print 15

New Christmas (and Thanksgiving!) Kids’ Books and Puzzles for Holiday Break Fun

With our first holiday break coming up next week, we are beginning to plan some of our fun traditions that make our holidays and time at home so memorable. Pulling out our collection of children’s Christmas books is definitely one of them, but we also love little holiday activities we’ve done over the years that have now become traditions such as tackling a Christmas puzzle as a family, playing games together and bringing along some Christmas-themed coloring and activity books on holiday travel adventures. This year, we’re repeating one of our favorite trips we took last year, returning to Chicago for a weekend of Christmas wonder; and I’m giddy just thinking about it. One of the things that the kids LOVED and helped make our trip go a little more smoothly last year was planning ahead and packing little Christmas activities and games to pull out in restaurants, before bed, etc. It made the trip so special, and I can’t wait to surprise them again with our holiday-themed activity bag for this year’s trip. And heck yeah we’re playing Christmas Bingo while we wait for our pizza at Giordano’s.  L

If you missed our holiday book list last year, I shared 24 of our favorite children’s Christmas books that we read before bed every night in December. Our new favorite Christmas books and activities for this year:

 photo holiday books and games_zpsavtd7eed.jpg

1. Thanksgiving in the Woods. This book has given me new life goals–host a Thanksgiving dinner for 200 people in the woods…at night…with twinkle lights. I mean, come on.  And here’s the best part–this book is based on a true story of a real couple in upstate New York who have been doing this on their farm for twenty years. The photos are simply beautiful–warm, cozy, inspiring. Published just last month, this story will give you all the holiday feels.

 photo print 14_zpsyrxexuwi.jpg

2. Red and LuluI just read this to my kids, and they loved it. Accompanied by beautiful, wintery photos, this story follows the journey of the tree that was chosen to be Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree and the two birds that lived in it before it was cut down. The photos change from beautiful country scenes to festive Christmas-in-the-City illustrations.

3. The Little Reindeer. The understated black-and-white illustrations in this book are magical, enhanced with red foil and interactive die cuts. The sweet story follows a friendship between a little girl and a lost reindeer–perfect for pre-bed snuggles in Christmas pajamas.

4. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas. I love everything Chronicle publishes. This brand new release will delight kids with its imaginative details and humor. The elves discover Santa’s sleigh is broken, so they dream up designs for a new one and their creations–inspired by tractors, motorcycles, space ships and more–are hilarious.

6. Pick a Pine Tree. I LOVE the drawings in this book–so colorful and festive with a little retro vibe. And little kids will love the rhyming.

7. The Everything Kids’ Christmas Puzzle & Activity Book. Whether you’re traveling for the holidays, sitting at a restaurant waiting for food or want to have some fun entertainment at the holiday kids’ table, this book is chocked full of holiday-themed mazes, puzzles, brain teasers, hidden pictures, word searches and fun tidbits of information about everything Christmas.

8. A Little Christmas Tree The illustrations in this book are beautiful, but the story is what makes it special. Told from the perspective of a tree who wanted so badly to be picked by a family for their Christmas tree, this story follows the little tree as he has to accept that his dream may not come true, due to a broken branch that changed his fate. His mother always told him that someday he would bring a family the true meaning of Christmas, but all hope is lost as he watches his branches get thrown in the fire. The last bits of his wood are saved though…and carved into a baby in a manger to be given to a little girl by her grandpa. (and free shipping on this book right now until November 22).                                                        

9. Christmas Stories. All the great winter wonder from Laura Ingalls Wilder in one book, each chapter holds a wonderful read-aloud story perfect before bed. This is a reillustrated paperback edition that includes bonus material with games and activities. Nobody does winter stories like Laura Ingalls Wilder…swoon.

10. The Night Before Christmas Coloring Book. I’m super picky about coloring books, especially Christmas ones, but this one passes the test. All the beautiful illustrations that made Charles Santore’s picture book version of this a New York Times bestseller are in here, and they’re dreamy.

11. Christmas Morning Christmas Puzzle. I love puzzles, but I have a few rules about how they work with us. 500-piece are my favorite, and I like beautiful illustrations or photographs that have a variety of patterns and colors to keep us from getting frustrated. There’s a Christmas puzzle out there that’s a photograph of about 5 billion candy canes tangled together, and I want to punch the person who made it in the face. Nothing more frustrating that not being able to distinguish one puzzle piece from another. This one has enough variation to keep you from losing your mind and creates the sweetest Christmas scene when finished.

12. Sweet Christmas Mini Puzzle. One of my favorite memories from our Christmas in Chicago trip last year was sitting in the cafe at the top of the John Hancock Building, drinking hot chocolate, looking out at the snowy city and completing a mini puzzle together. When Lainey heard we were going again this year, she asked if we could do that again, so I found this perfect little Christmas puzzle to tuck in my purse that day.

13. Christmas Party 60-piece Puzzle. This darling Christmas party scene is cut down to only 60 pieces, so it’s easier for the little ones to help.


Tomorrow’s Friday…followed by a short week before all the festivities begin, so the mood is rising over here. Happy Thursday!


Leave a Comment
  1. Kelle, I am so grateful for the ideas you share with your readers. As a family that has moved three times in these past three years (due to active duty reasons) I am not always up to speed to have myself so together to even have traditions we do each year that make the holiday times so special. Often I feel I am trying to catch up, and this year with health reason not feeling at all myself. I am beyond appreciative for these ideas as well as your site that help guide me and circle us all to what’s most important “family” during all times of the year. I do not have someone to look to or strong support (a family member) that is as cheerful and jolly as your family seems. You will never realize how much what you do as your job gives to so many of us trying to do similar for our own families, but maybe don’t have that natural spunk as yourself. Long, long, long time reader! Our girls love peeking in how your children are growing and what creative things they are doing. Forever thankful!

    • Laura Thompson says:

      Can this military mama just ditto everything you said! Exact same feelings over here!

      Thanks so much Kelle! You are inspiring!

  2. Love this list!!!! Heading over to Amazon now to place my order. You forgot number five though!

  3. Where do you find your lumberjack bedding? Love it.

  4. What about book #5? =)

  5. On the holiday wish list: bump into Kelle and kids on the streets of chicago. Hahahaha! It would be awesome.

  6. I read the preview of your book, “Bloom” and could actually hear you speaking. You are a gifted and talented writer and photographer. Even though I have no right, I am very proud of you and the woman you’ve become. It is exciting to see how you are still into books and reading. I know I tried to instill that love into all my students. Reading about your substitute teaching experiences reminded me of the crazy things we did in our classroom to make learning real and exciting. Can’t wait to get the book and read it cover to cover. Thanks for finding me and making my day, my week, and my year! You are special, and I always knew that!

  7. Gorgeous photos!

  8. Since seeing the Thanksgiving book I’ve been OBSESSED with trying to find it quickly and read it at school this week. In my search I learned that the author (sister to the host of the upstate NY Thanksgiving in the woods!!) is from the twin cities (I’m just north) and was having a book signing yesterday in St. Paul. I missed it by thirty minutes and now the book is nowhere to be found at local book stores!! The author is also a former professor at Bethel University. Small world, I tell ‘ya! Alas, I won’t have the book in time for this school year. Next Thanksgiving for sure. Thank you for the recommendations.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>