The holiday season can be a whirlwind of shopping, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, wrapping, decorating, and undecorating. Whew! If you’re like us, what you need now is a little rest and renewal with some stress-relief activities. But downshifting doesn’t mean that enjoying family and making memories together have to stop. Here are several simple, low-key activities that you will find manageable and your kids will find fun and engaging. In fact, fun stress-relieving activities for you and stress relief for kids could be exactly what the family needs!
- Lean into screen-free fun. Do you want the kids to lift their eyes from their screens for a while? The Highlights Book of Things to Do offers more than 500 ideas for tech-free activities—everything from cooking together in the kitchen to simple outdoor games. One of our favorites is making huge bubbles—time-tested and mellow fun for all ages. Mix up a batch of soapy solution using the foolproof recipe here and spend a few lazy hours watching your kids make and chase bubbles. If it’s cold where you live, turn the activity into a science experiment for kids by trying to make the bubbles freeze.
- Get the giggles. Laughing together is a great way to de-stress and relax. Arm your school-aged kids with a couple of knock knock jokes for kids and send them off to prepare for a family Comedy Night. They can memorize the jokes they think are funniest or write them into a script they read aloud. Creating a show will hone their sense of humor, give them practice speaking in front of others, and build their confidence. And the whole family will benefit from the health benefits laughter offers, which include a boost to our immune system.
When their show is over, keep the laughs coming by watching a favorite funny movie together. Here’s a great list of family movies from our friends at Common Sense Media.
- Hunker down with a good book. Reading together is a simple pleasure that offers kids many educational benefits and strengthens the parent–child bond. Even children who are reading independently say they still enjoy having a parent read aloud to them.
And remember, silent reading is also a great activity when you’re wanting to settle in and “nest.” Refresh your home library and schedule some QRT (Quiet Reading Time) for the whole family, including you! (One of the best ways kids learn to read for fun is by watching you model it.) Dress up QRT by creating some cozy reading spaces. Make a blanket tent, add a few pillows, and fill the space with a stack of Highlights magazines and books for kids. If the light inside the tent is dim, provide a flashlight for each reader so they can discover how intimate and delicious it feels to read in the dark.
- Puzzle it out. Encourage your kids to exercise their brainpower with puzzling. Set out an assortment of puzzle books for kids, pencils, crayons, and markers. Our mazes, word play, number and logic puzzles, and drawing activities can strengthen kids’ thinking skills, foster creativity, build confidence, and encourage them to get lost for a while in age-appropriate challenges. Kids can work our ever-popular Hidden Pictures puzzles solo or in round-robin fashion to encourage turn-taking and collaboration. Ask each child to find one hidden object, then pass the puzzle along to someone else, continuing until, working together, they find all the hidden objects.
- Connect with one another. Remember that what your kids want most is to be together, and what you actually do is less important than being in the moment. If you need to, dial it back further. Work a jigsaw puzzle or play a board game. Or look at family photos together. Kids love to see pictures of themselves and hear stories about what they were like when they were younger. Fresh air and exercise are essential to self-care. Bundle up the kids and take a walk together—or send them outdoors to play in the backyard.
- Do less so your kids do more. Young kids love to be helpful. If too many chores make it hard for you to relax, ask your kids to help lighten your load. Try approaching laundry as if it were a game, inviting young kids to sort by color and help match socks. And who doesn’t like to roll or fold fluffy towels that are warm and fresh from the dryer? Kids who like pretend play might enjoy folding clothes to “tidy up the house” or wiping down the table and sweeping the kitchen floor of your family’s “restaurant.”
- Bake it till you make it. Invite your kids into the kitchen to help with meal prep. Yes, you might be able to do it faster yourself, but letting your children assist gives them a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the effort and pleasure involved in feeding a family. They may also enjoy baking for friends and other family members, which this baking kit for kids makes fun and easy. Allow your young bakers to help you deliver the goodies so they can see how their gifts are received and experience for themselves how it feels to show others kindness.
In these ways, you can help your children discover what you already know—that taking time to rest and recharge is essential. When we do, we replenish our inner well of patience and kindness and are able again to focus on the things that matter most and show our children our best selves.