Ideas for Counting Down to Christmas with Crafts and Baking {Spiced Maple Doughnut Recipe}

family friendly holiday traditions

I adore Advent — the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I love listening to my Pandora Christmas station, decorating the tree (but not so much the redecorating that happens daily thanks to a couple of little boys who like moving ornaments around), and making memories with the Kidlets.

The past few years, I’ve set up quite a few traditions with the Kidlets, and now that the Little Lady is getting older, she is starting to remember these events (big and small) and ask about them as we delve into the Holiday season.  How do we count down the days to Christmas?

(1) North Pole Breakfast

Christmas Morning Breakfast Ideas

The first Saturday of December, I put together a themed breakfast for our family.  Since we are always out of town on Christmas morning, we use our North Pole Breakfast as our “holiday breakfast” instead of having one Christmas morning.  This week, I’ve been getting ready for it, washing our Christmas plates and cups and trying to plan the menu.

You can see pics from last year’s North Pole Breakfast here, and I’ve been pinning new ideas and recipes on my North Pole Breakfast Pin Board.  Feel free to check them out for holiday breakfast ideas!

(2) Advent Calendar

Each year, since the Little Lady was 18 months old, we’ve done some type of nightly Advent activity as a family.  Some years, we’ve made paper chains — each slip of paper with a verse and activity on it.  Last year, I decorated and hung 25 envelopes; each night, one of the Kidlets opened one and we read the little scripture and completed the activity inside (read a story, watch a Christmas movie, go look at lights, etc).

Again, this week, I’m frantically working to finalize our Advent Calendar for this year.  I have found so many ideas on Pinterest for unique Advent calendars and countdowns.  Gotta decide which one to use!

(3) Holiday Activity Bags

This is something I started when Barney Kneeknuckles was born; I was nursing, recovering from a c-section and needed to keep the other Kidlets occupied in a way that didn’t require my constant involvement.  Using Dollar Store pre-assembled crafts, as well as ones from the Target Dollar Spot and Hobby Lobby, I set up “Activity Bags.”  Each ziplock bag contains everything needed to make a craft or everything needed for an activity/game.

Holiday Activity bags

For our Holiday Activity Bags, I have filled our bags based on ideas from my Pinterest Kid Holiday and Winter Activities Board and with pre-assembled paint by number kits, ornament making kits, coloring books, books, etc.  In the afternoons after school, while I work on cleaning out lunch boxes and washing bento supplies, the Kidlets can choose and complete an activity.

easy holiday crafts

The Little Lady LOVES these and always asks about them as soon as I pick her up from school.  It’s a great way to give me 20-30 minutes of peace and quiet and gives them something creative they can work on independently.

(4) The Elf on the Shelf

And … of course … the Elf on the Shelf is a nightly tradition, starting December 1st.  We approach it a little differently than some, using the Elf as a way to bridge cultural Christmas traditions and our faith Christmas traditions.  You can read more about that in this post: Jesus, Santa, and the Elf on the Shelf.

(5) Holiday Baking

Mr. Boy and the Little Lady love helping me in the kitchen but not every recipe is one that works well for Little Helpers. Little, very eager, very messy Helpers.

Rather than get frustrated by their well-meant attempts, I make sure to find or develop recipes that are easy for children to make (with a little help from Mommy).

This week, Mr. Boy and I made Spiced Maple Cake Doughnuts. Technically, this is a “cheater” recipe because it uses a cake mix as the base ingredient, but I love it for its simplicity and the fact very few ingredients are needed…. which means less fuss and mess when dealing with a 3-year old in the kitchen.

Plus … they are freaking DELICIOUS.  Oh. My. Swoon.  Ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg, oh my!  And, with some real maple syrup in there for good measure.

I may or may not have eaten a few as I baked them.  What happens in my kitchen STAYS in my kitchen.

The Kidlets are also a fan, asking to make them over and over and over.  Wanting them for breakfast and as an after-school snack.

I don’t know where they inherited their love of all things sweet.  No. Idea.

Spiced Maple Cake Mix Doughnuts
Easy enough for kid in the kitchen, these doughnuts come together in a snap ... and they are delicious!
Recipe type: Breakfast
  • 1 box of Spiced Cake Mix*
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup of Milk
  • 1 stick of Butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons of Pure Maple Syrup
  • For the Sugar Coating
  • 1 cup of Powdered Sugar (aka Confectioners Sugar)
  • 3 teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of Ground Ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the cake mix, eggs, milk and butter till blended,
  3. Add the maple syrup and stir to incorporate.
  4. Prepare your donut pan or mini-muffin tin with cooking spray, unless you are using silicone pans.**
  5. Pour the doughnut batter into a large ziplock bag and seal. Cut one corner of the bag and then "pipe" the batter into each space of your pan. Fill only ½-3/4 full as it will rise during baking.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and back 12-20 minutes or until done (tops baked and "springy" when touched). Time will vary by oven and by pan used.
  7. Remove from the oven and remove from the pan, place each doughnut on a wire rack.
  8. Allow to cool completely before tossing in the sugar coating mixture.
To make Sugar Coating
In a large ziplock bag or "tupperware" container, add the sugar and spices. Seal and then shake to combine.
Add 4-6 doughnuts to the bag or container at a time. Seal and shake to coat the doughnuts.
Remove doughnuts carefully and place on a paper-towel.
Store in an air-tight container 2-3 days.***

*Carrot Cake Mix also works well for this; adding the carrots and raisins to the batter is up to you, but I don't include them.
** Silicone pans work best, in my experience. I used a "brownie pop" silicone pan and a metal, coated mini-muffin tin and liked best how the silicone pans baked. If you are going to use a metal pan, be sure to thoroughly coat with spray so the doughnuts don't stick.
*** Best to coat the doughnuts before serving as the doughnuts will absorb the powdered sugar if coated well ahead of serving.



What Holiday Traditions (activity/craft/baking) do you have with your family?


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  5. says

    Great compilation of sites, photos and information!! I am pinning and ‘liking’ these links like crazy… you would think I would learn. Each year I run behind on all the fun planning. :)

  6. says

    What a fabulous post. I absolutely love the craft bag idea, will definitely start doing this. I was thinking of doing Elf on a Shelf this year but decided not to. Those maple cake doughnuts are on my list to make, yum! Can I come for breakfast hehe:)

  7. says

    This is, quite possibly, the best post I’ve ever seen. I’ve got about 8 new tabs open now so I’m off to check out a few of those links. I LOVE your Christmas breakfast!!