Scores of parents view the school holiday break with trepidation over how to keep the kids busy. Many parents also look forward to traditions and family activities. With the right activities and planning, home from school doesn't have to be nerve-wracking.
Novelist Melinda Clayton of Florida eagerly anticipates the extra time with her sons. "I actually love holiday breaks with the kids. We do both community activities and home activities. When they were younger, we would go to the local zoo for the nighttime Christmas tour. There was always something magical about the zoo at night, with Christmas lights and staff in Santa hats."
When the Clayton boys were younger, the family went to watch the local holiday parade. Now that they are older, they often walk in it with various community organizations. Melinda also enjoys making holiday treats with her sons and delivering packages to neighbors.
Another favorite activity is the annual making of the gingerbread house. Thinking that her sons were too old for this tradition, Melinda had an emergency run to the store last year for supplies when she was asked when they were going to build it.
As a self-employed writer, Melinda Clayton has to arrange her day to spend time with her sons during the holidays. "I do work from home, but I've been lucky in that even when the kids were younger, all I ever had to do was tell them I had to be in the office for X number of hours, and then when I was finished with whatever work I had to do, we could go have some fun."
If parents can arrange to have time off to spend with their children, they can include family game time, baking, a DVD movie and popcorn, walking or driving through the community to see the holiday decorations, decorating their house, shopping for holiday gifts or decorations, volunteering at soup kitchens or other volunteer time, or making holiday gifts for loved ones.
This is also a great time to visit local museums and art galleries. Depending on the weather, outdoor picnics, sporting events, miniature golf and other amusements are a great way to pass the hours.
Contact your local libraries, community centers, houses of worship, schools, nearby shopping malls and town recreation departments to find out if they have any special holiday activities going on. Some of these groups may even offer holiday time "camps" with organized activities to keep the children busy and happy while their parents are away at work. You'll often find free or low-cost organized activities.
Holidays off from school may be a great time to visit with relatives or even take a family mini-vacation to an amusement park or other favorite getaway. Don't forget to spread some holiday cheer, and visit relatives and friends who might be confined to nursing homes; if you don't have your own relatives, ask your local church group if they have a list of shut-ins you can visit.
Be adventurous, and try a wintertime sport like skiing or snowboarding. Of course, there are also plenty of opportunities to do homework and study, or to make and keep those seemingly impossible-to-schedule doctor and dental appointments. With the festive dress of the holiday season, this might also be a great time to update your family portrait.
Children grow up so fast; school holiday breaks are a perfect time to get to know each other again. If you can schedule time and activities together, it doesn't matter if the family plays a few rounds of charades or even puts on a little holiday-themed skit -- there's lots of fun to make into lifelong happy memories.
You can spend time in your house of worship, share family dinners that are cooked by the entire crew, have the kids decorate stationery while you put pen to a family newsletter, create original homemade ornaments and just be family.