Winter break is coming up quick. While children everywhere are clamoring for time away from school, many parents are still working full time from home. Coming up with the right mixture of crafts and holiday activities to keep the children occupied and the holidays meaningful can feel like a full-time job in itself!
Keep reading for some tips and ideas to keep kids busy over the winter holidays without breaking the bank or requiring an adult’s hands-on participation (at least not all the time…).
Winter Break Activities to Help Children Prepare for the Holidays
Our first category of holiday activities can help both parents and children prepare for the upcoming festivities.
Decorate their own room. Not only will this keep them occupied, but it can also give them an outlet for using the ideas you may not want to implement in the primary areas of your home. They can use some of the crafts they’ve brought home from school, create new decorations, or even use some of those you don’t have a place for anymore.
Prepare gift wrapping materials. Older kids can set up a gift-wrapping station in your home, organizing the supplies you already have on hand and making a list for things that need replenishing. You can also purchase solid color rolls of paper or gift bags and let them decorate them with stickers or drawings.
Perform elf assignments. For grown-up purposes, these are bite-sized chores that need to be done before guests arrive for the holidays, but the children don’t have to know that! Find a Christmas-themed container and pre-fill it with slips of paper, each giving a task appropriate for the age group. Each day, have the children draw set number of slips.
Elf assignments should be relatively quick and easy to perform. Ideas are dusting baseboards in one section of the house; cleaning mirrors; wiping down light switches and doorknobs; sweeping or vacuuming one room; or picking up a specific number of toys.
Include elf assignments that are easy or fun, so kids never know what they’ll get: Give your mom a big hug, prepare a song to sing for the family, or eat a Christmas cookie before dinner.
Keep in Touch with Family, Friends and Neighbors over the Holidays
There’s no need for anyone to be lonely or feel left out during the holidays when your children have extra time on their hands!
Talk with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or anyone who may have a spare minute. When the “I’m bored” bug hits, let your friends and family members take the call! Retired grandparents may be available during work hours to have a video chat that will give you a few minutes to finish typing that email. You might even plan for a daily call with them, in which they can read a story.
Text messages from teens are fun, too. Encourage your teens to take a few pictures of family members, holiday activities or decorations and send them to family members (this could be an elf assignment!). Be sure they’re using a platform the recipients will check. Nana may not be on Snapchat!
Prepare and send cards and crafts for the holidays. Old-fashioned letters have not lost their appeal! Children of all ages can color a picture on a card or even create their own cards. Be sure to involve them in addressing the envelope and mailing it. You can also take a walk and leave cards with neighbors.
Surprise Holiday Activities Help Children Play Independently
When you need to focus on something besides the kids for a while, get them started on an activity that’s a “surprise” for the grownups. Not only will they enjoy the element of secrecy, but they will do as much as they can without an adult’s involvement.
Put on a performance. Children might prepare a play, a puppet show or a musical performance.
Make a movie. Even young children can record on a smart phone, making their antics easy to save and share. Older kids might use technology to write, record and edit a movie. They can act out stories with toys if they don’t want to be the star.
Prepare a photo slideshow for guests. When grandparents and loved ones come for the holiday, wow them with a slideshow of images from Christmases past or the year’s highlights. It can be the focus of attention or play in the background during the festivities. Older children and teens will probably find this easy to put together.
Improvise to Create Holiday Activities the Old-Fashioned Way
Helping children discover their own fun over the winter break is a great way to keep them occupied and engaged, with minimal adult prep work required.
Play or make crafts with cardboard boxes. With all of the deliveries made during the holidays come an abundance of cardboard boxes. Depending on their size, children can color on them, crawl into them, make robots, set up pretend desks/storefronts/communities, blast into space, or go on a train ride. Their uses are as limitless as a child’s imagination.
Pull out old clothes and blankets. Children can play dress up with old adult clothes. Unmatched socks can become puppets or casts for playing doctor. Blankets are needed to make living room forts, which can provide a place for “secret” play all day long.
Gather a craft box. Scraps of wrapping paper, paper towel tubes, and those free address labels you get in the mail are just a few of the items around the house that can go into a craft supply box. Add a few new things, too, like fresh paper, glue, pompoms and googly eyes, and your kids will be in business.
Don’t fall for the idea that holiday activities are valuable only if an adult is involved every step of the way. While you may be needed for some set up and encouragement, providing simple crafts and offering ideas for independent activities will help both you and your children thrive during winter break.