Listen, it’s time for the truth about surviving winter break with kids. The holidays make our children hyper and overstimulated. The sugar, the flashing lights, the music, the people – it’s a lot of overwhelming input for kids.
The anticipation, the disappointment, the frustration – those are some big feelings for little bodies. Your kids are going to go bonkers sooner or later, so it’s better to have a proactive approach.
If you have a loose daily plan for surviving winter break with your kids, your children are going to cope better and you’re going to be happier. You’re going to feel less reactive and blindsided because you’re going to know the meltdowns WILL COME at some point. You’ll have an arsenal of activities at your disposal to keep the children occupied in something constructive.
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Parents Need A Winter Break Routine
Let’s be honest about you for a quick second. You are exhausted from all the holiday preparation. Your patience is already running short.
A winter break routine will help because there is less nagging from mom and dad. Your children will complain less when there is a predictable structure to the day. You’re going to enjoy your winter break with your children more when you’re not constantly barking orders.
Instead of asking 15,000 times when you’re going on an outing, your children will enjoy knowing when they will get to do their favorite activities.
Routines are powerful because they will keep you calmer. When you’re not constantly refereeing fights over toys and explaining the screen time rules for the 100th time, you will have more self-control, energy, and mental bandwidth for holiday fun.
Children Need a Winter Break Routine
Like I mentioned above, your kids are already hyped-up from the excitement of the holidays. Instead of wondering what will happen during the day with all the holiday festivities, a routine will help them trust things will happen in a manageable way. This increases their confidence and self-control.
Similarly, routines build independence and competence. When children are able to take care of small chores like making their bed and self-care like brushing teeth, they grow to believe they are capable.
Another reason that routines are powerful is they make children feel secure. A lot of children do better during the school year than they do on school breaks because they have the routine of the school day. The predictability of the school routine reduces anxiety and stress for children.
Using a Winter Break Routine
I created this free printable Winter Break Routine for you. This routine is LOOSE. There is no specific time frame.
It is not set in stone. Depending on your child’s tolerance for unpredictability, you can eliminate the activities some days.
As I type this, for example, my husband just took our son on an outing while my daughter still plays independently in her pjs. She looked at the routine and made the choice so there is no conflict.
- Print out the Winter Break Routine
- If needed, use the dotted lines to cut it out and glue it down in another order on another piece of paper.
- Place it inside a sheet protector and then on a clipboard.
- Use a washable dry erase marker to check off activities as you go or cross off on days when the plan has changed.
- Proactively discuss those changes with your child.
Plan Activities for Winter Break
To give more structure to your days at home, you’re going to want to plan some activities ahead of time.
- Take ten minutes to plan low-key activities for your children.
- Print out the planning sheets and inventory what you already have in your home.
- Simply walk around your house and look at the arts and crafts or educational activities you could use.
- Then look for toys and games you can set out for your children to play.
- Clear off your dining room table, coffee table, or kitchen island for activities.
- If you need to, just relocate the junk and deal with it while your children are playing.
Morning Making Activities
In the morning, we do “Morning Making.” Really this is a just a slightly messier activity that needs a little prep the night before. I set the making activity out on my dining table the night before.
These activities are just invitations to the children to do something constructive rather than flipping on the TV and grabbing a tablet.
This is so simple. Find the coloring books you already have and rip out a few pages. Set out some crayons.
Dry Erase Books
This is a a little messy so grab a wet paper towel or damp wash cloth and let your kids develop hand strength with squeezing.
We bought this Alex Busy Box on Prime Day and still have tons of craft supplies left over. While there are specific projects, I plan to just set out the craft supplies and let my kids go to work on creating whatever they want.
We love the Crayola Washable Project Paints because there is no need to transfer to another container. It also cleans up so easily.
The little Crayola Paint pots have the lids attached which we also find handy.
Watercolor sets are also super easy and fun.
We have the Melissa and Doug Alphabet set and the Zoo Animal Set. I just set out construction and stamps for the kids. It’s good fine motor practice, plus my first grade can work on spelling while my preschooler works on letter recognition.
Our kids have quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. We’ve worked hard on this so if you haven’t yet with your kids, the routine sets up the expectation and you just need to follow through. You can start with 15 minutes and work from there.
Independent play is super important for children to develop problem-solving, imagination, and resilience so don’t feel guilty for one second about taking a break from your own sanity and expecting them to entertain themselves.
The afternoon activities are seriously just stuff I already own that I set out before my kids have quiet time in their rooms. Sometimes when children are so overwhelmed and hyped up, they can’t even organize themselves enough to play creatively. By setting out the activity, you’re providing an invitation and an idea for playing.
Wooden Blocks and Cars
I set out two sets of blocks: Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks and Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden ABC/123 Blocks Set.
Then I gathered a few Hot Wheels Cars. The children make roads, tunnels, and bridges for the cars.
Melissa and Doug Puzzles
We have a variety of Melissa and Doug puzzles but I set out the Melissa & Doug Farm Chunky Puzzle for my son.
even though she can practically do it with her eyes closed, my daughter still likes the Melissa & Doug Frolicking Horses Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle With Storage Tray.
We like Mind Ware’s Imagination magnets for my older child. She creates the puzzles on the included cards and the wooden case stores everything.
Stuffies and Snacks
I get out all our Melissa and Doug wooden food sets and the children pretend to feed their stuffed animals snacks.
- Melissa and Doug birthday cake
- Melissa and Doug pizza set
- Melissa and Doug waffle set
- Melissa and Doug cookie set
Fine Motor Games
The children play Gumball Grab and Feed the Bunny by their own rules. They don’t necessarily need to play by the rules to get the benefit of using their thumbs and first fingers to manipulate the gumballs and carrots.
These games are available at Lakeshore Learning but I got them both at consignment sales.
Noisy Board Games
Board games are great for teaching a variety of social skills to your children, but sometimes I just get them out and let my kiddos play.
- Related: Best Board Games for Preschoolers
Like the fine motor games, my children independently play with these by their own rules. Both of these games make noise, but I prefer it to arguing or certain TV shows!
I used a small plastic shoe box (from Target). I filled it about half-way with warm water and and Seventh Generation dish soap. Then I give each of my children our vegetable scrubbers and then sanitize them in the dishwasher when they are done.
In honesty, I will give each child their own plastic shoe box so I can have peace and quiet! They could share a larger tub but that also means more water.
Recapping Surviving Winter Break with Kids
Here’s the summary for busy parents on surviving winter break with kids:
- Parents needs a routine for their own sanity.
- Your children also need a routine to feel secure with all the excitement and big feelings.
- Your routine can be loose to fit how the days with change, but anchor with a predictable few activities.
- Grab a free printable Winter Break Routine and planning pages.
- Inventory what you have at home for Morning Making and Afternoon Activity and order what you still need.
- Set out an easy project in the morning and a easy activity in the afternoon to give your children some structure.
Surviving Winter Break with Your Kids
You can not just survive but enjoy winter break with your children. Do a little prep work now. Show them the printable routine. Reduce the fighting and meltdowns (yours and theirs). Create happier memories.