Last Minute Ideas to Make the Holidays Special
By: Ahu Terzi
The shopping is almost complete, the holiday cards sent, dinner menus organized. Yet, in the midst of all the preparation you had to orchestrate during the busy holiday season, you neglected to carve out quality time with the kids.
Here are last minute ideas that will make the holidays special for your family but won’t exhaust your super-mom multitasking powers. Better save that for the clean up in January.
Bake Even If You Can’t
No other family activity can bring together kids of all ages better than baking can. With ready-to-bake cookie dough, a fun-filled afternoon is as within reach as your local grocery store.
If you bake with your kids regularly, make sure to create a unique experience during the holidays. You can use colorful cookie dough and holiday-themed cookie cutters, or involve grandparents, neighbors, extended family and other guests in the experience. Initiate a cookie bake-off among the little ones and give prizes to the most original design or color combination.
As you wait for the cookies to bake and cool down, make a signature holiday drink. Whether it’s your special eggnog recipe or store-bought hot chocolate, add a holiday touch with a peppermint flavored candy cane stirrer.
Snuggle In Front of Holiday Classics
Whether it’s a true holiday classic like Miracle on 34th Street or a Hollywood blockbuster like Elf, getting the family together for a holiday-themed movie night is a must during this busy season. The For-Your-Consideration list includes The Polar Express, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women, the Home Alone series and of course A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Pizza and popcorn are no-brainers on movie night, but why not put your own stamp on the evening by wearing new pajamas and animal slippers for the occasion. The kids will love the additional gifts and parents will surely take advantage of the photo op. It will also make for a special holiday evening that’s just for the immediate family.
Learn About Other Cultures
The season of gift-giving is a great opportunity to teach young children about other cultures. So why not trade in the bedtime ritual for stories of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa from other countries and cultures. Fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen or The Brothers Grimm are great additions to your child’s library and can be used during the holidays to teach kids various lessons.
Researching and memorizing how to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” in other languages is another way to turn the holidays into an educational experience.
Start a Family Game Night
Did you know that even the movie A Christmas Story has a board game these days? You may want to pick out a few of the classics instead, like Monopoly and Sorry, or try out a new favorite such as the "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" game. Cranium also makes fun games for children that adults don’t mind playing. Make sure to choose games that children of varying ages can all enjoy. In large enough families, parents can team up with the younger children to help them count while the older kids play on their own.
Game night doesn’t have to be another pizza night! In fact, children eat better when they’re distracted and there’s no better distraction than scheming to win Park Place on the Monopoly board. Make sure to prepare a variety of healthy snacks to consume while everyone waits for their turn. Peeled clementines, sliced apples, cucumbers and baby carrots are great alternatives to chips and salsa. Bowls of hummus, yogurt, light ranch dressing make excellent dips when you’re crunched for time and may tempt even the pickiest eater to try a baby carrot.
Have a Dance Party with Christmas Music
When all the holiday fudge weighs you down, break out the Karaoke machine and pop in a Christmas special. With fun-loving classics like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Deck the Halls," you’ll add instant spirit to any family gathering. If caroling around the piano, "Silent Night" is the intimate must-sing.
Make sure to print out extra copies of the lyrics to all the Christmas songs. With the words to holiday favorites like "Winter Wonderland" readily available, even a Christmas novice can join in the fun. A charged camcorder is another must-have during this special time. Whether everyone can hold a tune or not, you will want to have a record of the wonderful memories singing together as a family creates.
Share the Holiday Spirit
Fully participating in a toy drive and specifically shopping for a needy child is the best way to encourage empathy in your children. Most schools, local churches and temples already provide access to families in need during the holidays. Instead of taking it upon yourself to buy and donate the toys, why not involve your children. Give them a budget and help them pick out the right toy for the right age.
If appropriate, have your child wrap the present and write a card. They can even help deliver the present to a local shelter or orphanage, further expanding their understanding of the holiday spirit. Another way to help those in need during the holidays is to participate in restocking the local food pantry.
The most important gift you can give your family during this holiday season is the gift of time. Time spent together in meaningful ways will help ensure that your children grow up with valuable lessons on love, happiness, kindness and generosity.
Ahu Terzi is a freelance writer living in New York.