliver it to them before Christmas.

Get your toddler involved by asking for their help in picking out a toy or gift for someone in the family.

If you don’ know anyone, call your local Church or charity for a recommendation.

Audrey from Two Pink Peonies supports Operation Christmas Child, a Christian based charity that sends shoeboxes filled with toys and school supplies to children who have been affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease.   The shoeboxes can be decorated and filled with your toddler.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, check out Audrey’s post on What to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child – just note in order to participate most areas require mid-November donations.  

9.   Go to a Christmas Parade

Watch the floats and listen to the bands play Christmas music, and of course see the big man himself at the end.    

christmas photo shoot

10.   Do a Christmas Mini photo shoot

You can do this at home which allows for the tradition to be taking the photo in the same place each year.

You can take a picture of each child individually or do the whole family.    

Or you can get a professional photographer to take a family photo, you can use it for your Christmas cards.

toddler building a snowman

11.   Build a Snowman

If you are in a snowy area, building your own Frosty is a great tradition to start at a young age.  

It’s a great physical, outdoor activity.

If you’re in a warmer climate you can get creative with balloons!

12.   Go Sledding

Another winter activity that gets your children outside and active.

13.   Drink Hot Chocolate  

Not just any hot chocolate, Christmas hot chocolate!

Whether you get one made at a local coffee shop or make one at home this should be a special hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and a little whip cream.

Hot chocolate bombs are all the rage this year. You get chocolate balls with lots of yumminess inside then poor hot milk over and they ‘blow up’.

Check out these yummy hot chocolate bombs from Etsy

14.   Make a Gingerbread House

Toddlers aren’t going to make the prettiest house, but they will love the new experience and eating icing as they go.    

You can start with just gingerbread people and, as the years go by, get to the house.

15.    Get a New Family Ornament  

There are lots of personalized ornaments out there or you can always get the same type of ornament (a new Santa, a new angel etc).

Shop with your toddler and let them choose between your two favorites. They will feel like they participated without you being dissatisfied with what they chose.

16.    Have a Kids Christmas Party

Get some friends and family together with young kids and have a pajama Christmas party one morning before naps.   We do this with my girlfriends and each child gets another child’s name to buy a present. We all bring one breakfast item and have an awesome party together  

The Week Before Christmas

17.   Drive to see the Christmas Lights

There are often local Christmas Lights displays that you can drive to, or keep it simple and drive around the neighborhood.   Put them in their pjs before you go into the car for an easier transition to bed after the lights tour.    

For older toddlers you can add a scavenger hunt! Jamie over at As For Me And My Homestead has a free downloadable scavenger hunt that includes things like a snowman, a candy cane and of course Santa to add to the fun.

18.   Have A Christmas Movie Night

Get into the Christmas spirit with a movie.  

Some movies your toddler may like:

Polar Express

Mickey’s Christmas Carols

Frosty The Snowman

You can also look for Christmas episodes from their favorite shoes (ex Dora or Daniel Tiger both have Christmas episodes)

19.   Christmas Bath

We have gotten into the habit of having ‘holiday baths’ and use them as a sensory activity.    

This past Halloween we had a pumpkin bath bomb with orange glow sticks and mini plastic jack-o’-lanterns.    

For Christmas this year we will be doing more bath bombs (here is a kid friendly Christmas gift box from Amazon with little prizes inside) and will be adding in some holiday themed items like the below.

Headbands in the bath are fun!. Plus you can wear one too.

See these on Amazon

Christmas Rubber Ducks!  These adorable little guys are on Amazon here

20.   Play Christmas Music at Dinner

Add some fun to your dinners the week before Christmas by playing Christmas songs.

Expose them to all sorts of Christmas music: classical music one night, pop versions the next night (hello Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé!)

Christmas Eve Traditions for Toddlers

21.   Make Cookies For Santa

Bake up a plate of fresh cookies for Santa and leave a cup of milk out for him.   If you have a fireplace leave them there.

No fireplace?   No problem! These ‘Santa Keys‘ will let him in the house with a little magic.

santas key christmas traditions for toddlers

22.   Put out Reindeer Carrots

You can’t forget the reindeer! Get your toddler to put out some carrots in a bowl for the reindeer next to the cookies.

23.   Give out Christmas Eve Boxes

Every family member gets their new Christmas pajamas, a book and a small toy.    

When we were kids we always got to open one present from mom and dad on Christmas Eve it was our own little mini Christmas tradition before the next day of bigger family stuff.

24.    Hang Your Stockings

You can do this earlier in the season for decorations or save it for Christmas Eve!

Christmas Day Traditions with Toddlers

opening christmas stockings

25.   Open Stockings First

Growing up, my brother and I would wake up first on Christmas Day and we would rush downstairs and open up our stockings.  

We had to wait to open the rest of our presents.

Now that I’m a parent I think it’s genius.   Who doesn’t love a little sleep in?    

Toddlers of course will need you there, but opening stockings first now sets the stage for your future self to have a slower Christmas morning.

Toddlers will love all the little goodies in a stocking. And will probably want to play with their new stuff before opening more.   It’s a nice time in their life where you don’t have to rush through all the gifts.

Related Toddler Christmas Posts: Toddler Christmas Stocking Post

Bonus Idea:   Make a Special Christmas Breakfast  

Sitting at the table all together in your pjs after opening gifts is a nice family tradition.    

You can make your favorite breakfast or add something new like Santa pancakes.


The above ideas for toddlers should keep you VERY busy in December – of course you don’t have to do all of them!    

Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!


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