With winter break right around the corner, we thought it would be helpful to roundup a list of ideas for all of us to use to keep our kids occupied. If you find yourself bored (not likely), going crazy (more likely), or wanting to get out of the house (very likely), during the holiday break, then we’ve got 55 awesome ideas for you in and around Indy.
1. Visit Christmas Light Displays. We do this MANY times during Christmastime. When I was little, my grandparents, parents, brother, and I would roll around searching for good displays and singing Christmas songs. I still remember how much fun I had. I love continuing this tradition with my kids.
2. Experience EnterTRAINment Junction in Cincinnati. This place is awesome! They have special activities for Christmas including visits with Santa and cookies from Mrs. Claus. Check them out.
3. Go Christmas Caroling. Two years ago, we had an unexpected ring at the door on Christmas Eve. To our surprise and delight, it was our neighbors singing carols! They even brought us some homemade eggnog. We loved it, and vowed to do the same for other neighbors and friends. You don’t need to wait until Christmas Eve. Spread some cheer with your singing abilities. You don’t have to sound pretty to be appreciated.
4. Play at Jolly Days at The Children’s Museum.
5. Visit Indoor Play Places. If the kids have way too much energy to stay in your house and you don’t feel like freezing outside, then load them up and take them to an indoor play center. Our favorites around Indy are Kid’s Planet and Smiley Indoor Playground. If you’re looking for somewhere to go, be sure to check out our Ultimate List of 55 Indoor Play Spaces around Indy.
6. Go Bowling. Standard bowling or miniature bowling are always fun with kids.
7. Go Roller or Ice Skating.
8. Take an Art Class. There are many art and pottery studios around Indy that offer one time classes or weekly workshops that might be perfect for you and the kids. We’re hoping to check out Brightly Art Studio in Brownsburg soon. We’ve also heard that LINE+Form Art Center and uPaint Pottery Studio have great opportunities.
9. Checkout Garfield Park’s Conservatory Crossing. Trains, poinsettias, jungle plants. Need we say more?
10. Attend a Cooking Class. In our area, Sprouts Cooking School and Yumz UP Cooking Classes for Kids offer a variety of classes.
11. Visit Family.
12. Take a Vacation. Do you have the time and money to plan a trip to somewhere sunny? If so, do it and think about the rest of us stuck here in the cold. If not, consider taking a day trip somewhere to get out of the house and see something new or different.
13. Visit the Eiteljorg Museum’s Jingle Rails Exhibit.
14. Swim at an Indoor Waterpark or Hotel. Sometimes just putting on a swimsuit and getting in the pool is all of the vacation you need to feel a whole lot better about making it through the winter. We’ve been to Greatwolf Lodge near Cincinnati several times in the winter, and it’s fabulous. They sometimes have a Groupon out, so make sure you check there if you’re planning a trip.
15. Ogle Beautifully Decorated Trees at Indiana Historical Society.
16. Take a Trip to the North Pole. There are several different Polar Express options around Indiana. We love Connersville’s trip on the real rails as well as Sullivan Hardware’s trip to Santa’s Workshop.
17. Attend Winterlights at Newfields.
18. Attend the Indy Auto Show. If you’ve got some car-lovers and older kids in the family, consider taking them to The Indy Auto Show the week after Christmas. Check out ticket prices and buy them online before attending.
19. Have Fun at an Escape Room.
20. Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree.
21. Play at an Arcade.
22. Watch Live Performances at Beef and Boards Dinner Theater. Adventure Dad takes me to Beef and Boards to see a Christmas show every year. Every performance we’ve ever seen here is fabulous! This year, you can see A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, or It’s a Wonderful Life during Christmastime. Depending on your kids’ ages, you might want to leave them with a babysitter, or you might take them for the delicious buffet dinner and magical live performance. They do have special performances for children, but none of those fall over winter break this year. Maybe you will want to check those out in the future?
23. Support a Local Small Business. You probably have some Christmas shopping left to do, so why not stop by some local small business and check out the unique and fun items they have?
