Winter break can be especially long when the weather is not ideal for playing outside. And you know it’s only a matter of time. At any moment it could happen… that sounds-like-fingernails-on-a-chalkboard cry to come out, “Mom, I’m bored!” Or even worse, your children have turned their boredom on each other and turned your home into a WWF wrestling ring. Noooooooo! How can this happen already? For everyone’s sanity (especially mom’s), having some activities up your sleeve is a great way to keep kids out of trouble and having fun. Plus, it’s great for family bonding. These 12 tips are great ways to keep your kids busy over winter break.
The best thing about these activities are that there is little to no prep work needed and… they are time consuming. So grab a pen and paper or write on the calendar what fun activity they will do each day. Heck, write two on each day. These are fun enough your kids won’t mind doing them twice!
- GO ON A TREASURE HUNT. Get creative and make a treasure map for them to follow clues to a secret treasure hidden inside the house somewhere. The treasure doesn’t have to be expensive, it could even be homemade. New books, a puzzle, or maybe a homemade baked treat to share in celebration of a job well done. The point is to get them active and working together as a team to find the treasure!
- COOK TOGETHER. Have them help in the kitchen and make something new for dinner or dessert. Pull out that old dusty cookbook or get online and decide on something everyone can make together. Or use it as one-on-one time with each child. You know the saying about too many cooks in the kitchen… it applies to kids too. Sometimes too many hands are just that… too many. So choose a dish for each child to make on their own. It’s a great learning experience and makes kids proud of their meal/snack contribution. Some of our favorite recipes to make together are Mom’s Meatballs which provides a sensory experience while making dinner. Or for snacks, our boys love making their own Fruit & More S’mores, All Natural No Bake Cookie Balls, and Puppy Chow.
- PLAN YOUR FAMILY VACATION. Every year our family goes on vacation, but our destination is usually my husband and I decide on based on what we think our boys would like. This year, however, we took a different approach. We asked our boys what we should do for a family vacation. Of course their answers were all over the place “Hawaii, ride roller coasters, go to the beach, go to the mountains, go to the desert, etc.” But… once we asked some more directed questions, we were better able to gauge their interests on each activity (beach activities, hiking, amusement parks, warm weather or cold weather, drive or fly). Sometimes kids may have heard about a place from other kids at school that may be an option you’d never heard of or considered. Once your kids have presented a couple reasonable destinations, have them map out a way to get there. Give them an old school atlas or print them a map and actually have them draw out the route. Taking it a step further, have them look up some activities to do on the trip whether it’s at the destination itself or on the roadtrip along the way. One of my husband’s favorite things about a family vacation was taking an atlas and sitting down with his sister and mapping out the route. You just may have the best vacation ever!
- CHRISTMAS TREE CAMP OUT. Yes, yes, Christmas is over, but I bet your tree is still up. So plan a movie night and let the kid’s camp out in the living room, with only the lights from the Christmas tree. If you have a fireplace, roast hot dogs over the fire for dinner and make s’mores. No fireplace? No problem. Let the kids pick their favorite finger foods to eat by the tree and tell stories around the tree. Pick out a couple holiday movies to watch together.
- HEAD OUTSIDE. Forget how cold it is and head outside to play and get that energy out! Depending on where you live, weather permitting of course. The kids will enjoy the fresh air and you will too. Go on a nature walk, look for animal tracks and try to identify them. If you’ve had snow, grab the sleds and go sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snow fort or a giant snowman. Put on your rain boots and go puddle jumping. There’s nothing like fresh air to wear a kid out!
- PUT A PUZZLE TOGETHER. My 4-year old is a puzzle guru and loves doing puzzles with his big brothers. Set up a folding table so you’re not using the dinner table and can leave it set up over winter break. Stop whenever your kiddos get antsy. It’s great that it keeps their little brains working and that they can work on it every day little by little until the puzzle is complete.
