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The holiday season has arrived, which means that most children have some extra time off from school before the winter break. One of my favorite holiday traditions, which my family continues today with my cousins, is buying a new holiday book every year. We cherish these books and return to them year after year for recipes, nostalgia and to read to the younger children. I spent whole afternoons under the tree with my childhood cat, Buddy, reading these books and memorizing the artworks. There are Christmas picture books on my parents’ shelf that I have been leafing through all my life. My favorite is The Nutcracker, which features color photographs by the New York City Ballet. During the holidays, my brothers and I painted salt dough ornaments or rolled out sticky cinnamon dough while my mother read chapter books like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Do you have a special legible holiday memory? Why not start one with your family or class? Start a new tradition this year by including book-inspired activities. Prevent boredom during the winter break with crafts, decorations and trying new recipes together. Every activity I’ve listed should be completed with adult supervision and some fun holiday music on Spotify.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This holiday classic is filled with images of snow and ice, making it perfect for an indoor sensory playpen. Grind ice in a blender to make snow and place in a plastic container. Use simple toys and decorations you already have at home, such as ringing bells, blocks, arctic animals and train cars to fill the landscape. Add a few different shovels, cups or spoons for the little ones to move the snow around. Please note that children must wear protective gloves to play in this sensor tank. Once the snow melts, serve a batch of Polar Express Hot Chocolate and read The North Pole on purpose together.
Hanukkah: A Counting Book in English, Hebrew and Yiddish by Emily Sper
This delightful book features iconic Hanukkah imagery, with vocabulary in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. Count together as you turn the pages and share the Hanukkah story. Then hone your counting skills with printable mats and dough candles and dreidels in festive Hanukah colors.
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Lauren Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
This circular story is perfect for preschool and family reading time! First, learn together about some holiday activities, with a paper snowball fight, or sing along to some traditional Christmas carols with crazy voices. The mouse wants to turn his movie popcorn into a Christmas tree garland, so you can too! Then pop some regular popcorn and thread a needle. Make sure enough adults are available to help kids string their popcorn and cranberries. Maybe some buttered popcorn to snack on too.
The Mitt by Jan Brett
Brett’s take on the Ukrainian folktale is pure wintery goodness with beautiful, detailed illustrations and warm humor. After sharing this book together, you can make your own version of the iconic red mitten in ornament form. Make it your own with collected buttons, beads or fabric scraps.
Ringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
Get everyone ready for the New Year with this exciting book that invites readers to join in the fun of sweeping the old dust, eating delicious dumplings and enjoying the fireworks. For New Years Day, make these beautiful paper lanterns to catch the winter sunlight.
The Christmas Coat by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and Ellen Beir
This book is an emotional, beautifully historical picture book, making it a great starting point for deeper conversations. At Virginia’s Christmas parade, the Christmas tree is decorated with vibrant paper chains and handkerchiefs. Put on some vintage Christmas tunes and get started.
The Sound of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo and Lisa Cohen
Bright and lyrical, this book is a fun way to learn about Kwanzaa traditions. Tokunbo’s favorite no-bake brownie recipe is also included for a fun treat to make together. Celebrate the joy of Kwanzaa by making drums with empty oatmeal containers and dancing to the beat of the music you make.
Pick a Pine by Patricia Toht and Jarvis
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without some whimsy and greenery. After reading this charming story, set up a table with a newspaper for easy clean up. Then it’s time to pick a pine tree yourself, or some nice branches. This craft is great for all ages and will add instant celebration to your home.
Shante Keys and the New Year’s Peas by Gail Piernas Davenport and Marion Eldridge
Oh no! Grandma forgot to make the New Year’s peas! Never mind, Shante can ask the neighbors. As Shante discovers, the neighbors all celebrate differently with their own traditions. Ring in the new year with delicious black eyed peas and printable activity sheets.
Carla and the Christmas Cornbread by Carla Hall and Cherise Harris
In this story, inspired by her own childhood Christmas, TV chef Carla Hall shares family traditions, Christmas magic and her favorite recipe for cornbread that saves the day. Hall’s sweet cornbread recipe is just right for baking on a cold winter’s day.
Happy Diwali! by Chitra Soundar and Charlene Chua
cheerful and enlightening, Shubh Diwali! is the perfect introduction to Diwali. As a family prepares to celebrate, they remind each other of the significance of the traditions, decorations, and stories. For this festival of lights, make beautiful paper diyas to light the way.
Charlotte and the Nutcracker by Charlotte Nebres and Alea Marley
If your family is familiar with the story of The Nutcracker, this book about a special dancer is perfect. When Charlotte is chosen as the first Black Marie in the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker, she is so excited! With the help of her friends, family and training, Charlotte is ready to take the stage. Use these adorable recycled toilet paper tubes to tell the story and tell about Charlotte’s journey as a dancer.
Binny’s Diwali by Thrity Umrigar and Nidhi Chanani
During the festival of lights, families share delicious sweets while enjoying the sights and sounds. With the help of her teacher, Binny can share her favorite holiday with her classmates. Celebrate the sweetness of Diwali with fragrant cardamom play dough. Turn the simple dough into (decoration only!) a tray of Diwali sweets.
Arturo and the Navidad Birds by Anne Broyles and KE Lewis
Share family stories just like Arturo and his grandmother and you will work together on these adorable pinecone animals. This bilingual book explores the precious relationship between grandmother and grandchild as they work together and discuss difficult things. Find more discussion topics and activities on the Broyles website.
All-Of-A-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky
Preparing for Hanukkah can mean many things. For the All-of-a-Kind Family, it means making their favorite latkes together while their neighbors set up their menorahs. This cozy book is full of family traditions and warm feelings. Learn how to make latkes to share while talking about your own holiday traditions.
Rachel’s Christmas Boat by Sophie Labelle
When Lulu’s father tells her the big news, Rachel worries that all her father’s gifts have the wrong gift tags. Like Lulu, get creative with some easy watercolor gift tags that can be customized to fit everyone in your family.
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis
This timeless poem in book form celebrates the darkness and change of the winter solstice, with joy and beauty. Bring that wintry beauty into your home with a winter solstice suncatcher.
Make your craft supplies list and check it twice! Then visit our holiday archive for reading inspiration, quizzes and more!