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As crazy as the time leading up to Christmas break is, it’s easy to let the break slip away without having the fun and accomplishing the not so fun things that you'd planned. While not necessarily a "break" for parents, this is your holiday season too.
Simply keeping kids busy while you work at home may be one important goal, but use these ideas to get the most out of your Christmas break. Some are things we do every Christmas season; some are things we mean to get to all year but don't, and some are things that just need to be done!
No one is as enthusiastic about holiday decorating than kids! They throw themselves into it with an energy most adults just don't have this time of year. And that's what makes it so much fun. As kids get older, you may even put them in charge of decorating and strike it from your holiday to do list. There are many elegant decorating projects kids can do.
2. Put on a Talent Show
This is an activity with so many possibilities! And it's great for all ages, including the grown ups. If you're working, the kids might put together a show and perform for you later. Or, the whole family could show off their talents for visiting guests--lip-syncing and dancing to a favorite song or just singing a few carols.
A show can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. This might mean sets, costumes, an original script and live music. Or absolutely none of that! Figure out what works best for your family. And if all your kids aren’t born performers, they can still enjoy writing, directing, set building or designing costumes.
From toddlers to teenagers, kids love the mixing and the measuring, but most of all, they love the treats at the end. As you teach kids to bake, scale holiday baking projects to your kids’ abilities and ages. Add activities to keep little kids engaged while you are doing more complicated baking tasks or simplify baking projects so that more experienced kid bakers can take the lead.
4. Make Gifts
Homemade gifts are a kid specialty. They love to make them; we parents love to get them. But homemade gifts don’t have to be just limited to Mother’s Day or just for parents. There are many gifts kids can make — either with close adult supervision or on their own.
5. Don't Miss Local Holiday Events
Drive through the lighting displays around town; go to firehouse train gardens; see a Christmas show at your local theater; take advantage of holiday deals, discounts, and free events. There are countless special events this time of year, and many of them only come around once a year, so don’t let the holiday break slip by without stepping out.
6. Go Shopping
Shopping! Haven’t I done enough shopping already?” you say. This time, though, instead of shopping for the kids, shop with the kids. If you can pull it together to shop with the kids before Christmas to let them pick out of gifts, I applaud you.
But for many, taking kids shopping at the after-Christmas sales is a better bet. Funny how kids who think shopping is torture, change their tune when they have gift cards or cash they received as presents to spend.
7. Watch Television Together
Keeping your kids from watching too much TV over Christmas break is always a challenge. But TV isn't all bad if you watch together--especially today when all family members could be watching on separate devices! Choose something you want to watch--a sport like football (there’s plenty this time of year!), a cooking show, favorite holiday film or documentary and you use this as an opportunity to share your interests and knowledge with your kids. And they may develop an interest too. Or pick a favorite movie that you want to introduce them to. Happy family memories are forged during the holidays, so the time is ripe for them to look fondly upon the things you love.
8. Watch Family Movies
Nothing entertains kids more than themselves. And there's no better time to break out the home movies than during Christmas break, when there's extra time to watch. And it only makes sense since this is probably the time you break out the video recorder.
9. Try a Winter Sport
Ice skating, skiing, sledding and snow tubing are great ways to enjoy sports in the winter. Of course, these depend on the weather and how close you live to winter recreation areas. Probably the easiest and cheapest to try out is ice skating, since many cities have indoor rinks or seasonal outdoor skating areas especially around the holidays. Just bundle up and get moving!
10. Try an Indoor Sport
Roller skating, swimming, basketball, ping pong and pool are a few indoor activities to try over your holiday break. If there’s a roller rink nearby, then it’s easy enough to find a place to skate. And some kid-friendly restaurants and arcades have ping pong and pool tables. However, it could be tricky—but not impossible-- to find places for indoor swimming and basketball unless you belong to a sports club. Some health clubs and YMCAs will sell day passes or trial memberships.
11. Organize Kids' Rooms
Getting kids room in order before the Christmas may help when it comes to stowing new presents later. Even before Christmas break begins, I sometimes assess what the kids might donate to charity, so I'm ready to make a few suggestions of what might go and what should stay as we organize kids' rooms. In reality, this task may end up waiting until after Christmas, but either way, it's an important way for kids to take responsibility for their own playthings.
Of course, volunteering is a great thing to do any time of year. No need to wait for the holidays, but during the holidays there are a lot of opportunities for kids to volunteer. And the kids have time off school. Just be careful think out volunteer commitments and not take on more than you or your child can handle.
13. Create Art
Art is one of those wonderful activities that can be scaled to almost every age and ability level. And depending on the project, it can be done with or without adult supervision. So you can work at home while the kids create art or you can roll up your sleeves and get messy too. Art projects can become gifts for relatives or decorations for the house. Setting up a dedicated art space makes set up and clean up easier.
14. Go to a Museum or Local Attraction
Many museums and attractions count on Christmas break for a big surge of visitors, so don’t expect to be the only ones there. However, many attractions put on special programs for kids and/or offer discounts on admission at off-peak hours to get their fair share of the Christmas break traffic.
15. Get the Homework Done
No one said these were all going to be fun Christmas break things to do. Many teachers assign homework or projects. And these projects can be elaborate so parents may need to help with homework or at least oversee that it is being worked on. Be sure to ask your child about any project or homework at the beginning of Christmas break so you’re not in for any last-minute surprises. And even if there's no homework, you might want to start thinking ahead to the science fair or getting math facts memorized.
16. Read a Book Together
Even if you regularly read together, change things up a little during Christmas break. Choose something a little different from your ordinary reading material so it stands out as a holiday tradition. Maybe try a book of Christmas poems or a classic novel read in daily installments. And if reading together is not part of your routine the holiday season is a great opportunity to start.
17. Write a Book Together
OK, it doesn’t have to be a whole book. But penning a story together can be a great memento of your holiday break. And this is a wonderful activity for kids of all ages. Children who are just beginning to talk can contribute to a group story. Older kids can write or illustrate. This is also an activity you can participate in or something you can have them work on without you while you are working. See more writing activities for kids.
18. Take a Trip
A trip to grandma’s house may already be on the schedule for Christmas break, in which case you may not be up for more travel, but I’m talking about a vacation, not simply a visit with relatives. Christmas vacations with kids can be as elaborate as a trip to Disney World or as easy as an overnight in a neighboring city. But a trip during the holidays will surely be remembered.
19. Make Appointments – Doctor, Dentist, Haircut, etc.
If you are taking time off work for child care during the holidays, then lighten your load in the coming months. Use the time off to take care of those appointments that often fill up your afternoons, evenings or weekends.
20. Take a Hike
If you live in a warm weather climate, this is probably a more obvious thing to do during Christmas break. But even those of us in cold weather climates can hike in the winter. The leafless trees reveal very different vistas than in summer. Bundle up and be careful never to get too far from the car or another place to warm up. This is an especially good activity to keep kids busy (and tire them out) when they're excited about the upcoming holiday.
21. Play Games
Before Christmas pull out some of the old games; after Christmas the new ones. Kids games run the gamut from old-fashioned Candyland to video games. But one thing that is universal is kids like it when the parents play.