During the holidays we celebrate with our families and friends with cookies, cakes, presents, and lots of good cheer. We have secret Santas at work and holiday pageants at church. With so much going on it’s easy to get caught up in the material aspects of the holiday season. What we should really be celebrating is our good fortune to be surrounded by our loved ones and all the good times we have together. I have four kids ranging in age from thirteen to six. I try to match each child up with an age appropriate task so everyone feels like they contributed. Here are my favorite things to do with my kids during the holidays. Some of the suggestions can also be used year round. The most important thing is thinking of activities that you can do as a family and enjoy.
1. Wrap presents together. Obviously some discretion is required to ensure that the recipient isn’t wrapping their own gifts but since you have to do it anyway it’s easier if you have help. I like to make gift wrapping teams of two or more and separating them in different rooms in the house. I pass out presents in labeled bags. (I use a sharpie marker on the shopping bags.) Then I pass out supplies including wrapping paper, tape, name cards, ribbons, and some stickers to ass a personal touch. Don’t worry about perfection; after all, these gifts will be opened and the paper will be thrown away. This is a great way to let your families creativity shine while having fun and helping you with your holiday preparations.
2. Bake cookies together or have them help to prepare the holiday meal. Every family has a traditional meal or snack they prepare each year. It’s the perfect opportunity to make a fun memory and pass on a family tradition. If your children are old enough you may be able to assign each child his or her own dish or dessert and let them make it on their own. For example I usually pair my kids up an older child with a younger child. I have the young child in charge of cracking eggs, stirring batter, and decorations. The older child is in charge of supervision, measuring, and arranging the food in the container. I usually stand by to help with the oven and make sure everything goes smoothly. At the end of the day we have a messy kitchen (that everyone helps clean up) and a house full of freshly baked cookies and breads. I love the look on their faces as the children pass out their own dishes to friends and family. They always look so proud of themselves.
3. Take an evening walk around the neighborhood to check out the lights and holiday displays. Even if you don’t decorate your home you may enjoy a nice stroll with your family admiring the festivities and displays of your neighbors. Bundle everyone up against the cold and get out there. It’s free family fun.
4. Create decorations for the table for your family get together. Need a centerpiece or placeholders? Ask your kids to help to create one-of-a-kind centerpieces out of spare pine boughs, ribbons, or construction paper. One year we went out and bought inexpensive ball ornaments, ribbons, and paint. We painted everyone’s name on the ball (along with Christmas 2006) and we used the ribbon to create loops for the napkins. Voila! Napkin rings and place settings! Be creative and remember that simple can be beautiful.
5. Play board games as a family. What’s the perfect present for the entire family? Board games. When I was growing up everyone in my house got a board game from Santa. My mom always used to tell me this was because Santa wanted us to play together as a family. Every Christmas night we played at least one game and for the rest of the year we had an endless assortment of family oriented games that we played at least twice a month. You’re never too busy to take a few hours out of your night to spend with your family. Replace TV time with family time and your guaranteed to have a blast.