Making the Most Of Winter Break

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What to do, what to do? The holidays are here and so are your kids, thanks to school closures over Winter Break. For some families, this is a very welcome time of togetherness that they look forward to all year long, especially for military spouses if it includes time spent with loved ones who are usually not at arm’s length. For others, having the kids home and constantly under foot — and possibly trapped indoors after a snowfall — can make cold, gray winter days seem unending.
So, how can all of you fill your time without driving each other crazy? Here are ten ideas to help you inspire minds, both young and old, when you’re all together.
·         Enjoy the splendor of winter. Bundle up and go outside for a walk, sledding or to build a snowman. While you’re out there, take in all the sights, sounds and scents of the winter season — the bright colors of winter birds, the homespun smell of smoke from a crackling fireplace, the twinkling of holiday lights on houses, and the subtle, heartwarming scent of pine trees.
·         Make holiday ornaments. Salt dough ornaments are classically kid-friendly and can be shaped with cookie cutters or by hand, capturing handprints for the years to come. Leave them as is for a natural look, paint them to match your décor, or apply glue and sprinkle them with glitter. You can even think ahead to the next holiday by making heart-shaped ornaments to hang in Febrary.
·         Watch a holiday movie marathon. Choose your favorite movies (they don’t have to be holiday-related), whip up some hot cocoa, gather a plate of fresh-baked cookies from the kitchen, snuggle up under a warm blanket on the couch, and press “Play”.
·         Write thank-you notes. Remember all those gifts you’ve just received? Even if you opened them in the presence of the gift-giver, think how special they will feel opening their mailbox to find a handwritten (or at least a hand-packaged) thank-you note from you — not to mention, if you live far away from the person you’re thanking, they will have fun seeing the postmark and stamp on the envelop. And your kids will be admired for their good habit of gratefulness.
·         Clean the house. No, it’s not the most “fun” thing on this list, but just think how you’ll feel in the New Year knowing your house is clean! Everyone can be responsible for de-cluttering their own space on Day 1. On Day 2, tackle any other rooms that need a touch-up — working individually or as a team. On Day 3, reward yourself with a meal made by all… or just kick back and relax, enjoying the refreshed space you’ve created!
·         Shop the after-holiday sales. Yes, heading off to the stores with kids in tow can be an adventure in itself, but if you plan to make a day of it, you can come out in the end with a smiles on everyone’s faces. First, decide where you want to shop and agree to only purchase items you reallyneed. Pre-purchase movie tickets so you have a shopping deadline and scheduled chill-out time. Afterward, get back out in the shops again, if everyone’s still game, or head home to review your new treasures.
·         Snap photos of each other. Catch the moments that usually get missed. Hand off your camera or cell phone or tablet to each member of the household for a few minutes at a time. It will be interesting to see what their individual perspectives are: Mom cooking from the point of view of the floor; Baby crawling from the point of view of standing on top of a chair; Dad shoveling snow from the upside-down point of view of a sled. Etc.
·         Let the kids plan and make dinner. Have your little one choose a cuisine (e.g., Italian), make up a menu and decorate the kitchen table as though it’s a restaurant. No need to buy anything special for these activities. Use what you have or make it with supplies on-hand. It’s a great way to inspire kids in the kitchen, help them learn to cook, encourage their crafty creativity, and practice their handwriting skills. (And they will just think it’s for fun.)
·         Sort clothes and shoes. Wintertime is a great time to go through drawers and closets to determine which summer clothes no longer fit — or won’t fit when summer comes around again. Drop the ones you no longer need or want into a donation box for the nearest thrift store and throw away anything that isn’t in good condition. You’ll feel good knowing you’ve gotten rid of things that can no longer be used, and create space for new ones.

·         Keep in touch. Haven’t seen your best friend in a while? Are your kids longing to see their school buddies? Set up a lunch date, phone call, or Skype chat for yourself, and play dates for them. It will give all of you the one-on-one “me” time you’re looking for at a time when everyone, just like you, is wondering how to fill up their Winter Break days.

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