- SERVE. Find a neighbor, a friend or a cause that you can help. Shovel snow. Bake and take cookies. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Pack boxes at a food pantry. Even the youngest of children can help others. When we open our eyes to the world around us, there are always ways we can help brighten someone’s day. Check out this list of Winter Kid-Friendly Service Projects and decide who you can be of service to.
- PLAY WITH FLASHLIGHTS. Turn off the lights and let each kid have at least one flashlight. Rarely do I have to entertain my boys when I give them flashlights. They love to play camping and use the flashlights “at night”. They love to look under the furniture for small toys or in corners for spiders. They always find some kind of “treasure” they would not normally find when the flashlights come out. We also like to go on a safari hunt. Mommy hides stuffed animals around the house. Then we turn off the lights and go on a safafi animal hunt. Nothing but giggles and pretend play come out when the flashlights come out.
- GO THROUGH TOYS. With Christmas typically comes lots of new toys. And if you’re like us, we’re already bombarded with toys. Every year around Christmas, I have the boys sit down with me and we go through all the toys. And I do mean ALL the toys. We do 1-2 play areas a day depending on how many toys are in that section. It may seem tedious, but once you get started, it becomes a mission for everyone. Remind the kids that they just got lots of new toys and that you need to make room for them to play with them. Once they realize that, they really will want to help. Now, I’m gonna pat myself on the back for a minute here. This is really a genius activity. 1) It helps organize the house by getting rid of things the kids don’t want any longer. 2) It gives you quality time with the kids. If one child wants to keep the toy and the other one doesn’t, you can ask them questions like “Do you play with this toy? Does it mean something special to you?” It may be just a dumb toy you got at the fair to you, but it may be a sentimental reminder of that special day to your child. Give them the chance to share and you’ll get a glimpse into their heart. 3) My boys always find toys they had forgotten about and after being re-introduced to them again, start playing with them once more. It’s like having a new toy all over again. 4) It allows us to rotate toys to siblings. Sometimes kids just want a change. Switching toys (with permission) from one child’s room to another is sometimes enough change for hours of peaceful playing. 5) It actually does make room for the new toys. AND 6) Teaches kids about giving. We always donate our old toys to an organization that helps families in need. This is a great opportunity for your kids to feel like they are making a difference in the lives of other less fortunate kids.
- REARRANGE A ROOM. Bedroom, living room, whatever. My husband has fond memories of rearranging rooms as a kid. His engineering mind took great joy in drawing up the room first and seeing if it would all fit a different way. This means measurements and drawing. So much fun for a creative child. And, it makes old things seem new again with a whole new look.
- PLANT SEEDLINGS OR AN HERB GARDEN. Kids love dirt! But with frozen ground, dirt play isn’t a viable option for the winter… unless you bring it indoors! Give your kids some guided dirt play by planting seedlings and growing starter plants now that can be transplanted into your garden this spring. Growing something together, learning how to care for it, and watching the growth stages is not just fun, but educational as well. Growing an indoor herb garden is great because kids can see the growth process and can also cook with it. It’s a two-fold of fun!
- SEND THANK YOU CARDS. The holidays are sure to bring them a few gifts from friends and loved ones. While writing thank you notes often seems like more of a chore than a fun activity, kids really do enjoy making things for others. It doesn’t have to be an amazing thank you message. Just a plain white paper with the adorable picture drawings and the words “Thank You from __________” can be the very best notes of thanks a giver can get. It keeps your kids practicing their fine motor skills, their writing skills, and keeps them being creative. It’s a win-win!
Sometimes just asking the kids what they’d like to do can transform winter break from being boring and blah to having a bucket list of fun activities. Maybe your kids really would like to help take down the Christmas tree. Maybe they would be thrilled to have their cousins or friends over for a playdate. Maybe they want to do crafts with mommy. You’ll never know until you ask. And if they can’t come up with anything, you’re now ready with these 12 tips to keep your kids busy. Believe it or not, winter break truly can be an amazing time of family fun even when you’re stuck inside.
Enjoy and stay sane, dear friends!