7 Ways to Enjoy Christmas Break with Your Kids

I love almost everything about Christmas: cheerful carols on the radio, trees lit with twinkly lights, and baked goods as far as the nose can smell. The only thing I don’t love, if I’m to be totally honest, is that Christmas marks the start of my daughter’s school holidays. That adds up to more than 1000 hours I need to program to keep my energetic preschooler entertained. Luckily, the festive celebrations offer many opportunities for fun family activities. I’ve been brainstorming like crazy, and I think I’ve got us all covered with these ideas:

1. Organise a clothing drive. It’s the perfect time to give back, so why not get your kids involved? Their friends can join in the fun, too.

2. Pass down a family tradition. When I was growing up, one of my favourite holiday traditions was going to see The Nutcracker ballet with my mum. Though my daughter’s not quite 4, I decided to get tickets this year, hoping she’ll be mesmerized by the magical Christmas tree and all the tutus. To help build anticipation, we’re reading a Nutcracker storybook at night and listening to the gorgeous Tchaikovsky score. Think about your favourite family rituals from childhood and introduce one to your kids this year — they’ll love it because you do.

3. Make last-minute Christmas cards. Did you miss the boat on Christmas cards this year? Bah humbug to that — it’s never too late! Gather festive holiday costumes and props, like Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and tinsel. Download a photo booth app (such as IncrediBooth), then crowd your family in front of your tablet and make some memories. Email the photos to friends and family or post to Facebook for some instant holiday joy. Fun, cheap and environmentally friendly!

4. Go on a Christmas Crawl. Fill bottles with icy cold water, crank up the carols, and hit the road in search of your town’s most beautiful Christmas decorations. In my area, there’s a neighbourhood where residents are known to deck their halls with animatronic elves and rooftop reindeer that never fail to delight the kids. In big cities, department store windows are the place to be wowed. When in doubt, there’s always the big tree in the centre of town.

5. Spread festive cheer (by being a volunteer). Teach kids the real spirit of giving by volunteering together. One of our favourite ways to give back is by “adopting” a family in need through a charitable organisation such as the Salvos or The Smith Family. Picking out clothes and toys for another family is a guilt-free excuse for one last shopping spree, plus helping others teaches kids empathy and awareness of the world outside their front doors.

6. Get crafty with your kids. Christmas gifts and decorations can be as fun to make as they are to receive. My daughter loves to paint ornaments and dreidels at our local art studio (we inscribe her age on the backs of her creations for a festive annual grandparents gift). Baking homemade biscuits offers hours of messy enjoyment — especially when you bust out all your cookie cutters, icing and sanding sugar — and they make great care packages for teachers and neighbours. Kids can design their own wrapping paper by colouring or painting on big rolls of butcher paper. They can even help with decorating for your Christmas table — just grab some gum leaves and flowers from the backyard, add glue and glitter, and voila! You’ve got centrepieces.

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7. Host a festive scavenger hunt. Here’s a game you can play with your extended family or even the whole neighbourhood: Divide everyone into teams of two. Each team gets a printout of 10 to 20 festive items they must locate (and snap on a mobile phone for proof) such as plastic snowmen, candy canes and nativity scenes. The first team to return to home base with a completed list wins a Christmas-themed prize, plus the begrudging admiration of all the runners-up. Bonus: You — the host — can play if you want to, or stay home and put your feet up and enjoy a much deserved holiday break.

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Image: Getty