And just like that, Christmas 2021 is a wrap. (Hard to believe it, right?). But just because all the presents have been opened, doesn’t mean the fun is over and done. If you scored some time off from work while the kids are home from school, use it your advantage and enjoy some quality time together, minus the hoopla of the holiday rat race.
Here are some suggestions for spending an afternoon or evening as a family. Unlike gift-giving, most of these ideas don’t come with a hefty price tag and can be done locally or in your own home.
Take a Hike. Get everyone off their screens, bundle up and head outdoors for a breath of fresh air. Nature trails or beach walks offer a refreshing change of scenery, especially in the colder weather. Not in the suburbs? City kids can head to the park or you can let them take the lead by choosing a different neighborhood to traverse. To make walking less ho-hum, turn this jaunt into a scavenger hunt (for example, count the number of trees that still have their leaves) and then head home for some hot chocolate.
Cook or Bake Something. If your crew has had their fair share of sweet treats these past few months—and frankly, who hasn’t?—this is the perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves and try your hand at a new recipe with some sous chefs. “The best place to learn how to cook and bake is in our own kitchen,” says Lisa Basini of The Baking Coach (bakingcoach.com). “The bonding that happens there is like nowhere else.” And don’t feel pressured to bake from scratch (Basini loves the DIY kits, especially the ugly sweater cookie making ones because “if the cookies turn out bad, you can say they were meant to…there are no tears!”). You also use this time to experiment with different tastes and show kids how to make healthy food choices, like adding veggies to homemade tomato sauce and baking chicken fingers instead of frying. Make a batch and freeze for a weeknight meal that’s ready in a pinch.
Hold a Family Game Night. Whether you break out the tried-and-true Candyland or are willing to try out something that Santa left under the tree, clear off the dining room table and gather the troops for an evening of games galore. Age-appropriate, cooperative games are best for the younger crowd, as are card games that don’t require long play periods. For older kids with a more competitive streak, look into strategy games that challenge their thinking skills. Don’t forget to sweeten the deal with some popcorn and snacks that they can their grab easily between rounds.
Visit the Library. If it’s been a while since you’ve set foot in your local library, now’s the perfect time to reintroduce your child to the wonders of a good book. “Libraries give kids the chance to have agency over what they read, give them a wide range of genres and topics to explore and choose from and offer parents the chance to discover books with their kids,” says Shaina Birkhead, associate executive director of the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader (cbcbooks.org). Have a reluctant reader on your hands? Ask your librarian for help in directing your child to a selection. “They read all the books you do not have time to and can make excellent recommendations for your young reader,” she adds.
Day Out at the Museum. Take a deeper dive into your child’s interests by exploring and learning everything there is to know. But if a larger venue seem too daunting for a day trip, do your homework first. “It can be dizzying to visit a museum for the first time, especially with kids and cargo in tow,” says Courtney Waring, director of education, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (carlemuseum.org). “Go to the museum’s website and familiarize yourself with the facility, its space and offerings (many museums have a ‘Plan Your Visit’ page). If your child shies away from big crowds, go first thing or an hour before closing. Afterwards, have him or her draw a picture of what they loved most or ask an older child to take some pictures (with permission) and create a slideshow of their day.