How to keep children entertained over the festive period

Keeping the children entertained during school holidays can sometimes be a problem, but the Christmas period can be even more of a challenge with a combination of excited youngsters and weather that may well keep everyone indoors.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

So, what can you get up to if you’re looking after the grandkids this Christmas?  If you’re entertaining the grandkids during the festive season – for an extended period or just a short visit – we’ve listed our favourite Christmas activities for kids.

You can skip to some of our selected Christmas activity categories by clicking on the links below.

•  Ideas for Christmas crafting with the kids

•  Christmas baking ideas for kids

•  Child-friendly Christmas games

•  Fun activities to try with kids at Christmas

•  Activities to try on Christmas Eve

A child using a multi-coloured paint pot
Two children walking in the snow

Ideas for Christmas crafting with the kids

Wondering how to keep your grandchildren entertained at Christmas?  There’s no better time of year to get crafting.  There are so many Christmas craft ideas – and these don’t have to be expensive.  You can use materials you have around the house or buy relatively inexpensive kits.   

From making Christmas cards and decorations, there’s a whole range of paper Christmas craft ideas.  Children love to use their hands to make something really bright and colourful – and they enjoy getting messy with glue and glitter in the process.

A hand-made Christmas card

Make Christmas cards with the kids

Toddlers and younger children will love making handprint and fingerprint Christmas card designs.  

All you’ll need is white card folded into a card, a black felt tip pen and some child-friendly finger paints – although a few crafty items would make the card making even more exciting – wobbly eyes and coloured dots from a craft shop would be ideal.  

To make fingerprint Christmas light designs, cover the child’s thumb in one of the brightly coloured paints and help them press it onto the front of the card. 

Wipe the thumb and repeat with different colours, spreading the prints out over the card.  One the paint has dried, use the black pen to draw a string connecting the lights.  Fingerprint Christmas light cards can be popular with older children – they may enjoy adding a blob of glue to each ‘light’ and adding glitter or sparkles. 

To make Santa’s Reindeer Cards, cover the child’s thumb in brown paint and help them press it onto the front of the card.  Repeat several times, across the front of the card.   If the child uses fingers as well as thumbs, the reindeer will be different sizes.  Draw antlers with the black felt pen and then add some ‘wobbly eyes’ that can be bought at any craft store and a red dot for the nose.

To make a Fingerprint Christmas Tree Card, draw a simple Christmas tree shape on white card.  Cover the child’s finger in green paint and help them fill the shape in with green fingerprints.  If they go over the lines, it doesn’t matter because you can cut out the Christmas tree shape and stick it on another card.  Add some gold star stickers and use a black or brown felt tip pen to draw and colour the tree base.

To make a Fingerprint Christmas Wreath card, draw the outline of a wreath shape on the card and, covering the child’s finger with green paint, get them to cover the wreath shape with green fingerprints.  Add some red dots to represent holly and draw a bow at the bottom to finish it off.  Or stick a fabric bow onto the card.

For card making with older children, there are some fabulous ideas and tutorials online.  If you’ve saved last year’s Christmas cards, let older children cut them up and make their own scenes.  Take a look for a few of these.  If you’re not very crafty yourself, you could buy a ready-made ‘Make Your Own Christmas Card’ kit.  At Not-On-The-High-Street, you’ll find Christmas wrap and Christmas card kits that will keep children entertained for hours.

Home-made Christmas Decorations 

Pinecone Christmas decorations

If you head out to the local woods for a walk and collect pinecones (or buy a pack of pinecones relatively inexpensively on amazon) the children can make some lovely decorations.  

Ensure they are clean and dry and decorate them with paint and glitter or stick small coloured craft pompoms all over the cone. 

A home-made pinecone decoration on a tree
Paper, scissors and pencils ready for crafting

Paper chains

These are easy and inexpensive to make.   Measure and cut 15 cm x 2.5 cm strips of different patterned and plain pastel papers. 

