Beating the Post-Holiday Blahs

By Lindsey Townsend

We had a long-standing tradition in our house for the holidays. Every Christmas, after the last gift was finally opened and the living room was a sea of crumpled wrapping paper, my father would survey the room, lean back in his recliner, and dourly proclaim, “Well, that’s it for another year.”

So what do you do with the kids when it’s all over except for the credit card bills? There’s nothing worse than hearing the “Mom, I’m bored” whine after you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on new toys. Here are a few suggestions to keep your kids occupied without doing further damage after the Rudolph, Santa and the elves have headed back to the North Pole:

  • Get up early one weekend morning and visit your local Farmer’s Market. Encourage your children to sample new foods and discover new favorites.

  • Ask the kids to trace each other with large sheets of paper or newspaper, then hang the full-size drawings in the hall for a family portrait gallery.

  • After Christmas, encourage the kids to take one of their favorite gifts and write and perform a short play about it (i.e., a train that comes to life and takes people wherever they want to go).

  • Make “Look at Me” books with small inexpensive photo albums, available at dollar stores. Pick out some baby photos (photocopies work, too) and glue them to a page. Together with your child, write the story. Let you child tell you how to fill in the blanks. (Example: When I was a baby, I could crawl, but now I can run and jump).

  • Schedule a special theme night for your child and his or her friends, like a game night, movie night, or slumber party night (everyone watches a movie in a sleeping bag with popcorn).

  • Plan an outing for a factory tour like a crayon or bread factory. They’re usually free or a nominal fee, and they offer an educational peek into the world of how things are made.

  • Take advantage of dollar matinees. Great rates are usually available on weekends before noon and weekdays before 6:00 p.m.

  • Make a family tree. Glue snapshots or photocopies of family members onto juice can lids, then glue magnets on the back. Stick them on the refrigerator while you talk about all the people in your extended family: uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc.

  • Save the large cardboard boxes from gifts and let your kids use them to draw on. They can also be used to construct trains, cars or houses. Encourage your kids to use their creativity and decorate them with markers and construction paper.

  • Ask your kids to pick out a few toys they no longer play with and make a family trip to donate them to a local children’s home or charity.

  • Bundle up and go for a walk in the woods to look for birds and small animals.

  • Ask your child to draw members of the family, including him or herself. If they’re old enough, they can add a description of each person. For younger kids, ask them to describe what’s in the picture and write it down for them.

  • Visit a park with playgrounds, open fields, basketball courts and tennis courts.

  • Go for a neighborhood walk--with a twist. For a color walk, let your child pick a color like yellow. Then go out and see how many yellows you can find. For a counting walk, choose an object like a door and see how many you can count. Or do a finding walk and make a list of things to collect while you’re out: a brown leaf, a shiny rock, a big stick.

  • Visit a beach or a lake and take a cold-weather hike.

  • Have a treasure hunt. Go out and hide several inexpensive prizes around your neighborhood, then give each child a list of things to find.

  • Use coupons for miniature golf, bowling, restaurants or video rentals.

  • Make a map of your neighborhood. Give your child a paper pad and marker. Start the map by drawing the door where you left. Once outdoors, ask them to mark landmarks that they see on their map: a tree, a mailbox, a street sign. Then walk the route backward, reading it as you go.

  • Attend plays at local theaters, which are much less expensive than more large-scale productions.
  • Leave things a little better than you found them. Explain to your kids that taking care of the world doesn’t stop at the front door. On your next walk, bring some plastic bags along. When you find trash along the way, pick it up.

  • Play board games with friends.

  • Throw a potluck party and have every child bring a food item.

  • Have a pet party. If you don’t have any pets, use a bear or a doll as the guest of honor. Let your kids direct as much as possible-who will be invited, whether you make invitations, what kind of food you’ll need, etc.

  • Visit zoos and museums. Cold weather tends to bring out the animals, and once the summertime crowds are gone, you practically have the place to yourself.