Bake and Make
24. Bake Christmas Cookies. Adventure Dad has a thing for Christmas cookies, so we bake plenty of batches every year. His favorite are Krusteaz sugar cookies with regular old white frosting that you buy in a container from the grocery. We use sprinkles, colored icing, gel icing, M&Ms, and miniature chocolate kisses to add flair. I love the Pioneer Woman’s recipes, so I’ve also tried several of her different cookie recipes, and they always taste delicious. I can’t make them look as pretty as she does, but taste is what matters most, right? We love sharing our cookies with friends and family at different gatherings. Our friends, the Applebys, spend a whole day each season baking all different kinds of delicious cookies that they then share with everyone in their family. Grandma Appleby is a wonderful cookie baker, so she leads the way in the kitchen. What a great tradition!
25. Build a Gingerbread House. We usually buy a kit to do this. The Adventure Kids love building these, but I do have to watch them closely to make sure they don’t eat all of the candy and icing before it makes it on the house.
26. Craft. There are millions of craft ideas on Pinterest. Take a minute looking for one that is appropriate for your kids and that doesn’t take much prep or supplies. Or, if you feel up to it, go all out! These crafts might make excellent homemade Christmas gifts for friends and family, so you can kill two birds with one stone here.
27. Write a Letter to Santa. Help your kids write a polite letter to Santa (not just a list). Then, decorate it, address it, and take it to a regular mailbox or a special Santa mailbox near you. Before you mail it, make sure you take a picture of it or make a copy so that you know what they requested and so that you can keep it as a memory forever.
28. Make Ice Cream Out of Snow. This is a lot easier than it sounds. When the snow comes down, just give it a try. Gimme Some Oven clearly outlines how you do it.
29. Make a Christmas Ornament. One of the things I love the most about Christmas is decorating the tree, and that’s because I get to look back on ornaments we’ve collected from different places we’ve experienced together. I also LOVE seeing the ornaments that Adventure Dad created when he was little and the ornaments that the Adventure Kids have made each year. Ornaments that include a picture, handprint, or footprint are just adorable.
30. Make Reindeer Food. In a baggie, mix glitter with cereal, granola, oats, or something similar that you already have in the pantry. Explain to your kids that on Christmas Eve, you’ll sprinkle this in the yard to help the reindeer find your home. This also gives the reindeer something to eat while waiting for Santa to drop-off the gifts. So cute!
31. Create Homemade Gifts. Depending on your crafting skills and your kids’ ages, you can find about a gazillion ideas for homemade gifts on Pinterest that your friends and family are sure to love.
32. Make Homemade Christmas Cards. Family love receiving homemade anything, but heartfelt Christmas cards really take the cake. Consider repurposing old cards or cutting out pictures from magazines or coloring books to jazz up your cards.
Fun at Home
33. Call Santa Claus. When your kids have their wish lists together, they can call this number to reach Santa’s voicemail and tell him what they’d like: (951) 262-3062. There is a short recorded message where Santa reminds children to listen to their parents. He also wishes everyone a Merry Christmas. It’s cute.
34. Track Santa on Norad. The North American Aerospace Defense Command helps us track Santa’s movements on Christmas Eve. It’s a hoot.
35. Watch Christmas Movies. Sometimes there’s nothing better than snuggling up with your family and a hot drink to watch old and new Christmas movies. We each have our own favorite:
- Adventure Dad loves A Christmas Story.
- Adventure Mom’s favorite is Christmas Vacation, which is also her dad and brother’s favorite.
- Big Adventure Kid’s current favorite is The Santa Clause.
- Little Adventure Kid’s favorite is Frosty the Snowman.
36. Read Christmas Stories. We hope you take some time to read to your kids each day. The Adventure Kids have special books for each season and holiday, so we love pulling out the Christmas and winter-related books each year and reading several every day. Of course, there are the classics like Twas the Night Before Christmas, but we also have new favorites like Little Blue Truck’s Christmas and Merry Christmas, Little Pookie.
