Every year when December arrives, the lists of possible activities are longer than Santa's naughty or nice list. There are parties, crafts, holiday shows, decorating, presents to buy and wrap and, of course, visits to Santa and the reindeer.
Last year, our family started a new tradition where each person shared what was most important to them to experience during the holiday season. This list included the usual things like visiting Santa, viewing holiday lights across Omaha, going to The Durham Museum and seeing the tree, and decorating a gingerbread house.
All of these are great ideas and keep us wishing the season wasn't so short. But once Dec. 26 hits and the holidays are over (yet winter is still here to stay), days can become uneventful and gray.
This year, knowing that winter with three elementary-aged kids can get long, we expanded our list to be a "bucket list" of winter activities that will hopefully keep us going until at least March or April. Together we created a list that has everyone excited about the cold weather.
- Decorate sugar cookies. I love this idea because there are more treats during the holidays than anyone can possibly eat, but not as many in January, February or March. What a great time to break out the more random cookie cutters like the one shaped like our dog or the emoji set my stepdaughter received for her birthday.
- Go sledding and play in the snow. This usually happens in our yard, but I loved our kids' request to go to a bigger sledding hill this year.
- Invite friends over for a game night. Our family loves playing board games and having friends over. This idea combines the best of both.
- Have a board game marathon. This great idea suggests a tech-free day of family fun.
- Visit the zoo. When my son was 2, my best friend and I unintentionally took our toddlers to the zoo on the coldest day of the year. We bundled up to walk between buildings, but inside it was warm and the animals were active. It's still one of our favorite memories.
- Visit to the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. The capitol building is one of my husband's favorite places in Nebraska. We love to take the kids through our own self-guided field trip.
- Go ice skating. The Omaha-metro area is fortunate to have many indoor and outdoor options throughout the season. Recently, my son and I had the privilege of helping teach my husband and stepdaughters to ice skate, and I guarantee we will go many more times this year.
- Visit a public library. Our family loves to read, and this idea will keep us enjoying great new books for free!
- Do some science projects. The National Geographic Kids website is a great, free resource for research and science projects. Our kids love working together to present new information to us about their favorite animals.
- Have a living room camp-out/slumber party. Sleeping bags and pop-up tents in the living room are just the kind of camping I like to do.
- Go bowling. My son shared this idea after remembering our New Year's Day outing last year. Bowling is a great activity any time of year, but it is especially fun when it's too cold to be outdoors.
- Do some cake decorating. Our family loves watching baking shows, especially "Kids Baking Championship" on the Food Network. When we've done this before, we keep things easy by going with a box mix and canned frosting, but the kids come up with "challenges" that inspire tie-dyed cakes, pet themes and unusual shapes. While incredibly messy, I can think of no better reason to scrub the kitchen floor.
Because of this "bucket list," I'm actually looking forward to the winter season. I know that when my kids ask, "What are we doing today?" or say, "I'm bored," we'll have a great list of ideas for activities the whole family can enjoy!
Jessica Janssen Wolford is a mom and stepmom raising three kiddos with her husband, Eric, in Elkhorn. You can read more about her experiences on her blog, “A Step in the Right Direction.” You can also follow her on Twitter @jessljwolford.