Take one strip and make a loop, securing in place with glue.  Thread another strip through the first loop and make another loop.  Continue using alternate different coloured and patterned papers and continue until a long chain has been formed. 

If you want to make things even easier, packs of ready-cut coloured strips are available on amazon from about £3.

Snowmen Card Pegs

Take some wooden clothes pegs – the clip type – and let the children paint them white and add some black dots for buttons, eyes and mouth – add a red or orange pom pom for a nose and tie some coloured wool or ribbon round the ‘neck’ as a scarf.

Put a string up and hang Christmas cards from the snowmen pegs.

A pile of pegs, with one painted to look like a snowman

Christmas baking ideas for kids

A grandmother and child baking together

There are some great recipes that are easy to make and delicious to eat.   For younger children, no bake recipes are perfect because they don’t have to wait long to sample the treats they’ve made.  Rice Krispie Christmas treats are perfect.


  • 45g Butter
  • 300g mini marshmallows
  • 180g Rice Krispies
  • Melted chocolate for decoration along with smarties or similar sweets, edible glitter or other edible decorations.


  • Using a large saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat.
  • Stir in the marshmallows, gently heating them until they are melted into the butter mixture. 
  • Remove from the heat, and add in your Rice Krispies, mixing carefully until they are coated in the marshmallow. 
  • Using a greased 32cm x 32cm tin, press down the mixture into the corners. Make sure the top is flat – if you want to add glitter, now’s the time.
  • Let the mixture cool completely and then cut into 24 squares.
  • To make reindeer, use a little melted chocolate to add smarties for eyes and red ones for the noses. Using a little chocolate, create small branch-like antlers just above the eyes. If you sprinkled glitter on squares, then provide the children with some edible decorations and let them use their imagination to create a range of festive squares – from angels to Christmas baubles and Christmas parcels.

There are plenty of other Christmas baking ideas online – take a look at the BBC Good Food Guide which has 29 Christmas Baking Ideas for Kids.

Child-friendly Christmas games

The holiday season is a time for families and, whilst children may not remember the particular presents they received at Christmas, they are much more likely to remember the time spent with grandparents – and the games they played.  Here are a few ideas that are inexpensive but lots of fun and these are also excellent Christmas party games for children.

Christmas Post

For this game, you’ll need empty boxes of varying sizes and two chairs.  You can cover the empty boxes with gift wrap to make them look a bit more exciting.  Put the two chairs a reasonable distance apart and pile the boxes at the ‘start line.’  Split the participants into two teams and the challenge is to carry stacks of ‘gifts’ between the chairs without dropping any presents.  If you’re holding a Christmas party for the children, this can be done as a relay race.

Christmas Skittles

Get the children to decorate white paper cups – each one with a snowman face – and then stack them in a tower.  Create a ‘ball’ from rolled up socks and the children take turns at throwing the rolled-up socks at the pyramid of snowmen to see how many they can knock down.

The Christmas Stocking Game

Fill a large Christmas stocking with items and the children have to guess what could be in the stocking.  The items could be Christmas themed – such as pinecones, candy canes, candles and decorations or they could be familiar household items.  To make this easier, you could produce a possible list of items including the ones actually inside the stocking and the children have to guess.

The Christmas Memory Game

Taking a large cardboard box (which could be covered in wrapping paper), put a reasonable number of items into the box – possibly Christmas themed – one by one whilst the children are watching.  If the children are older, put them into the box at a faster speed than you would for younger children.  The children then have to remember as many of the items in the box as possible.

The Christmas Wrapping Game

Using similar-sized boxes – shoe boxes are ideal – the children have a wrapping race.  The one who wins needs to have wrapped their box neatly.  A variation of this game is to create a beautiful box.  Supply the children with bows, ribbons, labels and other decorations and rather than being a ‘race,’ the game is to create the most beautiful gift.

Christmas Charades

Playing charades is always lots of fun – and one of the games least likely to cause arguments! 

