(Kids are) home for the holidays

Despite the joys of holiday time, over the past few years parents have expressed increasing concern about how to keep their children entertained over a school break. Many parents who have created clear plans around electronics with their children during school to prevent screen binges, fear they won’t be able to enforce these rules over a school break. There are many ways that parents can cope with this dilemma starting with being planful about how to use time off. Below are several recommendations of non-electronic things that families can do over the holiday break.

But first…. the tone parents take with their children plays a big factor in how children respond. Most parents these days feel like it’s their job to keep their child as engaged as a device does. Let me dispel that myth for you. You can’t! Companies spend billions of dollars on developing technology to engross people in their electronic devices. How do you think they are so profitable? Instead of trying to be super-parent or feeling defeated, empower your children to cope with their own boredom. Say things like, “I’m sure you will find something engaging to do in your room if you take a few minutes to explore what’s in there.” It’s great to give specific recommendations like where to look for activities, toys and games, but it’s not your job to constantly entertain your child.

It is, however, your responsibility to engage with them. And guess what screens are good at? Yeah, you got it… engaging kids! Here are some non-electronics ways to engage kids over break:

  • Play non-video games: board games, card games, dice games, or make up your own new games.
  • Bake/cook everything from holiday cookies to a full meal, depending on the age of your children. Or first watch a cooking contest show together to get ideas and then recreate it with your children (and their friends). Parents can judge. Adolescents can do a full Chopped challenge, while younger kids can create dishes minus the knife work and heat.
  • Do a project (DIY or fix-it). Pinterest (a free website that just requires a sign-in) has many fantastic ideas of DIY projects. Families can work together on fixing up a child’s room or making homemade holiday gifts. Kids (and adults) get pride and satisfaction from doing it themselves and enjoying what they have created.
  • Do a puzzle (unless you have cats!). If you don’t have cats, you can leave a puzzle out for days on end and family members can add a single piece when walking by or spend hours putting it together.
  • Do crossword puzzles. These are a great fun educational tool without kids feeling like they’re working. So are games like Bananagrams. Science experiments and math puzzles also engage kids in learning without being clear that is what they are doing. This can help kids who are struggling in school or not liking academics very much get a head start over the break.
  • Build something (useful or decorative). Every time your child sees the fruits of their labor they get to feel good all over again. You can also “hire” your children to do age-appropriate jobs and have the experience of earning money. Children can be really helpful and parents do not have to feel badly for asking children to work over their break because they are being rewarded for doing so. It can even become a fun entree into opening a savings account and depositing the money.
  • Volunteer. There are a plethora of opportunities all around the county to help others less fortunate. This can help youth appreciate what they have. Giving to others feels really good to the giver as well as the receiver. Receivers often express joy and appreciation that is contagious.
  • Make a movie or put on a play. If kids are going to make an film a movie, that would involve electronics. But spending the time to write the script, act it out, and then edit the footage to make a little film can be a really engrossing project for kids and something fun to share with friends and family. Parents should be very clear about rules and family values around posting such movies and have a talk with children about this before filming begins. A faster and non-electronic option is to make and put on a play for relatives, neighbors, family, etc. This is a wonderful opportunity for children to show their creative sides and for socially anxious children to practice being brave.
  • Learn a new skill or talent. Challenge your child to use things that they already have to get really good at it. For example, juggling, hacky sack, magic tricks, an instrument, knitting, etc. Kids, like adults, like to be challenged. See if they can juggle three balls for 2 minutes straight, or see if they can knit a whole scarf before school starts again.
  • Shake it off. Get your kids moving. Being cooped up indoors can result in lots of energy kids needs to burn off. Have a boisterous dance party. Set up and olympic course complete with physical challenges. Create an obstacle course indoors or outdoors and invite friends over to do it together.
  • Set up a spa. Do at-home, make it yourself face masks, manicures, foot or hand massages, back rubs, bubble baths, or hair brushing or braiding. Listen to guided meditations together. Top it off with herbal tea or cocoa and teach your kids the art of zen.