The presents were all unwrapped with glee, the toys played with (for a little while at least) and the stockings raided. Now, the kids are getting antsy, and you’ve already heard the “B” word — “I’m bored.” Don’t despair. The period between Christmas and the return to school after New Year’s can be a great time for family outings and family bonding. Need inspiration? Try one of these 15 fun things to do during winter break.
1. Check out a new neighborhood. Even if the weather is chilly, having a little time on your hands presents a perfect opportunity to scout out an area of your community with which you’re not familiar. Go for a walk and check out everyone’s holiday decorations, or stumble upon a local park or playground.
2. Plot a garden. If the seed catalogs haven’t already arrived, they’re on their way. You don’t have to wait until you have the booklet in hand to start planting your spring garden. Whether you’re into flowers or veggies or both, you can get lots of ideas on the Internet. Involve the kids in the planning; they’re more likely to actually eat a veggie when it’s harvested from their own plot of land. Check out how make the most of your garden’s harvest.
3. “Visit” another country. This great family activity can be done without spending a lot of money. Research a country together (the internet makes it easy) and then have a discussion on what each of you has learned. Or each family member can research a different country and entertain the others with a presentation of fun facts. For added fun, plan a dinner with foods and recipes from the country you’re exploring, make a craft or learn a song or game from that country.
4. Plan a camping trip. There’s nothing like winter (and the attendant bad weather in some parts of the country) to make your thoughts wander to those sweet summer days when you can hike, swim and sleep under the stars with nary a thought about work or school. Get out the maps (yes, the paper ones) and start dreaming. Popular campgrounds, such as the ones in national parks, open up for reservations months in advance, so winter is often the best time to book your dream campsite for a spring trip.
5. Park it. Explore a park you’ve never visited. The trees may not have any leaves, but there are usually plenty of interesting things to see and do. With bare trees, it’s a great time to take up bird-watching. Go to this National Zoo site to discover the songs of North American birds.
6. Plot a frugal future. Whether we go off the financial cliff or not, there’s no time like the present to be thinking about the future. Assess your financial habits and determine how you can cut routine expenses and maybe even put a little money aside during the coming year. Let the kids come up with some ideas of their own. Create a new savings account for holiday spending, and set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck or your bank account.
7. Learn a new skill. Few things make time pass as quickly as learning a new skill. You don’t have to spend money on classes, either. The internet offers endless possibilities. Learn to make towel animals, knit a scarf or make a new recipe. Is a family member a skilled pianist or crochet expert? Connect with them over Zoom for a few beginner lessons.
8. Organize your photos. Do you take a lot of pictures of family and the places you visit? The kids will enjoy looking at what they were doing during the past months. Take this time to organize your photos. Upload your digital images to your computer, sort through them, decide which ones you want to print (take advantage of the many sales on prints after Christmas) or make an album, and store the ones you want to keep on a memory stick or external hard drive to free up space on your phone and on your computer’s hard drive.
9. Start a scrapbook. If you’re the kind of person who saves ticket stubs, printed programs from events and other ephemera, gather it all up and mount it in a scrapbook. You needn’t spend a lot of money on a fancy scrapbook. A looseleaf binder filled with recycled paper works.
10. Strategize next year’s holidays. Sit down with the kids and review the activities your family participated in this month. What was the most fun? What was maybe more trouble than it was worth? What would be fun to try next year? Check out your ornaments, too, and determine if you need to add more next year — and which kind they should be.
11. Reconnect with a name from the past. Have you ever wondered what happened to what’s-her-name from high school? How about that person from your past who changed the course of your life by offering sage advice? Or your kid’s best friend from preschool who moved away? Go online and play sleuth. Not only might you find out what happened to her, you might be able to connect on social media and catch up by email or phone.
12. Jump into genealogy. The holidays bring up old memories and traditions. We wonder about our grandparents or the countries of their birth. Maybe this is the time to start researching the family tree. There are a lot of resources online — some free and some not. Involve the kids, who might be curious about the relatives they’re named after or the places their family hails from.
13. De-clutter and plan a yard sale. With so many new gifts in the house, it’s time to get rid of the old stuff. The period between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time to go through toy boxes, storage closets and cluttered drawers to remove the items you no longer use and reorganize the stuff you want to keep. Make a pile of items you could sell in a spring garage sale. Kids are more likely to part with old books and toys if they think they can get some spending cash out of the deal.
14. Rearrange the furniture. When boredom sets in and all else fails, opt for the ultimate try-something-new freebie. See if the kids’ beds fit better in a different orientation, or if putting the couch against the opposite wall opens up your living room. Switch out the contents of the kitchen cabinets, or rearrange the toy shelves so the popular toys are more accesible.
15. Visit your local library. The library’s not just for books anymore. It offers so many things that you can check out — DVD rentals, internet access, classes for kids and adults, even 3D printing. And most of them are free. (Call first for a 2020 visit; many libraries are closed to visitors, or have reduced activities beyond borrowing books.)
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