37. Make a Christmas Song Playlist. Make a playlist on your phone of all of your favorite Christmas songs. When you’re driving around looking at lights or having a frumpy day, play those jams. Like Buddy the Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
38. Go Indoor Camping. The Adventure Kids love this activity any time of year, but it’s especially fun when it’s crummy or cold outside. Just push chairs together, cover them with blankets, break out the pillows, sleeping bags, and flashlights, and have a pretend camping experience. You know what to do.
39. Play in the Snow. This should go without saying, but if it snows, get out there! Sledding, forts, snowball fights, snow angels, and all of the other fun snow activities are a must-do. When you come back inside, cocoa, grilled cheese, and tomato soup always hit the spot.
40. Have a Spa Day. You can have a spa day with your kids without leaving home! This will be fun for everyone. Gather up some supplies, give them a bubble bath, soak your feet in buckets in the living room, put on face masks, trim nails, or anything else that would be fun. Drink something sparkly or pretty while you’re doing it so you get the whole experience.
41. Look Through Photo Albums. You printed all of those pictures for a reason! Take some time to look through old family photo albums with your kids.
42. Play a Boardgame.
43. Host a Christmas Party. Make it small, invite the kids, make it an adult-only dinner party, or go all out and have Santa show up. Whatever you do, just remember to have fun.
44. Compete in a Bake-off or Cook-off. There are lots of ways to do this, but we sometimes let the kids pick a menu and then work with Adventure Dad or Adventure Mom on cooking a meal. Then we all vote on which meal or which dish was the best.
45. Host a Tea Party. Make some cute sandwiches and drink some tea with the kids at home. You can make it as fancy or as casual as you’d like. Or, if you want time out of the house, check out a local tea room. If you need a recommendation, we love Rustic Root in Beech Grove.
46. Have a Dance or Karaoke Party.
47. Wrap Christmas Presents. If you’re super particular about how your presents look, then this might not be a good idea for you. But if you sort of slap the paper on like I do, then why not have the kids help out? They need to learn sometime!
48. Get an Advent Calendar. My BFF bought our kids a giant Disney advent calendar for this year that has a little book to read each day. We’re excited to try this one out! Other years, we’ve had chocolate and daily Bible verses to read in our advent calendars. A cool list from Today Show gives some ideas for fun and uniquel advent calendars that contain such items as toys, makeup, treats, and even wine. No matter which kind you get (or make!), we think these are a great way to build anticipation for Christmas.
49. Elf Yourself. I seriously love the free Elf Yourself app. Maybe a little too much.
Give to Others
50. Donate Used Toys. This task serves three purposes. First, you can clean out room in your house. Second, you can teach your kids good lessons about giving to others and not holding on to everything. Third, your donations can help others have a better Christmas than they would otherwise.
51. Donate New Toys. There are many organizations that allow you to “adopt” a child and provide him/her with new toys and clothes. If you’re looking to “adopt a child” this Christmas, we do this through Megan’s Fund each year. It’s a wonderful experience! The Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program is another excellent charity that gives new toys to underprivileged children. Again, you can use this opportunity to teach your children about the importance of giving to others.
52. Mail a Card or Care Package to Military Personnel. Did you know the USPS will give you a free Military Care Kit so you can send packages to our military men and women? Additionally, the Support Our Troops organization has great information about what and where to send your care packages. The Operation Gratitude organization provides tips for writing letters to thank our troops as well.
53. Volunteer. If you’re looking for ways to give back to the community and to grow your child’s compassion and understanding of the world, then there are many organizations that can help you do just that. To search for volunteer opportunities around Indy, check out IndyHub or Volunteer Match. Most organizations require children to be upper-elementary school age in order to volunteer, but you can always think of ways to help without physically taking your kids to a building or to the people in need. Here are some ideas:
- Make Christmas cards for folks in the hospital or retirement communities near you.
- Make homemade gifts for those in need.
- Have your kids in the car when you deliver meals, toys, or clothes to those less fortunate.
54. Donate to a Food Pantry.
55. Give Some Goodies to the Garbage Collector and Postal Worker. Consider giving some Christmas cheer to these guys and gals. You know they deserve it.
We hope these ideas bring some holiday cheer to your winter break! Have fun!