Christmas and the holidays are a busy time of year, for everyone. 2020 has been weird and we’re overcompensating in some ways and barely meeting the low-bar expectations in others. Our advice: do what feels right to you.
We included a few very simple ideas to have a fun few hours with the kids without much effort, cost, and energy. We aren’t “Pinterest moms” and never will be, so raise that glass of wine disguised in a coffee cup to ours (virtually, of course) and settle in for some fun and easy activities to do with the kids this year.
Our kids love a scavenger hunt with clues around the house, leading them to a special treat or reward. We’ve done these in the past, like a Halloween scavenger hunt at a cabin we rented in Manitowish Waters, WI this past fall. It’s a simple way to have a little fun, especially if you have older kids who can read and figure out the clues themselves.
Below is the link to download a free printable we created for the kids to do at Christmas this year. All you’ll need is a printer and scissors, as well as some tape to hang up the clues. We included a “reward ticket” that can be filled out with a reward of your choice. This year, the reward ticket we hid at the end of the scavenger hunt was a candy cane, packet of hot cocoa, and a coupon to drive around and look at Christmas lights in the area.
Click “Download” button below for free printable:
(Note, the scavenger hunt clues include Santa, reindeer, elves, and other Christmas whimsy.)
Letter to santa
A free printable (included below) is available for download. If your kids are anything like ours, their wish list would fill an entire book. This letter has some prompts that help them narrow down to a few things they actually want and need, as well as sprinkle a little kindness in with their wishes for others.
Share your letters and tag @gatheringtwigs on Instagram if you use this printable! We love to see what the kids come up with each year. (Bonus tip, after you “mail” the letter to Santa, stash it away in a hidden box each year to look back when they’re older!)
Click “Download” button below for free printable:
Sara here. It only seems fitting that I handle this section, as I consider myself a baked good connoisseur. I do enjoy baking simple recipes, but most importantly, enjoy sampling the goodies! 🙂
The holidays go hand-in-hand with baked goods (and I can also justify just about any reason to eat treats!) and Christmas cookies and treats are a fun tradition in my family. I’ve included a couple of my favorite cookies to make this time of year – simple recipes with minimal ingredients that can be tailored to how you like them!
There are a million recipes out there for cookies, but the following two recipes are passed down from Sara’s grandma’s family and you know what they say about something that ain’t broke – don’t fix it.
Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies,
aka “Peanut blossoms” Recipe
Another hand-me-down recipe (with less ingredients and hassle than the recipe on the bag of the candy bag…) that is tried & true and yields some delicious results. We also agree that this might be our favorite unbaked cookie dough, so… probably best to make a little extra 🙂
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
- ⅓ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup butter (one stick) softened
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 ¾ cup flour
- sugar for rolling dough balls in
- 1 bag Hershey kiss candy
- Preheat oven to 375° F
- In large bowl, cream together peanut butter, butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth.
- Add egg and vanilla to above mixture.
- Sift and combine salt, baking soda, and flour. Add to above ingredients and mix well.
- Shape into balls, roll in sugar and place balls on cookie sheet.
- Bake 6-8 minutes until barely browned. Remove pan from oven and press in Hershey kisses.
- Return cookies to oven for 1 minute to slightly soften the chocolate kiss. Cool on pan for several minutes then transfer to cooling rack.
Cookie Cutter Sugar CookieS
This sugar cookie is not overly sweet and is actually quite plain on it’s own but the sweet buttercream frosting balances it out. This dough is best used to roll out and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. You can also use store-bought cookie dough too! No rules, no judgement here. 🙂
Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 3 cup flour plus extra for rolling out
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup butter (1 stick) softened
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- food coloring, optional
Sugar Cookie Dough
- Mix flour, soda, powder and softened butter in large bowl (electric mixer is best).
- In a separate small bowl, mix together eggs and sugar with a fork or whisk.
- Add egg/sugar mixture to large bowl containing butter and dry ingredients, mix to combine.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- On floured surface, roll out cookie dough to around ¼-½" thickness and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake on cookie sheet for 8-12 minutes at 350°F until barely golden. Best to slightly under-bake. Allow to cool on cookie racks before decorating.
- With electric mixer, beat butter, milk and slowly add in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract.
- Mix on high for 2-3 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. Add additional milk if too thick, or additional powdered sugar if too runny.
- Separate into bowls and add food coloring, if desired.
A few other fun things we’ve done at Christmas time to help the kids believe in the magic of Santa as long as it lasts:
- Virtual video chat with Santa
- We got a free coupon through Dream Bank Madison for a 10-minute video chat with Santa through TalkToSanta.com. Thanks to some pre-filled out information from parents, Santa is able to talk to your kids about their wish lists, their friends, their favorite activities, etc.
- Another option is a free app called Video Call Santa. This is a pre-recorded video with pauses for the kids to “answer” Santa’s questions but is not personalized to your child
- Transpose Santa delivering the presents under your own tree in your living room. We show the kids on our phone on Christmas morning and say our home security camera caught him.
- There are some free apps out there – just search for “Catch Santa”