When we smell pumpkin spice in the air, feel crisp winter breeze, see festive lights and hear music playing everywhere, there’s no denying that the holiday season is in full force. But with it comes both the joys and headaches of such a busy time.
For anyone with kids, one of the greatest stressors (and the greatest delights) can be that stretch of days free from school and extracurriculars. Your kids are home and looking for things to do, so why not give them fun, festive activities that get everyone in the holiday spirit and (bonus) keep them occupied?
Story by Liesel Schmidt | Brought to you by Nounou Nanny
1. Get Your Build On
Whether you’re an overachiever who bakes everything from scratch or someone who prefers to buy a kit, making a gingerbread house (or, if you’re really into it, a village) is a great way to have fun as a family. Let the kids go off-book and decorate in whatever way their creativity takes them, then take a picture to capture the masterpiece and the moment.
2. Light It Up
Holiday lights are a sight for anyone of any age to behold, and the light game can get downright competitive. Take an evening walk or drive through areas with the best-lit houses in your area, rate the houses as you go and vote on a winner at the end of the tour. Keep your hands and insides warm with hot cocoa to sip on your trip.
3. Roll Tape
The holidays are rife with great movies both old and new. Share some classics with your kids and make them part of their holiday tradition. Don't stop there! Find new ones to enjoy too! Let the kids get in on the selection so they feel included and have them help make snacks. Pop popcorn and set out candies to pour in and flavor their batch, then cuddle up and let movie night commence.
4. Get Roasting
S’mores may not traditionally be a holiday treat, but there’s no rule that says it can’t be. If you have a firepit or fireplace, roast some marshmallows over the flame and make s’mores together while you sing Christmas carols.
5. Sleep Under the “Stars”
If your tree is up and awaiting presents under its lit branches, now is the perfect time to have a living room “camp out” under the lights. Get your pillows and plenty of blankets and arrange them under the tree, then spend the night with your kids with the magic surrounding you. It’s sure to be something they never forget.
6. Go Fancy
If you’ve got some formal dinners or parties already on the books for the holiday season, why not break out the fancy duds for dinner with your kids? Dress them up as well and set the table with your best dishware and candles. You’ll make them feel like dinner with them is a special occasion rather than an afterthought.
7. Wrap It
You probably feel like you have a mountain of things to wrap, but that saying of many hands lightening the load is a very true statement. Get older kids in on the wrapping action by letting them wrap some things for you (not their own presents, obviously). They’ll love to see some of the things other people will receive on Christmas morning.
8. String ‘Em Along
Popcorn garlands may be a throwback, but they’re a tradition for a reason. Making them is fun, interactive (hey, we don’t judge, eating while you’re stringing is half the appeal) and inexpensive. Watch movies while you string or tell stories about holidays from your childhood.
9. Go A-Caroling
A holiday tradition for any age, caroling is a great way to get outdoors and get everyone in the mood. If you live in a neighborhood with neighbors you may not know, it’s also a great way to introduce yourselves. It can be particularly special for those who can’t get out or don’t often have visitors. Ask your kids what carols they’ve learned and print out a few songs, then head to your local hospital or nursing home. You’ll make others feel special and give your kids memorable experiences.
10. Get Crafty
Making your own ornaments is a great way to create memories that you can touch and look at for years to come. Many cost next to nothing to make. Bake gingerbread men and punch a ribbon hole in the top before baking them, or free-style ornaments out of cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks, craft pom-poms or dried fruit.
Or rather, go to one. The holidays are a time when schools put on productions of classic tales like “The Night Before Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol,” so make sure you put one on your calendar. Even if your kids aren’t in the play or choral production, they’ll see that you support their school. You will all enjoy the time together doing something out of the ordinary. They may even have friends in the cast or chorus that they want to see.
