- Leave a list. Give your children a list of age-appropriate household chores that need to be done every day. Even very young children can help around the house by picking up their toys or putting their clothes away.
- Have your children help decorate for the holidays. Involve your children in the holiday decorating that's being done. Have them help decorate the house, or the tree. Making ornaments and decorations are good long-term family projects that contribute to a beautiful house and a nice-looking family tree.
- Parents can also help their children make presents instead of buying them. Instead of buying expensive gifts, children can be involved in making gifts, particularly food-type presents. There are lots of things children can make to give away instead of having to ask for money to buy gifts for friends and relatives.
- Start a family project. Parents can get ideas for projects from many different resources. There are Internet sites containing information about arts and crafts projects, and recipes for the holidays. In addition, magazines like Working Mother, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart's magazine are great resources. Around Christmas time, they have lots of ideas for how to bake and make things.
- Build a gingerbread house. This family project stretches over a number of days and there are a lot of different tasks so everyone in the family can be involved.
- Help your children find the true meaning of the holidays. As children get older, it's important to involve them in the giving during Christmas, not just thinking about what they're going to get. For example, going to a local charitable organization like the Salvation Army to help make holiday baskets or helping to select toys for other children is a good way to take the focus off “what I'm going to get for Christmas.”
- Make sure your children stay active and have the opportunity to get out of the house. Adults often forget kids need to be active. Some ways families can accomplish that are: going skate boarding or bowling, or going to the water park, the beach, or to the zoo. Do something to get the children out of the house on a regular basis to blow off some steam.
- Sign your children up for a class. Many places offer day classes for children during Christmas vacation. Register your child and have him/her learn a new skill during their break.
- Read aloud in the evenings. Start a family tradition of reading aloud to the whole family several nights a week. Some great stories include: “A Christmas Carol,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
- Rent a movie and watch it as a family. Start another family tradition of watching one Christmas movie a night for the 12 days preceding Christmas. Some family classics include: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “White Christmas,” just to name a few.
Keeping kids busy during the holidays may not be an easy task, but is well worth the effort. With a little creativity and patience, you can get the sanity you need to get through the holiday season and your children’s winter break.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her firstname.lastname@example.org your questions or comments.