By Tracy Scott, guest writer & Timothy Parent
Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the miraculous history and all that it means for us, the reading (and reciting) of Luke 2, candlelight services, carols, our Christmas tree, time with friends and family. I could go on and on. Those first ten days of Christmas break were meaningfully busy and celebratory. Then, it was Thursday — the day after Christmas — and all of a sudden I realized that we still had ELEVEN more days of Christmas break.
Some of you may have children who will sleep in, connect with friends, and plan their vacation days. Others (myself included) have one or more children who look to us to fill these days starting at 6 am. So, in the interest of solidarity with all of you who are not traveling to warm climates where you can read books and let your kids build sandcastles, here are some fun ways to fill the remaining days of break if your lovely, adorable children begin acting, well, a little bit less lovely and adorable now that Christmas is past.
If we are in Chicagoland for Christmas, skating is a great way to fill an afternoon, enjoy some fun, and snap some festive pictures. There are plenty of open skating rinks in several suburbs, but I happen to think the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is the most fun. (Free admission; skate rentals begin at $13.) It’s beautiful and once around the ribbon is much longer than a trip around a standard ice-skating rink. However, this also means that the Zambonis take a LONG time to clean. Be sure to check the schedule so you don’t arrive and end up sitting for an hour in your rented skates. The skating rink at Millennium Park is also fun and picturesque. (Admission is free, but expect long lines over the break.) If ice skating isn’t your thing, there are some fun roller rinks around so that’s an option too.
In our family, there are two ways to view holiday lights: casual and formal. When we say “formal” we mean bundling up and traveling to view some festive holiday light productions such as Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Illuminations at the Morton Arboretum, The Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic, or the Wonderland Express at Chicago’s Botanic Garden. All of these are lovely and remain open well into January. Admittance fees vary by location.
As I’m sure you’re guessing, casual holiday lights are my personal favorite. This involves sending our kids to get ready for bed and acting as though we’re DONE with the day. While the kids shower and change into pajamas, we might make hot chocolate while we warm up the car and get some festive music playing (this all depends on the opinions you hold about playing Christmas music AFTER Christmas. We are a family divided on this issue so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.) Then, we grab the kids, along with blankets and pillows and we take a nighttime drive through the local suburbs, looking at lights. Sometimes, we’ll even end with a drive downtown, through Michigan Avenue. It’s free and fun and always an awesome way to end the day.
AT HOME ACTIVITIES
Create a 2019 Collage
If you’re hoping to find some activities for your children that enable you to get some things done around the house, one activity idea is to ask your children to make a collage of the year. In our house, this means hopping on the computer and printing (just on regular paper) their favorite pictures. Next, they cut them out and arrange them on pasteboards, cardboards, canvases, or whatever medium they prefer. (Depending on the age of your children this may require a trip to a craft store, but it’s worth it.) Our kids have put these on their bedroom doors, or even given/mailed them to the grandparents in the New Year. It’s a fun activity that gets their creativity flowing and gives you some time to work, catch up on emails, take a break from being a personal cruise director.
If you belong to a photo website like Shutterfly, icloud, Smugmug, etc your tweens and teens might also enjoy making a calendar, notepad, or some other item with your photos online.
Print out a Winter Scavenger Hunt
My kids are a little old for this now, but if the weather is above freezing, there are all sorts of fun scavenger hunt pages you can print from the internet. I used to go out with my kids and promise hot chocolate as a reward for completed sheets. This is also a fun activity during a playdate if you have some friends over. Easy, low-prep, fun and creative.
INDOOR PARKS or OUTDOOR
In our house, we have a big list of indoor parks we like to visit. Regardless of age, my kids will run around and jump at a trampoline park or indoor playground for a good two hours with friends. Whether you prefer SkyZone, Fun Zone, Legoland, or Safari Land, there are indoor play spaces in nearly every suburb.
Thankfully, this week there are several days where the forecast implies you could save the indoor parks for February and remain outside! We might go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo, or even the Botanic Garden later this week.
NAVY PIER’S WINTER WONDERFEST
If you have young children, this is always a win. It’s a giant indoor Christmas playground with hundreds of festive Christmas trees, games, rides, and even another ice skating rink! Admission can be pricey, depending on when you arrive, but if you make a day of it, I think it’s worth the $13-25 cost of admission. There’s a climbing wall, a carousel, train rides, and obstacle courses. We typically go after Christmas as a way to extend the Christmas magic a few days.
Regardless of how we decide to spend our remaining days of break, my children have all been briefed on how the days will begin:
- If the parents are not working, they will be allowed to sleep in.
- We will remain in our pajamas well past 8 am.
- We will enjoy continental breakfasts that people prepare for themselves. (I will happily assist with both lunch and dinner.)
By my count, we have seven days until we’re up early making lunches and getting people ready to board the bus to Timothy. We intend to soak in every remaining second of Christmas break!