Already tried the Christmas-movie-night-while-stringing-popcorn tack? Exhausted your board game tournament ideas? Sent your kids outside till they’ve sledded their little hearts out? Here are a handful of easy-peasy ideas to abet Christmas Vacation Chaos.

  1. Have an old-fashioned taffy pull. When we tried this with my kids and their cousins, I was delighted to hear my mom—who was admittedly a little skeptical of the potential mess—remark that this was a lot easier, cleaner, and faster than she thought! We used this Vinegar Taffy Recipe, but you might also enjoy adding those leftover red and green sprinkles, as suggested in this recipe. If you’ve never been to a taffy pull, this video will help!

  1. Wow them with simple science. During our recent school break, I picked up 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things to Do with Your Parents, Babysitters, and Other Adults.
    The book sits on our counter, and my kids have been thumbing through it every few days to try something new: the CD hovercraft, the paper airplane launcher, DIY pulley system, Pencil Arrows, Marshmallow Molecules. Most of the stuff was in our junk drawer!
  2. Also from the book above: T-shirts colored with permanent ink (like a pack of colored Sharpies), then sprayed with 70% rubbing alcohol. This dissolves the ink, and “the colors morph into a colorful explosion!”
  3. Get them building with something different. In case it’s not obvious, I get a kick out of my kids thinking in crazy new ways. My current favorite is this rollercoaster for ping-pong balls, constructed out of straws! Try newspaper rolled up into spears and connected with masking tape to make a tepee or fort; popsicle sticks (my kids like building bridges and buildings!); pasta (like lasagna, fettucine, and wagon wheels); pillows, blankets, cushions, and furniture (i.e. “fort day! Let’s spend the night inside!”); your recycling bin. My son recently built a boat out of foil and recyclables—and delightfully surprised me when it floated. If you dig this kind of stuff, search on the internet or Pinterest for “makerspace for kids”.
  4. Make food out of snow! This page has great recipes for snow cream, maple snow candy, and real snow cones. No snow? Check out this easy recipe for DIY ice-cream in a Ziploc–with ingredients you probably already have! (We used regular salt, and replaced the milk with half-and-half.)
  5. Don’t forget local calendars. Look on your city or town’s online calendar for what’s going on in your area that’s free or low-cost. A lot of libraries, too, populate their schedules with crazy-fun stuff you don’t have to prep—like making gingerbread houses, a movie afternoon complete with popcorn, or a Lego night.
  6. DIY TY’s. Seize the downtime to have your kids send out thank-you notes for Christmas gifts. For younger kids, here’s a simple printable thank-you note (help them circle the adjectives they want)! Print it FREE here. (I’ll post it on the Freebies page, too.)Perhaps older kids would like to pick out their own notes at the store or make their own. You can make a template for them, with a goal of, say, one note per day (or the option to bang ‘em all out at once). A sample template…suitable even for gifts kids aren’t thrilled about:

    Dear _____,

    I wanted to thank you for the (great/cool/huge) _____ you gave me. It was really (thoughtful/generous/kind/sweet) of you! I (can’t wait to use it at ___/have already used it to ____/think of you every time I see it). I’m grateful. Hope you have a happy New Year!

    (Sincerely/Love/Your __(granddaughter/grandson/niece/friend…etc.),

    [name]

  7. For younger kids: 50 Role-playing ideas.
  8. Mix up a quick Christmas treat that packs a big punch. We’re talking thirty minutes or less from start to glorious finish–and you’ll get a handful of treats to schlepp over to the neighbors or leave out for the postman (post-person?) and sanitation workers. A few of my faves:
  9. Plan one day–or just one project–to serve others. It can be a lot easier than you think! Here are 25 low-prep ideas–like tying a fleece blanket for Project Linus, baking something from #9 above for a lonely neighbor. Do you know anyone who might not be able to share Christmas with family this year?
  10. Have an easy family night. Here are 30 ideas!

GOT MORE IDEAS OR EASY RECIPES? Please share them in the comments section!

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