School breaks can be challenging for working parents and caregivers any year, and this year is feeling extra stressful for a lot of us. Many kid- and teen-friendly activities and childcare options for school vacations are not happening or are high risk during COVID. Some of us are worried about basic needs and gifts too.
Because of increasing COVID cases, families in our region and elsewhere are being encouraged to stay home and spend the next few weeks with members of their own households. We gathered ideas for how to get through this time and hopefully have some fun with it, too!
Take it easy and add some (simple) fun.
It’s been a long year and a long pandemic – and it’s winter. It’s OK to simplify things.
One family’s “go to” 10 minute dinners:
- Nachos: tortilla chips, canned beans, grated cheese under the broiler briefly, then add salsa.
- French toast for dinner! With yogurt, jam, and nut butter as optional toppings.
- Canned soup or chili with a salad and bread.
One mom who normally limits screen time makes exceptions for family movie nights “We make some popcorn, dim the lights, and have everyone put on pajamas early. Then we stop in the middle for a pee break and do a silly dance.”
Ask for help.
If someone has offered to pick up groceries for you, help set up an outdoor scavenger hunt, shovel your walk, lend you a sled or snowshoes, read a book to your child, or help your teen with homework over Zoom, take them up on it now! There are also supportive hotlines if you’re having a hard time and want to talk to someone anonymously.
Be a helper if you can.
If you can offer help to a neighbor, friend, or family member, that can make a big difference. One local family created gift certificates for free shoveling after the next two storms as a holiday gift for elderly neighbors.” We didn’t have money to buy extra presents this year, but we wanted to do something for them – they said it was their favorite gift!”
Planning ahead can help.
- Family time. Can you sit down with your family and come up with some fun plans for everyone to look forward to? Even if you have to work for much of the vacation, can you plan an afternoon to do an outdoor scavenger hunt, some baking together, or a family game night?
- Meals, chores, and more. If you can, plan ahead for simple meals, agree ahead of time about who will shovel the walk, how much screen time is allowed, or other things that will reduce stress in the moment, that can help a lot.
- COVID precautions. Having a family conversation about shared expectations of COVID precautions can help a lot.
Things to Do
Check out our newly updated Engaging Winter Activities for Youth post!
We recently added info on recommended board games for families, books for kids and teens, podcasts for kids and teens, and more!
4SC Coordinator Ilana here: A new favorite in our house is the pretzel log house – easy enough that my four year-old and I made one in under an hour! This is the video we learned from and here is our finished product.
For our current food resources roundup, check out our post School Meals and Other Food Resources for Winter Vacation 2020 and Beyond
Good news! P-EBT, which provides support to families with children who were receiving free and reduced-price school meals pay for food, is now continuing. Payments will be added retroactively added for Oct and Nov, so check your balance at the end of December if you have a P-EBT card!
Basic info on P-EBT, including eligibility, here.
Read more: Massachusetts is First State in Nation to Gain Federal Approval to Continue Pandemic EBT through School Year 2020-2021.
The Franklin County Community Meals Program has info posted about changes to hours for free meals during the holidays.
Free Clothing and Gifts
The Community Action Family Center in Greenfield now has open hours for their free clothing closet. By appointment only – the link posted on Facebook isn’t working, so call (413) 475-1555.
The Community Action Family Center in Greenfield is offering gifts for kids ages 0 – 18 by appointment only Dec. 21, 22 & 23. Sign up here.
The Village Closet in Huntington has clothes, winter coats and other outer wear, and some gifts for kids. They say “We are over flowing with gently used items – all free!! The closet is open to EVERYONE regardless of income or the town you live in. Our hours are Sunday, Monday Wednesday 11-2 and Thursday evenings by appointment. Located at 2 East Main Street in Huntington, MA, inside the former St. Thomas Church, now knows as “Cissie’s House.” Please check their COVID-19 precautions before coming.
Reminder: Local public library buildings are open for curbside pick-up! Greenfield Public Library, Montague Public Libraries, Athol Public Library, and many others in the region have their holiday hours and upcoming events on their homepage. Now is a great time to order books or DVDs online for pickup during vacation.
Little Free Libraries are popping up in our area – check out the map to see if there is one near you. Or start your own if you’re looking for a vacation project!