Everyone loves their children – but when they get that gloriously long break from school that they love and cherish, Michigan parents give up on any sort of break for themselves until January 7th rolls around. As a former nanny, I have discovered that the best way to slice up the day (thereby making it seem shorter and much more manageable) is to plan one big activity, craft or field trip per day. This gives you something to plan, the kids something to look forward to, and everyone a memorable three weeks off together. Particularly as the snow has decided to hold out on us, here’s a few things to keep the family busy.
1. Throwback crafts
Every Christmas, as my mom pulls out the ornaments, I can’t help but marvel at my own creative genius at such a young age – I made some truly gorgeous pieces to adorn our tree. Encourage family of all ages to get crafty: take the family for a walk, a long one that will require naps afterwards. Carry a basket and hunt for craft supplies: pine cones, cool rocks, fallen branches, forgotten coins, pine needles, etc. – you could even make it a scavenger hunt! Obviously, try to tailor your list to your Michigan region. If you live in Petoskey, make sure Petoskey stones are on the list. In Canton, take them to a park and make pine cones a must. Let the older kids take pics of the family with a cell phone and print them so that they can be part of the crafting also. When everyone has enough “treasures”, give them glue, popsicle sticks, glitter and beads and let them go to town. If the result clashes with your decor, let them make stuff for their own rooms. Doing this after Christmas? Let them decorate a winter poster to hang up.
2. Prepare your kids for the New Year
Get everyone psyched for the Michigan New Year in 2013! Make a family time capsule and encourage everyone to put one thing they love in it. Bury it on New Year’s Eve, and make sure you include a family photo. You could even let them make a count down contraption, so they can look forward to digging it up next year. If the ground is frozen when you go to bury it, make your kids dig it themselves. That way, this festivity guarantees a nap also.
3. Feed the Birds
Since Jack Frost has been a real trickster this year, the poor birds are going mad with confusion. Help your kids identify what birds live around your house, and then cut apples and oranges in half, slather generously with peanut butter, and let them roll it around on a plate full of birdseed. Even if you don’t have a place to hang them, lay them in your yard and watch the aviators descend. It’s terrifying!
4. Ice Skate
Whether you live on a frozen lake or near some form of artificially frozen water, bundle everyone up and make an ice skating outing. Especially if you have family from out of town, reveal why Michigan is potentially even more fun in winter than it is in the summer. If that backfires and they hate it, take the family out to eat local somewhere and restore Mitten love from inside a warm restaurant.
5. Get Food Happy
Speaking of eating, your kids can have just as much fun cooking at home with you as going out to somewhere new. Assign kids a day (or just one meal if you’re nervous) and let them pick whatever they want to make for the family. Help them make it, obviously – they could even make a menu and present it to the other family members, just so everyone knows what they’re getting into. Or, take week one of break to read some Michigan authors. For instance, read Gloria Whelan’s “The Indian School”, and then try to re-create some of the foods they mention in the book. Do not attempt with books like the Harry Potter series. It’s never as easy to make butterbeer as it sounds. Trust me.
I know these five things won’t last you two weeks but enjoy your kids over break. If the roads stay nice, take a Michigan road tour to somewhere you wanted to see all summer but didn’t have time to go. The Taquahmenon Falls are just as beautiful frozen as they are when they rush down in the other seasons. Write Santa, grandparents, and teachers a long thank you note. Find petting zoos, free movies, fireworks displays, and Christmas clearance sales – help your kids realize that living in Michigan means great breaks with tons of options. And one day, when they’re not so tired from shoveling the frozen ground for two hours, they’ll thank you for it.
Lyndsay Israel – Feature Writer