It adds to the Christmas magic when you have children in the house. Children get so excited anticipating opening presents, being off school and seeing family. But with children also comes drama. I’ve heard more than a few parents worrying about their children being off their schedules for 2 weeks over break. We’ve all been there! When children have too many late nights, too much sugar and not enough structure there is bound to be trouble! Here are some guidelines to help you survive and connect with your kids during winter break!
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Survive and Connect with Your Kids During Winter Break
Keeping structure in your home allows for the fun and spontaneity that comes with Christmas Break without the chaos and drama!
Set Guidelines on Bedtime and Wake-up Times for Winter Break
While getting to stay up a little and sleep in is fun and all part of taking a “break” from the regular schedule, it is not a free for all. So if this has been a problem in the past get ahead of the game. Explain to the children that while you want them to have fun there is still a household to run. You can either allow them to stay up a little bit later each night or have one night when they can stay up late to watch a movie or play games.
If you have tweens or teens in the house, they often get the idea that break means sleeping in til whenever they feel like it. Again, we may relax the rules or even allow one morning to “catch-up” on sleep. However, if you disregard the rules completely you typically end up with grumpy teens who don’t want to be required to do anything all day! Yikes! That’s worse than just a regular teen;) So gentle remind them, the night before, that you expect them to be up by _______am because we plan on doing ________________. Sleeping til noon is NOT an option.
Create Fun Time and Work Time over Christmas Break
We all need time to play and let off steam. But a constant expectation of fun leads to mom or dad doing all the work. And again too much play leads to whining and complaining later when we ask our children to help.
So split the day into having fun and working. Kids seem to value the activity or fun time if they feel like they have earned it.
I typically lead with work. So I might tell my daughter that we are going to work for the next hour and then we will break for making cookies, or watching a movie or going outside.
Or I may suggest that we play a game and then we are going to need to clean the kitchen. So preface the activity time with the fact that you still have household duties to be done. Sometimes you can combine or do them in a different way than typical. I may allow my daughter to fold laundry while she watches a Christmas movie because that is not something we usually do.
And don’t forget to create a little Christmas wonder for yourself. Here are some Self-Care Ideas Just for Mom!
Spread out the Gifts over Winter Break
Most children receive multiple gifts from their parents. And then they may receive gifts from friends and family members. Use that to your advantage.
We would allow our children to open a present that I knew they would enjoy playing with the day before Christmas Eve. It spreads out the fun and they are occupied with enjoying their present for a few blessedly quiet moments!
After all the presents have been unwrapped, I would quietly put some presents aside.
While the presents were unwrapped they had not been taken out of the box. I would save them for several days later when they would be enjoyed more thoroughly. If my children pressed me about them, I would just tell them that they could have them in a few days and that they should play with the presents they have.
This idea works great til about the teen years and by then they are managing their own time better.
Limit Screen Time and Sugar During the Holidays
When one of our boys was younger, he was so affected by what he ate, what he watched and his sleep. Everyone is affected by these, but if you have children that are more easily sidelined by their diet and screen intake, then you will want to keep to their typical guidelines. I know I hated having to be more strict. I just wished I could relax the rules, for myself and him, but it never worked. So be realistic.
Think about different ways you can “relax” some rules that won’t lead to meltdowns later.
Also, if you have family in town, have natural breaks (like nap or quiet time after lunch) where the kids are separated so you have less bickering when the kids start to get on each other’s nerves!
Get Your Teens and Tweens Involved in Holiday Preparations
Ever noticed that when your kids help with a meal they are more likely to eat it? So when you incorporate your children into holiday preparations it increases their awareness and appreciation for all the work that goes into the season.
You can have your children help with icing cookies, wrapping presents for others, filling out gift tags or setting out additional decorations. If guests are coming they can straighten or sweep off the porch, bring in more firewood, clean or tidy bathrooms and sweep the floor. Little ones can make a Christmas card to give to family guests.
