3 Free Ways to Entertain Your Kids Over the Holidays

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I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a handful of kids. The boys are school-aged, while the girl’s still a toddler. And they’re all crazy.

Seriously, guys, they drive me crazy. It’s all I can do sometimes not to just duck into a closet somewhere and wait for the noise to pass. You’d think the older two would be the root of the noise, but it’s not. It’s the toddler. She’s the ringleader, and she’s got her brothers wrapped around her little finger. Heaven forbid they should get together with their two cousins.

If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you know how much I love my kids, and how important family is to me. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. But I’ll be honest. While the boys are in school, I tend to hold on to a bit more sanity than while they’re on holiday break.

Thankfully, I’ve got friends in similar places, and together we’ve got decades of experience entertaining even the littlest noisemakers. If you’ve run into the same problem a time or two, where you can’t win the entertainment war for trying, here are a few ideas for you.

The Trouble with Winter Break

The trouble with the winter break is, well, Christmas itself. You certainly aren’t ready to invest in any new activities to keep your little chicks busy. Christmas is just a few weeks away, and that money has been spent. In my case, my kids’ birthdays are in January, February and March, so I’m even more financially strained.

So you’ve got to find activities that will appeal to them yet are cheap – or better yet, that are free. That’s not easy, especially when every store on the planet is trying to commercialize Christmas and the holiday season.

All hope is not lost. There are, in fact, many activities you can plan with your kids that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You can save that money – plan to spend it on the hottest toys of the season – and spend quality time with your kids instead!

Geocaching

Yes, it’s cold out in most places. But although you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, geocaching will also allow you to move around a lot. Plus, you’ll be spending some time in your heated car.

What is geocaching? Well, I stumbled upon it quite accidentally as a matter of fact. A friend of mine from college reconnected with me a few years back. She’d always been the nature-loving type, and I’d always written off geocaching as a sort of “geeky” activity. I visualized people with compasses and maps, trekking through the woods.

It’s not that at all! Don’t get me wrong: I love the outdoors as much as the next person. But three kids and a compass didn’t seem at all appealing. I was wrong, though; geocaching is nothing of the sort.

It’s simple: you download an app to your iPhone or Android, then hop in the car! Choose a location close to you. You’ll see little green dots on the map. Then you’ll drive to that location, pop out of your car, and the hunt begins.

Geocaches can be big boxes or as small as pill containers. The hunt is only half the fun, though. There are little treats hidden inside some of the caches. You’ll sign the log, snap a picture if you like, and you’re on your way!

Geocaching is also a great way to teach the kids about nature. There’s a “rule”: cache in, trash out. Bring a plastic baggie with you and pick up litter as you hunt for treasure.

Start a Family Cookbook

You’ve probably already had the idea to involve your kids with some of the holiday baking. But what about recording their experiences, making your own cookbook?

Pick a few recipes that your family loves. Whether they’re as complex as figs wrapped in grape leaves or as simple as peanut butter cookies, make sure everyone will enjoy them. Then, get to work. Visit the grocery store together, and let your children choose the ingredients. When you get home, give everyone a job.

Take a few pictures as you go along, as these will find the perfect place in your holiday cookbook. Make sure your kids understand what’s going into the final product, and let them taste test each ingredient. Even the cinnamon or the butter!

Once you’ve finished compiling your recipes, either preserve them in a binder, or publish them using an online service. There are many available that are inexpensive. Of course, you could simply print them from home!

Make Homemade Gifts

Homemade gifts don’t have to be cheesy. They can actually be quite attractive if you put a little time into it. There are recipes online for gifts like hot cocoa jars or microwave cupcakes. Find a few you like, then create gifts for the kids’ teachers.

You can use recycled items as gifts, as well. Send your kids on a scavenger hunt to find all their broken crayons. Put them, in interesting color combinations, into a “junk” muffin tin. Melt the broken crayons in the oven for just a few minutes, then done! You’ve now got a gift that your kids can give to each of their school friends.

Another homemade gift that’s great for teachers is a sock snowman. We made these as teacher gifts one year, and the project expanded to include coaches, babysitters and grandparents. The instructions for these adorable snow buddies can be found here.

Enjoy Your Time

I’ve done it before, and I think most parents have. I’ve been so caught up in the holiday stress that I’ve forgotten to spend time with my kids. Take a step back and remember all that you’ve taught your kids about the importance of family. Now, show them that you mean it.

Read a book together, go for walks, or just watch a movie together with a cup of hot cocoa. Go camping under the stars in the living room or put on a puppet show together. The possibilities are endless, and it doesn’t cost a thing to show your kids that you love them. They are the reason you want the holidays to be perfect. Why not start by simply spending time with them?

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