What To Do With Older Kids During Holiday Break

What to do with older kids during holiday break?  It is a question that many families are asking today…or will be asking in the next few weeks!

Here is some practical advice for what to do with older kids during holiday break from a mom of three older kids who has struggled with the concept of quality time spent with teens!

what to do with older kids during holiday break

I am now the mom of 3 teenage boys.

I have been working on a project that put into words, steps and systemized some of the things I have learned {the hard way} of being a mom. 

And one of the things that kept coming up was quality time with teens.

In fact, one of the moms that went through the program actually wrote me and said, “I just don’t know WHAT to do with them!

Hey, I get it.  In fact, I get it more than you can imagine!  I have spent the last decade devoted to kids activities and crafts…the type of thing you see here on the site.

Give me a 2 year old and I have 100s of ideas of ways to play!

Need ideas to keep that science-loving 5 year old busy for a few hours?

If you have run out of homemade slime recipes...I literally wrote a book for you (affiliate).

But…when it comes to a 13 y/o that rolls his eyes when a craft is suggested or a 17 y/o who seems too busy to spend time with the family, things get a little more challenging.

Activities for Older Kids Inspired by Vacationing with Teens

One of my solutions to this challenge of finding quality time activities for older kids is to draw on any experience you might have from the family vacation. I found over the years, that when the family was AWAY from home, together, with bad internet connection, it was easier.

What To Do With Older Kids During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

In fact, as my boys got older, traveling got so much easier!

They started wanting to do the things I liked to do.

No more 13 hour Candyland marathons {shoot me now}!

family ski trip

They could participate in things that I loved to do:

  • rock climbing
  • skiing
  • biking
  • hiking
  • exploring more than a 100 yard trail
  • scuba diving
  • swimming
  • card games like poker and Rook
  • board games like Settlers of Catan
  • trying new food at a restaurant (and behaving during the WHOLE meal)
  • going to a movie I actually might choose
  • concerts
  • plays
  • escape rooms
  • painting classes
  • cooking lessons
  • kitchen tours or any type of tour
  • and so many other things that younger kids are just too young for participation…

Have you played tourist with your kids in your own town?

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

We live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area which has a million things to do with kids and we haven’t taken advantage of it!  All the things I have mentioned are things we have done while away.

This break, I am challenging myself to find some of those special places to take the teens that we would be delighted to visit if we found them while vacationing elsewhere!

Older Kids Still Yearn to Play

No matter how much eye-rolling and choruses of “oh mom!” I might hear from my teenagers, I try to stay confident that under all that teen angst lies the heart of a child.

Push through the resistance. <–I promise you it will be worth it.

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

At first, you might need to be a little sneaky.  But I truly believe that your child was given to YOU for a reason because if anyone can outsmart him, it is you.

To prove my point, I thought back to the last time one of my boys was laughing out of control.  You know the type of laugh that shakes their entire body and is completely uncontrollable.

What prompted that laugh?  It is usually rooted in simple play.  

Like when the dog {our dear Panda} was intentionally “stuck” under the bed and playfully attacking anyone trying to rescue her.  

And when we were trash-talking after a board game win.

We laughed when a side of the gingerbread house he had constructed just wouldn’t stay and a pile of gingerbread rubble erupted.  

And when we got lost on a trailride and ended up going in circles despite my absolute confidence we were going in the right direction.

There was also the time they tried to explain Fortnite to grandma.

 

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

 

We all need play in our lives.

As kids, our world is shaped by play.

As teenagers, play helps make sense of the world and put it in perspective.

And as adults, it helps decrease stress and connect us with others.

When you are using the excuse that your teen is too grumpy or disconnected to play, you are depriving them of the very thing that could get them out of their funk.

So it is OK to push a little.  Set some expectations.  Gently demand some participation.

Ideas for Activities for Teens at Home

Traditional play activities should not be overlooked even though kids are older.  There is a sensory experience that happens when you get your hands dirty, jump around or dive into a pool that helps increase endorphins and a sense of well-being.

Think of an older version of any activity that your kid loved when they were younger.

If they loved playing with playdough, then consider suggesting baking bread together or making a batch of sugar cookies that would require rolling out of dough and decorating.

If they loved playing with LEGO bricks, then think of a building/strategy activity like one of the advanced LEGO model sets, putting a puzzle together, or playing a strategy game like Chess.  Make a gingerbread house or city!

Gingerbread House Glue A-frame houses to make

If they loved going to the park, then find something physical you can do together outside.  Biking, hiking, snowman-making, simply taking a walk with the dog, going to the community indoor pool, finding a good trampoline park if you don’t have one in the backyard, or creating a obstacle course inside/outside and timing each other’s journey through it.

If they loved kids crafts, this one is simple.

