School’s out for a few weeks and your kids are ready for some fun! Today, let’s talk about how to keep them busy and enjoy some family togetherness without breaking the bank.
Day #1: Bake Cookies.
Nothing is better for bonding than cooking together. Decorate your baked creations with colored frosting after they cool. Then, wrap some of them up and then deliver goodie trays to neighbors. Here are a couple of my favorite childhood recipes to get you started.
Day #2: Binge Watch Your Favorite Movie or Television Series
Once again, we have some favorites in this category. We switch it up a lot. One year we may binge Star Trek. While other years, it may be Andy Griffith. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was our choice two years ago. It was the extended version of the movies! So, it was a serious commitment!
We generally begin talking about it and narrowing down our choices in mid November. Finding a time when all six of us can be home for the annual binge is getting challenging though.
Day #3: Go for a Winter Walk.
Put on those hats, coats, and mittens and get outside to explore winter. Usually when we are all wearing our warm clothing it’s because we are shoveling the driveway together. LOL! Well, this activity is a great change of pace. Walk at a local park or nature trail to see how nature gets through the cold winter months. Be sure to have cocoa and coffee when you get back home!
Day #4: Go sledding.
We have a small hill in our backyard, which the boys use as soon as there is any snow on the ground at all. But, the parks have larger and longer hill for sledding fun! You’ll get your cardio workout going up and down the hill multiple times too!
Day #5: Work Puzzles.
One of my favorite childhood memories is working puzzles with my mother. Every winter we worked puzzles in the dining room on a little square folding table. Puzzles help children learn problem solving skills and improve eye/hand coordination.
Here is one of our very favorite puzzles.
We have had it for well over a decade and have worked it countless times! This body puzzle is four feet tall and double sided. The internal organs are labelled on one side and the bones on the other. It is actually pretty challenging. After we finished building it the kids would lay on it, beginning with the youngest to see how well their body matched the size of the one on the puzzle. They loved it and it made me smile. My oldest son, who once fit perfectly on the body puzzle, is now 23 years old and 6 feet 4 inches tall. I’m keeping the puzzle for my grandkids to work!
Day #6 – Listen to Audio Books.
Check your local library for a huge array of audio books. You’ll find every genre and something for every member of the family.
The Focus on the Family adaptation of Dickens’, The Christmas Carol, is really well done and very engaging even for the little ones.
Day #7 – Coloring pages are fun for all ages.
I have loved coloring since I was a young child. So, sit down, relax, and build family togetherness with this great activity. Make a photocopy of the same page for everyone in the family and then talk together as you color. Admire everyone’s finished picture and then hang them all up on the fridge or send the children’s masterpieces to Grandpa and Grandma or a favorite aunt or uncle! They will love this act of kindness!
Together: A Mommy + Me Coloring Book has side-by-side pages with one drawing for the parent and the other for the child. I love this idea!
Day #8 – Plan a family Read-aloud day.
At least one day during winter break we pick a chapter book to read. We start right after breakfast and continue throughout the day, taking breaks for snacks and meals. It is SO much fun! The kids ask for it every single year!
This gives us a chance to read books that aren’t related to specific school subjects. They are just books that we want to experience together!
Here’s one of our favorite Christmas break books! The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Day #9 – Go caroling with friends.
This is an old-fashioned Christmas fun! If you don’t want to carol for the neighbors, try a nursing home. One year our family took some sound equipment up to the local retirement home on Christmas Eve and sang for the residents. My kids remember this evening very well and it made some older folks smile and remember their own Christmases when their children were young.
Day #10 – Visit church shut-ins.
This is another activity which allows your children to not only bless an older generation, but also to learn from them. I am absolutely delighted when an older person interacts with my child, telling them stories about what life was like when they grew up and teaching them important moral and spiritual lessons along the way.
Day #11 – Have a DIY Craft Day.
We have all of our arts and crafts supplies organized in our art closet. Christmas is the perfect time to plan an entire afternoon dedicated to creating festive crafts together. I seriously just start dragging items out of the closet and put them on a large table. I place some of our craft idea books next to the pile . Finally, we grab scissors, glue, and paper and let our imagination run wild!
