25 Fun and Festive Ways to Countdown to the Holidays
Spread a Little Kindness
1. Assemble a self-care package.
Create a soothing bundle for your local heroes (teachers, frontline workers, delivery drivers …), complete with wellness musts, like bath bombs and candles.
2. Send some snail mail.
Give your kid postcards, stamps, pens, spelling advice, and free rein to make a few people's days.
3. Think up secret mini donations.
Have your child put quarters in a vending machine's coin return or come with you to a store's layaway counter to put money toward someone's bill. Research has shown that seeing others give can be contagious.
4. Leave an anonymous nice message.
Next time you return a library book, tuck a note between the pages. What should it say, you ask? Anything from "Feliz holidays" to "Hope you love this libro as much as we did."—Megan Braden-Perry
5. Craft "El Burrito de Belén"
Little ones will love making this ornament inspired by the classic Christmas carol.—Amanda Kingloff
- Paint the inside of a small gift box pale blue; let dry.
- Cut a strip of green felt; glue it to the bottom inside edge for grass. Glue two shrub shapes to the inside back wall.
- Cut a small star from yellow paper; glue it into the corner of the sky.
- Print donkey template, trace onto gray cardstock, and cut out.
- Fold body, glue on head, and add pink and gray felt, for a blanket.
- Draw face on donkey; glue donkey's feet onto the grass.
- Glue thin ribbon around the outside edge of the box to hang.
6. Schedule a virtual meet-and-greet with Santa
Not even the man in red can escape video calls! Head to zuhoo.com to set up a time to chat live with jolly old St. Nicholas. The many personalization options mean you can choose a Santa who speaks Spanish. Packages start at $30 —Liz Callahan Schnabolk
7. Christmas countdown
This digital Advent calendar tracks every day, minute,and second until the 25th, and sends Christmassy prompts, digital gifts, and tips along the way. Ages 4+; free for iOS
8. Karaoke—sing unlimited songs
Challenge family members and see who can belt out the jazziest "Feliz Navidad." Ages 4+; free for iOS and Android
9. Toca Hair Salon - Christmas
Style, trim, and make over Santa with this interactive app that lets kids run their own North Pole hair salon. Ages 4+; free for iOS—Wanda Medina and L.C.S.
10. Step up your "Elf On the Shelf" game
Write all your notes from Santa's right hand in español, or sprinkle in a few key words and phrases. If your kid's still working on their bilingual skills, even better—translating the notes together will make them feel as if they're decoding secret messages direct from El Polo Norte! —Diana Aydin
11. Mix up the cookie exchange with Rainbow Rocky Road
Active Time 20 minutes Total Time 20 minutes, plus chilling Makes 16 servings
- In a bowl, combine 3 cups of the following mix-ins: colored marshmallows (chopped if large), dried apricots (quartered), roasted skin-on almonds, cookies (broken into pieces), candy-coated chocolates, dried cranberries, and yogurt-covered pretzels.
- Line an 8- or 9-in. square pan with wax paper, leaving extra on two sides for handles. Microwave 14 oz. white baking chocolate (chopped), in a large bowl in 30-second increments at 50 percent power, stirring in between, until smooth. Fold in 2 cups of mix-ins. Transfer mixture to pan, pressing lightly until even.
- Scatter remaining mix-ins over top and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, then slice into sixteen 2-in. squares. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. —Anna Helm Baxter
Rock Around the Tree
Make decorating the tree an event with this playlist of festive classics and new favorites picked by Peruvian children's music artist Flor Bromley. "My 6-year-old daughter loves when everyone in the family takes turns singing or playing holiday tunes," she says. "And if people don't know the lyrics? You have to teach them to everybody!"—D.A.
12. "Jingle Bells"
by Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera
13. "Navidad Latina"
by Nathalia, Juan Deluque, and Marcele Berger
by Flor Bromley
by 123 Andrés, featuring ClaraLuna
16. "En la Navidad"
by Canciones, raíces y alas
17. "Farolito (Little Star)"
by Gloria Estefan
Click here to listen to our holiday playlist!
Be Inspired by These Latin Traditions
"On December 7, my family celebrates día de las velitas, a tradition that kicks off the Christmas season in Colombia. When the sun goes down, my 8-year-old daughter and I put out tea lights on the lawn, then huddle together and sip hot chocolate."—Placido Avila; Mastic Beach, NY
"When I was growing up, my father would regale me with stories of parrandas in Puerto Rico. Now, my family, including my daughters, 11 and 5, have participated in parrandas that I've helped organize. We go to different neighborhoods, playing maracas and singing traditional songs like 'De la Montaña' and 'Alegre Vengo.' " —Glorisbel Roman; Long Island, NY
"This Christmas, just like last year, my family will host a 'virtual posada.' We'll drink ponche, eat tamales, break piñatas, hand out treat bags to the kids, and play villancicos—all via Zoom!"—Telma Garcia; San Antonio, TX
"My 9-year-old daughter and I put an Argentine spin on Christmas by using dulce de leche for everything, even the 'glue' for our gingerbread houses. It's our way of fusing our cultures together—literally!"—Josephine Caminos Oría, author of Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories & Sweet Traditions; Charleston, SC
"Last year, I switched up my Christmas tree décor to teach my son, now 13, about Mexico's artisan traditions. The ornaments come from travels to Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Mexico City, and my hometown of Coahuila; they include a tamal, calacas, la Virgen de Guadalupe, wooden sacred hearts, and plenty of barro and tin decorations."—Ericka Sanchez, author of ¡Buen Provecho!; Los Angeles, CA
23. Pick the perfect holiday read
Jingle Bells/Navidad: Bilingual Nursery Rhymes, by Susie Jaramillo, is a reversible, lift-the-flap board book. Open it on one side for "Jingle Bells" in English; open it on the opposite side for "Navidad, navidad" in Spanish. Ages 0 to 6 years —D.A.
24. Spice up the air
Keep the casa smelling like Navidad with this ponche-inspired brew from Marcella Gomez, the Salvadorean American founder of Oh Comadre Candles.
How To: Mix apple and pear pieces, orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and whole clovesin a small pot of water and let it simmer all day long, adding more water as needed. For a tropical twist, add guava pieces. —W.M.
25. Deck the toys
Dress up your kid's dolls and stuffed animals with homemade seasonal outfits like elf hats, reindeer antlers, and felt scarves.
Elf Hats: Cut a 2½- to 5-in. triangle with rounded corners out of felt. Roll the triangle into a cone shape; secure with hot glue along the edge. Add strips of felt for cuffs and pom-poms.
Antlers: Draw antlers on scrapbook paper that would fit your child's stuffed animal; cut antlers out. Hot-glue them onto a strip of felt, then glue strip ends together to form a band.
Scarves: Cut a strip of felt that's sized for your child's toy, and snip a fringe at each end. Cut rectangles of felt the same width as the scarf, and glue them to the scarf for stripes.—Caylin Harris
This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's December/January 2022 issue as "A Muy Merry Christmas!."