The holiday season can be such an adventurous and magical time for not just children, but for teens and adults too! And although we all love seeing gifts under the tree, the true gift of Christmas is getting to spend some quality time together with each other.
To help your family do just that, we’ve compiled a list of all our favorite family-friendly books, movies, and activities to try over the holidays. We’ve also included some extra resources for looking after your mental health during the sometimes hectic and emotionally turbulent holiday period.
Ready? Let’s go!
Our Favourite Holiday Books for Families
1. Snowmen at Christmas by Caralynn and Mark Buehner
2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
4. The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
6. How to Catch an Elf by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton
7. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
8. Five More Sleeps til Christmas by Jimmy Fallon
9. Diary of a Christmas Elf by Ben Miller
10. Santa in the City by Tiffany Jackson
Our Favourite Holiday Movies
Our Favourite Holiday Activities
1. Bake cookies!
Who doesn’t love baking cookies? Check out this list of 91 best Christmas cookies from Good Housekeeping for inspiration.
2. Gingerbread houses
Such a timeless favorite! My family has made everything from traditional houses, “ninjabread” men, and even a gingerbread chicken coop one year. Fun Loving Families has a wonderful guide with tips, tricks, and ideas for gingerbread houses.
3. Acts of kindness
Choose someone in your family or community to commit an act of kindness for. Delivering freshly-baked cookies or even a homemade card can really brighten someone’s day. For inspiration, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
4. Themed movie night
Any of the movies mentioned above would be great for a Christmas-themed movie night. My family personally loves watching The Polar Express in pajamas with hot chocolate.
Need something for after Christmas but before New Year’s? Jennifer from Cherish 365 has some creative ideas for adventure and decade-themed movie nights for families.
5. Holiday light displays
It’s likely that you have some amazing local light displays in your own community. Last year, we just hopped in the car and drove around town with pajamas and candy canes. Such a memorable experience for kids that’s also easy on your pocketbook!
6. Family game night
Game nights are a great way to get kids to engage with their creative, competitive, and even silly sides! You can dust off a deck of cards and play Crazy Eights, or, check out Happy You, Happy Family’s list of 30 best games for families.
7. Adopt a family in need
Many churches, community centers, and workplaces have ‘angel trees’ where you can choose a child or family to provide gifts for over the holidays. Or, check with local homeless shelters or nursing homes to see their specific needs.
8. Holiday crafts
Get in touch with your creative side by trying a holiday craft – such as creating a snowflake or making your own Christmas ornament. This list from Good Housekeeping has 50 different easy crafts to do with kiddos who are at home from school for the holidays!
9. Write letters
Whether it’s a letter to Santa, to an overseas pen pal, or to their future self – encourage your child to engage in some good old-fashioned letter writing! Writing a letter not only helps kids feel a sense of accomplishment, but it provides them with a greater feeling of happiness, too.
10.Make homemade hot cocoa
There’s just nothing better than a cup of hot cocoa on a chilly evening! This recipe from Taste of Home is simple and straightforward! Bonus tip: let your kids choose their favorite toppings to create a hot cocoa masterpiece.
Prioritising Your Mental Health Over the Holidays
1. Make sure you are still practicing self-care
Disrupted routines over the holidays can wreak havoc on your mental health. Whether it’s staying up later than usual or eating/drinking more than you normally do, these small changes can sometimes leave us feeling anxious or even depressed.
That’s why it is so important to continue to prioritize self-care over the holidays. Things like getting enough sleep, exercising (even simple walks), and setting boundaries with friends and families can help to ensure that you are feeling happy and fresh throughout the chaos.
For practical tips and advice on self-care, check out our dedicated self-care resource.
2. Set aside time to grieve if you need to
If you have experienced a loss in the past, the holidays can be a particularly emotional time – no matter how long ago the loss occurred. Some may find themselves tearing up out of the blue, while others may ruminate or struggle to cope with intrusive thoughts.
If you do feel these emotions coming up, make sure to give yourself the time and space to grieve. You can do this by journaling, speaking to someone you love, honoring old traditions, celebrating happy memories, or commemorating the loss with a special photo or ornament.
For additional help, please see our dedicated resource for grief and loss.
3. Brush up on your parenting skills
Spending more time with your children over the holidays can feel like a blessing and a curse at the same time. Throw in disrupted routines, squabbles among siblings, and lots of sugar, and you may find yourself feeling frustrated, deflated, and burned out with being a parent!
However, there is hope and there are opportunities to take these new challenges and turn them into a positive experience for everyone.
To help, we encourage you to check out our dedicated parenting resource where you will find articles, webinars, playlists, and FAQ’s to help you be the best parent you can be.
And if you’re looking for even more advice and guidance on how to navigate mental health with your children, Lily-Jo’s debut book Talking to Children About Mental Health is out on January 19, 2023!
4. It’s okay if you don’t always have that “jolly” feeling
Sometimes you may not always feel the jolliest around the holidays – and that’s okay! Whether you are coping with a recent loss or dealing with stressors at work, experiencing low mood is perfectly normal, and nobody expects you to pretend that these stressors don’t exist just because it’s Christmas.
If you know that you may feel down at some point over the holiday season, our article Depression and the Holidays: Tips and Tricks to Reclaim Your Joy can help you find ways to take back some control over your emotions and boundaries.
5. Reap the benefits of giving back
Ever wondered why Santa is so happy? It’s because he’s always giving gifts! In fact, giving back to others can help us feel a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of loneliness, boost our mood, and even lower our blood pressure. It can also help to reduce long-term feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
To learn more about the benefits of giving back and the best ways to give over Christmas, check out our article 5 Ways to Give Big This Holiday Season.
Merry Christmas from The Lily-Jo Project!
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas! If you’d like to get involved with our work and stay up to date with us in the new year, here are a few helpful links:
- Get Involved as a donor, partner, or content collaborator.
- Shop our latest merch items.
- Subscribe to our mailing list.
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Looking ahead at 2023, we can’t wait for these two key events:
January 19: Lily-Jo’s debut book Talking to Children About Mental Health will be available to purchase at Amazon, Waterstones, and WHSmith. You can pre-order your copy today by visiting www.thelilyjoproject.com/book.
August 19-20: Our annual awareness campaign, the International Weekend of Self-Care, will take place this weekend. You can learn more about this event at www.thelilyjoproject.com/internationalweekendofselfcare. If your business would like to sponsor this event, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay up to date with all of the key mental health awareness dates in 2023, download our FREE 2023 Mental Health Awareness Calendar or purchase a physical calendar in our shop.
Again, we wish you a Merry Christmas and we can’t wait to see you in the new year!
The Lily-Jo Project team
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counseling student and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.