Sure, we all need down time with our family, but let's face it, "doing nothing time" for parents can also mean "boredom time" for kids.
It's so easy to default to what we know will keep them occupied: tech. What's wrong with a little extra iPad time while you have your coffee and read the paper, we rationalize. After all, it is the holidays. A little extra indulgence seems reasonable.
But we all know just how quickly technology can become the default babysitter when we're too pooped to entertain the kids. We might feel guilty about it, but we also known it works like a charm.
WATCH: Keep the kids busy all Christmas with DIY ornaments. Story continues below video.
If we don't want to go down the slippery slope of plugging our kids in, we need to find something else to occupy their time. And it doesn't mean we have to bust the bank to do it. Many of us have already spent most of the family budget on gifts and entertaining, anyway.
So, let me offer some cheap alternatives that can help displace the time your kids spend on tech.
1. Put on a play
Kids can be distracted for hours building sets and props from items around the house. They can dig around closets to find costumes. They can make tickets to sell and pop popcorn to hand out. They can even arrange the seats in the house, theatre style. The whole things takes a huge amount of time and creativity. Since the show has to be a big surprise you can't watch them rehearse — so you will have hours of adult time!
2. Plan family games night
Each night you can assign a child to pick a game they want to play with the family. It could be a board game you already have, but you could also discover some old fashioned "parlour games" like "killer" or "darling if you loved me."
3. Explore your own city
Often we don't look around our own town for things to do and see. Go to the tourism page of your city and see what you might explore together.
4. Go tobogganing, skating, or swimming
Many recreation centres have family time for free or just a few bucks. And most towns have a hill for great tobogganing, snow permitting.
5. Build a fort
The holidays are a great time for making a big mess.
Why not allow this time for tearing the furniture apart and pulling out old blankets to create a huge fort? Then, send the kids into it to read.
6. Go for a hike
Pack some hot chocolate in a backpack and head outside. Bring a pair of binoculars to spot birds, and watch for interesting animal tracks to identify. Kids can collect seed pods and make an interesting table arrangement.
7. Have a cooking challenge
Why not turn your kitchen into "MasterChef Junior?" Some parental supervision is required but you would be amazed at how much kids can do on their own with a little coaching from the sidelines (and it's one less meal for you to cook).
8. Put them to work
Fun doesn't always have to be games. Kids like helping with projects like re-painting a bedroom, or hanging a shelf. Assembling Ikea furniture is actually fun for kids! They like following the picture instructions and using an Allen key. And there is so much pride when the project is finally complete.
9. Teach tricks
Get the kids to learn magic tricks, card tricks, or even try to teach the family dog a trick. It takes hours to master and since they don't want their parents to know how they did it — they have to practice on their own.
10. Read a book together
Find a book that is suitable for all ages. A librarian can help you pick one. I'm a big fan of Carl Hiaasen, myself. Set a time every day to gather together with tea and blankets and read out loud to one another.
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