If we aren’t careful, Christmas can quickly become a time of worrying about what we get and losing sight of what’s important. Spending time with loved ones, sharing gratitude, giving thoughtful gifts, and sharing with those who are less fortunate—these are some of the things I want my family to focus on during the holidays. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve worked hard to find creative ways to teach them about Christmas joy.

I’ve shared that we try to keep Christmas simple by purchasing one gift for each family member. We’ve enjoyed celebrating Advent, a time of waiting and preparing for Christmas. Another tradition we do every year is to observe St. Nicholas Day on December 6. On this day we celebrate the real person who helped those in his community have a brighter holiday.

When my kids are grown, I want them to remember all the fun we had during the holidays together, instead of what presents they did (or didn’t) receive. I also want to instill in them a sense of helping others. Since we already have so much, it’s important to me that we spread Christmas joy to others. 

Teaching Christmas joy to my kids is a mixture of family traditions and doing things to spread holiday cheer to others. Here are some ways I like to teach Christmas joy to my kids.

Random Acts of Kindness

One of my favorite ways to help teach my kids about Christmas joy is to have them do random acts of kindness for families, friends, or strangers. Instead of an Elf on the Shelf, we have a Christmas Angel. Each day during Advent, she comes to visit, bringing a suggestion for things my kids can do for someone else that day. It’s a great way to encourage them and give them ideas to spread love to others. 

If you don’t have a Christmas Angel, you can still do nice things for others. There are lots of printable charts on Pinterest that give you great ideas for how to spread joy. You can print one off and put it on your fridge to give your family some ideas. Or, make your own list of special things you want to do. This is a great way to get your kids involved!

Here are some things we’ve enjoyed doing in the past:

  • Making gifts for postal workers and delivery drivers
  • Creating “I love you” cards for grandparents
  • Donating our savings to different charities
  • Bringing the man who rings the bell at the grocery store a cup of coffee
  • Making meals for families with new babies
  • Paying for the groceries of an older lady checking out in front of us who only had a couple of items
  • Leaving coupons and dollar bills on the (healthy) aisles in the grocery store
  • Giving homemade lotion bars or teas to the elderly or hospital-bound
  • Paying parking meters for people parked on the street
  • Making cookies and delivering them to first responders

These ideas are small ways we can spread holiday joy, but each is an easy and fun way to teach kids to think of others. 

Secret Santa

Another way we’ve enjoyed spreading Christmas joy is to be a Secret Santa to a family in need in our community. We reach out to a local church or domestic violence shelter to see who is in need this season, get a wish list for their family members, and have a shopping trip to buy them presents. Then, we deliver the gifts and some food for several meals, along with some gift cards. 

This has been a great way for my kids to learn the joy of giving to others, even when we don’t get to see the look on their faces when they open the gifts. Check to see if any nonprofits in your community have families in need of sponsoring.


If your kids are older, a great way to teach (and spread) Christmas joy is by volunteering. In our community, there are several organizations that sponsor toy or jacket drives. You can sign up to help organize the donations before the event or help onsite the day of the event, helping families make their selections. 

Another fun thing is to volunteer at a local food bank, sorting food donations and organizing them for families. Some churches have food banks that need volunteers, too. Or, if you can, take your kids on a canned food scavenger hunt to collect canned food from neighbors to donate to the food bank.

Make Gifts For Others

Another way to learn Christmas joy is to make gifts for our loved ones. We usually pick out some fun things to make for the grandparents, our neighbors, and each other. It’s great to get creative and crafty together, and we put a lot of love into the gifts we make. It’s a great way for my kids to learn about Christmas joy because it teaches them the value of thinking of others, deciding what they might like, and putting their time and effort into creating something special.

We love to wrap our gifts in eco-friendly wrapping paper. You can make your own using simple things around your home: old newspapers, butcher paper, or packing materials. Your kids can paint or draw special pictures on the homemade wrapping paper, too. It’s almost like a bonus gift!

Family Christmas Activities

We tend to have some downtime before and after the holidays, so I like to spend this time with my kids doing fun Christmas activities. Sometimes, we’ll make crafts (that we can share with others), and other times, we’ll go on an outing, like driving around and looking at Christmas lights while sipping on hot cocoa. 

We’ve also made Christmas decorations—everything from salt-dough ornaments to natural garlands. Gathering together to make things that will brighten our home is a nice way to teach Christmas joy. It’s great to see your final product strung up on the tree or the fireplace!

Celebrate with Christmas Traditions

Our family has lots of Christmas traditions! One of my favorites is that we spend most of Christmas day in our pajamas. We’ll open our presents and spend the day hanging out. And even though we’re are in our pajamas, we’ll often have company or play with other kids in the neighborhood. We might play games together, bake cookies, or watch our favorite movies. 

Another one of our traditions is that we set aside some time during the holidays to go through our things and find items that we can donate to others. Not just things we want to get rid of, but things that we could share with others. We find a way to drop them off for someone who needs them or donate them to a local organization.

Thinking of traditions you can start with your kids that bring joy to the Christmas season helps you plan for special times together. What are some great things your city has to offer during the holidays? How do you remember spending time with your family during the holidays? Is there anything you want to continue?

Teaching our children the joy of Christmas is important to help them realize that the holiday is about so much more than getting gifts. Raising them to care for others and creating traditions with them helps them see that there’s more to life than material things.

How do you teach your children Christmas joy? What are some ways you give back? What are some of your favorite traditions?


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