An ABC of Fun Holiday Activities for Families at Home

Written by Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

December 20, 2020

In this post (previously published on readilearn), I share suggestions for easy, fun and inexpensive activities you can do with family and friends of all ages over the holiday period. The suggestions aren’t new but are simply reminders of easy ways to have fun together that are often forgotten during hectic preparations and celebrations. They are great for the lull times and the ‘What can we do?’ times. Enjoy!

A — Acrostic

Write an acrostic poem for yourself. Each person writes their name vertically and writes a word or phrase about what Christmas means to them for each letter.

For example, here’s one for me:

Naughty or nice? Why, nice of course.

Opening gifts — loving the look on recipient’s faces

Recipes for celebrating — pavlova, everyone’s favourite

All the family together playing games and having fun

Home is the place to be.

B — Book

Everyone choses a favourite book, perhaps one received for Christmas, and reads uninterrupted for half an hour (or more!).

C — Charades

The oldest player goes first to give clues about the title of a book, song, TV, movie, or video game. The first to guess the answer is the next clue giver.

Here are some of the common rules of play:

The clue giver:

  • must not speak or make any sounds
  • holds up fingers for the number of words in the title
  • shows it’s a book title by holding hands with palms together then opening like a book
  • shows it’s a song by putting one hand on the chest and one hand up in the air with mouth open wide as if singing
  • shows it’s a TV show by drawing a square in the air
  • shows it’s a movie by miming an old-fashioned movie camera with one hand forming a circle around one eye and the other hand winding the camera handle
  • shows it’s a video game by moving fingers as if tapping quickly on a keyboard

If your children are too young to play charades this way, you could play animal charades in which children act out an animal but must make no noise.

D — Dominoes

Play a game of dominoes together.

If you don’t have a set, you are welcome to print the readilearn Christmas Domino Cards free until 31 December (usually $1.50). See below for details.

E — Elf, Tree, Gift

This game works best if you have a few people to play. One person is It. The other players spread out behind It who faces away from them. The players choose to be an elf (arms and legs spread wide), a tree (hands pointed together above their heads) or a gift (sitting on the floor with their arms around their knees). Once they choose, they must hold that position. It then calls out one of the three items and turns around to see. Anyone not in the position called is out until the next round. The last one in becomes It for the next round.

F — Freeze

You need someone to be in charge of the music. When the music plays, everybody dances. When the music stops, everyone must freeze. If anyone moves after the music stops, they are out until the next round.

You may download some variants and other suggestions from readilearn, How to play Freeze! (always free).

G — Grandma came to visit

This is a variant of the alphabet memory game, My grandma went to market.

Players take turns to recite ‘Grandma came to visit and she brought …’

The first player adds an item beginning with a; e.g. ‘Grandma came to visit and she brought an alligator.’  

The second player repeats what the first player has said, and adds an item beginning with b.

The game continues until Grandma has brought an item for all letters of the alphabet in order. As more and more items are added, it becomes more difficult to remember them and children may need reminders of the alphabet sequence.

To make it even trickier, you can request that all items be Christmas related, e.g. angel, bonbon, candy, drum …

An easier game may be for Grandma to bring items numbering from one to ten. For even younger children, you could simply play it as a memory game without reference to numbers or the alphabet. 

H — Hangman

Play Hangman using Christmas words.

Until 31 December, you can access readilearn’s interactive Hang Man-type game Turn on the Christmas Lights for free (usually $2.50). See below for details.

I — I spy 

I don’t think this one requires any explanation. Easy ways of playing are choosing something beginning with, or for younger children, something of a particular colour.

Until 31 December, you can access readilearn’s interactive I spy something beginning with and I spy a counting game (both usually $2.50 each) for free. See below for details.

J — Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are fun to do together.

If you don’t have a hands-on puzzle, you will find many free puzzles online, including these ones from readilearn: Little Koala’s Jigsaw Puzzle and Trees From my Backyard (always free). However, the hands-on puzzles are more fun to do together.

K — Kindness

Think of a kind act you can do for another without their knowing. Even a smile can lighten somebody’s day.

L — Laughter

Laughter is a great way to lighten the mood. Tell each other jokes or funny stories. Vote for the funniest story.

M — Music

Sing, listen to or watch your favourite Christmas songs.

N — NORAD Tracks Santa

On Christmas Eve you can watch where Santa is travelling around the world. Prior to that, visit the website for lots of interesting information, fun games and other entertaining stuff. (NORAD = North American Aerospace Defense Command. It has been tracking Santa’s annual journey for over 60 years.)

O — Origami

Make some origami stars. Use squares of origami paper or wrapping paper. Here’s a video from Red Ted Art with instructions. It involves folding only (no cutting) but some younger children may need help.

P — Play a game

Most families have a collection of board games on a shelf or in a cupboard. Is your family one of them? Take the game off the shelf and play!

What is your family favourite? Is it one of these?

  • Snakes and Ladders
  • Ludo
  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble
  • Cluedo
  • Draughts
  • Chinese Checkers
Q — Questions

Play a game of 20 Questions.

It thinks of a person, place, animal or object. The other players have to guess what It is thinking of. The players take turns to ask questions. Answers can only be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. A player may continue asking questions until they get a ‘no’ answer. Then it is the next person’s turn to ask.

The first person to guess correctly is It for the next round. If the answer isn’t guessed in 20 questions, players are told what it is and It has another turn (less obscure!)

R — Read aloud

Take turns to read aloud from a favourite book or poem. An adult could read to younger children or to all the adults and children.

S — Stick it on the head

This is another fun guessing game. You need some sticky notes and markers.

Players secretly write the name of a well-known person or celebrity on a sticky note. The sticky notes are then placed on the foreheads the other players who take turns to ask questions in order to guess who they are.