12. Make Chains
Red and green paper chains are another project that, while extremely low-tech and very much a relic when it comes to how long they’ve been in the holiday decor mix, have definite possibilities that give them timeless charm. Use different kinds of paper to make it more unique or add glitter to some of the links. They can be draped anywhere, so go wild. To make it a thoughtful and teachable moment, as you make each link, have the kids say something they’re grateful for this year or a wish for the new one.
13. Let It Snow
And get out in it. Snow isn’t an everyday thing, so take time out of your day to go outside with the kids to make snow angels, have a snowball fight or build snowmen. The point is to let your kids see your inner child come out and bond with them. They’ll never forget seeing you let it go and have fun like a fool in the snow.
14. Count Down
Advent calendars are a fun way to help kids keep track of how many days until Christmas (and avoid the daily litany of “When is Santa coming?” that you know will happen). They’ll look forward to getting the treat inside, and you can make it a family activity that requires all of you to stop what you’re doing and gather together. Read a holiday story together first to make it even more of a family moment.
15. Give Good Gifts
Your kids are likely getting new toys as gifts, so use this time to help them cull their collection at the same time as they give to others. Go through their toys together and find gently-used ones that other children will be able to enjoy and love. You can teach your kids the importance of community and caring and how not everyone is as fortunate as they are. Gather up the selected toys and donate them to a women and children’s shelter or find a donation point for gently-used toys.
16. Salute the Soldiers
Holidays are a time when deployed service members feel the loss of home and family, so have your kids make cards or ornaments to send overseas. You can find websites like militarycardchallenge.com that accept cards and then distribute them to deployed service members to cheer up their holidays. Teach your kids about the important things the troops are doing and let them see your support.
17. Be Sweet
Making holiday treats like cookies, pies and cakes are a great way to bring your kids into the kitchen. Give them age and skill-appropriate jobs and show them each step as you go. Even if you don’t indulge yourselves, the end result will be a great gift for neighbors or friends or to take to holiday gatherings. The kids will be proud of their contribution. Make sure you get Santa’s cookies in the oven, as well—your kids will love knowing they’ve helped make a treat for the Jolly Old Elf himself.
18. Write On
Speaking of Santa, the kids need to write their letters to the big guy, so make that an activity you do together. Help them make a letterhead and let them practice their letter writing. When they’re done, send it through the USPS North Pole Post Office program so that you’ll get an official reply from the North Pole, complete with a North Pole postmark.
19. Sit and Smile
Malls and shopping centers have visiting hours for Santa, so now’s the time to take your kids to see Santa and get their picture taken. You’ll love having those photo memories to look back on later, and your kid will be thrilled that they got to tell Santa what they want.
20. Visit a Nativity
If you’re religious, live nativities are a great holiday activity for you and your kids. Churches or local theater companies often put one on for free or for a minimal entrance fee, so see what’s available in your community.
21. Tell Stories
Holiday breaks mean a little leeway on bedtime, so use those extra few minutes to read the kids a holiday story. Take them to the library to pick out the books they want to read together. Make a note of favorites to buy later when they go on sale.
22. Cut It Out
Paper snowflakes are a fun craft activity for your kids to do and one that takes very few supplies. Break out different colors of paper, glue sticks and glitter to make them even more unique. Let the kids go to town.
23. Make Some Dough
Why buy ready-made when you can make your own “Play-Doh” out of flour, salt, cream of tartar, water and food coloring? Kids will love helping you make it. Bake the creations and give them away as gifts or keep them for your own collection.
24. Feed the Birds
And squirrels. Winter can be a tough time for birds and squirrels to find food, so help your kids make a pinecone birdfeeder with peanut butter and birdseed. Slather the pinecone in PB and then roll in seeds, hang in a tree and voila! Birdfeeder. Your kids will enjoy seeing the critters feast on their creation knowing that they’ve fed some hungry animals.
25. Get Game-y
Games are a great way to spend time as a family, so break out your family’s favorite games. Even if they’re not holiday-themed, you can make them more festive by raising the stakes to include wrapped present prizes.
This story was brought to you by Nou Nou Nanny
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