9 Tips for Taming the Chaos of the Holidays
When I was young, holidays meant the older generation cooking and conversing around the dinner table, while the kids went outside to play. Nowadays, it is more likely that the kids are plugged into a computer which is beeping, popping, and exploding every three seconds; “the guys” are screaming and shouting at the big game on TV; and all the women are gathered in the kitchen so you can hardly move without bumping into someone. I don’t know about you but all that noise and chaos just makes me wish I could click my heels together and be transported to the land of peace and quiet. This holiday season, why not take some time out? Unplug technology and plug into your family with these non-electronic activities:
- Encourage quiet play, especially in the morning. Let the kids know that if they wake up early, they are to stay in bed and read or play quietly in their rooms until a set hour acceptable to you.
- Cook or bake with children. When it is time to make breakfast, involve the young ones. By helping you to mix up a patch of pancakes, they will learn to follow directions, the value of fractions (measuring), and the satisfaction of eating something they prepared with their own hands, all while building family bonds of togetherness. If kids helping with breakfast is more than you can contend with, try baking in the afternoon; many hands can drop, roll, and or press cookies onto cookie sheets. Mmmmmmm!
- Declare a TV and computer free time. Much like naptime, a couple hours without electronic stimulation will allow everyone to relax and recharge. Rather than everyone gravitating to their rooms, encourage the family to gather together and use this time to read, write, or draw on their own, or to sing songs, read out loud, or simply share conversation as a family.
- Play a board or card game appropriate to all ages. Choose a game suitable for multiple ages that everyone can enjoy. Old favorites such as “Go Fish,” “War,”Chutes and Ladders, or checkers, or a new family favorite can provides laughs, giggles, and encourage friendly competition.
- Build a play house out of a large appliance box. Kids can play for hours in a cardboard house. An adult needs to cut the windows and doors, but let the kids decide what features should be included and let them decorate with crayons, inside and out. Ask a local appliance store for a box, they are usually happy to provide.
- Play dress up. Children love to dress up in adult clothes, hats, scarves, and jewelry and pretend. If you do not already have one, fill a box or an old suitcase with things you do not wear anymore. Let their imagination flow or encourage older children to write a play and act it out.
- Create a puppet show out of a favorite story. Transform throw away materials into stick puppets by drawing shapes on empty cereal boxes, gluing on fabric scraps, bottle caps, beads and broken jewelry, and attaching them to a popsicle or craft stick or flattened paper towel tube. Use the window of your playhouse as a puppet theater or conserve space by making a folding puppet theater; simply cut a large box down to a three-fold section (without a top or bottom) and add a performance window in the center section.
- Visit a Museum. Young children love all the things they can touch, feel, and experience at a children’s museum; older children may prefer an art, history, or science museum; aquariums and planetariums may interest the whole family. In addition to a family outing, you are expanding their minds. Entry fees can be expensive, so look for free or reduced fee times and family memberships to reduce costs.
- Get outside and DO something. Outdoor activities are usually free and have the added benefits of exercising both body and mind while reducing stress. If you live where there is snow, go sledding, ice skating, skiing, or snowshoeing. Go hiking in a state or county park and look for squirrel’s nests or hawks in the bare branches or animal tracks on the ground; the winter landscape provides a whole different view of the outdoors than when hidden by leaves in the summer.
For more ideas on how you might unplug for the holidays, ask your local children’s librarian for suggestions or for books that will inspire you, and check local calendars for candlelight hikes and other winter events geared to families.
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