It’s that time of the year again. It probably feels like school just started, but once Halloween is over, it’s full speed ahead to the holidays! With Christmas just around the corner, you and your family are suddenly going to be bombarded with holiday activities. From parties at school to work gatherings and shopping for loved ones, this time of the year can feel very go go go, without much time for us to get special alone family time, as well as little time to rest!
When we’re feeling overwhelmed and stretched to the max with events, we like to cozy up with some of the best holiday books that help us to relax, have a laugh, and get some much-needed rest. Here are some of our favorite Christmas books to read aloud to everyone in the whole family when we need to reconnect and recharge.
Top Christmas Picture Books for the Whole Family
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
- The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain & Mike Berenstain
- Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
- Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Katy Flint
- Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
- The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann
- A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
Why We Love Them
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
An instant family favorite from the first time we cracked this book open, The Polar Express combines the whimsy and magic of Christmas along with beautiful illustrations everyone around here loves. This book has gotten more and more popular as people are getting into the spirit and taking live Polar Express train tours, but we love the old favorite as an excellent opportunity for all of us to snuggle together and read.
If you’re interested in learning more about live action Polar Express experiences, check out my recap of our trip to The Polar Express in Bryson City. Our family loved the experience, and it really brought the magic and the holiday spirit to life for our kiddos. Find Polar Express tours in your area and live the experience of the book in real life!
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
An absolute classic, do I need to say more? It’s the ultimate Christmas book. Reading this on Christmas Eve after we put out Santa’s cookies is one of my favorite traditions. This is the original version, and it has all of the elements of a great Christmas book, Santa coming down the chimney, kids with sugar plums dancing in their heads, and toys, toys, toys! The description of Santa always makes my kids giggle. It’s a family favorite!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
You’re a mean one… The Grinch is just the best, isn’t it? Mr. Grinch is irreverent, he’s angry for no reason, and he learns a valuable lesson in the end. This must-read Christmas book for the season is full of whimsical drawings and plenty of rhyming fun.
This book perfectly captures the magic and whimsy that has made Dr. Seuss a beloved favorite for so many kids and families. From the rhyming to the cute story to the colorful illustrations, this book stands the test of time as a must-read. Plus, the message about the holidays not being about presents is a valuable one for all children to learn.
The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain and Mike Berenstain
How easy it is to forget about the real meaning of the holiday season when we’re all so busy! This book is great because it combines the classic Berenstain Bears family that we all love to read about with the valuable lesson about the importance of giving. I love reading this to my kiddos because they can truly understand what it means to give when demonstrated by these lovable bears!
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
This sweet book was gifted to us a few years back, but I had no idea it was first published in 1963; how did I not know about it for so long?! It’s wonderful. The flow of the rhymes makes it fun to read and listen to. The girls love watching watching the tree getting shared from home to home as it brings Christmas cheer to all the forest animals. Definitely check this one out!
Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Katy Flint
I feel that the School Library Journal said it best: meant to introduce the ballet based on Hoffmann’s classic story, this inviting adaptation instructs readers to press a musical note on each page in order to hear an enlivening snippet of Tchaikovsky’s music. While Clara impatiently awaits the arrival of her toymaker godfather, guests of varying ages and ethnicities, attired in 19th-century styles, are enjoying the festive Christmas party hosted by her parents. The vibrant illustrations are in a polished cartoon style reminiscent of early animated Disney films, with the text attractively set apart from the richly detailed visuals, encircled by colorful shapes, flowers, or wreath-like designs.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
I can never get enough of Strega Nona, and this story conveys the magical nature of Christmas and community with the help of Strega Nona of course, but also Big Anthony and the baker’s daughter, Bambolona.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Another adorable book from the Bear book series, just with a sweet Christmas twist! From Amazon: Bear’s friends are determined to keep Bear awake for Christmas! So they wake Bear up and have him help them find a Christmas tree, bake cakes, hang up stockings, and sing Christmas songs. Bear stays up—by discovering that giving is one of the best Christmas presents of all!