They may ask questions, but the answers can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’; for example: Am I living? Am I an actor? Am I in comedy movies?

Players continue to ask questions until they receive a ‘no’ answer. Then it is the next person’s turn. Continue around the circle, taking turns to ask questions, until every knows who they are.

Once everyone has guessed correctly, you can have another round.

T — Travel the World

This is another alphabet game. Players take turns to say a letter of the alphabet in order by naming a place they could travel to and something they could take with them that begins with the letter. For example, the first person might say, ‘I went to Africa and I took an apple.’ The second person might say, ‘I went to Bali and I took a boogie board.’ Continue until you reach the end of the alphabet.

U — Up. Keep it up!

For this game you need a balloon, a light indoor ball or a scrunched-up wad of wrapping paper. Throw the balloon into the air. Everyone must try to keep the balloon aloft and avoid it falling to the floor. For extra fun, time how long you can keep it aloft and try to increase the time on each turn.

V — Virtual Bingo

Who doesn’t love a game of bingo? You can play bingo with family and friends, even if you’re not all at the same location. It’s free for up to 30 players.

W — Wrapping paper

The three Rs — Recycle. Reduce. Reuse.

Recycle? Not all wrapping paper is recyclable and the rules for what is and what is not accepted for recycling differ from district to district, so check with the council in your local area. 

Reduce? If you carefully unwrap gifts, portions of the paper can be smoothed and stored for reuse next year, thus reducing the amount going into land fill.

Reuse? If you don’t want to reuse paper for wrapping gifts, it can be used in other ways, for example:

  • Cut into squares for making Christmas origami.
  • Cut into strips for making paper chains.
  • If pieces are large enough, use to cover school books or line the inside of drawers.

If none of these ideas appeal, simply scrunch the wrapping paper into balls and have a wrapping paper fight before distributing them to the recycle or general waste bin.

X — Noughts and crosses

Play noughts and crosses. It’s easy. All you need is some paper and pencils.

Y — You’re next

You’re next is a drawing game.

Everyone starts with a piece of paper and a pencil. Each person starts by writing their name and drawing a shape on their piece of paper. They then pass the paper to the next person who adds to it.

Continue in this way until everyone has added to every drawing.

For a large group, you may go around the circle once.

For a small group, you may wish to go around the circle two or three times.

When the paper gets back to where it started, compare the drawings.

Z — ZZZzzz

It’s quite okay to have a snooze after all that festive feasting and fun.

Or perhaps you’d rather have a Zoom party.

Whatever you do, enjoy!

Free access to readilearn resources

In the suggestions above, I listed some readilearn resources and promised free access until 31 December.

The resources are:

Christmas Domino Cards (usually $1.50)

How to play Freeze! (always free)

Turn on the Christmas Lights (usually $2.50)

I spy something beginning with (usually $2.50)

I spy a counting game (usually $2.50)

Little Koala’s Jigsaw Puzzle (always free)

Trees From my Backyard (always free)

In addition to these, I have included:

Christmas Crossword (usually $1.00)

Hang the Baubles (usually $2.50)

Who’s Hiding at Christmas (usually $2.50)

That makes a total of ten resources available to you for free until 31 December 2020. Of course, once you have ‘purchased’ them, they are yours forever. You will still need to go through the checkout to make these ‘free’ purchases, but when you use the coupon code *carrot* (just the word), you will not be charged anything for these products. The coupon is available for one use and these products only, so ensure you choose all products you would like before finalising at the checkout. Let me know if you have any problems. I hope you and your family enjoy them.

Happy Christmas to you and your family.

Best wishes,


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  1. Bill Engleson

    A lifetime of activities,here, Norah…

    • Norah

      Thanks, Bill. 🙂

  2. Ritu

    Love this!

    • Norah

      Thank you, Ritu. 🙂

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Good stuff, from A to Z. Love it! Good accessible ideas. I think Pepe has got Kid and Pal and the Lemmon brothers playing some of these games now over at the bunkhouse.

  4. Charli Mills

    Norah, this is a complete guide to family fun! Thank you for your generosity to share holiday downloads from readilearn, too! A perfect gift for families, including ours here at Carrot Ranch.

    • Norah

      It’s my pleasure, Charli. I do hope families find the suggestions useful.

  5. Jennie

    Norah, you nailed this! These are the best games for families, and also for teachers to do in the classroom. The isolation of a pandemic is the perfect chance to do these activities. Merry Christmas!

    • Norah

      Thank you, Jennie. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome, Norah! We had a lovely Christmas, many Zooms and FaceTimes with family and friends. Happy New Year to you!

      • Norah

        Sounds wonderful, Jennie. Enjoy the year!

      • Jennie

        You too, Norah!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Jennie. 🙂

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome, Norah. ????

  6. Jules

    You are thoughtful to share all these creative assets!

    When my grands were over last week they were happy to play with my Top collection. I also have quite a collection of foreign coins. So one of their gifts this year was a start of a collection of their own with some of the duplicates I acquired. The art work on some coins is truly amazing and they get look up where the coins come from expanding their knowledge of countries of the world.

    Peace and joy to all in the New Year! Cheers, Jules

    • Norah

      Thank you, Jules. I hope 2021 treats you and your family with kindness too.
      Coins are a great way of learning about other countries, as well as the value of money.

  7. Anne Goodwin

    What a generous resource for those who want more than B! I used to do a version of Stick it on the head as part of training workshops on stigma – I think! But I can’t remember what the learning outcome was meant to be. Maybe it was just a warmup exercise to get people moving.

    • Norah

      Sometimes the best learning outcome is getting people to relax and be receptive to what’s coming next. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin

        A very healthy approach.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Anne.

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