School breaks just aren’t the same this year. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and more precautions needed to keep everyone safe, the days over winter break will probably feel more like a repeat of every other day.
There is nothing we would love more than to offer a list of unrestricted, pandemic-free adventures for winter break. (Oh, how we would love that!) Instead, we’ve come up with a list of themed activities that incorporate a little something new into each day. Try the simple version of each activity or, if you have more time to fill, take the amped up approach. No mask or social distancing is required, as long as you try them at home with your family.
Dare You Day
Increase the fun factor, and your child’s adventurous side, with a day designed to test everyone’s comfort zone. Set the ground rules for a day in which each family member has to accept at least one parent-approved challenge from someone else in the family. Brainstorm some simple ideas, like walk a balance beam, eat a bite of broccoli, step barefoot in the snow, or say the ABCs backwards.
Take It Further: Invite the kids to come up with a dare for parents to do, too.
Build It Day
See what you can build with items in the recycle bin, plastic blocks, or maybe even cookies or cakes. Be ready for some mighty failures and big laughs as you experiment and test your materials and skills.
Take It Further: If you remember the Checker Trading Stamps episode of The Brady Bunch (“54-40 or Fight”), in which the Brady kids settle a stalemate by building a house of cards, you know the activity takes skills. Try building your own house from playing cards or set the stage for a friendly building competition to see who can stack the most marshmallows or blocks.
Try a New Hobby Day
We’re all tired of staring at screens, which is why interest in hobbies has risen. Revell USA, the maker of model kits since 1943, saw a surge in sales of their model kits for cars, planes, ships, and sci-fi licensed items this year. Don’t just think model cars though, kids are learning to crochet, weave, carve, and do origami. Pick up an inexpensive kit at a craft store to test drive a new hobby before making a huge investment in tools and supplies.
Take It Further: If your child’s interest in the hobby sticks, watch for classes at area craft and hobby shops like Michaels or Fancy Tiger Crafts, or maker spaces like The Craftsman & Apprentice or TinkerMill.
There will be thank-you notes in need of writing and sending after the holidays. Why not make a day of it? Pull out the art supplies and have the kids customize personal notes. Add a thank-you note for a kind neighbor, staff at a local hospital, or essential business.
Take It Further: Show your child how to properly address an envelope and place the stamp, or decorate the envelope with stickers.
A little bit of fresh air each day will help the family. Numerous studies show that time spent in the great outdoors reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, preterm birth, asthma, and stress, among other things. It could also improve mental health, short-term memory, and focus. The list goes on. Just two hours per week spent in green spaces, according to one study published in the journal Scientific Reports, is enough to reap the benefits. Colorado has endless opportunities to be outside, even in urban areas. So, take those walks, go to the park, and pick one day to really explore a new outdoor space.
Take It Further: Try out a new-to-your-kids outdoor activity like Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, walking a new city trail, or bird watching. Create a nature scavenger hunt by making a list of things you might find outside—a red bird, a squirrel, a stick shaped like a Y, white tree bark, etc.—then set out to see what you can find.
Don’t underestimate the joy of a day with no set plans. Call a day during break to honor the slow-moving sloth. Sleep in, take your time getting breakfast and getting dressed, let the chores sit for a day, and let the kids know it is their day to entertain themselves.
Take It Further: Do a little research on the slowest animals on the planet.
Change can feel good in this marathon of sameness and feeling boxed-in. One positive change that could bring a little excitement: updating the kids’ bedrooms or play spaces. No need to spend a lot (or any) money; kids can make their own art or select a few toys to hang on the wall. Work together to arrange books on shelves or clothes in their closet by color—everything red on the left, then orange, yellow, and so on, until you see the rainbow.
Take It Further: Rearrange the rooms—letting kids take the lead on where their desk, toys, or bed go—to make the spaces feel fresh.
Nothing but Snacks Day
No cooking today – the menu is all about simple snacking foods. But don’t default to sugary treats or granola bars, create a list together of some kid- and parent-favorites that will give everyone necessary energy: cheese slices, deli meat and pepperoni slices, a veggie tray, hummus, fruit kabobs.
Take It Further: Enlist your child’s help in cleaning and chopping fruits and veggies. See how many different shapes you can create—try cutting apples or pears into flat slices and remove the core with mini cookie cutters, or cut carrots into medallions or matchsticks, or with a crinkle cutter.
Become an Expert Day
How do whales sleep? Why do thunder and lightning happen together? Are there real princesses and knights? Kids have so many questions. Take a day over break to guide your child on a quest for answers. Brainstorm together to come up with a question they would like answered. Then discuss the ways they might be able to find information, such as books, the internet, or observation, and see what you can learn together.
Take It Further: Go beyond an internet search. Explore the library database for books or documentaries on the subject that you can borrow.
No, this is not another movie watching binge. Instead, encourage your child to make their own movie on your phone. Let them take the lead on the subject, costumes, and camera angles.
Take It Further: Edit the video and make a trailer to share with friends and grandparents. Try a free kid-friendly app to make it happen, like Toontastic, LEGO Movie Maker, or Magisto. Then set up a special family screening, with popcorn, to watch the finished creation.
With new toys and clothes coming into the house from holiday gifting, it’s a good time to get rid of some of the old. Start a tradition of donating a couple toys or some outgrown clothes at the holidays. It might be easier for kids to let go knowing that new exciting things are on the way.
Take It Further: Institute a “one-in, one-out” rule to keep from drowning in clutter. For every new item that kids receive, let them pick one worn out item to trash or recycle, or one gently used item to donate. Grown-ups aren’t exempt from the tradition, make your own “out” pile, too.
Stuffie Party Day
They may only be stuffed with fluff, but you can still honor your child’s special stuffies and plush animal friends. Give them a spot at the dinner table, throw a tea party, or set up a holiday scene just for them with real holiday lights and a tiny tree, handmade menorah, or kinara.
Take It Further: Break out the craft supplies to create a holiday diorama from an old gift box, or use shoeboxes to make furniture and accessories for dolls and stuffies.
Invent Your Own Holi-Day
It seems like there is a special “Day” for everything. Chocolate Chip Day? May 15. Ice Cream Day? July 18. World Smile Day? October 1. Create your own special day from your child’s favorite food, game, movie, or toy. Ask your child what colors, decorations, and themed food and activities they would incorporate into their commemoration day.
Take It Further: Create the actual celebration. It may become an actual winter break tradition.
Chill Out Day
We’re all struggling with pandemic stress, kids included. Explore some ways to let it all out. One no-special-equipment-required method to try is meditation. Light a candle and check out Headspace for Kids, or the free Stop, Breathe & Think or Smiling Mind apps.
Take It Further: Experiment with silly dancing, yoga, and time with pets to see what brings a sense of relief from basic stresses and frustrations. If stress and anxiety are more serious, take time to find a therapist or counselor who can help.
Bonus Idea: Mix a few of these theme days with a virtual or in-person camp to break up the winter break doldrums.