It is the season of giving, and one of the best gifts to give parents is a project they can do with their kids to fill the days off from school with fun. That is why we came up with some family-friendly ideas that are easy to do with kids of all ages. Plus, they are inexpensive, too. So make it a jolly holiday and try one (or more!) of these fantastically festive activities.

Create a Gift from the Heart

There is nothing as special as a gift made by a child with love. Grandparents, for instance, will forever cherish a piece of artwork from a grandchild. This holiday season, make that work of art something truly special and take your child to CeramiCafe at Grossmont Center. Kids can choose from among hundreds of different figurines and paint them. Alternatively, put their handprints on a ceramic plate or plaque.

“Bake” Someone Happy

Sugar cookies are a delicious way to enjoy the holiday season. One of the great things about sugar cookies (aside from the fact that they are cookies!) is that you can adapt the baking and decorating to your kids’ ability levels and the amount of time you want to commit to the process. Younger kids with less dexterous fine motor skills and less patience for sitting in one place can use store-bought dough sliced into rounds and, once baked, spread with a premade buttercream frosting. Older kids can get more creative with homemade dough, cookie cutters to make different shapes, and royal icing piped on in intricate patterns. Resist the temptation to eat them all yourself! Keep some on hand for holiday guests, or make a plate of cookies for neighbors, the mailman, or the local fire station.

Go on a Holiday Scavenger Hunt

If the kids need to get out some energy, devise a fun scavenger hunt to get them moving. It can be as simple as hiding candy canes or small jingle bells in the back yard and letting the kids loose to find them. Or you can take the kids to Grossmont Center, where the Giggles the Holiday Elf Hunt takes place Dec. 1 through 24. Go to Guest Services to get started, and the kids win prizes when they find Giggles and his friends.

Say Season’s Greetings on Your Shirt

Create a unique addition to anyone’s wardrobe by having your child draw a picture on iron-on transfer paper, which can then be applied to a plain T-shirt. If you want a long-lasting design, take your child’s artwork to Masry’s Custom T-Shirt, where it can be printed at high quality on a shirt, hoodie, baby onesie, tote bag, or more.

Stir Things Up

A cup of hot cocoa is delightful on a cold winter’s night, but it is even tastier with an easy-to-make dipping stick. Recipes abound on the Internet, such as this one at Mom Foodie, but the basic steps are the same. Take a candy cane, dip it in melted white or milk chocolate, and stick it in a marshmallow. The marshmallow can then be dipped in chocolate or crushed candy cane bits—whatever you and your kids want to do! Pick a candy cane with a curved end, not a straight peppermint stick, so you can hang it on a mug by the hook for a charming presentation.

Make a Special Delivery

Surprise gifts are always fun to get! Spread some holiday cheer by leaving a little gift on a friend’s doorstep—along with instructions for them to pay it forward and do the same to one of their friends. The treat bag can contain anything you want. We know that kids love giving and receiving sweets. Create custom mixes of a child’s favorite confections at Candy Paradise for your special delivery.

Let It Snow

We may not get snow in La Mesa, but you can still create a winter wonderland with your kids by making snowflakes. Take different shapes of dried pasta—try penne and rotelle, or wagon wheel-shaped noodles—and have the kids paint them in white, silver, or a glittery ice blue. Simply arrange them into snowflake shapes and glue them together. Once the glue is dry, thread a ribbon or twine through the snowflake so you can hang it in your window for instant snowfall.

Home Sweet Home

Kids love making gingerbread houses. Making the gingerbread from scratch is not quite as fun for busy parents. (Store-bought gingerbread house kits, while definitely convenient, are generally lacking in the freshness department.) Keep things simple by swapping the gingerbread for graham crackers. Happiness is Homemade offers a building plan for graham cracker houses—just assemble. Once the icing or frosting that’s holding the structure together have set, decorate as you would a regular gingerbread house. This is a great option when you have a lot of kids over because a box of graham crackers can go a long way.

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