The holidays are upon us! At our house, we’re all looking forward to our favorite foods (well, okay, the two of us who eat more than corndogs and dino nuggets are looking forward to the food), meet ups with friends, a few days away, and lots (and lots!) of family time. But for those of us with pre-preschoolers or students with 2+ weeks out of school, filling the days without resorting to hours of YouTube, MineCraft, or Roblox can be a challenge. (On a total side note, do any of your kids watch the Eh Bee Family on YouTube? I totally don’t get it. My kid’s real-life family is right in front of her but she’d rather watch someone else’s? We must be doing something wrong.)
Anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for zoning out, especially after a long day at school. And I’m the first one to share those Facebook posts about how Minecraft builds STEM skills. But with days off school and no plans in sight, an hour easily slips into two or three and then? Bring on the Mom guilt.
To combat the guilt and make the most of our time off together, I’ve compiled a list of five of our favorite unplugged play ideas. Give them a go this holiday break. Your kids might have so much fun that they’ll beg to unplug and play a little bit more. Just maybe.
- Bring a Story to Life – Kids love being read to – even big kids. So pick a favorite story or hit the library and find a new one (ooh – library picnics are another of our favorite unplugged outings!). Read it together, then find a way to bring it to life. Act it out with puppets, draw a few scenes on paper, come up with alternate endings, rename the characters. The fun doesn’t have to end when the story does! Educational Insights’ Once Upon a Craft™ kits make it easy to extend story time, with book and craft sets that include all the materials you’ll need to bring each story to life and fun ideas for extending the story time fun.
- Indoor Scavenger Hunt – I love scavenger hunts. Indoors, outdoors, wherever. If winter weather’s got you trapped inside, uplug your kids and get them moving with a list of things to find in the house. Get creative and sneak in some learning – use foreign language words for older kids, list objects of specific colors and shapes for little ones. Or tie the list to family history – the sweater mom wore to the last piano recital, Johnny’s favorite stuffed friend, etc. Timing your competitors is always a hit. And try having the kids take turn making the search list for each other!
- Obstacle Course – My daughter loves an obstacle course. In fact, she’s been dying to try Parkour ever since that one episode of Adventure Time with Shelby… but I digress. If you’re willing to risk your furniture – particularly your couch pillows – you’re way ahead of the game, but you can also create a course out of other objects. Weave your way through a string of shoes, limbo under a yarn pole pinned to the sides of the door frame, hop on one foot around a baseball cap. Get creative and be sure to let your kids help plan the course – that’s half the fun! And, of course, don’t forget the timer. Challenging kids to beat their time can be extremely motivating. EI’s Pancake Pile-up Relay Race game is another way to get your kids up and moving, with a relay style challenge to race to and pile up pancakes and toppings in precisely the right order.
- Bake Something – We’re big time bakers. Nothing too extreme, mind you. At our house it’s more about frequency. But kids love to measure, pour, and mix and, let’s face it, I’m not going to turn down a lick of the beater, either. Whether you choose a time-honored family recipe or a mix-in-a-box, baking is good, quality, unplugged time together. Share stories from when you were a kid, take turns licking the spoons, heck, you can even teach your kids how to wash the dishes while you wait for your creation to cook.
You can find more boredom busting unplugged play ideas here. And if you live in a warmer climate, be sure to check out our outdoor unplugged play idea post What are your unplugged play plans for the holiday break? Let me know in the comments below!
Amy Opheim is a mom, wife, and freelance writer based in Southern California.