DIY Dad: Christmas Projects for Dads and Kids

No time of year is more fun to spend with kids than Christmas. They have a capacity to enjoy that holiday season that is, quite frankly, an inspiration to us all. We could all use a little more of that unbridled joy.

If you’re looking for ways to bond with your kids this Christmas, there’s no better way than getting into a DIY project together. That could mean almost anything—build something, make something, get into arts and crafts. The options are pretty much endless, but one thing is for sure: your kids will learn a lot, and you’re likely to have just as much fun as they do. 

Make Holiday Decorations

Making Christmas decorations from scratch is a tried-and-true activity during the holiday season, and there are truly infinite possibilities in this area. Whether you’re a crafty guy or not, chances are you and your kids can all get into some fun shenanigans in an attempt to make Christmas decor out of whatever you may have handy. A few classic ideas include: 

  • Paper Chain Garlands. You might just remember making these from your own childhood. Turns out they’re still fun to make today! All you really need is some construction paper, scissors and Scotch tape or glue, and you’ll be ready to deck the halls, mantle, tree and anything else in sight. You can also take your garland-making to the next level by using wrapping paper or festive wallpaper to make the chains.
  • Popsicle Stick Ornaments. It’s amazing what you can create with a few popsicle sticks, a bit of glue and a little paint. If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are a few creative ideas for ornaments you and your kids can make out of popsicle sticks or clothespins.
  • DIY Christmas Wreath. Making a Christmas wreath from scratch isn’t as hard as it looks, and the results can be pretty impressive. With a handful of evergreen boughs and some basic tools and materials that you probably already have in the house, you can help your kids craft a handsome DIY wreath. Here’s a great tutorial if you’ve never done it before. Word to the wise: steer clear of prickly spruce in favor of softer pine or fir boughs. 

Cut Down a Tree

Kids love getting to be a part of the grown-up decision making, and there is absolutely no more important decision this time of year than picking the right Christmas tree. As soon as they’re old enough to put on a pair of boots and trudge out into the snowy meadow at your local tree farm, they’re going to want to help cut down the tree. 

Whether or not they’re ready to do any of the actual sawing yet is for you to decide, but even if you’re the one to ultimately do the deed, let them have input into which tree they like and why. This one’s too tall, this one’s too short, this one is lopsided, this one has a bird’s nest in it—you know, all the important considerations. You can even let them grab a branch and “help” drag the tree back to the car. 

Hang the Christmas Lights

Asking your kids to help you hang up the Christmas lights can potentially end in chaos, but hear me out. They’ll definitely enjoy getting to be a part of the experience, and as long as nobody gets too crazy (them) or too frustrated (you) it can actually be a fun and productive way to get your house decked out for the season. 

Of course, some common sense is called for here. You don’t want young children climbing up on ladders and handling live electrical wires, but they can help out in plenty of other ways.

Untangling jumbled strands of lights and looking for burnt-out bulbs that need to be replaced are great jobs for your young helpers, and helping to feed you more cord while you attach them to the roof can help keep the job going smoothly. In all honesty, it’s hard to say how much their “help” will truly help, but it’s more about the experience and teamwork-building!

Cook Something Together

Cooking is fun, but it’s also an essential skill. We all want our kids to grow up with the ability to feed themselves effectively, and it’s always a good idea to get them involved with making the family meals as soon as they’re old enough to help out.

The holidays are an especially fun time to get your kids cooking, and it’s also a great bonding activity that allows dads to impart some hard-earned knowledge. Whether you’re preparing a Christmas turkey, throwing some venison steaks from a recent hunting trip on the grill, or passing along grandpa’s “secret” potato salad recipe, let your kids watch, learn and be involved.

Build a Winter Bird Feeder

Is there a more tried-and-true DIY project for dads to do with their kids than building a bird feeder? It’s not strictly a Christmas activity, but with winter upon us, it’s the perfect season to give your local birds a little help, all while teaching your kids some fun handyman skills. 

The best part is, you can make a bird feeder out of just about anything. You can use practically any old scrap wood you might have lying around, or you can make a bird feeder using anything from mason jars and milk jugs to terra cotta pots and wine bottles. The ever-popular popsicle sticks can come in handy here too. Check out these DIY bird feeder ideas if you need a bit of inspiration. 

Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

This is a fun project that kids can get really into, and plenty of dads also get way more into it than they’d expect. Making your own DIY gift wrapping paper offers endless opportunities to get creative and explore your artistic sides. It’s also pretty easy, and requires only a few basic, affordable materials. 

Start with the paper itself. The best options tend to be butcher paper or easel paper, but any sturdy paper that can take ink effectively will do. You can even recycle old paper shopping bags or newspapers, though the latter tends to be a little flimsy. 

Beyond that, all you really need is ink (water soluble block printing ink works best) and some stamps or rollers to creatively apply a pattern to the paper. Stamps are available at most arts and crafts stores, but you can also make your own out of household sponges, using cookie cutters as guides. 

Make a Gingerbread House

Building a gingerbread house is a timeless holiday activity, and it’s just as much fun now as it was when our grandparents were kids. It’s also a pretty beginner-friendly endeavor for kids of all ages; young children will of course need more help, while older kids may be able to handle it all on their own. 

And as much fun as making a gingerbread house can be, it’s also a chance for all you dads with carpentry know-how to subtly impart some skills. Your kids can actually learn a lot about measurements, angles and other concepts that also apply to carpentry and woodworking. They’ll just be having so much fun they probably won’t even realize it!