When I was a kid, we had a holiday tradition that never failed. Every Christmas, after the last gift was finally opened and the living room was a sea of crumpled wrapping paper, my father would look at the mess around the room and dourly proclaim, “Well, that’s it for another year.”
And so it is.
So what do you do with the kids when it’s all over except for the credit card bills? There’s nothing worse than hearing the “Mom, I’m bored” whine before you’ve even paid for what you bought a month ago. Here are a few suggestions to keep your kids occupied without doing further damage to your bank account:
- Play cards and board games with friends. Always guaranteed for goofy fun at our house.
- There are hundreds of free and low-cost walks and volunteer events every spring sponsored by local nonprofits. Find your passion at www.volunteermatch.org and get some friends and family together to do good and have fun.
- Get up early one weekend morning and visit your local Farmer’s Market. Dare your kids to try a new food and discover a new favorite.
- Ask young children to trace each other with large sheets of paper or newspaper, then hang the full-size drawings in the hall for a family portrait gallery.
- Plan an outing for a factory tour like a crayon or bread factory. They’re usually free or a nominal fee, and they offer an educational peek into the world of how things are made.
- Don’t forget the dollar matinees. Great rates are usually available on weekends before noon and weekdays before 6:00 p.m.
- Make a family tree. Glue snapshots or photocopies of family members onto juice can lids, then glue magnets on the back. Stick them on the refrigerator while you talk about all the people in your extended family: uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.
- Save the large cardboard boxes from gifts and let your kids use them to draw on. Encourage your kids to decorate them with markers and their own artwork, and send them to friends and family next year.
- Ask your kids to pick out a few toys they no longer play with and make a family trip to donate them to a local children’s home or charity.
- Bundle up and go for a walk in the woods to look for birds and small animals.
- Visit a beach or a lake and take a cold-weather hike.
- Have a treasure hunt. Go out and hide several inexpensive prizes around your neighborhood, then give each child and his friends a list of things to find.
- Attend plays at local theaters, which are much less expensive than more large-scale productions.
- Leave things a little better than you found them. On your next walk, bring some plastic bags along. When you find trash along the way, pick it up.
- Visit zoos and museums. Cold weather tends to bring out the animals, and once the summertime crowds are gone, you practically have the place to yourself.
- Throw a potluck party for your kids–or your adult friends–and ask everyone to bring something.
- Schedule a special theme night for your child and his or her friends, like a game night, movie night, or slumber party night (everyone watches a movie in a sleeping bag with popcorn).
- Heck, while you’re at it, why not schedule a chick flick night at home for the grownups, too? Consider it a “I survived the holidays” gift to yourself and your friends!