December 10, 2023
When the holiday season starts and winter sets in, parents instinctively know, the inevitable break from school is coming up. It’s a well-deserved “chill-out” (no pun intended) time for young children today. Considering academic expectations and after school activities it seems like there is little family time. Parents are busier than ever, juggling work, social expectations, and kid’s calendars. Let’s face it, parents are taxi-driving their children from one end of town to another for sports, activities and parties and technology is at the core of everyone’s existence! Playing games with young children during the holidays can be a great way to create lasting memories and bond as a family.
Enter holiday break. The perfect excuse to spend time together as a family, unplug, bond, stretch mental and physical skills and play some good “old-fashioned,” “traditional” games. Beware, when the kids hear about this, they may cringe! It’s okay. Embrace the cringe. It’s good for them. It’s good for you too. It’s one of those moments you will probably look back at and laugh about later. The cringe is a product of kids’ misunderstanding of non-technological play. You may need to coax kids away from their screens and hand-hold to “show them the way.” But everything WILL be Okay. Family game day will be a success. In fact, at the end of family game day, kids may even want to make it a regular thing!
It’s fun to keep Family Game Day flexible. Sometimes it’s a great idea to invite a child’s cousin or close friend or two to participate if you feel it will make things more lively, festive, and enjoyable.
Here are some holiday-themed family games suitable for young children, along with some tips to help make the day healthy and delicious too. Select what you think fits the personalities of your group the best. Run down the list of what you need to do in advance and what materials you may need or want to purchase in advance and prepare to have on-hand. For example, maybe prizes could consist of fun and zany water bottles to encourage the importance of water consumption and healthy hydration.
Holiday Scavenger Hunt:
- Create a list of 10-20 holiday-themed items or pictures for the kids to find around the house or yard.
- Think of unique and interesting hiding places and place items there.
- Provide the children with small paper bags or baskets to collect their treasured finds.
- If you have time, you can decorate the bags in advance and include each child’s name on it.
- Set a time limit and whoever finds the most items wins a prize!
• Make bingo cards with holiday-themed pictures or words.
• Use small candies or festive markers as bingo chips.
Snow People Building Contest:
• This is one of those times where you hope for snow! If you are lucky enough to have it, encourage the children to work in teams to build the best snowman.
• Provide hats, scarves, and other colorful and interesting accessories for decorating like corn cob pipes, carrots and BBQ charcoal if available. If not, big round buttons might work instead. If accessible, sticks and twigs will be perfect to create arms. Kids can be super creative with making their snow people unique, colorful and individual.
- Write down holiday-related actions or characters on pieces of paper.
- Fill a large colorful bowl with the papers for everyone to pick from.
- Have the children take turns acting out the words while the others guess.
Holiday Memory Game:
- Create pairs of cards with holiday-themed pictures.
- Mix them up and let the children take turns flipping cards to find matching pairs.
Decorate Gingerbread People:
• Provide gingerbread cookies and various decorations like icing, sprinkles, and candies.
• Let the children get creative and decorate their own gingerbread people.
• Use a whiteboard or large paper to play holiday-themed Pictionary.
• Draw holiday-related items or scenes and have the children guess what they are.
• Use holiday themed colorful markers
Holiday Story Time:
- Sit in a circle and have each family member contribute a sentence to create a holiday story.
- Start with a traditional holiday setting and let the story evolve with each person’s input.
4 Healthy Kitchen & Eating Tips for Game Day
While you and your family are playing and enjoying time together, everyone is bound to be working up an appetite. This is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about healthy eating, snacking and mindfulness. Lead by example and show them that you enjoy fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. Take your children to the grocery store or farmers market to get them involved in making food choices and selections. This is how your kids can develop a healthy relationship with food and a knowledge base of where their food comes from.
• Involve Children in the Cooking & Preparation Process:
Kids will be more likely to try new foods if they are involved in preparation. Keep it simple and age-appropriate, such as washing vegetables, stirring ingredients, or assembling a party snack platter. Decorating the platter, making shapes, and grouping produce by color all helps kids build a healthy relationship with food. Remember that patience and consistency are important when teaching children about healthy eating. Some kids may have difficulty with certain foods and dislike some food categories entirely, so it’s important not to force them, but to persuade and encourage. If an aversion to a food persists, this may be something to explore in case there is an undiscovered food allergy.
• Always Use Creative and Fun Approaches
Make a fruit salad with rainbow colors, or any color scheme. Create vegetable characters on their plates using cucumber slices, baby carrot sticks, avocado wedges, broccoli crowns, cherry tomatoes, etc. Use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches into fun shapes and designs. You may be surprised at how inventive and experimental kids can be when it comes to cooking and creating in the kitchen. After all, the thought of trying their creations may be just too good to resist.
- Balance it All Out
Introduce the concept of balance so your kids understand that it’s alright to enjoy treats occasionally, but the majority of time food intake should be about nutritious choices. Create a positive food environment where healthy choices can be their own reward. Instill the concept of hydration and water consumption and put limitations on sugary and carbonated beverages for the kids. As mentioned above, prizes for game day could consist of fun and zany water bottles to make this a teachable opportunity.
• Cleanup is A Big Part of The Process
With all the gaming and eating going on, there is sure to be cleanup to be done afterwards.
This presents a teachable moment so that kids can understand the responsibility of cleaning up dishes and utensils in the kitchen as well as trash. Packing away materials, game pieces and remains of the day is a healthy part of daily life and a good way to conclude a fun day end on a positive note.
Remember to adapt the games to the age and preferences of the children and run through a list of items you may need in advance. Have the kids work on the prep list and section of materials with you so they take some ownership in the (hopefully successful) outcome of the day. Most importantly, be flexible and have fun together as a family! Take every opportunity to utilize available resources to instill good lifelong habits that will contribute to your children’s future well-being and teach them about healthy activities and good nutrition in an interactive way.
For more family game ideas checkout our list of Top 10 Family Board Games.