Create your own Christmas version of the game.  Write ideas for Christmas charades on cards or slips of paper and put them into a box for each participant to draw out.  

A family playing charades together

Christmas Charade Words

Here are a few words that you may wish to use in your game of charades, however you can also get creative and add even more of your own if you like! 

Words linked to Christmas:

  • Santa
  • Reindeer
  • Presents
  • Christmas Stockings
  • Holly
  • Angels
  • Turkey
  • Christmas Tree
  • Christmas lights
  • Snowman
  • Elf
  • Christmas crackers

The 12 days of Christmas:

  • A partridge in a pear tree
  • Two turtle doves
  • Three French hens
  • Four calling birds
  • Five gold rings
  • Six geese a-laying
  • Seven swans a-swimming
  • Eight maids a-milking
  • Nine ladies dancing
  • Ten lords a leaping
  • Eleven pipers piping
  • 12 drummers drumming

Fun activities to try with kids at Christmas

There are so many other Christmas things to do if you’re looking after the grandchildren.  Here are just a few ideas:

A mother and child ice skating

Take the kids ice-skating

During the festive season, there are ice rinks all over the country, so wrap up warmly and get your skates on! 

Go to a pantomime

Christmas is the time for pantomimes and Christmas shows and these can be as much fun for adults as they are for younger family members. 

The seats at a theatre
A christmas market with a lit tree

Visit a Christmas market

There are lots of things to interest the children, particularly hot chocolate and foodie treats.

Visit a Christmas tree farm

You don’t have to buy a tree to go and have a look.  If you’ve never been, it’s fascinating to see all the trees.

A family at a Christmas tree farm
A child at a Polar Express train

If you live in certain locations, you could take the children on a Polar Express Ride

For example, there’s a Polar Express steam train experience on the Cholsey and Wallingford railway service.  Children get to enjoy sweets and treats before meeting Santa. 

For details of Polar Express rides across the UK, visit this website

Meet Santa at a zoo or animal park

Visiting the zoo during the Christmas holidays is a wonderful experience for children – and the icing on the cake is to be able to visit Santa’s grotto.

At London Zoo, this runs from the end of November to 7th,  At Marwell Zoo there’s the Glow Marwell outdoor event with a wonderful light trail.  If you buy a Glow ticket, you can also buy a ticket to meet Santa. 

Check the website of your nearest zoo or animal park and discover what Christmas experiences are on offer.

Father Christmas speaking with a child

Activities to try on Christmas Eve with children

Track Santa

Go on the internet and find out what Santa is doing.  It’s fun and it’s free. If you go on the EmailSanta website the children can chat with Santa, who is live from the North Pole – anytime you like, as long as you want.  The children can also chat with Mrs Clause,  Your Elf, Clumsy The Elf and engage with Santa Reindeer Chat.   They can email a message from their pet to Santa’s reindeer!  And, on Christmas eve, they can track Santa’s journey. You can also track Father Christmas' progress on Christmas Eve through the NORAD Santa Tracker

Go for a Christmas Walk

The children will be very excited the day before Christmas.  By Christmas Eve, all the Christmas lights and decorations will be in place so wrap up warm and take the children out for a Christmas walk to see how many trees and decorations they can spot.

Cuddle up with a hot chocolate and a Christmas film

Time Out has produced a list of the 50 favourite Christmas films.  There’s also a list of the best children’s films to see this year which includes ‘Jingle Jangle, A Christmas Journey’ (2020),  ‘A Boy Called Christmas; (2021) ‘Klaus’ (2019) and ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992).

Open a present

Buy the children a special Christmas Eve present –new pyjamas are ideal but the best idea would be to buy a lovely Christmas book for younger children and spend time reading to them on Christmas Eve.  For older children, there are a whole range of books and you could establish a new ‘Christmas reading tradition.’  This is an Icelandic tradition called ‘Jolabokaflod’ which translates as ‘a flood of books.’

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