Whether you have a toddler or a teen, you want to make some happy memories this holiday season. Here are some tips on how to create great future memories from well-planned “family adventures," survive those car trips and make going somewhere together fun, whether you have a toddler or a teen.
Meagan Buckmaster Ross is an art instructor at the in Redmond and the mom of four kids ranging in age from six to sixteen. She is also the author of a blog on parenting called An Adventure Every Day. She has extensive experience in creating great day trip “adventures" for her kids. Buckmaster Ross recalls, “when I had three kids under age five, I had a hard time sitting still and being isolated at home all day long and that is how our going out for adventures began, because I needed to get out too.”
Buckmaster Ross says great day trips with kids start with packing your car with the essentials for the day including food and beverages and mittens, hats and clothes including extra tops and pants in case kids get muddy or wet. Up front with the kids in her car she includes clipboards with paper, markers, color pencils and crayons. These engage her six year old, while her older kids often also have their Kindles and iPods for entertainment. She suggests packing an assortment of fruit suckers from or , to pass out occasionally as a treat. She laughs as she observes, “they’ll be quiet while they enjoy them – if only for a few minutes.” She also often packs books as educational resources to enhance the adventure experience. Her kids may use them to identify shells they collect while at the beach or to learn more about an artist whose work they just viewed at the museum.
A great winter break adventure can be outdoors or indoors. Buckmaster Ross and her family enjoy going to the beach all year round, including Golden Gardens in Seattle. She says beaches are just as compelling to kids in the winter, and less crowded, you just have to bundle the kids up more. She also likes to take her kids outdoors to Pike Place Market, beautifully decorated this time of year, Seattle Center and . “Kids love to visit the dog park and there is a great playground nearby.” Her family also enjoys “indoor adventures” at the , Factoria’s , the Seattle Children’s Museum at Seattle Center and the Seattle Aquarium. You can get free museum passes to several kid friendly local indoor attractions through the King County Library System’s museum pass program. Check availability and reserve your passes online here.
You can help your kids remember their adventures, says Buckaster Ross, by encouraging them to draw the interesting things they see and take photos. Her six year old already has her own sketchbook in which she loves to draw and her older siblings have kept journals for years. Reviewing the journals and the photo books they create from the photos they take, helps the whole family remember their adventures together.
Buckmaster Ross and her husband Gernot like to have the kids help plan their adventures and the whole family often researches what they will see. She also encourages her extended family to create opportunities where they can share their interests with her children. Her mother in law is currently taking her six year old to special “grandma and me” concerts in Seattle.
She also is mindful that her kids have different needs at different ages. She says if you want your 'tween or teen to be more enthusiastic about going somewhere over the break, let them invite a friend along. Buckmaster Ross also encourages parents of younger kids to be a little more flexible during the holidays.
“Consistency is important of course but you don’t want to stay home all day because your child might miss a nap. I was more spontaneous and sometimes that meant they napped in the car, or we stayed up a bit later than usual,” she says. You can also extend your day out and add more activities, as your child gets older. When her kids were younger, they enjoyed visiting over the holidays to see Santa. As they got older they added going to see the Garden D’Lights and then even added ice skating in as their energy permitted an even longer day of holiday themed adventures.
Buckmaster Ross says to remember that parents also need a break during the happy but often stressed filled holiday season. Consider forming a babysitting or play date co-op with your neighbors or other parents of your child’s classmates or sports team members, as Buckmaster Ross did when her kids were younger. You can also ask extended family or friends to take your kids to visit Santa’s Reindeer at the Cougar Mountain Zoo or ice skate at Bellevue’s Downtown park while you get some down time for yourself. Every day over the winter break can be an adventure if you are flexible, give yourself some breaks, bring what you need to enjoy the day together and allow yourself to be in the moment with your kids.