December is a wonderful time of year, full of holiday traditions and time spent with family and friends.
It’s also the most expensive time of year. There are presents to buy for all your friends and family. If your family lives in another town, there is often a trip to visit them. On top of all that, there are also a huge range of holiday-themed activities, which are great fun but can add to the cost of the season. While I want my children to have a great Christmas break, I certainly don’t want to break the bank.
Here are some of my suggestions for low-cost activities to entertain your children and celebrate the holiday season over the schools’ Christmas break.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
I have fond memories of riding around with my family during December looking at all the beautiful Christmas lights. My own children also enjoy driving around different neighborhoods to see the lights. This is a great activity if you have a newborn because they can stay nice and cozy in the car and hopefully even go to sleep. If you have older or more adventurous kids, there are several places to get out and walk to look at Christmas lights. My children particularly enjoy walking at Maple Street Park in Essex Junction to look at the lights and complete the scavenger hunt.
Baking cookies is my favorite way of convincing my bored children to stay home. I usually make sugar cookies in various shapes and let my children decorate them. My kitchen and children end up covered in icing, but at least we are left with a bunch of tasty cookies! If you are low on time or just don’t feel like baking, store-bought cookie dough and icing are great shortcuts. Older children can even do this activity on their own. For younger kids, I like to use larger candies to decorate the cookies, such as chocolate chips. For older kids, you can go all out with sprinkles, sugars, and anything else your heart desires.
Visit a museum.
Many museums decorate for the holidays and plenty of them also have special activities for children over the school break. If you have a favorite museum, a membership makes a great Christmas present and will save you money over the year. My family has a membership to the Shelburne Museum. Over the Christmas break, we like to go there for the kids’ craft activities and to check out the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Also, many local libraries have passes to different museums that patrons can borrow for free. Ask your local librarian if such a pass is available!
My six-year-old son is a very active little boy. He is constantly on the go and has a ton of energy to burn each day. When I really need to get him out of the house, we slap on our snow pants and boots and go for a little walk around the neighborhood. The Vermont State Parks are closed for the winter. However, they are available for hikes or walks, although there won’t be access to bathrooms. If you are looking to join a group hike, the Vermont State Parks host a First Day Hike at several of their locations on January 1st. I took my kids to one at Grand Isle State Park last year and we even got hot chocolate at the end. It was good motivation to finish the walk!
Make paper snowflakes.
All you need to make paper snowflakes are some pieces of paper and a pair of scissors. My kids generate mountains of drawings, so this is also a good way to recycle some of their old pictures that I don’t want to keep. If you want to get really fancy, there are snowflake templates online that you can print. Once your children make a bunch of snowflakes, they can hang them on the windows as decorations. They look beautiful and are so much fun to make!
Construct gingerbread houses.
I am usually quite busy in December, so I generally take the easy way out and buy an inexpensive gingerbread house kit at the grocery store. If you have more energy, you can bake your own gingerbread house pieces. When I was a child, my parents found an even cheaper way to construct houses by letting us use graham crackers as the walls. They can even be stale graham crackers that no one wants to eat anymore. Just join the graham crackers or gingerbread together with icing and let your kids plop on candy for decoration. My kids love this activity because they eat just as much candy as they put on the houses.
Watch Christmas movies.
There are lots of kid-friendly Christmas movies. December is your one chance to watch them. Over Christmas break, your kids can also stay up a little later. I love to get the entire family in their pajamas and snuggle on the sofa to watch a classic movie. Your children will love it if you make hot chocolate or popcorn to go along with the movie. What’s not to love?
Visit your local library.
Many libraries have special story times or other programs over Christmas break. They are both fun and educational. Even if you don’t find a program you like, the local libraries often have plenty of toys and games to entertain children of all ages. Schools also encourage children to read plenty of books over the break. Libraries offer so many options! If you are feeling particularly inspired by the holidays, there are plenty of holiday-themed books and movies to check out.