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8 Activities to keep your kids busy (and happy) over winter break

Danielle Smith is a former award-winning television news anchor and reporter turned digital correspondent, host, spokesperson, media trainer, lover of all things video and public s

As much fun as it can be to have your kids home from school over the holidays, it is much more fun to keep them from saying, "Mom... I'm bored." Here are eight ideas to keep them (and you) busy and happy.

I am no Grinch. Trust me, I love everything (almost) about the holidays, from the decorations, to the food to the opportunity to give to time with family reveling in the spirit of the season.

But... and this is a big but... there can be this little thing called "too much togetherness," and by that I mean my small people are currently counting the days until they are done with school for their holiday break... and while a break from the routine is certainly welcome, this also means days of unstructured "free time" during which they may utter the words I have forever banned: "Mom... I'm bored."

So, in an effort to combine my love of quality family time with my desire to keep them both occupied and enjoying their break from school, I've created a list.

Eight ways to keep your kids busy (and happy) over the holidays

Play in the snow

For us, especially the last few years in the Midwest, we've had plenty of opportunities to don our heaviest coats, mittens and snow boots and head out to play. You can sled, create snow angels, build a snowman or even have a snowball fight. If you are a wimp about the cold as I am, you simply bundle up, head out for a bit, and then make your way back inside where it's warm and monitor from the window. For those of you without access to the snow (dare I say I find you lucky?), I highly suggest you get outside and organize a game of kickball, soccer, hide-and-go-seek, or if your sweet ones are little, grab the chalk and get to drawing. The fresh air is good for all of us.

Family game time

You don't have to reserve this option for only Friday nights. Consider breaking out the board games on the weekends or a late afternoon or early evening when the holiday dust is settling, but your family is still together. Let every member of the family choose their favorite game and reserve a family time slot, so you can enjoy a variety.

Bowling

Bowling is easily one of my children's favorite activities... why, you ask? Not only because they have always loved to play, but because it is something the entire family can do (this non-athletic mom included). This means setting up teams, friendly competition and a ton of laughter. There is a Brunswick Zone just minutes from our house and it is always on top of the kids' list of "things to do." Whether you have young children or teenagers, bowling falls into the "a fit for everyone" category as the smallest of your bunch can push that ball down the alley with two hands and dad can show off his once-epic-but-now-rusty skills. Find more bowling locations near you here.

Library

As a family, we can (and have) spent hours in the library choosing books, pausing to read and just wandering the shelves. Yes, I have two readers, though one's passion is greater than the other's. However, it is still a beautiful way to spend a morning or afternoon, and this has the added bonus of being an activity you can continue at home. Consider creating a friendly reading competition (mom and dad play too) that rewards the person in the family who reads the most over the break.

Ice skating

I must confess that I was terrified the first time we did this as a family. I was so afraid I was going to fall and break a hip, but even hanging along the outside with the less experienced skaters is so much fun. The rinks near our home all have "walkers" or "trainers" for anyone afraid of making the laps on their own and after a few rounds, we all felt a bit more daring. We won't be heading to the next Winter Olympic Games, but it is a wonderful wintertime activity.

Indoor swimming

Baby, it may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean a dip in a warm pool is off-limits. Grab your goggles, put your bathing suit on and head to your local indoor pool. Not only is it great exercise, but it will allow for a lot of laughs and help both you and the kids to burn off some of the excess energy that comes from being cooped up indoors.

Explore local favorites

For us in St. Louis, this means heading to favorites like the Science Center, the History Museum, the Butterfly House or the City Museum, a giant indoor playground area filled with opportunities to run, jump and explore. On a warmer day, we can tackle some of the outdoor options like the St. Louis Zoo, the Arch or the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I have no doubt your city has some amazing options as well.

Movie day

Now with movie day, you have two choices: head to your local theater for a "rush hour" showing of the latest movie, assuming you can all agree on one, or declare the day "PJs and movie day," allow every family member to grab their favorite movie, keep your PJs on, pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch together for a marathon.

What did I miss? What would you add to the list? I look forward to hearing from you.

Disclosure: Thank you to The AMF Bowling Co for sponsoring this post and inspiring me to come up with some great ideas for our Holiday Break.

Image: Chris Sampson/Flickr
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