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How to squeeze more joy into Christmas with older kids

How to squeeze more joy into Christmas with older kids

We love those pesky kids, but Chrismas with older kids can be a lot less joyful than we remember. Gone is the little kid innocence, the willingness to help, the eager letters to Santa… not to mention our own eager threats to cancel Santa altogether if they don’t behave.

Santa is missed

I miss the Santa threats. From mid-November until Christmas, you’ve got an instant ‘behave NOW’ card. Once the kids get older, you try the “Santa doesn’t come to naughty kids” threat and they look at you like you’re the dumbest thing on the planet. So, yeah, they basically just look at you like they always look at you. Sorry, Mums, they really don’t rate our smarts, do they?

I miss the Santa threats.

In any case, I still love Christmas and it’s always the most wonderful time of the year to me. Lucky for me, at 11, 14 and 15 years old, so far my kids are still willing to get into the spirit as well, so Christmas with older kids is almost as much fun as it was with the smalls. I’m immensely grateful for that.

Joy at Christmas with older kids

Look out for the Grinch

I do know of a mother whose 15-year-old daughter sneered, yes sneered, when she gaily suggested they put up the tree together. Not to mention my neighbour’s 10-year-old who has suggested that everyone should just give her money under the tree this year. Like it’s some kind of bridal wishing well thing. And my friend’s 17-year-old son has already announced that he’ll be spending Christmas day with his girlfriend’s family this year – see ya later, Mum.

My friend’s 17-year-old son has already announced that he’ll be spending Christmas day with his girlfriend’s family this year – see ya later, Mum.

Here’s how I reckon they could lure their kids back into the Christmas fold. Let’s prove to ourselves that Christmas with older kids can still be a truly magical time. These activities are sure to peak their interest and sprinkle a little Christmas joy.

Here’s how to simplify the lot: It’s okay to cancel Christmas


Christmas with older kids - fun ways to inject some seasonal joy


7 fun ways to celebrate Christmas with older kids

Share the Elf

Like us, you’ve probably got a Christmas Elf stuffed in a drawer somewhere. Ours is uncreatively named Noel, and he was fun for years, until he wasn’t. Last year I started Noel on is daily shenanigans, but by the third day, none of the kids were even bothering to look for him. By Day 5, Noel was back in his drawer and nobody even noticed (except me, always me). Then I hit on the idea of the kids being the ones to come up with a new Noel pose each day. They took it in turns and surprised each other and it was a blast. So we’ll be doing that again. This list will get them started.

Make a wreath

Go on a walk to gather a little nature from around the streets and weave it into a handmade wreath for the front door. It’s a calming activity that you can even do as a family. Your child will feel proud when their work is on display on the front door for the season.

Instructions on how to make a wreath are here.

Biscuit bake off

Older kids love a competition and they also love eating. Combine the two into a Christmas biscuit bake off and everyone will reap the rewards. You can bake the biscuits together and then compete on the icing, or decide to go all out and bake different recipes for a full-on Masterchef-style war. Not that encouraging family battles is especially Christmassy, but I’m hoping it will work out well at your place…

Some good Christmas biscuit recipes:

Sweet-as honey biscuits
Ginger biscuits
Golden syrup biscuits
Italian biscuits
Cheat’s macaroons

Honey biscuits are sooooo gooooood

DIY decorations

Older kids might turn their noses up at putting the decorations on the tree, but maybe not if they’ve made them themselves. Felt baubles are easy to make and customise and you can have a tree-full done within an afternoon. Felt costs $5 for a pack of 10 at Kmart too.

More easy, but nice, decorations:

DIY tree gnomes
Scented beeswax ornaments
Cute mason jar snowglobes

City tripping

One night, we’ll all take a train into the city to look at the decorations and do some Christmas shopping together. I’ll be enticing them in not with drugs (as my title suggests), of course not, but with cold hard cash. Yes, I will pay my children to spend an evening in the city with me, but the catch is they have to spend the money on a gift for each other. Sweet!

Gifts from siblings at Christmas

Family-only dinner

We tend to eat dinner together most nights around here, but a lot of families don’t. Then Christmas comes along and you’ve got extended family and friends joining you on the day. So it’s nice to put aside another night in December to put on a fancy dinner just for the family. You can cook a Christmas meal together, if that’s your thing, or just eat your regular thing, but dress up, hang out and open a present or two.

Spread some kindness

While the traditional advent calendar becomes a little dull for older kids (though who doesn’t love a chocolate a day?), kindness is always interesting. Flip the advent calendar around to giving, rather than receiving, and prove to your child where real joy is found.

Download and print our kindness advent calendar.

Volunteer together

Christmas with older kids really should start to be about giving back and there are plenty of food drives, hamper packing, Santa’s helpers, food kitchen and other seasonal volunteering roles that need filling. The kids will probably hate the idea, but once they are there they’ll be rapt. Check Go Volunteer for options near you.

Make gifts for friends

Kids will love making customised lifesavers as gifts for their classmates, friends, neighbours and family. Just download and print the free wrappers and wrap your store-bought lifesavers tubes. Couldn’t be easier.

Click to download the free printable lifesaver wrappers.

Christmas lifesaver wrappers

Try these cuties too: Elf donuts with free printable labels


Movie binge

If there’s one thing teens and tweens love, it’s a screen. They also love getting to stay up late. Get a whole bunch of classic Christmas movies together and spend a Friday night watching them back to back. Run the Christmas tree lights, share some Christmas bickies and settle in for some nostalgic bonding time. We’ll be starting with Die Hard (a classic of the genre), but you might like Love Actually and Joyeux Noel. There’s a great list of Christmas movies here.

Keep up traditions

There will be a lot of traditions that die when you’re celebrating Christmas with older kids, but some can live on forever. I have always given my kids a new book under the tree each Christmas, and I imagine I’ll still be doing that when they are 50-years-old (fingers crossed). Similarly, strolling the neighbourhood to see the Christmas lights is something I hope we do forever. Pick the traditions you love the most and make sure your kids know how much joy they bring to you. Bet you any money the kids will then be first in line to make sure you still get your dose of Christmas joy.


Feature by Katie Treadway; joy by Preslie Hirsch; present by Ben Mullins