THE WONDER OF THE HOLIDAYS – December Activity Ideas

No matter your holiday traditions, there is something magical about the winter holiday season. Anticipation fills our hearts while the month unfolds, leading us closer and closer to a mystical celebration. However your group celebrates this month, use the ideas below to support your activity program and invite members to experience the wonder of the holidays.

MUSICAL SLEIGH BELLS – Purchase small jingle bells at a local craft store and make DIY sleigh bells with your group, using pipe cleaners. Give each participant a pipe cleaner and five jingle bells. String the jingle bells onto the pipe cleaner, form the pipe cleaner into a circle, and then twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together so that the bells stay secured. Use the sleigh bells throughout the month during musical activities, as exercise props, or for members to accompany carolers as they carol through the halls.

THE WONDER OF… FIRESIDE CHATS – In between holiday parties and festivities, invite members to share their life stories with the group. Select one member for each fireside chat, and insert their name in the title. Then, lead them through an interview-style conversation, where they share about their childhood, holiday traditions, or other stories that members may not know about them. Give each person the questions ahead of time, so they’re prepared. Leave time at the end of the session for other members to ask questions.

WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE – The purpose of a white elephant gift exchange is to have fun and share laughs. Depending on your group, either ask participants to bring one wrapped gift or provide gifts for your group. Gather all the gifts and put them in the center of the table. Give each participant a number. Start with number one and instruct that participant to select a gift from the table and open it. The next person, (number two), can either steal the first gift opened, or select another gift and open that gift. Continue in the same fashion until each participant receives a gift. When a person’s gift is stolen away, they get to choose another gift and open it before moving on to the next person’s turn. The game ends when the last participant has opened a gift, and the very first person (number one) has had the opportunity to steal any opened gift or keep what they have.

MAKE & TAKE GIFTS – Some members may not have the financial means or ability to shop for their loved ones this holiday season. Invite members to make a gift for their loved one. These gifts could also be used as a host gift if they are attending a holiday gathering outside of your community. Ideas include cookies in a jar, sachets, homemade soaps, or Sharpie decorated mugs. Purchase needed supplies at a local craft store.

­HO-HO-HO HAPPY HOUR – Bring back the wonder of Santa Claus and host a Ho-Ho-Ho Happy Hour. Serve milk and cookies and play holiday music in the background. Reminisce with your group about visiting Santa as a child. Then, surprise members by hiring a Santa Claus to attend the party. Be sure to take photos of Santa with your group, and look for that twinkle to show up in their eyes as they visit one-on-one with Santa.

COOKIE DECORATING & TASTING – December 4 is National Cookie Day. Celebrate by decorating sugar cookies with your group. Either make your favorite sugar cookie with members, or purchase plain sugar cookies from a local bakery or your dining team. Provide colorful icing, icing tubes, and sprinkles for members to decorate their cookies. Ask a few team members to be judges and award prettiest cookie, most colorful cookie, and most original cookie. Then, invite members to taste their work. Serve coffee, tea, and milk. This is a wonderful event to include families, especially grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

HOLIDAY MATINEE MOVIES – Feature old favorite holiday movies throughout the month and give participants moments of relaxation between the busyness of the season. Favorite films could include It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or Babes in Toyland.

TOYS FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD – No matter our holiday traditions, as children we all looked forward to opening a new toy during holiday celebrations. Reminisce with members about the toys from their childhood. What was the “must have” toy when they were younger? Do they remember looking through toy catalogs and writing a wish list? Visit for a brief overview of popular toys in the 1940s. If you’re tech savvy, hook up your laptop or tablet to a television screen so that members can see the toy advertisements provided on this website.

THAT’S A WRAP PARTY – Host a wrapping party for members who need assistance with wrapping gifts. Provide wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, gift bags, tissue paper, tape, scissors, pens, and gift tags. Turn this chore into a fun event by serving appetizers and drinks. Invite a few extra volunteers to provide help with wrapping as needed.

INSPIRE WONDER – Find ways throughout the month to bring back the wonder of the holidays. Save some decorating for when participants aren’t around and surprise them with a Winter Wonderland scene. Start the tradition of The Elf on the Shelf (or “Mensch on a Bench”) with your group, if you haven’t already started. Take your group for a drive to see the lights. Read The Polar Express and give participants large jingle bells with a tag attached that says “The bell still rings for those who truly believe.” Ask members to leave a shoe outside their door on December 6 and fill it with treats to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Invite a group of small children to visit your group and make gingerbread houses together. Finally, track Santa with NORAD.

PEPPERMINT MODELING DOUGH – Make homemade peppermint modeling dough and use for sensory activities throughout the month. In a pot, mix together one cup of salt, two cups of flour, one tablespoon of cream of tartar. Pour in two cups of water, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, and one tablespoon of peppermint extract. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat for about three to five minutes. Remove it from the heat when the dough starts to form a ball. Knead the dough on a counter until it’s smooth. While you’re kneading, add drops of red food coloring and knead the color through the dough. Store in an air-tight container. Provide participants with cookie cutters, rolling pins, and other accessories when they are working with the modeling dough. Reminisce with participants about making roll-out cookies and other holiday preparations they usually made in order to make the holiday season special.

RING IN THE NEW YEAR – Consider planning a Noon-Year’s Eve Party, for members who prefer not to stay up late. Serve appetizers and sparkling cider. Reminisce about how members celebrated the New Year in years past. Did any members celebrate at Times Square? Swap out the pegs in your ring toss game and use bottles of sparkling grape juice instead. Give participants New Year’s hats and Hershey Kisses as 12 p.m. approaches. Then, gather participants and count down the last ten seconds until 12 p.m. Sing “Auld Lang Syne” the stroke of “midnight.”  Optional: If you need to hold the party in the afternoon, set one prominent clock to the time of 11:00, then time everything to finish with a celebration at “midnight.”



  1. In the song “Winter Wonderland,” who do the singers pretend the snowman is? Parson Brown
  2. In the same song, which bird has gone away? The blue bird
  3. Which popular artist made the song “Let It Snow” popular? Frank Sinatra
  4. Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote and composed “Let It Snow” during which particular weather conditions in Hollywood, California? A heat wave
  5. According to “The Dreidel Song,” often sung by children during Hanukkah, of what material is a dreidel made? Clay
  6. What two colors are associated with Hanukkah? Blue and white
  7. In the song “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah,” what do participants light? The menorah
  8. Which German Christmas carol has had over 700 recordings since 1978, making it the most popularly-recorded Christmas song? “Silent Night
  9. Andy Williams sang of the most wonderful time of the year. In this song, what is being toasted? Marshmallows
  10. In the poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” what sort of visions did the children have dancing in their heads? Sugar plums



“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney


“The Wonder of the Holidays” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2018 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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