Christmas games help even the littlest elf enjoy the holiday season, creating memorable gatherings and quality family time. Some games work well with one child or a small group, while team games keep larger groups of children engaged. A little planning and preparation ensures all the supplies you need are at your fingertips when it's time to enjoy the party.
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Many young children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, don't understand waiting their turn. Some elementary kids aren't fond of taking turns either. Avoid making the children wait by engaging them in games they compete in individually, so they are busy with the game the entire time you're playing. For example, design a snowball race where each child has a bucket and a small white cup decorated like a snowman face. They must run to a pile of cotton balls or packing peanuts, scoop as many as they can into their cups and run back to dump them into their buckets. The first child with a full bucket, or the one who has the most snowballs after one minute, wins.
For a game even the youngest child can play, hide large and small candy canes throughout the room or yard, depending on the weather. Structure the game like an Easter egg hunt. If older kids want to play, make it a bit more challenging for them by taping holiday-related pictures onto the candy canes and assigning the older children a picture. If you assign a child a reindeer, for example, he can only pick up candy canes with the reindeer pictures on them. For added fun, let all the kids decorate white paper bags like snowmen before the hunt.
Team games might get loud, but that's how you know the kids are having fun. A relay race, such as one with teams filling stockings with candy, will have children cheering for each other. For ages 4 and above, the children can use spoons to transport the candy from a dish at one end of the room to a stocking at the other, but younger children can just use their hands.
For a twist on a relay race, have each team make a line between a bucket of plastic ornaments and an empty bucket. The first player picks up an ornament and passes it with both hands to the next player. This continues down the line until the last player puts it in the bucket. If a player drops the ornament, the players must pass it back to the beginning of the line and start over. The winning team has the most ornaments at the end of one minute.
For fast fun, give the teams several rolls of toilet paper so they can wrap one team member like a snowman. Add accessories like a scarf or homemade carrot nose. The first team to "build" the snowman wins.
Young children are drawn to music, and tying that into the holidays creates memorable games. Make a version of musical chairs using Christmas carols for the music, but provide prizes to all the kids so no one feels left out. Change it up so the kids all stand in a circle and dance to the music, becoming still like statues when the music stops. Children who keep dancing are out.
Encourage sharing with the candy passing game, which requires having the kids sit in a circle and pass around two pieces of holiday candy in a small box. Play Christmas carols, with the children singing or clapping along with the music.
Oldies But Goodies
Many traditional games lend themselves to easy holiday transformations. "Pin the tail on the donkey" quickly becomes a game of "pin the nose on Rudolph," for example. Christmas bingo lets you use pictures of holiday icons such as elves or snowflakes instead of numbers.
For a tasty memory challenge, tape letters, small pictures or colored dots to the bottoms of holiday chocolate drops. Set up a board of 12 to 24 drops, making sure there are two of each dot. The children can turn them over to find the matches, then eat the game pieces. Turning "Simon says" into "Santa says" gets the kids up, moving and laughing.