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10 activities to help kids wait for Christmas

SALT LAKE CITY — There is scarcely a month busier than December but for kids, the countdown to Christmas may be excruciatingly long.

Between eating all that sugar and feeling pressure from Santa's pending arrival, kids tend to get antsy.

It may be easy to sit your child in front of a Hallmark movie, but instead, here's a list of activities to tide them over until the new year.

Christmas Dialer — While writing a letter to the big man may add some realism to the holidays, the Christmas Dialer allows for a phone call from Kris Kringle himself. By entering a phone number on the website and selecting ‘send a free call now,’ Santa Claus or his magical elf will call and relay an automated message. One free call is permitted, but if you’d like to send more, premium options are available.

Santa Tracker — Santa Claus claims to see us all while we sleep, and now we can see him too. Google’s Santa Tracker provides insight into St. Nick’s shenanigans in the North Pole in addition to tracking his whereabouts across the world on Christmas Eve. In the meantime, there are a few games for kids to play on the interactive website.

Elf on a Shelf — There’s nothing like a personal crystal ball to get your kids to behave. The Elf on the Shelf is a little friend sent from the North Pole to assist Santa with his naughty and nice list. Each day in December, the elf will observe the family and then report their behavior to Santa Claus. Each morning, the elf will relocate to places around the house so the kids can enjoy finding him.

Activity advent calendar — The chocolate advent calendar is always a classic, but an activity advent calendar may be more memorable. Activities can be as simple or extravagant as the family wants, whether it's watching a Christmas movie or decorating gingerbread houses. Blogger Thrifty Northwest Mom offers a large list of ideas, including service opportunities. This advent calendar gives kids something to look forward to every day.

12 days of Christmas — We’ve all sung the song, but participating in this Christmas event is even more involved than eight maids-a-milking. First, choose a neighbor, friend or someone in need. Then, doorbell ditch them each night with a surprise accompanied with a poem. Homemade cookies or small gifts will suffice.

Building snowmen — For the last 12 months, “Frozen” soundtracks have tempted every child in America to sculpt a frosty friend. When the first snowfall hits, take the kids out for some old-fashioned snowman building. Spice up the festivities by creating teams and competing for the best Frosty.

Reading Christmas books — “ ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” From picture books to novels, reading a Christmas story before bed each night can be a fun tradition. The whole family can join in on the fun or it can be an individual activity.

Live Nativity — Acting out the Nativity scene can be fun and educational for kids. To spread out the fun, consider homemaking costumes, holding rehearsals and putting on the production for extended family members or neighbors.

Decorating — Decorating the house for Christmas is much more fun when it’s a family event. Hands On As We Grow provides 30 kid-friendly ideas for homemade ornaments, and Pinterest offers hundreds of craft tutorials. The decorating doesn’t have to stop with the tree. Making crafts for each child’s room can help them feel independent and festive.

Light drive — People seem to string their own rendition of Christmas lights each year, and it can be fun to see the variety around the neighborhood. Designate a night to pile in the car and view the local lights. For added fun, designate a few decorative houses to reward with a Christmas treat.