Winter break is something I have always looked forward to – a pause in the school schedule, extracurricular activities, and everything else we have going on.
After a day of calm, we tend to get a bit bored, simply because we’re used to being busy.
So here is a list of things we have found to take advantage of the unscheduled time together:
I have recently awakened my love for puzzles. It’s nice to have something to do that isn’t staring at a screen or plugged into something.
I enjoy 1000-piece puzzles, but depending on who is helping me, 500 or 300-piece puzzles are a better option.
When looking for puzzles, I look for something with a clear picture and definition between images in a puzzle because it’s easier to do a puzzle with ten different colored doors than it is to do a creek with fall leaves. I also look for puzzles with various shaped pieces – the ones that have the exact same shape pieces can get frustrating. The point is to enjoy it, not be annoyed.
Every year during the kid’s winter break, we have a Lord of the Rings marathon – we watch all three extended editions, which works out to 12 hours. This is something we all have come to look forward to. Nothing says holidays like hobbits going on an adventure. 😂
Other ideas: Back to the Future, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility [BBC], Pride & Prejudice [BBC] and EMMA. ), Studio Ghibli (We love Howl’s Moving Castle, Totoro, and Nausicaä) or a documentary series like Cooked or Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. (Yes, I’m all about the food.)
Head to your local library and check out some books. Have a reward decided on for reading goals.
My kids earn video game time (60 minutes of reading earns them 10 minutes of game time), and they read all week to save up game time to play on Saturday. But you can also have goals of an ice cream or coffee date, movie night, game night, mom & daughter pedicures, a visit to a trampoline park, a rock climbing gym, etc.
I’m always in the kitchen, and my youngest, Paul, often comes in to join me. Because of that, he knows his way around the kitchen and has become our official tomato dicer.
But setting aside time to bake with him is really special for him. He loves making angel food cakes, and cookies are a pretty big deal in this house. (We don’t consume a lot of sugar.)
Homemade pizza night
You can make your dough or purchase something premade – do what makes sense for you. Gather a bunch of different toppings, and have everyone top their own pizza. Don’t stress about making it “perfect.” We have often topped our pizza with lunch meat and random veggies; broccoli is now one of my favorite pizza toppings!
These games are much calmer to play if you or your family is prone to competition. This removes the tension as we all have to work together to beat the game.
- Castle Panic
- Beacon Patrol
And for the younger kids (preschool/kindergarten), there are easy ones like
- Race to the Treasure
As a kid, I loved the fact that my grandparents taught me how to play poker.
Other card games we’ve enjoyed:
- Go Fish
- Dutch Blitz
- 5-card draw
- Phase 10
- Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza (yes, that’s the name of it!)
I like games and grew up playing board games with my older brothers. When I had kids, I introduced them to Monopoly and Risk, which helped them learn to count money, add and subtract, and where the different continents are. My oldest son claims that he only passed geography in high school because he had played risk. 😂
Other games we enjoy are
- Settlers of Catan
- Hi-ho Cheerio
We’ve done a lot of paper crafts over the years – if you search Pinterest, you can find so many that just require some folding, cutting, and maybe tape. But if you need ideas, check out my Paper Craft Pinterest Board here.
I’ve also taught my kids how to do a simple crochet project, sew a quilt, and hand-sew little animals out of felt.
If you don’t want to search for ideas, the craft stores have kits with precut pieces to make a craft together.
My kids have also spent hours making things with Perler beads. And it’s about time! They came out with a non-iron version, just search for Perler Fuse beads – they only need to be misted with water, and when they’re dry, they stick together!
I used to be annoyed with the science experiment gifts – sure, the kids think they’re cool, but what it really means is that mom or dad need to devote time to do it with them, and since it wasn’t my idea, I didn’t like it. (That’s being honest – because if I bought it for the kids and had a date/time in mind, I would want to do it.)
But winter break is a great time to take 30 minutes and experiment together.
This would only be something for those who live in warmer climates and not buried in snow! Rock hunting has become increasingly popular with the younger generation, and it’s so much fun to wander near a creek and look for pretty stones.
I limit how many can come home to 2 or 3 per person and have have a spot in our flower garden that we keep the pretty rocks.
Having a set amount and place to store them ahead of time has made a huge difference in being able to manage the collections.
Rearranging the room
I know it’s not for everyone, but as a kid, I LOVED rearranging furniture and making the house feel fresh and new. It was especially fun to rearrange my bedroom, and it can be motivating to find better organization if new items are acquired over the holidays.
This also means it’s a great time to declutter…
During school breaks, we often do a big clean-out of rooms – let go of clothing items that have been outgrown, toss the broken toys and mangled paper crafts, vacuum all the corners, and straighten up the closet.
We like to have a number goal in mind and often go out for ice cream or a picnic lunch at the park if the kids reach the decluttering goal. (Typically 500 items, which honestly, isn’t as difficult as it sounds.) We use the Yearly Declutter Challenge Sheet to keep track.
Making an Art Piece
I love to paint. And there is something special about painting on canvas and hanging it on the wall. Every now and there, I will purchase the size of canvas I want for a new piece of art and have the kids either paint it or paint it together.
Our son Stephen had a huge tulip he had painted hanging in his bedroom for years; he was very proud of it!
If you have snow during the break, it’s a great time to hit the hills! Our yard doesn’t have any sort of slope, but we have had enough snow to pile it up and make a slope ourselves! We shoveled the entire yard and piled it up against the front porch. The kids set their sleds on the porch and slid down to the fence in the front yard – hours of fun!!
We also live about 5 minutes from a large park with hills, so we can pile into the car with all our gear and go have some fun.