11 Fun Ideas That Don't Involve Santa
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Holiday Time-Out1 of 12
By Natasha Burton
The holidays can be a whirlwind of cooking, shopping, and parties—so much so that you never get a chance to actually relax and enjoy the season. To help you slow down, here are 11 ways to take a holiday break and spend some quality time with your loved ones.
Game Night2 of 12
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz suggests holding a family game night. "Game playing creates a way of relating that is different from gift giving," she says. "Playing together lets you be silly and laugh, which relieves tension and stress while at the same time increasing the warmth you feel toward each other." Some fun ones that various age groups can play? Try Scattergories, Clue and Memory.
Out & About3 of 12
During the holidays, there is plenty of cooking and clean-up, says Kathy Bertone, author of The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host; Becoming the Perfect Guest. Give hosting a break and gather everyone for a special lunch, tea, or a spa day. If you can't take a day, even an hour of indulgence is restorative.
Go Team!4 of 12
You may be averse to tackling a major project over the holidays, but having everyone home is a great time to take advantage of an open schedule and extra hands—especially when you can create something that you can all enjoy for years to come. Relationship expert April Masini suggests coming together to build a tree house or a side table—some kind of family project that allows you to work as a team on a common goal.
Branch Out5 of 12
With so many generations together in one place, the holidays are a good time to focus on your family tree. MyHertitage.com has a free family tree creator where you can fill in all of your relatives (for a fee, you can find connections on other members' trees), keeping all of the information in one place. Encourage younger kids to play reporter with their elders to find out more about their roots. Spark conversation with questions like: What did you do for fun as a kid? What were your parents and grandparents like?
On the Hunt6 of 12
If you anticipate a bunch of children in need of entertainment or distraction, devise a treasure or scavenger hunt in your home and backyard, which can keep them occupied for hours. To make the set-up and execution easier, try online tools like the user-friendly Scavenger Hunt Creator or this QR code generator, which allows kids to use a smartphone to get the next clue.
Snow Day7 of 12
Rather than make snowmen, take a tip from lifestyle expert Cristin Frank, author of Living Simple, Free & Happy: How to Simplify, Declutter Your Home, and Reduce Stress, Debt & Waste: Create painted snow sculptures instead. Using Kool-Aid in spray bottles, you can color your creations (see Frank's full tutorial here). Either work together as a family on one big sculpture or have each person design a piece of snow art.
Run for It8 of 12
Get active amid all the holiday indulgence by rounding up your family—and their running shoes. Rather than sit around watching TV, use the extra time to train with short group jogs, then participate in a family-friendly event like the Commitment Day 5K, a walk/run which will be held in 35 cities nationwide on Jan. 1, 2014. The event, which supports the American Heart Association, encourages families, friends, and communities to commit to living a healthier, more active life in the new year.
Get Competitive9 of 12
For an inexpensive, fun activity that every generation can enjoy, take a trip to your local bowling alley or mini golf park (for those in warmer climates). Up the ante by dividing into teams—complete with creative team names, of course—and even designate a family trophy that can be passed around and coveted year after year.
On the List10 of 12
When winter break starts, devise a family bucket list: Each person can name one place they want to go, or activity they'd like to do. Over vacation break, you can go through the list and check each item off as you finish. The various activities may help family members discover shared interests and learn new things. Plus, you'll all feel a sense of accomplishment when the list is complete.
Take a Hike11 of 12
Bertone says that walking is not only a stress reliever (as exercise always is), it can really help people bond. Removing distractions like televisions and phones allows you to reconnect to family in ways that just aren't possible at home. "You also might get closer to someone who you don’t know as well," says Bertone.
Free for All12 of 12
The holidays are about giving, but that doesn't mean you have to buy presents. Marriage and family therapist Christy Monson, author of Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen, suggests creating a "Secret Family Pal." Put everyone's name in a hat, then draw names. Over the course of the vacation, each person will do something special—and free—for the family member whose name they drew. These gestures could be anything from a sibling reading a book to her little sister to a child drawing a picture for her grandpa. It will ensure that everyone feels loved and appreciated over the holidays.
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