We all need a break sometimes, and our children are no exception. Having time home from school is great for kids, but winter breaks can feel like an endless drag if you don’t have a plan for turning downtime into quality time.
Holidays provide the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your children while infusing your days with teaching moments. They invite us to form traditions a child can look forward to as special time with parents, family, and friends. The memories we form during the holidays can last a lifetime.
But memorable traditions don’t have to be complex; they can be as simple as going to a certain restaurant to share a meal on a special day or having hot cocoa while watching a special movie. No matter how simple they are, activities that are enjoyed year after year can make the holiday season memorable for everyone.
Finding Something That Works
As a mother of three, I know how hard it is to find an activity that can be equally enjoyed by children of all ages. Plus, if you live in a cold area, finding indoor play activities can be a challenge. Figuring out what works for your kids may take some experimentation, but when you find something that works, you’ll know!
One activity that’s a sure winner for us is working with Play-Doh. Sure, it can be messy, but throwing down a plastic tablecloth and setting up Play-Doh “stations” on kids’tables can provide a low-energy, engaging activity that lasts for hours. You may even find yourself joining in! There are so many Play-Doh kits, but my favorites tend to be the ones with shapes and molders. We either work around a certain theme (e.g., zoo animals) or engage in creative open play.
An activity like playing with Play-Doh builds kids’ ability to focus on a task, improves the strength of their intrinsic hand muscles and fine motor skills, and takes their imagination to new heights. We take pictures of our kids’ favorite creations, leaving them with memories to last a lifetime!
There are lots of other activities you can try, but there are five activities, in particular, that I’ve found especially engaging for my kids. I think yours will enjoy them as well!
1. Visiting museums: Going on a museum adventure is always a great option. Older kids can benefit from an educational perspective, and younger ones who may not be ready to take in all the information will still enjoy the family time and being visually stimulated by things they don’t see in their day-to-day life. It’s also good for kids to experience socialization and following directions in a brand-new space.
2. Hitting local landmarks: When you’re on the lookout for fun family activities, it’s easy to overlook landmarks that you live close to, but those can be gold mines for fun outings. Most recently, my family and I visited One World Trade Center for the first time, and I don’t have to tell you what a breathtaking experience that was. Everything from the view to the history made this experience memorable, and my kids gleaned an abundance of knowledge from this hometown outing.
Going on outings to special places, whether they’re to an aquarium, a museum, or another landmark, can spark great conversations with your children. They can also come away with great insights to share with the family and friends they see over the holidays.
3. Watching movies: When we see movies in the theater, we take time afterward to discuss our favorite parts, the storyline, and the theme. Exploring questions such as “Who was the main character?” “What was that character feeling?” and “What happened in the story?” not only engages your children in conversation, but it also builds vital skills for reading comprehension and creative writing.
4. Visiting family and friends: This is something that most of us do during the holidays, but we may not always recognize the value of spending time with people we don’t see every day. Family gatherings present great opportunities for children to hear stories from older generations or from others whose experiences can broaden their worldview. Feeling like they have a life and network outside of school is a special gift for children, and these gatherings with family and friends during the holidays are a huge part of that.
5. Traveling: If you’re able to leave town (or even the country) during the holidays, do it! Sure, vacations with kids aren’t the same as the sans-kids trips you used to take. But watching your children begin to see differences in cultures and foods not only broadens their horizons, but also broadens yours. Plus, traveling allows children to see and learn new things they’ll be excited to share with friends and family when they get back. Children take great pride in knowing they’ve done something unique, and they love having an impressive answer to the inevitable “What did you do over break?” question.
Remember, the first time you try anything with children might be a dud. But if you strike out on an event or activity, that doesn’t mean you should give up! If an activity falls flat, try another variety (a science museum instead of an art museum, for instance), or try again when your kids are a little older. The more new outings or activities you try, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that works for you and your family. And throughout this process, you’ll learn more about your kids and the world, grow closer as a family, and make some fantastic memories. What do you have to lose?
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Marwa Abdelbary is a physical therapist and co-founder of Tiny Tots Therapy, LLC. Tiny Tots Therapy’s multidisciplinary and multilingual team consists of dedicated and talented occupational, physical, and speech therapists; with the collaboration of various pediatricians, counselors, and [...]