Blog Parenting Hacks

25 Things to Do With The Kids This Christmas Vacation

Christmas break can be a fun yet challenging chunk of time, especially for moms working from home, or those of us finding it a bit more difficult keeping the younger kids busy for seven straight days. Even with an excess of new toys, chances are we’ll still hear that chilling “moooom I’m bored,” echoing down the hallway at some point. We’re all exhausted after the holiday hustle, so here are 25 simple and doable activities that don’t require Pinterest level perfection and won’t break the bank.

1. Make A Blanket Fort

For all the children of the seventies and eighties out there, this one is a goodie but oldie. For you younger moms growing up with Wi-Fi and digitized devices, here’s a perfect video. My boys cannot get enough of fort making. Something about moving chairs and bed spreads into inappropriate places in the house sets their hearts afire. For the more ambitious, consider snacking, lunching and playing games like lite while bunkered down in fort.

2. Have A Cook Off

This sounds more messy and involved than it is. Each kid picks a simple recipe with five ingredients from the fridge/cabinet of their choice and simultaneously makes the yummiest treat/dish. For more fun, involve a family member(s) acting as judge, with the kids serving their “guests.” Watch Ratatouille or a baking show beforehand to set the mood. For easy recipes kids can make, click here.


3. Hold A Talent Show

Watch a real talent show on YouTube with the kids to spark creativity and then give them an hour or two to plan and rehearse. This could be a book reading, fashion show, singing karaoke, speed talking, speed sketching, the list goes on. Make sure to record!


4. Plan A Day of Art Speed Dating

The theme of this day is all things art. To guarantee a head-ache free experience, literally schedule blocks of time for each art activity, to keep kids interested, and hopefully give mom increments of free time. 10-11 am is Playdough. 11-12 pm is New Years Eve crafts, decorate the leftover gingerbread houses after lunch, etc.

5. Re-Arrange The Kids Rooms

Re-arranging, or re-decorating rooms can be surprisingly fun, if the kids dig it.  This can also be a stealthy way to de-clutter…”Let’s make room for new toys by putting away everything we haven’t touched in a year” or whatever. Take before and after pics and make it fun. The kids will get a blast out of “surprising” daddy or sibling with the big reveal at the end of the day, if doable.


6. Go for a Winter Hike. Bribe with Donuts, Hot Chocolate or Later Bed Times If Needed

I mean this is a survival guide not a parenting class : -). Not all kids enjoy hikes, especially in the cold, but I’ve found most end up having fun when they’re finally out in the woods, triple-bundled. Try a trail located near an ice cream or sweet chop (or whatever the vice may be) and stop for a treat on the way home. Scavenger hunts can make hikes with young kids much more fun, and don’t forget to the water, snacks and tissues! Read here for fun scavenger hike ideas.


7. Get Wild At The Zoo

Most zoos are still open during winter months, which can be a fun outing on a milder day. Google Christmas lights displays near the zoo to double up on the fun if the drive back is lengthy. Fun fact: in most areas of the US, zoo animals are more active and visible in the cooler months, when they’re not avoiding the heat/sun!


8. Visit A Museum

These outings can be exhausting and pricey so consider taking a family vote on which area museum the kids are most interested in. Many public libraries offer free passes to museums statewide, so decide early and try and snag some freebies! I for one can’t stay home every day, no matter how dang good this actives list is, so maybe make this an end-of-week treat.


9. Surprise Your Spouse With A Coffee/Lunch Delivery At Work

Most younger kids get a kick out of visiting mom and dad’s office, especially if they work far away, or the opportunity is rare. Stop by for a visit and then go out to lunch, or show up at the end of the workday and try somewhere new for a family dinner.


10. Make Cookies and Visit Gramma

If you have grandparents, or even older parents you wished you visited more, this is a great opportunity to instill kindness in your kids by making Christmas cookies (or any kind of treat!) and paying a post-Christmas visit.


11. Arrange A Play Date

Consider making plans asap if you’re child’s old enough for friend playdates. It’s amazing how quickly the social calendar of a nine-year old fills up! Reach out to his/her mom now and pick a day. Inviting your kids’ friends over to play can require some extra house cleaning and car shuttling, but you’re guaranteed hours of NOT sitting on the floor losing all circulation during pretend play. If you’re new to planning play dates, here are some tips!


12. Visit A Nearby City Library

Because let’s face it. Cities got game when it comes to libraries. I’ll never forget visiting the library of our town capital years ago and nearly catching my breath. We’re talking, train table rooms, pretend play centers, puppet theaters, and a science room. It may have killed my kids’ enthusiasm for our quaint little town library ever since, but an outing here once and a while can feel like museum-quality entertainment. Latte for mom on the way is a must.


