No matter how much we wish our kids would stay young and filled with wonder forever, eventually they grow out of believing in fairies and elves and, yes, even Santa Claus. This newfound maturity doesn't need to mean the end of Christmas magic, though. There are plenty of ways to keep older kids filled with holiday spirit—and this new stage might bring even more joy to your family's celebrations! Here's how.
1. Enlist older kids in spreading the magic to younger family members and friends. So maybe now they know the truth about Santa, but instead of letting that be a bummer, celebrate that they are now a member of a cool secret club of those in-the-know. Show them how you created reindeer footprints on the driveway or made sleigh bells ring from the roof, so they can join in with creating the illusion. One thing they're sure to enjoy: Nibbling on the cookies left out for St. Nick on Christmas Eve! Helping create the magic for younger kids will fill them with the true holiday spirit.
2. Transform their wonder of Santa into a spiritual perspective. Your older kid's advanced understanding means you can talk more with her about your spiritual or religious beliefs. While your faith may have always been part of your holiday events, as your child gets older you can explain more about the stories, people, and teachings that this time of year honors.
3. Embrace the season's spirit of giving. Now is the perfect time to get your child involved in community service and teach them the values celebrated at this time of year. As a family, volunteer to serve or deliver meals to those in need, make care packages for the military, or work with Toys for Tots or another gift-giving charity to allow your child to provide for another child who would otherwise not have his wish list granted. The giving spirit could even be as simple as filling coin parking meters for the cars of holiday shoppers in your town.
4. Create a new tradition. Whether it's visiting a Christmas tree farm together to find the perfect one for your home, choosing a theme and decorating new ornaments each year as a family, or simply planning an annual holiday-movie-night marathon with hot chocolate and cookies, having a tradition to look forward to and enjoy as a family unit is key to making this time of year extra special. Note that you also don't have to abandon all Santa-related traditions just because they don't believe in the guy anymore. Sure, maybe they morph a bit, but maintaining traditions from when your kids were little will remind them of the magical memories they have and create a continuous theme throughout their childhood experience of the holidays—one they'll likely do with their own kids someday.
5. Foster anticipation. Much like how looking forward to something is often more enjoyable than the thing itself, the prospect of the surprises Santa will bring is a huge part of the appeal of the jolly guy. Wondering if he'll think you're naughty or nice is a kind of joyful state of worry! Brainstorm ways you can develop a similar feeling in your older kids. Maybe it's telling them that you've tasked an adult in their lives to be a Santa-like spy who will report on their behavior, and if they get good marks, there's a special present coming their way on Christmas day! Or maybe it's replacing the hide-and-seek of Elf on a Shelf with a hidden advent-calendar-like treat that they have to search for each morning. Keep them on their toes!
6. Make a wish list. Let's get real: Kids like, no, love presents, and Santa and Christmastime is magical because he brings them their most-desired items. Deciding what to ask for in a letter to the North Pole is fun because they get to put their dreams on paper, sending it out into the ether and wishing for their fulfillment. While older kids get that the Post Office isn't really delivering those sweet letters to Santa's house, they can still experience the joy of making the list. No matter how old kids (or adults) get, the feeling of waking up on Christmas morning and seeing new presents under the tree is exhiliratingly magical.
7. Enjoy the season yourself. We get it; the holidays can be hectic and stressful with too many things to do and too little time. But getting into the spirit yourself will make your kids—of all ages—excited, too. Take some to reflect on holiday memories and what this time of year means to you. Christmas magic is contagious, so if you feel it, they will too!