This delightful Christmas craft book by Mary Engelbreit has a large variety of activities in it. The photo is my copy of this book and we used it more than one Christmas season. I love her illustrations too!
Day #12 – Roast chestnuts.
For years, Yuletide dinner at my brother-in-law’s home ended with chestnuts, freshly roasted in his fireplace. This is a staple of Christmas in Europe! If you don’t have a fireplace you can still enjoy this wonderful woodsy treat! Here is a link to a post with fantastic step-by-step directions.
Day #13 – Have a cocoa and animal crackers afternoon.
This tradition began many years ago, when my oldest son was about seven years old.
Whenever it snows, we all head outdoors early in the morning to clear the drive. Then, the kids sled down the hill in our backyard a few times. We follow this up with a round of hot cocoa and animal crackers.
Day #14 – Play Board, Dice, and Card Games.
Games hone your child’s critical thinking skills, improve logic, and encourage healthy social interactions. Games were one of the first ways that my children learned the concept of “taking turns.” Additionally, when you are five years old, there is nothing better than proclaiming that you just beat Dad at a game of skill. Here is a photo of items that I gathered from our game closet.
For reasons, which shall remain unnamed, my husband is no longer allowed to play Aggravation with the kids. The only thing I can reveal is that Dad likes to jump on their pieces just as they are about to enter the “home zone”. 🙂
Farkle is probably one of my personal favorites for all ages. It’s fast paced and even younger members of the family can understand and follow the rules. And, hey, you can find it at an amazingly low price at Amazon!
Phase 10 comes in a dice or a card game and is by the same people who brought you Uno. The card version is super inexpensive. We have the dice version and it was a gift. Phase 10 is another game which would be fantastic for cheap family fun. Get it from Amazon! You just can’t beat the price.
Day #15 – Turn off all the lights and make a shadow play
Kids love creepy shadows on the walls! It’s been a long time since we have done this! I like the ease of making bunnies and birds. My older boys did a dynamite wolf and duck! You can take turns with each person making a shadow which other family members just try to identify. After you have identified the animal then everyone in the family gets to make that animal’s sound. You vote on who did the best animal voice impression!
Day #16 – Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
Every town has one home or even an entire neighborhood that goes all out for Christmas. It’s great fun to drive around with the kids and look at lights. Many communities sponsor Christmas light festivals on a large scale. These events sometimes cost a bit to drive or walk through. But, it’s worth the small price of admission!
Day #17 – Go to free community Christmas activities.
I have a whole list of free or nearly free Christmas activities in this post. We have some favorites which we attend every single year. Other times, we try some out for just a year or two. The point is to let your kids help pick some special activities to try. You never know when you will hit upon one which will become a new Holiday family tradition! Look on-line or ask around. You’re sure to find so many that you can’t fit them all on your calendar.
Day #18 – Build a blanket fort in the living room.
My boys love doing this! Gather up blankets, clothespins, pillows, and blankets and let your future engineers have at it! After they have built an elaborate “cave”, read books inside, and later let them sleep in it overnight.
Day #19 – Go skating.
My grandparents built their retirement home right near a lake the year I was born. My grandfather tried in vain to teach me to skate. I was bad at it. But, it was fun to see him elegantly skating circles around the lake. He imprinted my name on the lake’s surface by moving snow around with a large shovel. When we returned to the house, which overlooked the lake, I was able to see the imprint of H-O-P-E in huge shoveled letters from the gigantic picture window in their living room. So, even if there are a lot of spills and mishaps, skating indoors or outdoors is a fun and memorable family activity.
Day #20 – Tell family stories.
My boys love to hear stories about how my husband and met, how we grew up, and how we’ve seen God work in our lives and meet needs. They ask to hear the same stories over and over again. Brew a pot of tea and have a completely open Q & A session. We let them ask whatever they want.
Whatever you choose to do, take time during the holidays to connect as a family. It’s important to you and your children, too!
What did I miss? I’d love to hear about your family holiday time traditions! How do you connect, create traditions, and memories in your family? Leave your stories in the comments section.