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Family Activities
Include ‘Time To Share’ on Your Holiday To-Do List

Want to spend more quality time working and playing with your family rather than being away from them and adding more stress to your holidays? Want to learn model ways of giving the gift of ‘time’ and oneself rather than material gifts this holiday season? Below you will find a “to-do” list to make the holidays truly special with your family.

Healthy Holiday Recipes
During the holidays, you may be in a rush and fast food or other unhealthy snacks are readily available and quite appealing. Here are a few food ideas that celebrate the holidays, provide time to be with your family, and are fun and good for everyone.

Note: Before any kitchen project, remind children to wash their hands well. As a parent, make sure to take extra precaution when involving your child in any kitchen activity.

 “Fruit Sculptures”
This one is fun, easy to make together, and delicious and healthy to serve to everyone.

What You Need

  • Fresh fruit pieces—orange or grapefruit portions, thin apple slices, pieces of pears, grapes or berries
  • Thin-stick pretzels

What You Do

    1. Place the fruit pieces in separate bowls so that children can easily see the different colors and shapes.
    2. Break the pretzels into different lengths.
    3. Have the children create animals, flowers, and decorative shapes by using the pretzels to stick the different fruit pieces together.

“Picture-Perfect Pancakes”
Take advantage of mornings when there is no school or work and use that time to make and eat breakfast together. This recipe is great for older and younger children alike.

What You Need

  • Pancake batter
  • Empty squeeze bottle
  • Assortment of toppings—peanut butter, honey, yogurt, nuts, berries

What You Do

  1. Place a portion of the pancake batter into the squeeze bottle.
  2. Once the skillet is hot, older children can squeeze designs into the pan—eyes, noses, and mouths; or, geometric shapes. Let the small pieces brown for about 15 or 20 seconds, then pour some batter from the mixing bowl to cover the shapes. The design will be darker than the rest of the pancake when you complete cooking it.
  3. The designed pancakes may be served plain. Or, invite your younger children to design their own pancakes using the assorted toppings. Note: Peanut butter is easier to paint with if you warm it in the microwave for a few seconds first.

Make It Special
There is something very special about homemade gifts, both for the giver and the receiver. These gifts show your care enough to spend extra time making something special. In these difficult economic times, making your own gifts can also relieve financial stress. There are a lot of simple things children can do that take time, but little money. Have construction paper, markers, craft sticks, and “doodads”—old buttons, ribbons, toys with missing parts, photographs, and magazine pictures, on hand. Besides the usual handmade cards and construction paper pictures, here are a few other ideas.

Note: If you are working with children 3 or younger, or making gifts for young children, make sure that the items you use are not so small that they become a choking hazard.

“Holiday Placemats”
These can be made in a variety of ways. One suggestion is to laminate them so that they will last.

What You Need

  • Copies of family photographs
  • Construction paper and markers

What You Do

  1. Have your child pick out some favorite family photographs. You may want to choose a theme: the family on vacation, during the holidays, or a chronology of pictures showing children growing up. Make copies of these so that you don’t lose these pictures.
  2. Take a large piece of construction paper and have your child draw a background that pulls together the theme of the pictures. Then, have your child title and sign the construction paper. For example: “Grandma and Me, Love, Sydney.”
  3. Glue the chosen pictures around the placemat, making sure that the message is not covered.
  4. Cover the placemat carefully on both sides with clear contact paper or take the placemat to be laminated.
Note: You can work with the whole family to make a set of placemats that highlight special family memories.

“Photo Frames”

A child’s photograph is always a beloved gift. Make it even more personal with a handmade frame.popsicle stick frame

What You Need

  • Craft sticks (eight per frame)
  • Photograph (the photo cannot be larger than a rectangle made by using the sticks)
  • Poster board or cardboard
  • Craft items—markers, glitter, and/or stick-ons
  • Yarn or refrigerator magnet

What You Do

  1. Glue the photo onto the cardboard. Cut the cardboard just slightly larger than the photo.
  2. Place one craft stick over the top edge of the photo and place another next to it, side by side. Repeat on the bottom. Then, place two craft sticks on either side of the photo, overlapping the top and bottom sticks. Use a pencil to mark where the sticks overlap.
  3. Remove the photo and glue the sticks into their proper places. Set aside to dry.
  4. Once the glued frame is dry, color and decorate it. If it is a special photograph with a theme, add appropriate decorations. For example, if it’s a picture of the big baseball game, cut out balls and bats to glue around the frame.
  5. Once the decorations are dry, place glue around the edge of the photo and glue the craft stick frame in place.
  6. Finally, glue the yarn on either side of the photo to hang it or glue a magnet to the back of the photo to display it on the refrigerator.

“Cookie Bag”
If you and your child are making holiday cookies as gifts, make the gift even more special with a custom-made bag.

What You Need

  • Lunch-sized brown paper bags or small gift bags
  • Waxed paper or foil
  • Craft items for decoration
  • White glue

What You Do

  1. Let your child’s imagination run wild. Decorations can be all about the holiday or a special “personality” bag for the person who will receive the gift.
  2. Once the glue has set, place waxed paper or foil inside the bag.
  3. Now, just add the cookies.

“I Can Help” Gift Certificates
“I Can Help” gift certificates benefit the child who gives them as well as the person who receives them. Children gain confidence in their abilities and have improved self-esteem when they are allowed to take on responsibilities at home. Gift certificates can promise specific actions (“I can help fold the laundry.”), or they can be gifts of time (“I can sit with you while you change the baby’s diaper.”). If a family chooses to use gift certificates as their stocking stuffers, it can mean more special time spent together in the new year.

What You Need

  • Construction paper
  • Markers and pens

What You Do

  1. Help children set up a list of people they’d like to give “I Can Help” gift certificates to. Talk about the special things they could do for each person.
  2. Cut the construction paper into rectangles about the size of paper money. Let the children decorate the rectangle to match the gift. For example, if the gift is helping in the yard, then children can draw gardening tools on the gift certificates.
  3. You will need to help younger children write the “redeemable” information on the gift certificates. For example: “This gift certificate is redeemable for 4 hours of help in the garden. There is no expiration date and the time can be split into as many days as you would like.”

The Gift of Giving
It is never too early to learn the value of volunteerism and giving the gift of time to help others. Even young children can participate in activities that will benefit others and provide them with an understanding of their responsibility to the community. Here are just a few ideas to get your family started.

  • Participate in an adopt-a-grandparent program at a nearby senior citizen home. Many older people do not have grandchildren close by; and, many young children don’t live in the same town as their grandparents. Regular visits can build wonderful relationships that help both the very old and the very young.
  • Make a family plan to visit a senior citizen home. Bring homemade cookies and put on a talent show.
  • Help an older neighbor: rake leaves, shovel snow, or take out the garbage.
  • Volunteer to help keep a community park or recreation area clean.
  • Gather cans and boxes of food for a local food bank.
  • Prepare small toiletry bags for a local shelter: toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, washcloths, and hand towels.
  • Go through old clothes to find those that don’t fit and that are still in good shape. This is a great sorting activity for young children and it is good for them to see that taking good care of their clothes means someone else will have the chance to wear them.




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Updated on 4/5/2013