Raising Successful Kids

Struggling to keep the kids occupied over the holidays? Here are some fun, development-boosting activities

Parents and children open presents on Christmas morning.
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If you're struggling to find ways to entertain your kids this Christmas, experts say there are a number of simple activities that are both fun and beneficial for their development.

While Christmas offers the opportunity for some quality family time, it can be difficult to keep kids occupied during the break from school.

Parents may find it especially challenging again this year, as caution around the spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant could lead to fewer holiday events.

So as the holidays stretch before you, here are some ideas of ways to keep the kids entertained.

Every day learning

Dan O'Hare, founder of Edpsy, an online community for educational psychologists, said that parents shouldn't feel that holiday activities need to be educational.

He told CNBC via video call that since many children returned to school full-time in the fall, there had been a "dominant narrative" that they needed to catch up on the learning they missed while being home-schooled, due to pandemic public health restrictions.

O'Hare said that this was problematic because it's a message that has "anxiety built into it," which children can pick up on.

He also pointed out that for young children in particular, there's a lot of learning integrated into everyday tasks, so parents shouldn't feel like they need to create new activities.

For instance, O'Hare said that baking a cake involves numeracy, creativity and practicing fine motor skills.

He also stressed the value of play, as it allows children to "blow off steam" and helps them to develop negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

Encouraging kids to do activities that involve talking is also beneficial, O'Hare said, given that the disruption of the pandemic has prevented them from interacting with other children as much. This could include narrating while they play, or encouraging siblings to work together on a task, like building a fort.

Writing Christmas cards or letters to Santa could also help develop literacy skills, O'Hare said. 

Board games and decorations

Amanda Gummer, founder of the skills development organization the Good Play Guide, told CNBC via video call that getting children involved in certain Christmas activities helped make the learning "invisible," so they don't view it as a chore.

For young children, she said that making homemade Christmas decorations could help with the development of fine motor skills. "Gifting the decorations to other family members enhances their sense of belonging too," Gummer added.

Playing board games as a family can help improve parent-child communication, she said. Board games are also quite immersive, which can help if children are feeling anxious about the uncertainty around the omicron variant.

If children are keen to learn more about the pandemic, Gummer suggested using glitter to help understand the transmission of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing.

Meanwhile, making festive family walks into a treasure hunt can promote observation skills, she said.

However, after another year of "stress and strain," Gummer said parents shouldn't feel guilty about failing to constantly keep their kids entertained over the holidays.

She recommended finding activities that "everybody enjoys rather than it being something on your to-do list that you feel guilty if you haven't done it properly."

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