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12 Fun Ways to Keep Busy Over Winter Break

Here's how to maximize the fun while the kids are out of school for two weeks.

You’re staring down two school-free weeks. After all the holiday bustle it may seem like the perfect time to collapse, but the kids are ready to play. We’ve collected ideas from across the metro area to get you started on your winter break plans, the kind that will offer the kids (and you) some fun and relaxation.

Register for Camp

If you’ve got to head back to the office, or had just a little too much together-time over the holidays, get the kids out of the house for camps and classes. Check with favorite museums, attractions, and play spaces for classes that could fill a couple hours, a morning, or a whole day. Just don’t wait too long to register. The selection may dwindle, as many popular camps fill up early.

Get Creative

For your junior artist, check out creative spaces such as artSpark in Littleton, Art Garage in Park Hill, Michaels and Joann stores, or Paper Source with three locations around the metro area. All offer hands-on classes working with a variety of artistic media. Uncorked Kitchen & Wine Bar in Centennial, Create Cooking School in Aurora, Food Lab in Boulder, and Sur La Table locations cook up a variety of creative camps and classes over winter break that highlight cooking or baking.

Play Active

Kids expend energy and get active at the daily sports camp presented by P.A.S.S. Camp, at DU’s Ritchie Center. Register kids for a half or full day of activities that may include rock climbing, gymnastics, and ice skating, and add lunch for $6. My Gym offers kids, ages two to 10, another chance to play active games and do gymnastics, alongside crafts and music. My Gym camps offer multi-day and sibling discounts to help offset the cost.

Care for the Animals

Send the kids to hang out with the furry, finned, scaly, and fascinating during animal-related winter break camps. Denver Zoo camps teach kids about care and keeping of animals at the zoo, while Zoologist and Marine Biologist for the Day camps at the Downtown Aquarium give kids an opportunity to test the waters in animal-focused careers. The Butterfly Pavilion winter break camps introduce kids to invertebrates like jellyfish, bugs, and spiders, and there’s even a Spongebob in Real Life camp that explores the factual biology of the creatures in Bikini Bottom.

Keep ‘Em Guessing

A day at Camp Shai at the JCC Denver, for kids ages five to 12, might include a field trip to go bowling, a special woodworking project, STEM games, rock climbing, cooking, or a movie, depending on the day. Register for the days that match your child’s interests, and get a discount for each additional sibling. Not a Denver city-dweller? Most parks and recreation departments offer a variety of classes or a winter break camp, with crafts, active play, and field trips.

Explore the World

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science provides kids a universe of activities, from a history of dinosaurs to STEM-inspired exhibits, and a glimpse of the actual universe in eye-popping planetarium shows. During winter break camps, kids experience all that DMNS has to offer. New for this year, parents can sign up kids for single-day camps throughout winter break, instead of full week camps.

Stay Home

Now, there is some debate about letting school breaks be just that—a break—and depending on your schedule, it might be good for your family and your wallet to plan for some days at home. Keep some ideas up your sleeve though, and if the kids get bored, that’s OK. They can figure out ways to not feel bored.

Swap Kids

Chances are, your parent friends have talents or interests that differ from your own; use that to share the load of entertaining the kids, and give each other a little break. Enlist one or two other families and pick days that each will host the kids for an afternoon of play or an activity and a snack. Agree on the activities in advance so there isn’t overlap. Be sure to ask about group discounts if you’re taking everyone out, sometimes just six to 10 people could get you a reduced admission rate.

PJ Day and Movie Marathon

Enough running around. Today is a day to soak up the pajama life. Set up pillows and blankets in front of the television and settle in for a family movie marathon. Prep movie snacks in advance and order a pizza or Grubhub on a break between Elf and The Little Mermaid. To keep things fair, let each family member pick one movie for the lineup.

Start a Project

December 26, or Boxing Day as it’s called in a number of other countries, is often celebrated as a time to help the less fortunate. Spend some time over winter break going through toys, books, and clothes to see what could be donated or shared with others. The afterglow of receiving new things over the holidays may make it easier for kids to relinquish some of the old. Establishing a tradition of cleaning out for the new year can also ease the challenge of letting go.

Gratitude Day

Yes, Thanksgiving was last month, but with a list of thank-you notes to write, take an afternoon to remember the gifts and kind acts that you’ve received over the holidays. Make it fun for the kids by setting out blank cards (available at craft stores) that they can personalize with their own art and thank-you message.

Explore Away

Try these winter break opportunities to get everyone off the couch and out the door to experience something new.

Spend a (Free) Day with Art

The Denver Art Museum is free every day for kids 18 and younger, and with daily Create-n-Takes, weekday performances of the family play, Art Emergency: Monet Edition, and hands-on art making in the Paint Studio over winter break, it’s a fun-packed budget-conscious way to pass a day.

Surprise Them!

A sure-fire way to shake up the winter break is to do something totally unexpected that your family usually doesn’t do, or hasn’t done for a while. Play in a different part of town or try a new activity. Apex Center in Arvada is home to an indoor water park with 23,000 square feet of play features, including slides, fountains, waterfalls, and geysers. Or, climb the walls together at one of five metro Denver Earth Treks locations.

Visit the Library

If you typically go for storytime and leave, use the extra time over winter break to check out the calendar of events and list of activities available at the library. A variety of branches around the metro area have creative makerspaces, including equipment for everything from music recording to film editing. You might also find a concert, a craft activity, or a book club to pass some time creatively over the break.

9 Simple and Free Activities to Keep Kids Busy

Put on a Play
Help the kids act out their favorite book or story or put on a talent show.
Google Science Experiments
Find a couple that you can do with things around the house or yard.
Practice a New Skill
Browse YouTube to learn a new skill or life hack.
Make Dinner
Plan, shop, and cook a meal together. Set the table with candles and make it special. Use it as a fun time to practice table manners.
Be Makers
Craft with cardboard boxes and other things from the recycle bin, borrow tools from the tool bench, experiment with duct tape, or take apart old electronics that you aren’t using anymore.
Assemble a Playlist
Create a list of songs for the new year, with suggestions from the kids.
Solve a Puzzle
Set up a large puzzle that the whole family can help with throughout break.
Roll Out the Fun
Spread a roll of paper across the floor, tape it down, and let kids draw.
Make Silly Videos
Record the kids dancing, lip-syncing favorite songs, or reciting lines from their favorite movies.

Family Food

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