Family fun during the holidays

By Stacey Stein

The arrival of winter means the holiday season is imminent. For parents, this means scrambling to figure out how to occupy restless children for two weeks while schools are closed and entertainment options seem limited.

But the winter break can actually be the perfect time to bond with your kids. With a little creativity – and a willingness to occasionally brave the elements – you’ll find there are countless holiday activities to keep junior (and senior) family members entertained.

Fun in the kitchen

Most kids enjoy making and playing with food just as much – or more – than they like eating it.

Registered dietitian Shannon Crocker recommends getting the whole family involved in the kitchen, grandparents included.

“Many grandparents have their shortbread recipe or their latke (potato pancake) recipe that they make every year,” she says. “It’s a great way to share family traditions or start a new tradition.”

The whole family can also have fun making a gingerbread house (or gingerbread menorah) together. Kids love decorating using different types of candy and this can become an annual family tradition.

There are several ways you can also include kids in preparing your holiday dinner:

  • Kids can help make holiday-themed cookies. All you need is a basic sugar cookie recipe – let your kids get creative as they mold the dough into all sorts of shapes, such as Christmas trees or Chanukah dreidels.
  • Crocker recommends having kids prepare a dish they can make ahead which can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Kids can help prepare simple side dishes, such as a sweet potato mash, cheesy sweet potato bake or a tomato basil soup that includes parmesan crisps (fun and easy for kids to make.) Kids can also make delicious breakfast parfaits for any guests staying overnight.
  • Edible centrepieces are another fun way to involve kids in holiday dinner preparations. You can make a tasty Christmas tree centrepiece by using a Styrofoam cone for the “trunk” and sticking  fruit skewers into it. Have kids make the skewers using grapes, strawberries and kiwi slices.
  • Teach your kids about the joy of giving food to friends and relatives. Try baking something tasty (like this cheddar walnut bread) with your kids using individual decorative loaf tins, which double as gift trays.

More indoor fun

Looking for more indoor family activities? Here are a few ideas:

  • Turn off all electronic devices and crack open some good old-fashioned board games. Family members can choose their favourite game and you can take turns playing each one. 
  • Hidden treasures and clues will make an indoor treasure hunt a surefire hit with most kids.
  • Dust off your art supply bins and encourage your kids to make a mess. Kids can also collect things from outdoors (twigs and pine cones, for instance) to incorporate into a nature collage. You can make holiday-themed artwork too – the Internet is full of ideas for holiday craft projects.
  • Freezing cold days provide the perfect excuse for swathing your kids (and yourself) in a warm fleece blanket, settling in with some popcorn and hot chocolate and vegging out in front of the TV to watch movies together.

Outdoor fun

There is a flurry of fun things to do outdoors during the holidays:

  • Grab a few sleds or snow tubes and find the nearest hill, or pack up everyone’s ice skates and go skating at a local outdoor rink.
  • Pile the kids into the car, head to your nearest nature trail and go snowshoeing together.
  • Look for animal tracks together in freshly fallen snow. You can take photos of the tracks and then compare them to pictures of animal tracks once at home to see if your kids can correctly identify the animals.
  • This list wouldn’t be complete without that old winter stand-by: building a snowman. Each family member can build their own, so you have a snow family. Once your snow family is complete, why not have a snowball fight? Or you can build an igloo together, or make snow angels.

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