Make Time to Read Aloud over Winter Break
I love reading to my children. Of course, I am slightly addicted to books. So while everyone is home, enjoy some quiet moments reading by the tree.
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With younger children purchase or borrow several Christmas story books or winter themed books like Eve Bunting’s Night Tree or Jan Brett’s The Mitten to have on hand for the break. With older ones, you may pick a chapter book to read to them. One of my favorites is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nothing makes you want to snuggle closer like reading about blizzards!
And here is a little secret! Even if you don’t finish the book, no worries. You will have had some great time together. And most of the time my kids would sneak and read the rest of the book themselves because they are naturally curious and want to know what happens!
Need some more ideas of activities you can do with your children? Julia at Dogwoods and Dandelions created a wonderful list on her post The 12 Days of Christmas: Making Memories with Your Family full of ideas to do with your kids and FREE printable cards! Make sure to grab it before December 15th as the printable goes away after that!
Set Aside Christmas Money for a Winter Break Family Activity
While most of the family is on break, save some money to go on an activity. I know that for some families going to the movies or museum is more common place. But for our family, living on mainly one income, taking the whole family somewhere was typically a special occasion. So if that is the case, make sure to budget a little so that everyone can get out of the house one afternoon or evening. We have gone to the zoo, the Omnimax theatre, a special light exhibit, the Conservatory, and one year the aquarium.
Survive and Connect with Your Kids Over Winter Break
As you put these guidelines into places, it will make your Christmas Break with your kids much more enjoyable.
If setting down boundaries for your children seems overwhelming, I want to share with you about the Stress-Free Family!
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The Stress-Free Family
Have you heard about The Stress-Free Family? Do you have a houseful of children elementary age and younger?
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I met Madeleine through a business Facebook group. She is a self-proclaimed “former stressed-out mom” who decided one day after a wildly chaotic morning that she was going to become the “together mom” she wanted to be. She put her years of experience as a CEO to transform her household. And now, she is helping other parents to create their own stress-free households!
Since her program seemed to so closely align with my goals for my blog, I jumped at the opportunity to take her FREE 5 Day Challenge! I was blown away!!!
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Some of Madeleine’s ideas were brand new to me!! I was so interested to learn about her idea of “clustering.” Clustering is where you combine activities in the same room and complete them all before moving on.
For example, if your child is supposed to get dressed, make their bed, brush their teeth and pack their backpack in the morning, you have them cluster all these activities before coming down stairs. That way the child doesn’t forget to brush their teeth or put their homework into their backpack. Heck, I needed the idea for myself, as I tend to go in circles instead of in one clear direction while completing tasks at home.
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Well, I hope you enjoy some great family time this Christmas and that you are able to take advantage of these FREE offers:)
- Download the 12 Days to Christmas: Making Memories with your Family FREE Printable Cards before December 15th.
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Heather Bee says
I love your idea of balancing work with fun and am going to try to implement this during Christmas break. We already try to go somewhere special during this time, but I think I may steal some of your ideas for specific places. Another great post, full of so many helpful ideas!
Thanks Heather! Yes, your family does always find creative places to go!
I ❤️ this post so much!!!! I see so many families going here and there and doing activity after (expensive) activity and we just can’t afford that. I like your idea of doing one activity and centering the rest of the fun at home around the regular household chores. I will definitely be implementing some of these ideas over Christmas break!
I’m so glad you found the post helpful Julia!
Screen time is a pain point at our house. Love your and Julia’s activities ideas!
Understanding that Mom still needs to get some work done is a difficult go for my little ones when they are home. Great idea to set some clear timelines and rewards ahead of time in order for them to get through the “I have to entertain myself” spans, Thanks!
Yes, it is hard for little ones to comprehend that there is a lot of preparation involved! Happy you found some helpful ideas in the post:)
Screen time…. a constant balancing act & struggle! Love reading aloud and some of these other activity ideas!
Yes, you are so right that screen time is such a balancing act.