13. Plan Your Summer Vacation

If you have older kids, and your open to the democratic process when it comes to family vacation choices, involve the kids in researching where you’d like to go this summer, even if it’s a staycation or a day trip or two. Kids can find it fun researching hotels and fun tourist destinations, and they love feeling like their input counts when it comes to adult decisions. Hold a family discussion later to reveal their research and input.


14. Hold a Game Con

Having a game day might seem obvious,  but with a little planning and the right amount of faux enthusiasm from mommy, you can stretch this into at least four hours of fun. Pick four board games easily played by all of our age groups and set them up in advance, in different rooms/areas in the house. This avoids boredom/frustration in between games and reflects a gaming event setting. Take breaks between rounds to play physical games like hide-and-go-seek and huckle buckle beanstalk to get the blood flowing and help our more craz- I mean, “restless” kids get their energy out.


15. Visit A Pet Store

This is admittedly dangerous, when it comes to meltdown-potential. But if you’re clear with the kids we are in not in any circumstances returning with any other mammals than the ones we left with, this can be such a fun activity. (Covid note, call ahead to make sure the store is allowing visitors to play with the animals). Yes, there is a slight change we’ll get suckered into leaving with a fifty cent goldfish, but still worth the risk. Long week, people! Alternatively, if you have a dog, visit a dog park in the state you haven’t’ visited yet, and make a day of it.


16. Make A Family Photo Book

I’m the least crafty mama ever to reproduce, so rest assured this is simple, and easy. Have the kids look back at pics on your computer, social media accounts or phone and choose which ones to print out. As long as you have paper and color ink this is easy and can take hours. Kids will then cut and tape/glue the pics on a scrapbook, or even an empty notebook. Here’s some homemade scrapbook ideas.

17. Get New Year’s Happy

Plan a New Year’s Eve party, even if it’s just for the kids, or something for them to do with the babysitter. If you’re really having a party, involve the kids in the party decorating & planning by making homemade New Years crafts or taking them to the party store for decorations. Make New Year’s resolution lists together and place them somewhere visible in their rooms. Check out these cute NYE craft ideas for kids.


18. Bowl ‘Til Ya Drop

Ah, Bowling. Where bad shoes, bad lighting and bad food align in one germ filled fun-a-thon. However it’s cheap. The kids love it, and if you invite friends and family along for this festival of fun, it can be a blast. Most bowling places offer daytime discounts so go early!

19. If You Live Up North, Get Your Winter On

Admittedly, “winter fun” can be stressful and well, cold. So cold. But if you can muster the energy to plan outdoor activities like snow fort making, sledding, tubing on ski slopes (many ski resorts offer this option), etc. these are some of the best memories we’ll make with the kids during wintertime. Lots of states have indoor ice-skating rinks, which is fun for an older bunch.


20. Go Roller Skating

Gen X parents will no doubt have flashbacks of circling round the rink with metal-braced smiles to Cindy Lauper (cringe!) but this is surprisingly still a fun and affordable activity these days. Kids have options for roller blades or skates, and most rinks have the options. Inviting family and friends to join always makes this more festive. Most rinks sell adult beverage. Just sayin.’


21. Record & Edit Silly Videos

If you have a school-aged tech savvy brood, recording silly or ‘stunt’ videos like Trick Shots For Real will buy you hours of fun at home. Older kids are so good at the editing functions on their iPads and other devices, you’d be amazed what they can come up with!


22. Watch Home Movies

Watching home movies can be a hilariously fun activity, especially if the kids are a bit older and you have baby/toddler videos to share. If you have older movies of yourself and the aunties & uncles and grandparents, etc., invite the extended family over for a home flick marathon.


23. Have a Lego Build-a-Thon

Model a competition after the popular series “Lego Masters” by dumping all the spare Lego pieces in the middle of the room, set a timer, and instruct the kids to either create a ‘build” of their choice, or enact a theme like ships, planes, buildings, etc. Offer a reward to the winner and then super glue the creations for posterity if you’re feeling extra caffeinated.


24. Pay For A Day Pass At The Indoor Pool

For summer-loving mamas like myself already suffering from the winter blues by late December, this can be a worthwhile venture. Lots of local YMCA’s offer day passes if you’re considering a membership, which can make a great half-day or so out of the house. I have friends who go so far as pay for a single night at the local Marriott or similar hotel just for pool and hot tub rights for an entire day.  The kids each bring a friend or a super memorable day for those up for a bit more adventure!


25. Take Your Kiddos On A Date

If you and your spouse have the benefit of having a day or two of during Christmas break, consider spending either a half day (if multiple kids) or a whole day of one-on-one time with each child. Give them the choice…”if you could have mom to yourself all day today, what would you do?”  This is obviously not for the faint of heart, as my soul cringes thinking of my daughter’s constant desire for hours of Barbie play (oh the hours). But quality alone time can be rare these days, and even a few hours of undivided attention goes a long way for our kids.


26. Take The Kids To Disney World

It just felt good to write. Someday we will. But until then…blanket forts.


Love to hear your ideas in the comments below!


Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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