Days before my kids even step off the bus for their winter break, I get so excited. No homework, no getting up with the alarm clock, no school Christmas programs, parties or plays. The shackles that keep us chained to our calendar finally loosen up, giving us the freedom to have spontaneous movie nights and pancake breakfasts with whipped cream Santa faces. It’s a magical time really . . . those two days. Yeah, that’s right, two days . . . maybe three . . . four max! Because after two days, reality sets in not just for me, but for my kids also.
As a stay-at-home-mom, my workload doesn’t ease up, in fact it probably doubles during their holiday break. More feeding, more cleaning, more nagging! The Christmas-break reading lists aren’t gonna fill themselves out, and when your child has 20 kids (assuming that’s the average classroom size) to play with and stimulate your every sense throughout the week, a house and little siblings can be very boring; cue the fighting! I can see it all — it’s like a bad scene from my Christmas break future. I know I can’t possibly be the only parent who experiences this, so I put together some outside-the-box suggestions of ways to help fill your kids’ holiday break with memorable activities and possibly new traditions.
Let your children experience the joy of giving. Gift exchanging can sometimes feel like the most superficial part of the holidays, so why as parents do we get so excited about handing over presents all willy-nilly to our kids on Christmas? It’s not because we want them to have the most toys, or that we enjoy hearing the Target cashier verbally confirm our purchase total. No way! It’s the joy we get when we see their little eyes light up! It’s the best feeling ever, even anticipating their excitement is exciting. So, let your kids experience that too.
Be a “secret Santa” in your neighborhood and let your kids deliver the gifts. It’s more effective if they know the kid on the receiving end and oh-so thrilling to execute the sneaky drop-off. The gift can be as simple as a piece of fruit or as complicated as small, disposable Tupperware filled with homemade, glittery, slime. (P.S. not complicated at all, plus it gives the littles something to do.)
Teach them something new. As a child, my family used to play loteria or chalupa (depending on where you live) all the time; it’s like a Mexican version of bingo. I’ve never played this with my kids (mostly because of the topless mermaid, ha), and I doubt they’d even know what it is. But a break from school seems like the perfect time not only to teach them something new, but also to have them learn a little something from my past. It doesn’t have to be a game; you could teach them to make a friendship bracelet — you know the kind made from those impossibly skinny threads. It’s whatever you want, maybe the first song you learned to play on your battery-operated keyboard or even a magic trick.
Host a kid or family talent show. Speaking of magic tricks, this past Thanksgiving my in-laws had the genius idea to give my boys a magician set. They told them to mess around with it over the break, learn a few tricks, and be ready to show them something cool on Thanksgiving Day. Well my boys ran with it, complete with a script and even hired my 4-year-old daughter to be the “lovely assistant.” In all fairness, my kids love to perform, so while the idea of a “kids’ talent show” may not be for everyone — if you keep an intimate audience I’ll bet even the shyest of kids will open up. Parents could even get in on the fun and let’s be honest . . . it doesn’t take much to impress kids. If you can do a cartwheel, you’re in the money.
Let your kids create their own photo albums. This last suggestion will take a little planning, and a little expense but it will so be worth it! So, if you are anything like me, or of this era, you carry most . . . or all . . . or mostly all of your precious memories on your phone. (Crazy to think that we use these devices like little computers, checking our e-mail, school lunch budgets, and storing all of our pictures!) Print several of the pictures — enough pictures so each of your children has enough to fill an old school photo book. Give them some glue, the book, and the photos and let them tell the story. Let them decide if they want to put the photos in chronological order or into categories, like holidays or vacations. You could even let them include scrapbooking stickers or sheets. It’s a project that could take an hour or several one hour sessions. If your kids enjoy swiping through their pictures on your phone, you could imagine how much fun they’ll have seeing them in hand and then showing off their finished album. What’s even more, is the album could be used as a gift or something they share when family gets together for the holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about lunching in our pajamas and loosening the structure of our school week — but in order to keep the peace in my home, I need to have activities locked and loaded in my back pocket at all times. Oh, and if none of these ideas work for you, there’s always plenty of indoor play options. Because we are a network of moms who love to share ideas, let us know what kind of activities you do with your kids, young and older, during their holiday break. Happy Holidays!