Well Play Unplugged knows how valuable having creative and fun ideas is for kids and parents to do together during the Christmas break, so here are the very BEST 10 things to do during the Christmas holiday!
1. Feed the birds. Yes, our little feathered friends have a difficult time finding food during the winter months--especially if they live in places where the snow falls. Taking this opportunity to spend time with your kids and building a simple bird feeder can and will stimulate their creative nerves in their brains which tend to go sedentary when watching television or playing video games. Here is one simple bird feeder you can do with a minimal amount of work using an old plastic soda bottle and the simple craft tools most homes already have: CLICK HERE
Of course you can find more complicated and ornate bird feeders out there by doing a quick Internet search for 'how to build a bird feeder' and even hold a contest for whichever kid decorates or paints the feeder the best! (Of course, you can have multiple categories where each child's art prowess can land them a prize or pat on the head!) Spending time making a bird feeder will engage your child's creativity and allow less screen time in front of video games--plus the family can enjoy that time learning about birds and spending it together!
2. Play a board game. Yes! Odds are your family has a TON of board and card games locked away somewhere that the dust only knows about--why not take them out this holiday season and even begin a tradition where the entire family takes an hour or two to sit down and play a board game? Researchers are beginning to understand that board games do keep a child's brain more active than video games and do in fact offer other incentives which are good socialization skills that video games fail to provide. Plus, depending on the game, it teaches them strategy and 'cause and effect' skills that video games do not necessarily promote.
So get those board games like Monopoly, Risk, Cranium, Ticket to Ride, Rook, Phase 10 and the others out from the basement or attic and spend time with your kids talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company this holiday season!
3. Cook together. So how does a parent make cooking fun and more appealing than killing zombies? It's simple--appeal to their sweettooth! Spending time in the kitchen with your child not only helps teach them valuable life skills in the cooking arena, but getting them hooked is easier than you think. :) By setting up the ingredients to, say, some sugar cookies that they can decorate all by themselves with outrageous frosting colors will get them interested and have them eager to do it next holiday season...plus nothing brings them downstairs and away from the television and video game console better than fresh baked cookies. ~wink~
Here is a very simple recipe for sugar cookies: So now go out to the store with them on your way back from school and pick out some very LARGE cookie cutters (more room for kids to decorate) for them to use in the coming weeks and you're good to go!
4. Build a Snowman/Sandman. Yes, this one is a bit weather dependant, and for all of our friends down in Southern CA or on the shores of Hawaii, building sandcastles and sandmen is just as much a fun family activity as anything else! The time spent here surely impacts your kid's creative skills and gets them outdoors and participating in physical activity--something most kids lack during the winter breaks since school is out.
Playing, running, packing snow and even throwing snowballs is SO important because the kids burn calories, and since there is no school going on, they need to keep burning those during the holiday break. Spending time outdoors and actively building a snowman or snowwoman helps them bridge this gap and they are less likely to gain weight over the holiday period.
5. Go on an adventure. Odds are there are A LOT of things to do during the Christmas break that are near your home. A zoo, a state park, a walk with a prepared scavenger hunt, a hike or even a good walk in snowshoes can be the ideal adventure outdoors that your kids can enjoy even if it is a bit cold during the day. Remember that kids are a bit more eager to explore when it can be a bit cold, so don't let the temperature stall you from taking your kids out on an adventure during the middle part of the day when it is the warmest! Many parents also seize the opportunity to spend the travel time speaking with their kids and opening up that critical dialogue that will become so important during their teen years when parents 'aren't as cool' as then they were children.
Walking through the zoo, seeing the Christmas lights or even just walking around the block delivering sugar cookies to neighbors (hint hint) keeps kids engaged in things other than video games. Remember you were once a kid too, and if you recall how much fun it was to do something with your mommy or daddy at their age, you will quickly remember how important it is to unplug them and go on a mini-adventure this holiday season.
6. Volunteer. The holidays are perfect times to give--and teach your kids about helping others. SO MANY people out there need help and by contacting your local food banks and food pantries, you can find many ways to serve. But don't let this season of giving stop when New Years Day rolls around! Teach your kids that people need their volunteer time during each month of the year. So find a charity you believe in and call them up right now and set up a way for your to volunteer!
If the volunteer opportunities with places like the food bank are all full (which they tend to be this month) odds are these organizations will know of others who need help and can give you contact information about them. If even that fails, your local church or neighborhood has some elderly folks who need their sidewalks shoveled, their driveways cleared or even just a simple visit to have a friendly chat. Teach your kids how to reach out to them and make new friends while showing them how to serve others this holiday season...and well beyond.
7. Create your own ornament. Kids LOVE to build things, whether it is a living room fort (another good idea for this list!) or just coloring, there is an innate sense of discovery and building inside each and every one of them--take advantage of this and help them explore their hidden artist!
Here is a pretty comprehensive list of ideas for those parents who may find this one a little daunting! Not only will your kids enjoy themselves and spend less time consuming electrons from the video game screens, but you will have new treasures from them to enjoy each and every Christmas from now on!
8. Build a gingerbread (or graham cracker) house. Once again this appeals to a child's creativity and it is easier than you may think! It doesn't need to be fancy--as a matter of fact, it can be done with store bought royal icing and a box of regular graham crackers! Of course by taking the kids to the store with you (or to their favorite candy place) you can let them choose the shingles, gumdrop chimneys and other landscaping features that appeal to their mouths as well! This creates one of those mini-adventures that kids crave when they are cooped up indoors during the holiday break!
9. Make your own line of Christmas cards. This is a fun and very entertaining project to do with your kids. Plus you will be amazed at how proud they are of their homemade greeting cards! Now don't freak out thinking you need to go to the nearest craft store and invest hundreds of dollars in special scissors, stamps and glitter. All you really need is the bare basics and you can even find ways to make these ultra-personal with your kids finger prints and photos of them! (grandparents really dig that, btw...)
Making Christmas cards is truly the way a family can spend together and away from the video games in doing something constructive and memorable.
10. Use Play Unplugged Home version. Yes, we did have to sneak this one in with these great ideas! Why? Well because IT IS! ~wink~ Play Unplugged offers over 100 Brag Badges for your kids to earn at home. This makes it VERY easy for parents to come up with things to do for their kids and establish a reward system at the same time. For example; "if you earn 100 'brags' during the break, we will take you to that amusement park next summer'...It also relieves the parents from having to come up with idea after idea when the kids quickly go through them, as we know most kids do! lol
These four modules range from 'around the house' to 'creative' and even 'active life' and 'outdoors; so the holiday break is perhaps the best time to think of Play Unplugged as you find ways for your kids to unplug themselves from the video games and turn on to real life!
Whatever you and your family chooses this Christmas season, we hope you find the value in these ideas which helps reduce the time your kids spend in front of the TV or gaming screens. Make the holidays truly something that you remember, and simultaneously something that HELPS your children and does not entrench them further in their screen time habits.
From all of us here at Play Unplugged, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!