The holidays are exciting times for everyone – especially children. Whether they are waiting anxiously to see what Santa Claus puts under the tree or energetically bounding around the kitchen, eager to dish into pumpkin pie, kids can and do get excessively exuberant during seasonal celebrations.
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Instead of just accepting your children’s, perhaps, excessive excitement as a necessary evil, counteract this – and put their energy to good use – by actively preparing activities that keep them occupied and engaged. There are a number of different things that you can do. Select one or multiple options that you think will suit your children’s interests, and facilitate a more calm and relaxed holiday season.
1. Get Them Involved In The Cooking
Question – What do nearly all holidays have in common? Answer – Food
Regardless of the holiday you’re preparing to celebrate, you’ll likely have to spend time in the kitchen. Whether you’re baking up dozens of Christmas cookies or preparing a picnic feast to keep 4th of July revelers full, you’ll probably work up a culinary sweat.
If cooking tires you out, imagine what it would do to your kids. Instead of going it alone, strap an apron on to your little one and give them something developmentally appropriate – and safe – to do. You’ll likely be surprised by how much this little sous chef really does help you out.
2. Build Obstacle Courses
Give your kids a reason to run and burn off some of that energy by crafting an obstacle course.
Use outdoor furniture, snow mounds or leftover lumber, and craft a course that will have your little ones running, jumping and maybe even climbing to the finish line.
This option works particularly wonderfully if your kids are the types that never seem to stay outside for more than five minutes, as it gives them something truly engaging to do.
3. Have A Painting Party
If you’re like many parents, you try to limit the amount of time your children spend with paintbrushes in their hands. The reason – it’s terribly messy. If you really want to delight and entertain your kiddos during the next holiday, arrange a painting celebration.
Prepare in advance by laying out drop cloths and creating a paint-friendly area. When you’re ready to enjoy a few kid-light hours, pull out the brushes and the paper, cover the kids head to toe in clothing you don’t mind destroying, and set them loose.
Not only will this keep them occupied, but in the end, you’ll also have some new original works of art that you can cherish.
4. Prepare A Treasure Hunt
Be honest. If you found a map with an X on it, you would follow it.
The lure of a treasure hunt is enough to keep any child entertained for hours. When your kids are asleep, prepare a hunt, hiding little odds and ends (candies or small toys) around your house or yard. Create a series of clues leading your child to your hiding spots.
The more spots you include in your hunt, the longer it will take, so consider this as you prepare your trail or treasures.
5. Visit The Library
While you might not want to buy your children a collection of new books, particularly if there is a gift-giving holiday approaching, you can – and should – take advantage of an all-too-often overlooked resource: the library.
Take your children to the library the day before the upcoming holiday or several times if the holiday spans a week or more. Allow them to select some books and/or movies to enjoy.
To make the holiday season even more special, pick up some books about the holiday in question, and enjoy them with your little readers.
6. Play Dress-Up
Not all fun has to include electronics. Let your kids in on a little secret from your childhood – the power of playing dress-up.
Go through your closet and pull out some old clothes that you no longer wear. Compile these clothes to create a collection of dress-up duds. Put all of these clothes in an old chest or box.
When you’re ready to entertain your little ones, pull out the box and give them a 101 course in the art of dress-up. Not only will they appreciate this likely rare hands-on play time, but they’ll also develop a taste for an all-too-rapidly dying pastime.
7. Enjoy A Board Game
Another classic playtime activity that is sadly becoming less-and-less common is sitting down with a board game.
Take the extra time that you have as you enjoy your holiday work break and spend some of it playing one of your favorite childhood board games.
Whether you select chutes and ladders for your little ones or you play twister with your teens, you’ll accomplish two important things: keeping your kids entertained and strengthening family bonds.
If you really want to make the experience memorable, create a trophy or medal that you can give to the winner, and then exchange when you undertake this activity again in the future. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be – at least temporarily – the family board game champion?
8. Try A Building Challenge
Just because school’s out for the holidays, it doesn’t mean your children can’t challenge their brains.
Give your children a STEM challenge by organizing them to, within a set amount of time, build towers using spaghetti noodles and mini-marshmallows. Or, if your children are gifted builders, try newspaper and masking tape as your building materials of choice.
Set challenging stipulations by telling them, for example, that the tower has to be able to support the weight of a book – or the family cat.
You’ll be amazed at how much fun the whole family has taking on this challenge and how much closer together it brings you this holiday season.
9. Camp Out – Or In
Take your tent out into the world, and set up a temporary home or, if the weather doesn’t allow this outdoor adventure, turn your living room into a temporary camp ground.
Help your children lay out their sleeping bags and enjoy a taste of camping. Make some camping-friendly food, even if you’re in the comfort of your own home, like s’mores, popcorn and hotdogs.
Your kids will appreciate this change of pace and likely love the opportunity to ditch their boring beds and bunk down under the stars – or the ceiling fan.
10. Arrange A Craft Project
Most kids love to craft – and will do it even without adult help. If you really want to delight your little ones this holiday season, prepare a seasonal craft project and complete it with them.
Whether you’re making centerpieces to place on the Thanksgiving table or t-shirts to wear to the upcoming Easter egg hunt, your kids will enjoy the opportunity to flex their creative muscle.
By working with them as they prepare their crafts, you can do something you probably do too infrequently – spend true quality time with your rapidly aging brood.