15 Best-Fun Winter Break Ideas

You’ve planned every minute for two months, and now Mommy’s think tank is running on empty. So when the kids ask, “What are we doing today?” during that lazy week between Christmas and New Year’s, say, “Let’s …

Wife-and-husband duo Grackle & Pigeon, authors of Blanket Fort, say the keys to constructing the perfect fort are the aluminum poles from your summer camping tent. They adjust to suit your space and are lightweight so even little kids can help out. Turn their room into a hideaway by tying the poles in an arched X shape to the corners of the bed with twine (think standard tent construction). Throw cute sheets over the top.


The benefits of knocking this task out early: a fresh, clean snowfall to use as your backdrop and the chance to get extra mileage out of this year’s holiday attire. Plus, the no-pressure timing means you can have some laughs–and get real smiles while doing it.

Reuse wrapping paper

Kids are already tearing up the house–make them do it in a way that’s useful! Ask them to shred that pretty paper into tiny pieces, and you’ve got festive confetti for your New year’s bash.

Read, read, read

We suspect there are a few books on your nightstand begging to be finished, but if you need suggestions, flip through The Book of Books ($30, amazon.com). It offers background on TOO great novels across genres and suitable for various ages. The Giver or The Godfather? Jane Eyre or Jurassic Park? You can’t go wrong,


Before everyone packs up their life-size reindeer and music-synced lights, take a driving tour of the best decorated homes, businesses, and drive-through displays in your area. Plan your route at christmaslightfinder.com, fill the car with snacks, and crank the holiday tunes. Don’t stop ’til your playlist or the cocoa runs out,


Doing park cleanup or helping at your local soup kitchen is always a nice idea, but get this–you and the fam can do good while still in your pj’s. Here’s how: Go to volunteermatch.org and, after typing in your city, narrow down the options to at-home opportunities by clicking on “virtual.” The activities run the gamut, from making cards for patients in hospice care to knitting blankets for veterans to putting together boxes of birthday supplies for kids in need.


Host a classic cookout–but indoors. Make things like hamburgers, lemonade, and this adorable reminder that 80[degrees]F weather will come again: Fill small tumblers with blue gelatin and follow package directions to set. Once firm, push gummy fish into the Jell-O, crumble a cookie “beach” on top, and add a Teddy Graham blissfully lounging in a peach-ring inflatable tube (that’s you!).

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Revive stale party chips

Instead of tossing them out, zap chips in the microwave on High for 30 seconds. Go one step further with tortilla chips by sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar for a sweet snack.

Bring back game night Charades fans will love its artsy cousin Sculptapalooza ($20, amazon.com), a delightful game in which you create figures or scenes out of play foam for others to identify. The play foam is good for forming only rough shapes, putting budding Picassos and stick-figure-drawings-only family members on an even playing field. (For ages 10 and up)


You’ve worried enough about food this month, don’t you think? Make the best lazy meal–slow cooker chili–and sprinkle in Chief Food Director Kate Merker’s secret Ingredient: bittersweet chocolate chips. “Try mixing in 1/4 cup 10 minutes before serving. They add extra flavor and richness,” she says.

Have a great (American) bake-off

Provide little bakers with your favorite sugar cookie base or let older kids bake their own, then set out a range of ingredients for decorating, including bulk candies, nuts, a rainbow palette of sprinkles and icing, and edible icing decorations. Winner of the most creative and tastiest concoction gets … to feed it to Mom!


Fill fine-tipped squeeze bottles with food coloring and water to “draw” all over your snowy yard. Then upgrade your snowman by smoothing the body with sandpaper, which will hide imperfections and make it curvaceous and glossy, suggests competitive snow sculptor Noah Davis.


Exchanging the family’s unwanted gifts sounds like a chore, but psst, moms, you can use it as an excuse for some precious alone time. Since gift receipts hide pricing, scan an item’s bar code using the ShopSavvy app to find out its current price. That way, you’ll know what Is worth cashing in (or getting store credit for) before you leave the house.

Head to the zoo

While elephants retreat indoors when it’s chilly you will get the chance to spot a few of those beautiful creatures that may have been MIA during your summertime visit. Certain animals, like polar bears and arctic foxes, will likely be outside in cold weather, says Kansas City Zoo zookeeper Kerry O’Connor. A good coat plus the sight of a fuzzy white bear cub should be enough to keep you warm.


and hit a New Year’s goal. (Bird, meet stone.) Ask members to come up with resolutions the family can share and keep one another accountable, suggests Benjamin Siegel, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. These could include eating dinner together more often, covering a sibling’s chore monthly, or taking turns planning group activities like a hike or endeavor. It’s a great way to stay connected all year long.

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