Any parent knows that the first hint of winter chill in the air fills young minds with excitement and anticipation for the holidays. The holiday season means your kids will be out of school for a bit — giving you the chance to spend more time with them. No matter what age your kids are, quality time with Dad is always a hot commodity (just don’t make your teenager admit that) — especially if you find activities that incorporate the magic of the holidays.
Check your calendar, and get your holiday spirit ready. Tis the season to plan a father-kid bonding day (or two, or three!). Choose a few of the activities listed below and enjoy time with your children this holiday season.
1. Decorate holiday cookies.
Cookie decorating offers a great way to have fun and to learn a new skill — baking! Not only is it fun and educational, but it’s tasty, too. This is a great activity for everyone from toddlers to teenagers (although you might want to leave the actual cooking to the older kids). Everyone can gather around the kitchen table once the cookies cool, and make their own beautiful creations with the frosting.
Start out with circles for easy decorating, or use cookie cutters to make holiday-themed shapes. In addition to the frosting, consider having M&Ms, red hots, or other small candies on hand to embellish your cookie creations. If you end up with too many to eat yourselves, make a point to donate a few containers to families around the neighborhood — this is a great way to teach your children about generosity.
2. Watch classic holiday movies.
Connect with your kids by bringing out some holiday movies you loved when you were their age. From A Christmas Story to The Grinch, you’re sure to find something the entire family can enjoy. Depending on your children’s ages, they may have fun picking out some of their own favorites, too.
The digital age of streaming makes it even easier to access cherished films. This holiday season, you’ll be able to find classics like the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas, and Love Actually streaming on Netflix. Feel free to curl up with the cookies you recently decorated, and maybe some hot cocoa, for an extra special night.
3. Go to a holiday play.
Check the performing arts centers, high schools, colleges, and community theaters in your area to see if there are any holiday plays happening soon. There are many popular kid-friendly shows, including A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.
Consider your kids’ ages and personalities before you book tickets. This may not be the best idea for little ones who can’t sit still for extended periods of time, but older children will enjoy. To make your trip to the theater extra special, dress up as characters in the play — imagine the laughs and memories shared when you and your kids show up to a Dr. Seuss musical with crazy hairstyles like the Whos of Whoville!
4. Play in the snow.
For an activity that doesn’t cost any money, yet provides loads of fun and makes for great bonding time, head out into the snow. The possibilities are practically endless! You can build snowmen and igloos, have snowball fights, make snow angels, or go sledding.
For the little ones, create a snow hill in the backyard and let them slide down. If your kids are older and looking for something a bit more thrilling, look for public sledding hills or parks where you can sled free of charge.
If your area doesn’t see a lot of snow, try to find skiing or sledding hills nearby — keep in mind they might charge a fee. Be sure to have hot chocolate ready inside, for when you’re all done and it’s time to warm those little hands up.
5. Go ice skating.
Whether you’re in an area with plenty of frozen lakes and ponds, or you’re in the city with man-made ice rinks, it’s not hard to find a decent place to go ice skating. Strap on your skates, or get some rentals, and hit the ice running — or, maybe walking at first.
If your family has already mastered the skating basics, and you’re ready to spice it up, try playing a skating game. Hockey is the obvious one, but if you don’t have the room or the equipment, try games like these:
- Red Light, Green Light – This one is a race to the finish line, but there are a few rules. You can start skating when the leader says green light, and you have to stop when the leader says red light. It’s up to the leader to try to challenge your stopping abilities.
- Obstacle Course – If you have a semi-private place to skate, set up an obstacle course using hula hoops and pool noodles that players must skate around. Alternatively, you can draw lines on the ice that the kids have to follow. This is a fun coordination game, and it’s easy to cater this to any skater’s skill level.
- Ice Soccer – Ice soccer plays just like ice hockey, but this one works if you don’t have the ice hockey equipment. All you need is a good ball to play with.
If you’re with little kids, you might be best off going to a public rink where they have the safety equipment and skating aids for beginners. Older kids, and those comfortable on the ice, might have more fun on a pond where it’s less crowded.
6. Decorate the house.
If you’re the kind of family that likes to decorate your house for the holidays, turn it into a fun family activity. Put on some holiday music, and pop some tasty treats in the oven — apple pie, gingerbread, or sugar cookies should set the mood well — and you’ll be able to dig into a delicious snack once you’re finished decorating.
To make the decorating even more fun, consider getting out the craft supplies and making your own decorations together. You can string together popcorn for garland, glue greenery and pine cones together for wreaths, cut out paper snowflakes, or even create your own ornaments. Your kids can admire and proudly show any visitors their creations all season long.
7. Drive around to look at lights.
A fantastic holiday tradition, one that your family can enjoy year after year, is to drive around town and look at all the holiday lights gleaming in front yards and even commercial buildings. You can even make a car game out of it. Vote on your favorite holiday lights, or tally up how many Santas, snowmen, or other holiday symbols you see — who can find the most?
You could even make a bingo game out of it, using recognizable items like Santas, snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and nativity scenes on the bingo cards. This is a popular one among small children, so get your jackets on and pile into the car. Even if you don’t make a game out of it, the light displays are sure to dazzle them!
Tell us in the comments what you plan to do with your children to celebrate the holidays!
Peter Mueller, founder of Father's Rights Law Center and FathersRights.com. Mr. Mueller has been practicing law for 39 years and is licensed in California and Illinois. Graduating with honors from Loyola Law School in 1972, he was selected to associate with Chicago's leading corporate firm and was also invited to become a Visiting Professor of Corporate Law at Loyola Law, where he had held the position as Assistant Dean of the Business School during his law studies. At Loyola Law, he taught upper-class law students the core courses in business law while he worked for General Motors, American Oil Company, The Tribune Company, and the Catholic Bishop at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.