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When we become grownups, we sometimes forgot what really makes the holidays a magical time of year. We think we can purchase it at the store. We try so hard to either give our kids the kind of childhood we had or one that is better.

If we really think back, childhood itself is what’s magical. It’s the time in our lives where parents still live on pedestals, special meals have more to do with who we’re sitting next to than what’s being served, and we see the beauty in the small things like the twinkling of lights or the magnificent height of a pine tree.

Here are 17 ways to make your child’s holiday magical without spending a lot of money.

  1. Take them to a tree lighting ceremony in your community.
  2. Decorate your tree together if you have one.
  3. Take a trip to New York City at Christmas time if you can. Between the ginormous decorated tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating and incredible light and window displays, this time of year NYC is a magical place to visit.
  4. Read books to them that teach them the stories of your religious connection to the holidays.
  5. Bake cookies and make baskets/plates to give to friends and neighbors.

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  6. Sing songs that get you in the mood for the holidays. It’s okay if it’s loud, silly and completely off key.
  7. Share a special meal with friends and family. The longer it’s been since you’ve seen them, the more magical it will be. My kids are excited to see their cousins since it’s been a few months since we’ve seen them last.
  8. Build snow castles. I still remember the igloo style castle my Dad and I made together twenty-odd years ago.
  9. Have a day where you gather all your craft supplies and go crazy making decorations for the house. It really doesn’t matter if they aren’t “Martha Stewart worthy.” It’s more about the process; the messier the better. Just throw down some newspaper and have fun.
  10. Take a tour of the best light displays in the Hudson Valley. You don’t need to go to elaborate displays that cost money if you don’t want to. Simply pile in the car in your pajamas with some hot cocoa in travel mugs and try to find the best lights in your area.
  11. Go sledding and/or snow tubing with your kids. Find a decent hill in your neighborhood or at a local park and spend the day riding down with your kids. We always have a blast with our kids.
  12. Have hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Add special toppings like marshmallows, whipped cream, mints or add a candy cane stirrer. It’s extra special after a day of playing in the snow.
  13. Make snow art. A few years ago I gave my kids squirt bottles filled with water and food coloring. Make a few different colors and put them in different types of containers like an empty spray bottle, a watering can, or a soda bottle with a hole drilled in the cap. Anything that could be used to make art on the beautiful white canvas will fuel their imaginations.
  14. Play Name That Tune – Holiday Edition by making loud kisses on your kid’s cheeks to the tune of your favorite holiday song and have them guess what song it is. Then they could take a turn by doing the same to your cheek.
  15. Bundle up and take a winter hike. View the majesty of local trails in a breathtaking winter landscape.
  16. Pick a charity project together. Head to the toy store and have your child help you pick out a toy for a child in need. Then donate it to your favorite charity/toy drive.

    My kids had fun filling boxes with small toys and toiletries for Operation Christmas Child a few years ago. It helps to have them pick out toys for children their ages. It could be any charity project that interests you. The point is to focus their heart on giving rather than just receiving this holiday season.

  17. Visit Santa – If you are at all inclined to make Santa a part of your holiday traditions, then this is a magical no-brainer. A jolly old man who delivers toys to all the girls and boys by flying his sleigh driven by flying reindeer around the world in a single night. Yes, Santa pretty much epitomizes magic. You can take photos with Santa for free at Adams Fairacre Farms.

    Kids don’t need you to spend a fortune on them to have a magical holiday. My dad used to say that he’d buy me a toy and I’d play with the box. Kids simply need you to get involved and use your imagination. They supply the magic.

    What are your favorite free holiday activities?

    Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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