How to Turn Winter Blues into Family Fun

Transitioning from surprise-filled, carefree holidays to the back-to-school routine can be hard for kids—and parents. Incorporate small playful family rituals to help ease the transition, brighten glum faces and bring your family closer together. Here are some ideas.

Hold a family cooking competition. Team up and challenge each other to make a dinner or lunch item using holiday leftovers. Stipulate what foods have to be included in the creation. The winning team gets to choose dessert.

Have a hot chocolate party. Whether you include friends or just your family, create a DIY hot chocolate station featuring candy canes, marshmallows, candy sprinkles and whipped cream. Cozy up by the fire and enjoy!

Family playing a favorite board game.

Build in transition time. Just returned from vacation? Rather than jumping right back into the routine, schedule a couple of days of wind-down time first. Try starting a project before your trip that the kids will look forward to finishing when they come home, such as a jigsaw puzzle, model airplane or craft project.

Reminisce. Gather the photos everyone took during your vacation or break, and help your kids create a digital slideshow or photo book to share with family and friends. Or print copies of the photos and let the kids make their own scrapbook. Reflect on the best parts of your family’s time together.

Send good cheer. If you visited distant family, your child may already miss them upon returning home. Encourage him to write about his favorite activity or draw a picture that depicts something fun they did together. Then help him mail it to your loved ones.

Craft an art party. Turn a gloomy afternoon into a colorful art party with your family. Gather art supplies like paint, textured paper, watercolors, glitter, colorful duct tape, beads, buttons, glue and paintbrushes. Challenge each other to create a work of art using only the materials available.

Plan an outing. Start the New Year off right by getting active with your family. Go roller skating, bowling or ice skating. Play Frisbee golf or jump around on trampolines at a local jump zone. Find more ideas at www.SanDiegoFamily.com/out-and-about/over-600-things-to-do.

Connect with nature. Give your kids a list of scavenger hunt items to look for on a nature hike. Take pictures of birds you spot, animal tracks and winter foliage, or collect pinecones.

Play games. Play a favorite classic board game or test-run a new video game your kids received. They’ll love teaching you how to play and you’ll get a better idea of how the game works.

Schedule a pajama party. Make appetizers, popcorn and warm beverages, and spend the day in your pajamas watching family-friendly movies.

Envision your next vacation or outing. Come up with a list of places you’d like to visit in your community or beyond. Assign your tech-savvy kids different locations to research. Have them answer questions like: hours of operation, cost of admission, location, nearby restaurants, best time of year to go, etc. Keep your findings in a “family outings” binder.

Fulfill a hoped-for experience. If your kids received the gift of an experience like tickets to a concert, the movies, an amusement park or sporting event, schedule the event soon after school starts to give them something to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Be spontaneous. Are most Saturdays spent on household tasks and chores? Surprise the kids by doing something out of the ordinary, like going to the park or San Diego Zoo.

Set intentions. On the first day back to school, mark the day with a special (but simple) celebration. Light a candle on a back-to-school cupcake, muffin or cinnamon roll. Encourage your child to make a wish for the second half of the school year before blowing out the candle.

In a society where we’re pulled in multiple directions, leisurely hanging out together can cost very little. The return on your investment of time will pay dividends down the road, resulting in a happier, more connected family.


Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two boys who love to build box forts, play games and run around outside.

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