Many local community members say that connecting with loved ones is their top priority during the holidays. At the same time, parents and caregivers know that it can be a challenge to find affordable family activities and keep kids occupied during school vacations. Here are some ideas for building connection and keeping kids engaged in fun activities during this time of year!
Bonus suggestion from a parent in Greenfield: “Sometimes I need something entertaining for my kids while we’re doing a chore or I just don’t want more screen time. My son loves this new podcast called “Sound Detectives.” Common Sense Media also has children’s podcast suggestions by age group.
- Include kids in holiday cooking. We know it can take time to figure out how to include them easily, so we created a post with a list of ideas of simple things that kids of various ages can do to help with common holiday dishes: Create Meals and Memories: Kids in the Holiday Kitchen.
- Do something physically active together. Want some simple ideas? Here are some fun family activities in our other post that you can do at home or in your neighborhood to keep moving during the holiday season.
- Indoor or Outdoor Scavenger Hunt: Create a winter-themed scavenger hunt in your home or neighborhood. Once set up, many kids can do this on their own! See complete instructions below for creating a winter-themed scavenger hunt!
- Winter-themed Charades: Play a winter-themed game of charades for laughs and fun. See complete instructions below for playing winter-themed charades!
- DIY winter-themed decorations: Make personalized ornaments or winter-themed decorations using craft supplies or natural materials. Pine cone bird feeders are fun, kid-friendly, and inexpensive to make.
- Bake and Decorate Cookies or (for a low-sugar option) fruit and veggie sculptures. Spend part of a day baking and decorating holiday cookies or fruit and veggie sculptures as a family. No cookie cutters? We like to use cups to make round cookies!
- Virtual Family Game Night: Connect with extended family over video calls for a virtual game night. Board Game Arena is an online site that has a lot of free online versions of board games that players in different locations can play together. (It’s also possible to play games and chat with strangers, so it’s important to monitor children if they are on the site.)
- Nature Walk: Take a stroll in a nearby park or nature reserve to enjoy the winter scenery. Try taking photos of details or landscapes together. Ask kids to find fun things to photograph, like bird tracks in snow.
- Homemade Gift Exchange: Have a family gift exchange with handmade or budget-friendly gifts.
- Storytelling Night: Share holiday stories, family stories, or other memories with each other.
- Volunteer Together: Give back to the community by volunteering at a local organization. Connections newsletter issue 73 has several local volunteer options for this year.
- Holiday Craft Session: Create holiday-themed crafts like paper snowflakes (directions for easy, medium difficulty, and fancy paper snowflakes) or greeting cards.
- Family Photo Session: Take festive family photos at home or in a local park. Let kids set up shots, suggest outfits, or take some photos.
- Board Game Marathon: Spend a day playing board games or card games together. Some local libraries lend out board games, so you might not need to own one or buy a new one!
- Holiday Karaoke: Have a sing-along session with favorite holiday tunes. There are a lot of karaoke versions of songs for free on YouTube.
- Write Letters to relatives: Sit down as a family and write letters to relatives who live far away.
- Winter Picnic: Pack a simple picnic and enjoy it in a local park, even if it’s cold.
- Candlelit Dinner at Home: Create a special dinner atmosphere with candles and festive decorations.
- Family Book Club: Choose a holiday-themed book to read together and discuss.
- Stargazing Night: Bundle up and go stargazing in your backyard or a nearby open space.
- Holiday Movie Night: Watch festive movies together at home with popcorn and blankets. Common Sense Media has recommendations by age for fun and age-appropriate movies.
- Holiday Puzzle Challenge: Work together on a jigsaw puzzle with a holiday theme.
Holiday or Winter Scavenger Hunt
Setting up a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood or around your home is a great way to add fun to your holiday celebrations. It’s also a fun activity that keeps kids engaged during school vacation days. Scavenger hunts can be free or very low-cost, depending on how you set them up!
Here’s a step-by-step guide for creating an indoor scavenger hunt with common household items or an outdoor scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. There are also optional riddles and suggestions for prizes that fit the theme.
Step 1: Decide on the Scavenger Hunt Theme:
- Choose a holiday-themed theme for your scavenger hunt, like “Winter Wonderland,” or “Holiday Treasures.”
Step 2: Make a List of Hidden Items:
- For Indoors: Create a list of household items related to your theme that participants search for to complete the activity. For example, if the theme is “Winter Wonderland”, you can include items that capture the feeling of the winter season, such as a paper snowflake (directions for easy, medium difficulty, and fancy paper snowflakes), a snow globe or photo with a winter scene, a pair of mittens or gloves, a sled, a packet of hot cocoa mix, a pinecone, a holiday greeting card, or a children’s book with a winter story.
- For Outdoors: Create a list of easy things to find outdoors near your home during this time of year that participants will search for to complete the activity. Some possible outdoor items are: a pinecone, an ice scraper, a house with holiday decorations, a snow shovel, or other things particular to your neighborhood (something unique about a house nearby, a neighbor’s dog, etc.).
- For all items, participants don’t have to collect the items, just see them and note where they are!
Step 3: Create Clues or a list of items
- Riddles or clues lead participants to the location of each hidden item. The riddles can be fun and related to the theme. For instance:
- “This snow doesn’t melt, though it’s cozy and warm. Much bigger and in a different form. A festive decorate, day or night, out in the open in plain sight. (for a paper snowflake)
- Among the needles on the ground, the pine trees store their seeds here waiting to be found. (for a pine cone)
- Or just make a list of things to find! For young children or others who don’t read, you can make a list with simple pictures of the items.
Step 4: Put the Items in their places if they’re not already there:
- Put the items in the locations you chose if they’re not already there, making sure they are not too difficult to find but still require some searching.
Step 5: Provide Instructions:
- Give participants the rules of the scavenger hunt, explaining that they need to solve the riddles to find each item (if you include riddles) and how much time they have to find as many items as possible.
(Optional) Offer a winter-themed prize for everyone who participates, like a mug of hot chocolate, a pencil with a snowflake pattern on it, or a scarf.
Charades can be a fun game for people of all ages – even babies and toddlers who are too young to act out words often love to watch! The lists and rules online tend to be on sites with a lot of ads or require you to download a list, so we put it all here in one place – no download required.
Simple rules for charades:
- Players take turns acting out a word or phrase without speaking.
- The rest of the players try to guess what the actor is portraying.
- (Optional) Use a timer to set a time limit for each turn (usually 1-2 minutes).
- No verbal hints or sounds allowed from the actor.
- Players can divide into teams or play individually.
- Rotate turns, and keep score if desired.
- The team or player with the most correct guesses wins.
Ideas for words or phrases for winter-themed charades:
You can use any words or phrases that are fun, seasonal, and easy to act out. If you celebrate a winter holiday, you can add holiday-themed words too.
- Snowball fight
- Ice skating
- Snowman building
- Hot cocoa
- Jack Frost
- Snow angel
- Shoveling snow
- Winter storm
- Polar bear