By Chandler Forrest

This holiday season, activities with your children are going to look a little different.  Trips to visit Santa at the mall and other holiday traditions may be limited this year.  Here are some ideas of ways to engage your children throughout the winter break, while instilling some quality family bonding time.

1-Reading Parties
Depending on the age of your children, a family reading party may look a little different, but will always be fun.  If they’re old enough to read by themselves, have every family member grab a book they love and pile into the living room.  Light a candle that smells like the holidays and brew a pot of tea.  Ask your children if they want tea, too (decaf, of course) and watch how it makes them feel grown up.  If your children still need you to read to them, they’re probably also at an age where you don’t want an open flame or hot liquids around, so maybe forego the candle and tea for toddlers.  Let the little ones grab as many books as they want and read all of them aloud as a family.  Most kids only get a few stories before bed, so having an unlimited number will be a real treat.  Reading parties will foster a positive feeling toward literacy for your children and will set up special memories that last.

2-Movie Days
With some movie theaters closed these days, why not create one at home?  Get your kids to help you set the scene.  Make tickets and assign someone to tear the ticket stubs before entering the living room.  Pop popcorn.  Draw the curtains and dim the lights.  If you want to give your children a real treat – and give yourself a day off from entertaining them – make it a double feature.  Avoid the temptation to throw in a load of laundry or get dinner ready while you watch.  If you do chores while they watch, they’ll remember the day you let them watch two movies.  If you watch with them, as a family, they will remember the special day they spent with you.  But make sure you let them out into the backyard to run around after, or they’ll be bouncing off the walls at bedtime.

3-Do a Puzzle
Nothing brings a family together more than a good puzzle.  It can be an ongoing activity to do together, perhaps even spanning several days.  Set up the puzzle table in a common area and notice the conversations you have with your children as they puzzle and you cook or wash the dishes.  If your children are old enough, you could always puzzle while they cook or wash the dishes.  Start a puzzle and note the bonding effect it will have for your family.

4-Teach Them to Cook
Depending on the age of your children and how quickly you need a meal to be made, cooking with your little ones can be a wonderful way to bond.  With older kids, you can assign them to be your sous chefs and have them chop vegetables while you prepare the rest of the meal.  For younger children, you can put them on standby until you have the ingredients ready and then have them help put it all together, stirring soup, adding seasoning, or maybe tossing a salad.  For more educational bonding, do some baking with your children and watch how it becomes a math lesson.  Cooking together will give you quality time with your children, while teaching them valuable life skills.

Try some of the ideas and see if you can come up with others that your family will love.  Think of all the activities you normally like to do during the holidays and then see if you can find alternative ways to keep your family traditions alive.  You may just end up creating some new holiday traditions that last.

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