3 Ways to Keep Kids Engaged Over the Holidays (…and Away from Electronics)

Believe it or not, we are not that far away from every child’s second favorite part of the school year – winter break!  Two glorious weeks without school and all the time in the world to catch up on texting, TV, and Minecraft.  Right?

It sounds like every kid’s dream come true.  Admit it – when you were young, you counted down to winter break, too.  But now that you’re a parent, winter break is more of a dread than a delight.  Yes, the holidays are coming and that is exciting, but what do you do with your kids for two weeks?

Most parents fear that their children will be glued to their electronics until school resumes in January.  With the advances and availability of today’s technology, that is not hard to imagine.  Little Jimmy borrows your iPad for a few rounds of Angry Birds, while your teenage daughter refuses to put down her cell phone.  But while technology has become a fabulous live-in babysitter, there is very little learning potential in these activities.

So, what can you as a parent do to ensure your children don’t sit glued to their electronic companions until school starts?

Here are a few helpful suggestions:


1. Reading.

Reading is a fabulous way to keep your children engaged.  Take a family field trip to your local library and check out a few books.  They don’t necessarily have to be educational, but rather something that will keep their interest.  Try some standard children’s series’ like The Boxcar Children, The Magic Tree House, American Girl, and Junie B. Jones.  Very young children will appreciate the stories of Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle, and they’re simple enough that they can explore them on their own.  Still, never underestimate the power of reading to a child.

For teens, find the books that inspired their favorite movies, like Divergent, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or The Hunger Games.  They will be amazed at how the books differ from the screenplays.  (Remember that old saying – “Don’t judge a book by its movie.”)  If your teen is looking for a new challenge, suggest that they pick up books about the history of their holidays.  You may even encourage them to spend an afternoon at the library, and not in front of the computer screen.


2. Volunteering.

Volunteering is a great activity that is a perfect way to bond as a family.  Not only does it help others, but it is such a rewarding experience.  You will be surprised how fulfilled you feel after helping someone in need.  One of my favorite parts of volunteering is the endless options available to you.  If you don’t have time to fit a soup kitchen shift into your busy schedule, don’t worry about it!  There are many other simple projects that can easily become part of your daily routine.  Here are a few of my holiday favorites:

    • Operation Christmas Child – Pack a shoebox with a donation of items to send to a child in need. Help your kids purchase simple toys, hygiene products, and clothes to pack in a box.  Enclose a personal note inside for a special touch.  National Collection Week is the third week of November, but completed boxes can be shipped all year round.  Visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child for more information.


    • Holiday Mail for Heroes – Here is a great way to encourage writing and penmanship skills! Help your children write holiday cards to our troops.  Letters can be as simple as “thank you” or a wish for them to come home safely.  After writing your cards, contact your local Red Cross to arrange for your letters to be delivered.  (Interested in something more long-term?  Check out letterstosoldiers.org for information on becoming a pen pal.)


  • Help Your Local Seniors – Senior citizens deserve love all year round, and what better time to show them you care than during the holidays? Bake a plate of Christmas cookies together to take to grandma and grandpa.  Ask your child to help Mrs. Jones by shoveling her driveway.  Call your local nursing homes to see if you can visit, sing songs, or play board games.  The smallest gesture can mean the most.


3. Family Field Trips.

My mother was working online one summer, so spend a lot of time at home with my brother and me.  I grew up with a lot of cousins, so every week my mom would plan a surprise field trip for all of us.  It was a great way to get out of the house and see new things.  We went to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Harry London Chocolate Factory (now Fannie May) in North Canton.  Other great ideas are the Great Lakes Science Center, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Museum of Art, or Severance Hall.  Plan a family trip and create some new memories of your own!  (Check out the websites for these great places before visiting.  Many offer discount – or free! – tickets for children.)


What are some other ways you keep your kids engaged over the holiday break?  Post them below in the comments for other families to read.


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Photo Copyright: [Untitled Image]. Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://www.uw.org/volunteer/volunteer-events.html.

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About the Author

Dave Hoffman