Most school-age children countdown to Christmas, eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa Clause and relishing time more time to play at home. I always looked forward to my kids’ winter vacation, so our family could enjoy outings and activities that we otherwise didn’t have time to do in the midst of school and extracurricular activities. So what’s a parent to do when a worldwide pandemic prevents you from enjoying many traditional holiday activities like ice skating, watching the latest blockbuster movie or taking a mini vacation?
My answer is to return to the basics.
Although my children are now young adults, they’ve been home since Thanksgiving Eve. My daughter had to finish taking her first semester of college classes online, and my son’s college accelerated the semester and he’s making the most of a nearly two-month break from studies. Honestly, this creates a lot of downtime for kids who are used to being busy and active.
20 Ways to Brighten Your Holidays:
- Raise the bar. Make your own hot cocoa charcuterie board because they’re hot this season! I got inspired to make one after watching Hallmark Channel’s “A Little Christmas Charm.” Last weekend my daughter and I enjoyed a festive cup of cocoa and enjoyed a holiday movie on Netflix.
- Make paper snowflakes. Snowflakes can decorate your windows and refrigerator through February, so cut away!
- This season is for the birds. When I was a Girl Scout leader, we would simply spread peanut butter on a bagel; dip it in bird seed; then use yarn to hang it on trees.
- Trim the tree. When I was a kid, my mom and I made ornaments from pinecones. My Girl Scout troop made cinnamon ornaments. Click on this link for one Iowa farm family’s recipe to make adorable ornaments that look like gingerbread men and women.
- Picnic around the Christmas tree. When my kids were young, they enjoyed special times when I would put the “picnic blanket” on the living room floor for lunch. They also enjoyed sitting in the living room while the only lights on were on the Christmas tree. Why not combine the two ideas and make a fun memory?
- Bake and/or decorate cookies. You could buy cookie dough and help younger kids frost and decorate cookies. For easier clean up, have kids sprinkle sugar and candies over a 9x13 pans.
- Decorate a gingerbread house. You can make simple houses out of graham crackers. After all, Tiny Houses are in! All you need are candies like red hots, gum drops and candy canes.
- Deliver the goods. If you don’t like to bake, support one of our local bakeries and then make special deliveries to family members and special friends
- Make the holidays sweeter with homemade Christmas candies like peppermint fudge
- Take a drive. Drive around looking at holiday lights and lawn displays. Make the evening more festive by packing snacks like party pretzels or Dot’s pretzels.
- Fill the holidays with fun and games. You can download everything from coloring sheets and crossword puzzles to BINGO game cards.
- Give to others. Demand has doubled at food pantries, even in Franklin County Iowa. Consider donating a few non-perishable items. Click here for items in demand.
- Write before Christmas. Cards don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Encourage your children to draw pictures for special friends or neighbors. Send a letter to someone in a nursing home, even if you don’t know them. My daughter wrote letters for eight weeks this spring and delivered them to our local care center. I think it’s time she provided them with an update!
- Build a snowman.
- Read “The Polar Express” or your favorite Christmas book.
- Go caroling. Carolers can stand outside a person’s home and bring joy from a safe distance!
- Call a friend.
- Watch classic movies like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
- Make homemade stew on Christmas Eve. When I was growing up, we always enjoyed homemade oyster stew and chili on Christmas Eve. Last year we made the switch to chili and homemade chicken noodle soup. Why not adapt traditions to suit your tastes?
- Take a walk under the stars. A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21. Jupiter and Saturn will appear very close together from an earthly vantage point, forming a Christmas star. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.
Very few of the ideas above must be done by Christmas. For example, you could deliver cookies or muffins any time to special friends and neighbors. If you don’t get letters written in time for Christmas, wish people a Happy New Year. Adapt and change. Birds don’t know Christmas falls on December 25, but they enjoy your homemade treats throughout the winter.
I would love to hear what ideas you have to make winter break fun, so feel free to share them in the comments on our Enchanted Acres Facebook page.