There are so many more options for adult crafts that can work amazingly.  Knitting, crocheting, needle-point, wood-working, wreath-making, sewing, create homemade ornaments for your Christmas tree, make gifts to give this season, a trip together to a local craft supply store can open the doors to so many adventures together…

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

If they loved making art, again, this one is simple.  Being an artist is a life-long journey.

Experiencing different mediums, trying new techniques and honing skills is something that takes a lifetime to master and there is no reason they shouldn’t keep having that fun as a teen.

If they have always loved to draw, but never tried sculpting, that is something that you could try.  Or if they love painting, but have never tried it on ceramics, that would be an easy activity that would require very little convincing!

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

If they love playing video games, then put that affinity for strategy and competition to work at your kitchen table in the form of card and board games.  It is the same thing.

Don’t be intimidated by the simplicity of the game when the majority of the activity is strategy!  There is a reason that poker rooms in Las Vegas are filled with 20-30 year olds who were gamers.

They desire community and competition which both video games and card/board games can provide IRL.

 

What To Do With Older Kids + Teens During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

How to Get Started Planning Activities for Older Kids

  1. Create a plan of actionget out the calendar and figure out what days are best to do things outside the house and which days are best to stay at home.  For us, we are very adverse to crowds!  So, finding when less people will be visiting our desired destination would be the first thought.
  2. One thing a day – don’t overwhelm yourself with planning or your teen with forced family time!  Start slow.  Adding just one thing each day that you will do together is plenty and can make sure they do have the required 13 hours of texting time they need.
  3. Get teens involved in planning – remember when they were little and you gave them directed choices?  You know…do you want this apple or this carrot stick?  That is the same concept here.  You already have an outline of what the next few days will look like and this can help guide things in a direction that they are excited about (OK, tolerant of).  Let’s say that Monday you are planning something outside of the house.  You could offer three choices:  the paining class, the escape room or the science museum trip?
  4. Take them shopping for supplies – I don’t care what age kids are, this is a good strategy.  The problem with our adult brains is that we OVER-strategize crafts and art projects with the end result in mind.  Kids and teens aren’t like that and we should encourage it.  They would do it so differently than we directed if they had the chance.  Give them that option.  Going to the craft store with an open mind and a suggested project (and budget) with their input will have you bringing home a completely different set of supplies for a completely different project that they are way more excited about.
  5. Share the schedule from day one – don’t spring “forced” family time on them.  It will make them feel held hostage and give them a bad case of FOMO with their friends and online activities.  Setting start and end times gives them a sense of control over their schedule and is respectful of the fact that they do have things they want to do.  If there is a conflict of time, think about being flexible about changing.
  6. Don’t give up after the first day – stick to your plan through the entire holiday.  It is ok to make changes, be flexible and adjust expectations!  Teens are a lot like two year olds…they really do thrive on schedules and family contact, but they have a really hard time seeing it or expressing it.  When you are in a routine that they start to understand, they can relax and begin to adapt to it.  If something goes poorly, stopping it short of the expected time and giving a teen a hug and “releasing” them is fine, but start over the next day.
  7. Set realistic expectations – I know you see other family’s post on FB about how they spent the entire day in a beautiful episode of dancing through daisies followed by organic, vegan picnics and dreamcatcher creations.  There is no family on earth that actually spent their day in that manner (especially if there is gorgeous photos or videos involved).  Behind the camera were tears, a lot of messed up white clothing and 1/2 eaten sprout-infested sandwiches. You know your family. You know your kids. Expect that not everything will go as planned.  Embrace that this is more about spending time WITH them and not getting whatever planned activity completed.
  8. Above all, have fun.  You need the break too.  You need the play.  And the connection with your kids. That only happens if you aren’t playing drill sergeant,  fun police or party hostess. Be a participant in the activity!  Laugh alongside your kids.  Make mistakes.  Make it so it is easy for them to laugh at you.

Having More Fun as a Family

Life gets busy.  And if you have involved teens, that means it is a revolving door of sports, enrichment activities and time with friends.

A teen’s home base is still HOME.  They still get their confidence, resilience and perspective from their family experience.

What To Do With Older Kids During Holiday Break - Kids Activities Blog

If that family experience is only filled with coming/going, directions, corrections and schedules, they are going to miss out on gaining the coping skills it really takes to be an adult in the real world.

If that family experience is sprinkled with inside jokes, playful teasing and quality time together, they are going to gain a perspective that allows them not to take things so seriously.

The truth is, this is just something we need to do.  It won’t look perfect.  It won’t go as planned.  But the investment we make into our kids is the most important thing in life right now…and they need to have a little more fun!

What is your favorite thing to do with older kids?  Please tell me in the comments!

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