Surviving Christmas Visits with Young Children



So you’ve committed to hosting the family Christmas get-together at your house. What were you thinking?! Seriously, it can be a time of building great memories.


What can grandparents do when family members live far away and arrive exhausted after a long car ride? Grown children arrive at your door, bleary-eyed from driving all night, while their children seem energized after a cozy sleep in the backseat.


A little forethought keeps things peaceful and allows grown-ups a bit of relaxation. Here are suggestions for making everyone’s Christmas visit more enjoyable.


  • Plan an activity for the grandchildren to do as soon as they arrive. I had cookie dough ready to bake last year, when our grandchildren arrived after 16 hours on the road. Our hyperactive granddaughter helped roll out sugar cookie dough and then baked quietly, which allowed her exhausted mom to sleep.

  • Invest in inexpensive paint-with-water books. The kind where you smear water onto a page with a small brush, and colors magically appear. Forgot to buy paint brushes? Use Q-tips. Our granddaughter enjoyed gluing on googly eyes which were left over from craft projects.

  • Keep coloring books and crayons available.

  • Keep a box ready with craft popsicle sticks, glue and scraps of colored paper and ribbon.

  • If weather permits, take active children outside while their parents rest. Play in the snow or take a walk around the block. Teach them old-fashioned skills like jump rope and hopscotch or make homemade stilts from cans and ropes. My husband allowed our eleven-year-old grandson to drive the riding lawn mower (minus the blade) around our country acreage, while closely supervising. The boy was elated.

  • Read books aloud to children. Snuggling is a wonderful benefit.

  • Keep puzzles available on a card table. Small children enjoy puzzles for their age group.

  • This was one of our grandchildren’s favorites: Make homemade Play-Dough. They were wide-eyed when I told them I made this for their mother when she was little. Here is the recipe.


Homemade Play Dough


1 cup flour 1 cup salt

1 cup water 1 Tbsp. salad oil

2 tsp. cream of tartar (don't omit this)

food coloring (add to water)


Combine dry ingredients in heavy saucepan. Add water, food coloring and oil. Cook until mixture pulls away from pan. Knead as soon as you can handle mixture comfortably. Double this recipe fills a large Cool Whip bowl. Store in air-tight container. (Note: the oil keeps it pliable.)


A few of these ideas will keep everyone happy and give grandparents/aunts/uncles a chance to re-connect with children who live too far away for regular visits.


A blessed Christmas to you and yours.


What about you? Any suggestions you can add? Feel free to use the comment box below.