By Jessica Vician
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo.
Children make the holidays magical. They open our adult eyes to wonder, hope, faith, and a jolly good spirit while reminding us to take a few moments to really appreciate everything we have.
Spark your family’s joy and wonderment with these holiday activities, which are some of my favorites. Then share yours in the comments below so we can all try something new this year!
Many towns offer a traditional German holiday market, inspired by the one in Nuremberg, Germany that started in 1545. These markets often feature local artisans, shops, and traditional German food, while some, like the one in Chicago, even have vendors visiting from Germany.
Bring the kids for the food, music, culture, and the opportunity to speak a little German. Teach them how to say good day (guten tag), goodbye (auf wiederschen), and thank you (danke).
Get several families together, bundle up, and visit your local zoo for Zoo Lights this season. While the animals might be sleeping, many zoos turn on their holiday lights at dusk, which will warm your hearts and give your kids something to dream about that night.
Every December, my family would drive to the Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) on State Street in Chicago to take in the holiday windows and music in the brisk winter air. With a different theme every year, I was always excited to see what magic would be dancing around in the windows.
Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if your town decorates holiday windows or head to the nearest city for adorned windows, music, and other special events for kids.
Holiday Giving to Kids and Charities
When I was in elementary school, every year my family would take an angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. We would go shopping together for that child’s Christmas gifts. Not only was it fun to shop for someone my age, but it also taught me that the holidays aren’t just about Santa and receiving gifts. They are about giving to those who need help.
Once I was in high school, my student council hosted toy drives. After we organized all of the toys, we would deliver them to the families’ homes. Witnessing the pure joy in the children’s faces was the greatest gift we could ever receive. Ask your middle school or high school student to help organize a toy drive at his or her school this year.
Even if your family can’t afford to sponsor an angel or donate to Toys for Tots, save a little extra change for the Red Kettle program. Before you enter or leave the store, give your child that change to put in the red kettles and explain how that money helps other children. You’re teaching the spirit of giving, which is one of the most important parts of the holiday season.
One of the best activities you can do with your family over the holidays is also free! Cuddle up on a cold morning or evening in bed or on the couch. Make some hot chocolate, light a fire, and watch a holiday movie or play a game together. After all, what are the holidays without family and love?
What are your family’s must-do activities and traditions over the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments below.