Whether your family is transitioning from a festive holiday break or navigating life challenges, "winter blues" are a real thing -- and can come anytime of year. Don't let sadness get the best of your family. Incorporate playful family rituals to help ease 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. Even if you just returned from vacation, don't jump right back into the routine without scheduling a couple of days of wind-down time. Try starting a project that the kids look forward to finishing, such as a jigsaw puzzle, model airplane or craft project.

Reminisce. Gather the photos everyone took during a favorite 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. Your child may miss distant family if they haven't seen them in a while. Encourage him to write about his favorite activity or draw a picture that depicts something fun they've done 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. Get active with your family. If you're at home, play Frisbee in the backyard or watch a kid-friendly exercise video. Prefer to go out? Go roller skating, bowling or ice skating. 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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