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The holidays are a wonderful time to spend time with friends and family, and a great time to teach your children some real-life skills. The key? Keep them at the center of activities.

Preparing for the holidays:

  • Have your children help make to do lists, so they get a real sense of the work that goes into successful holiday celebrations.
  • Have them help confirm holiday plans, by phone or email. It’s a great way to brush up on communication dos and don’ts.
  • Have them help clean up, demonstrating how it is a set of skills to be mastered, not just drudgery. Show them how to declutter, deep-clean and get ready for guests.
  • Let them participate in menu planning, picking one at least dish to make themselves (with your assistance). Have them help make shopping lists.
  • Teach them how to decorate for the holidays. Making wreaths, flower arrangements, napkin folding and table setting are all well within their abilities and make decorations much more special.
  • Set a budget for holiday meals and gifts, and show them how to stick to it, keep receipts, and find good deals. Remember—they need to learn these skills from you!
  • If you are traveling, actively involve them in the logistics: time management, packing, route planning, etc.

During the holidays:

  • Let your children be the official greeters, answering the door and welcoming your guests. This includes taking coats and asking if there is anything they need (bathroom, water, etc).
  • Explore holiday traditions. What’s a cornucopia and why is it associated with Thanksgiving? Why are decorative lights used in so many Winter celebrations? How do people celebrate in other countries?
  • Make a family tree together, so that they understand how they fit into the history of your family. Many genealogy resources are available free online.
  • Have them talk to older family members to learn history—you may need to supply a prompt, like “Your grandmother grew up in Ethiopia—why don’t you ask her about it?”
  • Play board games! Games can teach all kinds of skills, including critical lessons in social skills and sportsmanship.
  • Don’t shy away from conversations about “big” topics—the holidays can provide unstructured time for important discussions.
  • Participate in community service together. Show your children the importance of supporting and giving back to the communities that support you!