5 Things To Do With Your Kids During Christmas Vacation
There’s this thing about vacations. They have a certain appeal to children. That appeal is that there’s no boring, horrible, awful, learning filled school! While kids usually get excited for this sort of thing, I can see the dread in the eyes of parents everywhere; especially parents of 6 to 12 year old little monsters.
Why is this a problem? Well, here’s the thing: in school there’s a regimented daily routine. Young kids are kept occupied by a teacher who tricks them into learning things by inserting lessons into games, and other fun activities (no really–my Mom teaches elementary school, and I’ve seen this dirty trick played on kids for years). By the time the kid reaches the age of 12 or 13 this classroom trickery no longer works, but while it still works kids get into a routine where their day is almost completely planned out for them.
…Except, of course, during vacations. That’s when they stay home all day….every day……for at least two weeks……and every parent’s face turns beet red and steam rises out of their ears while they barely manage to maintain sanity. If you’re not the type to pass your kids off to a babysitter or daycare during the holidays then don’t forget, for those two weeks your “together time” just increased more than three fold. The challenge is to occupy your children for the 8 hours every day when they are usually in school, AND…..to not only maintain your sanity but enjoy the time together.
Disclaimer: I don’t have any kids, and as such, it occurs to me that nobody should take my advice about children very seriously. That is why today’s blog is brought to you by someone who has 4 children under the age of 6, two of which are in school (I know, crazy person right?), my sister Heather Biebel Cote.
Between the two of us, we managed to put together a list of things you can do with your kids that will keep your kids occupied, AND promote spending time together (something both Heather and I believe is important especially during the holidays). We formed them up into general categories and provide some examples, so here they are! Five ways to keep your kids occupied and maintain your sanity, during Christmas Vacation.
1. Family Outings – You might think this one is a no brainer, but you’d be wrong. Having 8 extra hours of time “together” makes family outings a challenge. Try going sledding a couple times, or ramp up your typical weekend play-time by engineering a project with your kid. Instead of building a snowman, and having a snowball fight that might last a single afternoon, try planning out a snow village, with several snow-people. If the snow isn’t plentiful, then there are always afternoon matinees at the local movie theater or trips to local museums or historical sites. Just make sure you treat the trip like it’s exciting for you as well as them. Generally, a 6 year old will be excited by whatever you think is exciting…so get excited.
2. Arts and Crafts – It’s the holidays. Decorations and gifts are a staple of this time of year (among other things). The younger generation might not be painting any Picasos, but it’s the thought that counts this time of year, and there is no sense in doing EVERYTHING yourself when there are kids right there eager to help. Teach them how to make cut out snowflakes, popsicle stick ornaments, or even help them hang up some Christmas lights in their room. If you save all the holiday effort for when they aren’t in school, and take your time with it, then there is potentially several days worth of activity to keep them occupied while also being helpful. Once the decorating is finished, coloring books, sticker books and anything else seasonal you can do WITH them is positive.
3. COOKING AND BAKING! – I realize that the holidays aren’t really about food. But there would be something out of place without holiday treats. I remember my Mother would always include us kids in the process. My sister, Heather, also tells me that her kids are always eager to participate in the baking. Whip up some frosting; get out your sprinkles, sugar coating, and whatever else belongs on cookies. Sit your kids down at a table and let them decorate as you bake. Better yet, let them help you do the baking. From start to finish you could take two or three days worth of time occupying your kids by doing something that actually helps. Besides that, when you’re a kid decorating your own holiday cookies is the bee’s knees.
4. Go to the Library - Kids love being read to. Better yet, if they are 6 or 7 they probably are learning to read themselves. A trip to the library at the very start of Christmas Vacation can provide you with days worth of entertainment for those kids. Let them pick out a book or two, and you pick your own seasonal books too. Sit them down and read them a kid’s version of the Christmas Carol, or The Night Before Christmas. The classics never die, and even short kid’s books can take an hour to read if you let them interrupt and look at the pictures. Even as an uncle I can tell you how true that is. I deliberately go slow, just so they can see the artwork on every page and point at it and enjoy, not just the story, but the image of the story in their imagination. Books are awesome.
5. Practice Traditions – This one is an old standby. Every family has their holiday traditions, and most of them are mindless activities that would otherwise be meaningless. The thing is traditions are the reason some things will never die. Pop-culture icons are remembered by the older generations, but it won’t be long before things like Back to the Future and The Karate Kid are utterly forgotten. But you know what won’t be forgotten? A Christmas Story, The Grinch, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman. Why? Because watching them with your family is a tradition you shouldn’t pass up. When I was a kid, Mom used to get out the holiday VHS tapes (I know right? VHS…). There were two of them, and on each tape there was 6.5 hours worth of Christmas shows that had been recorded from the television (See? Even us older generation had TiVo…sort of). The wonderful thing about my Mother is that she slowly replaced those tapes by buying DVDs of every show on them. Why? Well because she loves them as much as the kids. It’s tradition she wouldn’t let die. It isn’t quite Christmas without Charlie Brown or a claymation snowman saying “Pull up an ice block and lend an ear!” The key to this activity, though, is not to simply push play and leave the kids to watch, it’s to pick shows you love and watch them with your kids. That makes it a bit more meaningful. In any case, that’s 13 hours of entertainment for your kid that you can share, and it helps bring a little of your childhood into theirs. Plus, knowing kids like my nephews, they’ll want to watch those tapes AGAIN…thirty seconds after they’re over. If you’re lucky, they’ll keep watching them over and over until school starts again (just kidding).