Here are 10 fun ways to keep kids from toddlers to teens entertained and off screens during the rest of the holiday break.
- Day trip adventure: Meagan Buckmaster-Ross of Duvall, WA is an art teacher and author of the parenting blog An Adventure Every Day. Buckmaster-Ross, who has four kids between the ages of seven and 17, says your adventures can take you outdoors to local parks or indoors to a museum or other kid-friendly attractions. Either way, you should pack your car with the essentials for the day. This includes food and beverages, mittens and hats, and extra tops and pants in case kids get muddy or wet. She also carries clipboards, paper, markers, color pencils, crayons and an assortment of fruit suckers to pass out occasionally as treats. If spending time outdoors isn't on the top of your list, consider making a trip the the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn, where kids can learn while they play. Or, closer to home, stop by the Lake Katherine Nature Center in Palos Heights to learn more about area wildlife. The center has regular programs perfect for families, including Lake Katherine's upcoming Winterfest on Feb. 4.
- Art: You can create an art kit for your kids with just a shoebox filled with colored pencils, crayons, pens, scissors, tape, a glue stick and a small sketchpad available at Michaels Crafts in Burbank, Chicago Ridge and Orland Park. Local dollar stores, such as Dollar Tree and Deal$ in Oak Lawn, also offer inexpensive art supplies. Tweens and teens will find inspiration to start drawing, doodling and journaling from books such as Carla Sonheim’s Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun, The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone and Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim. Other examples are Dawn DeVries Sokol’s books Doodle Diary: Art Journalizing for Girls, Art Doodle Love: A Journal of Self-Discovery and Doodle Sketchbook: Art Journaling for Boys. Also worth checking out is Journal Bliss: Creative Prompts to Unleash Your Inner Eccentric by Violette. All of these are available on Amazon.com or check in at The Bookstore for other creative books. You can also check out the art gallery and wide assortment of classes and performances at the Beverly Arts Center.
- Indoor fort-building with paper snowball fights: Natalie Kryger, a Snoqualmie, WA mom of four boys under age 15, encourages parents to not overbook kids with activities over the break. “Boredom is often the mother of invention. Make a fort in the living room with blankets and have an indoor snowball fight with wadded up wrapping paper from Christmas.”
- Pizza and movie party: Kryger says “have your own pizza party with a personal size pizza dough ball. "Have them choose toppings from a selection on the table, bake and let them settle in with a favorite movie."
- Go outside and play: Winter is a great time to get outside and play, especially if you have snow (if we ever get any). Try a new activity such as ice skating, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing together as a family. Ice skating is available at the outdoor Evergreen Park skating rink next to the firehouse at 8900 S. Kedzie Ave., the indoor Oak Lawn Ice Arena at at 9320 S. Kenton Ave as well as the outdoor rink at Mt. Greenwood Park, 3724 W. 111th St.
- Play with paper: The traditional Japanese art of origami offers hours of fun and enhances your child’s spatial skills. Tom Angleberger’s Star Wars-themed origami books including The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back offer both reading and origami fun. All are available on Amazon.com.
- Pool party: Going swimming is a special treat in the cold months of winter. Head to your local indoor pool at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Science at 3857 W. 111th St. in Mt. Greenwood or consider staying overnight at an area hotel such as the Hilton Oak Lawn at 9333 S. Cicero Ave. for a change of pace.
- Puppet show: Attach a clothesline or rope across a doorway. Throw a sheet over it for a curtain and use a box below on the floor for the stage. Give kids paper bags and crayons for easy DIY puppets. Break out the socks and gloves, yarn, foam, puff balls, glue gun and googly eyes. Check with String Theory for projects or supplies. Miyako Kanamori's Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves is a great resource, also available from Amazon.
- Break out the board games: Younger kids will love playing games such as Apples to Apples with you, and older kids will enjoy classic board games like Scrabble and Monopoly. If you don't have any board games, you’ll find them on sale—and often in great condition—after the holidays at area consignment shops.
- Bake: My mother bakes cookies with my son and daughter every year during the holiday break, teaching them how to make the cookies her Lithuanian mother made for her as a child. You can bake at home with your kids, have grandparents deal with the mess at their house, or bring your kids to a cooking class for children at Marcel's Culinary Experience, which has a few class options for kids.
TELL US: How are you keeping your kids busy during winter break? Share in the comments below.
Compiled by Kathleen Miller