Teaching Christmas Joy to Children

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Motherhood » Teaching Christmas Joy to Children

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. 

How to Teach Christmas Joy to Your Kids

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?

We decided to focus on family time, homemade gift ideas and Christmas Joy this year with our children instead of big gifts.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


22 responses to “Teaching Christmas Joy to Children”

  1. Cami Avatar

    I don’t know how I missed this post years ago! But just for solidarity’s sake, we also don’t celebrate Santa. Our whole advent is about preparation. We need to recognize our sinfulness before we can realize we need to be saved from it. We cannot welcome the Savior before we’ve taken the time to repent and face the truth that we need him. So advent for us is a reflective time, more penitential, and we slowly prepare the house as we get closer to Christmas Day. We celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (the actual REAL person who lived a virtuous life and is now in Heaven) on Dec 6th by putting out slippers the night before. Our 5 children wake to find chocolate coins, oranges, and candy canes inside. If a child needed new slippers, the old ones are replaced and filled. We eat something tasty like homemade cranberry bread and our oranges for breakfast. We might watch the Saints & Heroes Saint Nicholas Story. I also read aloud a book every day of advent and usually on this day we read The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale. The Miracle of Saint Nicholas is also a beautiful story. I often read that the following day. It isn’t about Nicholas’ life but rather his intercession in helping a small Russian town bring back their worship after a period of religious persecution. On St. Nicholas day, we emphasize the giving heart of this saint out of his commitment and love for Jesus and God’s people. We love God by loving others. Then Christmas is all about the birth of the Savior. It’s great! We even bake a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus with a nativity Jesus piece on the cake. People definitely think we are weird for not doing what everyone else does. But we are comfortable being counter-cultural. I don’t appreciate the pressure to focus on Santa so other families can use it as behavior management. ?. Merry CHRISTmas, everyone! ?

  2. Gloria Scalise Avatar
    Gloria Scalise

    I love love love this calendar! I will be copying some of these next year. This year I made an Advent Activity Calendar for my 3 yr old. Our favorite activity by FAR was the Petting Zoo. She got to see donkeys and camels that Mary, Joseph and the wise men would have ridden on; sheep that the Shepherds were tending, cows, pigs and other animals that would’ve been present at Jesus’ birth AND a feeding trough (manger) that Baby Jesus would’ve lay in. Seeing these animals for herself really helped make the Christmas Story real in her little mind. I HIGHLY recommend this to EVERY mama!!!

  3. Josefin Björnberg Avatar
    Josefin Björnberg

    I love to celebrate Christmas. Every year, I plan to do something different for kids. I like to hear the voice of Christmas song.

  4. Caty Avatar

    I am just now expecting my first but this book along with the included sparkle box would make a great tradition. I also love the angel idea instead of the elf on the shelf.

  5. genie Avatar

    I dont get stuck into websites … but your energy is quite outstanding!, I love everything you have written and your enthusiasm is just additive!….

    i have been sitting here for almost two hours reading and researching and i have only said “hello!’ …..

    WOW … ps i had a private message i will try and send you … your welcome to use it if you so choose too xx

    SOOOO much love and appreciation from me and my fella and our wee boy! xxx going to have a search to see if you have any fertility boosting tips … we are hoping for another lil one to join our family , i am now 43 years old xxx but 23 in my mind !!!

  6. Meg Avatar

    I just want to say thank you so much for everything you post on your website. I researched the facts that you put in a couple articles to check the validity of what you were saying and all I can say is thank you for providing your readers with such well thought out research and advice. I was living what I thought to be a healthy lifestyle before reading your articles but your website has truly been such an inspiration. I have made the body lotion, deodorant, and lip chap so far and all have been great successes. I am also celiac so I love your recipes. I just wanted to let you know you are brilliant and thank you so much for posting the knowledge you have on so many different topics. I can tell you are an awesome mommy. God bless!

  7. Michelle Davidson Avatar
    Michelle Davidson

    We just got our Christmas angel today 🙂
    We are a bit late but I am going to blend her in with the Truth in the Tinsel we are already doing.

  8. Elizabeth Avatar

    We don’t do Santa either! Would much rather focus our hearts and minds on the real reason for celebrating Christmas–the birth of our Savior! I have a 2 year old and I am doing Truth in the Tinsel with her this year. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make the crafts with her and focusing on the coordinating Scripture passages that lead up to the birth. I love the Christmas Angel idea though, so maybe we’ll try that next year! Thanks for sharing! (even though I know this post is old) 🙂

  9. Theresa Avatar

    It is encouraging to know other families don’t focus on Santa either. We do 12 days of Christmas. Our kids get one simple gift each day up until 3 Kings Day. Then they get a nicer gift on Jan 6. It’s pretty unpopular with everyone but it works for our focus to be on Christ not Santa.

  10. Andrea Bowersox Avatar
    Andrea Bowersox

    I love this! My kids are 3, 2, and 1, and I didn’t want to do elf on the shelf because we don’t focus on Santa either. Now, I have some great ideas for next year. We also only do 3 gifts per child, and explain to them that Jesus received 3 gifts from the wise men. I got the idea from a friend and really liked that even at “gift time” the focus could be on Jesus.

  11. claudia Avatar

    Great that you focus on the birth of Jesus rather than “Santa”. We do the same. I enjoy your web site very much. Read your post on why canola oil is bad for you, and glad I did. I am puzzled about your articles on grains though. Even bread made from sprouted whole wheat is bad for you? How about the Lord’s prayer…”give us this day our daily…bread!”. Ancient civilizations used grains…

  12. Cori Avatar

    Our family also focuses on Christ during Christmas and we do not do Santa. We have caught a lot of flack from this over the years from friends and family alike. I’m so glad to see that others feel the same way. I love your ideas! We have recently had our first child (he is 7 months old) and I am already trying to find ways to instill giving and selflessness during the Advent season. We have our Advent wreath and Advent calendar with scripture reading each day. I am also planning on adopting a child through World Vision that has my son’s exact birth date so that as he grows, he can learn about someone else just like him growing up in a very different life situation. Perhaps he can even write to him as he grows. Prior to Christmas, we also participate in the Shoebox program through Samaritan’s Purse.

  13. Guate Avatar

    I’m so glad you wrote this post! We do an Advent calendar (a sweet little wooden cabinet with doors for 25 days where I store the messages) with a similar focus on service. Here are some of our favorite activities:

    Write a letter to a friend who moved away. Have friends over for a holiday baking party. Send holiday card to member of armed services. Donate Heifer International animal to family in need. Make Christmas crafts for teachers. Make backpacks for people who are homeless and deliver them. Take cards and gifts (like hand lotion) to elderly people at an assisted care facility.

  14. Celia Avatar

    thank you for this article! I’ve been looking for something like this for my kiddos!

  15. Annie Avatar

    While this is an enchanting article and I love your blog…perhaps a mention or acknowledgement to Newtown would be appropriate…no?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      This was prewritten and scheduled before that news broke… my heart breaks for them! Absolutely horrible… many thoughts and prayers for everyone involved…

  16. Karen Avatar

    I love your name for the angel! Every year, without fail, my Dad jokes that his favorite angel growing up was Hark… “Hark, the herald angel sings!” Rahrahrah, he is the funniest guy he knows. 🙂

      1. Becky Avatar

        That is so funny! My dad always says “This song is so discriminatory…why do only the angels named Harold get to sing?” har har har, dad. Another unrelated one he loves to whip out around Christmas time is–“Why does everyone forget about the tenth reindeer? Olive, the other reindeer!” (and then he starts singing “Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names….”) He, too, is the funniest guy he knows.

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