The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann
Yes there are so many versions of the Nutcracker, but the orchestra version (above) and this version from ETA Hoffmann are my favorite. It is a long version, but the illustrations by Maurice Sendak are just delightful and keep the kids enthralled. Be aware this is a more thorough version, too, and includes more details of battles, etc. I think it’s fabulous, but make sure it’s the right fit for you!
A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House books hold a special place in my heart. I remember my mom and dad reading them to me as a kid and now I get to do the same with my girls. We all love Mary, Laura and the rest of the gang and this collection of stories is one I will keep to one day ready to my grandkids, as it stands the test of time. The illustrations make it a great fit for younger kids, too.
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
Warning- this book will pull at your heartstrings and is a bit more of a readaloud than a picture book, though it is punctuated by many sweet little illustrations. Don’t let the lack of pictures deter you though, it’s great for ages as young as 5 or 6- a great Christmas classic. Without giving away too much, it’s the story of an orphaned girl named Ivy who finds her Christmas wish fulfilled with the help of a lonely couple and a doll named Holly.
There’s nothing quite like cozying up with your favorite holiday book. When my family is feeling a little disconnected after a few too many holiday gatherings, or when we haven’t had a moment to sit down, reading books together has been one of the best ways that we can come together and bond. If you’re looking for some books that aren’t just holiday-themed, but are suitable for 4-6 year olds, check out some of our family’s favorite book for ages 4-6 here!
Other Ways to Bond During the Holiday Season
Books alone aren’t the only ways to bond during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Here are a few of my favorite ways to spend quality time with my little family.
Kitchen Crafts and Holiday Baking
One of our favorite things to do each year is head to the kitchen for some easy to do, and often tasty, kitchen crafts for kids and holiday baking! From sparkling snowDOUGH to bake and decorate sugar cookies, heading to the kitchen will bring you and your kiddos together. We also love to make peppermint candy ornaments, as they are so simple and fun for everyone to make! Not only do they get to have fun, but decorated sugar cookies can make great little gifts for friends and neighbors. Wrap them up in pretty paper, add a fun ribbon, and you have easy gifts for those you love, that your family made especially for them!
If you’re more into STEM projects, check out the theme week we loved last year in homeschool and deemed COOKIE WEEK.
Family Movie Night
Another great way for everyone to bond during this busy time is to have a family movie night. It’s as easy as choosing your favorite holiday movie, popping some popcorn and grabbing some holiday treats, and snuggling up in front of a movie. Check out my list of 17 Classic Christmas Movies for Preschoolers and choose one or two that the whole family can enjoy. Bonus points for making a fire and wearing fun holiday pajamas while you watch! For older kids, there are tons of options out there. Do some holiday movie testing to find the best fits for your family.
Affordable Family Holiday Traditions
It’s not just about spending money during the holidays to connect. In fact, this time of the year can be astronomically expensive, even when you’re doing your best to stick to a budget. If you’re looking for some ways to build lasting memories with your family during this time of the year, without breaking the bank, check out my list of 5 Holiday Traditions That Won’t Break The Bank.
Don’t forget about decorations! One great way for families to spend time together during this season is to decorate the house. My girls love making simple paper chains and streamers, along with snowflakes and snowmen, out of construction paper to decorate their rooms and other areas of the house. Let them use their imagination and be creative with how they dress up their space! This is easy, fun to do, and causes minimal mess (haha, just checking to see if you were still reading- it’s a total mess, but it’s worth it)!
Above all, remember this. You are in charge of you you spend this time of year. And in case you need to hear this, let me give you the permission slip you need to not go see Santa (gasp), not bake cookies, or not go see that Christmas play. What happy memories of Christmas do you have? For me, it’s Christmas music always playing and a cozy feel of everyone just being together. So that’s what I want to recreate in our house for our kids. Books and movies and crackling fires do it for me, but find out what gives you that magical feeling and do that (and say no with confidence the the rest).
Wishing a joyful and cozy holiday season! <3