One year I read a Christmas book to my young daughter and the next year she asked for it again. Now, 5 years later, we still read it each December, snuggled under a blanket near the fire.

The month of December usually finds us extremely busy; between work, maintaining the house, doing the extra gift shopping, decorating, visiting relatives and attending or holding gatherings. Making time for savoring the holidays with the family is so important for the children. They want to feel special and have attention paid to them , especially at this hectic time of year. The season means much more than just opening presents. Carving out time for a few annual traditions can create wonderful memories for the whole family. Here’s 7 ideas for families with kids of all ages.

Read Together

There are many wonderful holiday themed books for families. Reading the same one each year (and then perhaps read a new and different seasonal story) creates a tradition that will live in everyone’s memories for a long time to come. From ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to A Christmas Carol to Hanukkah to Celebrating Kwanzaa, there’s a book fit for every family. This special unplugged time is a gift you all can share.

Craft Together

Consider starting a new family tradition of creating a craft together. With the plethora of ideas on Pinterest, you could make a new wreath each year, paint or decorate handmade ornaments, create homemade Holiday cards for friends and family or make crafty gifts for the grandparents to cherish. Each year, as the kids grow, the crafts can get more intricate, but the idea stays the same; homemade is from the heart and the time creating is half the fun.

Bake Together

Nothing says warm and cozy like a kitchen full of baking supplies, a warm oven and little hands in the batter. Yes, it’s gonna get messy! But allowing kids of all ages to help measure and pour or use cookie cutters is just plain fun. Giving the cookies as gifts creates a sense of pride for the kids. Pick up dollar store tins and bake several styles of cookies while holiday music is playing. Of course, the sampling is fun too. I’m a stickler for eating junk but there are certain days all rules go out the window and this is one of them. The kids appreciate that more than we realize.

Take a Walk

Or a drive. No matter which holiday you celebrate, the neighborhoods look incredibly festive with houses decked out with lights and lawn ornaments. We pile into the car, put on the holiday music and head over to a local house with synchronized lights which attracts a big crowd. Packing hot chocolate and cookies adds to the fun. Then each year we take different routes home, leisurely exploring new neighborhoods.

Decorate the House

Yes, we all want perfect houses with perfect decorations in the perfect spots. But that spoils the fun for the little ones who like nothing better than to dive into the box you just pulled down from the attic and pull out a snowman or candle or reindeer and strategically place it in the middle of your display of seashells. My son loves decorating for Christmas so much that we drive him to Grandma’s so he can help her decorate the (lower part) of her Christmas tree. He talks about it for weeks afterwards. We also take turns who puts the star on the tree each year.

Shop Together

I know it’s not easy to shop with little ones, but try making a special trip, to say a dollar store. Give the kids $5 each and let them go crazy. Most kids enjoy shopping for other people. A craft fair at a local church or school is also a wonderful place for them to be savvy shoppers, as a $5  or $10 bill lasts a little longer.

Carve out Family Fun Time

Attend a special event each year. I find that doing something repeatedly creates very strong memories. Whether it’s a local Christmas parade, a local festival (we go to a Dickens festival), seeing a play, watching the Rockettes live or on TV, or cutting down your tree, this is a season for slowing down and savoring time together as a family. Check local papers for nearby events or hop in the car to take a little overnighter to a theme park that opens for seasonal activities, a hotel known for the decorations and events or a museum celebrating the Holidays with special events.

What holiday traditions do you celebrate?