The Christmas holidays are well and truly upon us. I know Christmas can be a fraught time of year… especially during divorce, especially during a cost of living crisis. So if you’re feeling the pressure to make things special, and have no headspace whatsoever to come up with ideas, here are 10 low or no-cost things to do with your children over the Christmas holidays. And, fyi, if you don’t have children, you can still do these too! I don’t and will still be doing some of them!
1. Spot Christmas trees
Is there a street or neighbourhood in your area that’s famous for its over the top ‘Deck The Halls’ decoration extravaganza? Head there one late afternoon, and enjoy the free light show! Or if not, have a walk in your local area and see how many Christmas trees and decorations you can spot. Write a list of Christmassy things and give points for the first to spot them, for example:
- A robin
- A Christmas elf decoration
- A star
- A candle
- A stocking
Hot chocolate in a thermos and a stash of chocolate biscuits is always helpful on a winter walk!
2. Have a Christmas film afternoon
Get into PJs, grab the blankets and snuggle. Christmas films usually end with that feel good factor, so it’s a good moment to get sentimental or do some cathartic crying in front of your children if you want to!
3. Give to those less fortunate
It’s natural for children to see toys on the TV adverts and be desperate for them. And it can leave you feeling guilty if you don’t have the budget to get them what they want (and also maybe irritated by their ‘me me me’ attitude!). A gentle way to show them that Christmas isn’t all about ripping off the wrapping paper is by working together to donate.
Whether they can spend half an hour setting aside good quality toys and books they’ve grown out of, or choosing items at the supermarket for the food bank, this act of giving will help them realise the advantages they do have. And it doesn’t have to be a stern lesson – there can be a lot of joy in working together and taking your donations to where they’ll be gratefully received.
4. Make Christmas decorations
Making decorations can be a fun Christmas activity in itself, and the decorations can also serve as gifts if you time it right! You don’t have to be a Blue Peter presenter to do them either. Here are some simple craft ideas:
Paper snowflakes: good old folding and cutting. Or take a look at some origami stars here.
Paper chains: either buy packs, or cut out strips, grab a glue stick and go
Popcorn garlands: thread popcorn together to create garlands for your tree, house (or garden if you don’t cover them in paint or glitter, so birds can enjoy too!)
Salt dough decorations: this take a little more time, but is just like working with playdough: get the salt dough recipe here.
5. Call loved ones
You may not be able to see all your relatives in person, but setting a time to speak to people you love (who don’t need to be blood relations of course) is a big part of what Christmas is all about. And it can be easy to let it slip, so book it in!
6. Bake cookies
Another frugal gift option: spend some time on Christmas Eve (or Christmas Eve Eve!) baking, put a ribbon round a box and you have a gift for Auntie Jane (just check allergies first).
And baking, though indisputably messy if under 18s are involved (teenagers can be worse than toddlers), is something you can do together, with Christmas songs on to set the mood. And you get to reap the rewards once they’re done.
7. Read Christmas stories
Christmas stories get everyone in the mood. If you don’t have many at home, arrange a book swap with friends, or head to your local library. Libraries often have low cost family events on in the run up to Christmas too.
8. Make bird feeders
This isn’t technically a Christmas activity, but doesn’t wildlife deserve a present too? You can make low cost bird cake with store cupboard ingredients and hang them in your garden or park. Hang them out of the reach of children and animals in case of allergies. Try this recipe from the RSPB.
9. Have a board game and jigsaws day
There’s no better time of year for games than Christmas! Jigsaws might have a reputation for being the preserve of octogenarians, but I’ve seen 3, 13 and 30 year olds get equally excited at finding and fitting a piece! And if you don’t have a stash of board games to hand, again, see what you can swap with a friend to mix things up. Or create your own versions of charades or pictionary.
10. Camp out under the tree
Christmas is a time for throwing away the rule book. Get your duvets, sleeping bags and pillows, string up fairy lights and home made decorations. You have your very own Christmas grotto to sleep in!
I hope that’s given you a few ideas to turn to when the children complain of being bored! Remember to be clear about what’s happening over Christmas: sometimes children need reminding about arrangements a few times before it sinks in, especially if it’s not what they’ve done in previous years. Let them know when they will be with you, and with their other parents. If you have rules about whether or how they can contact the parent they’re not with, be clear on that too. It may be you set up a time for them to call on Christmas Day, or you tell them you’ll see them on 27th. It’s usually a lot easier for children to manage if they know what to expect.
Join me this Christmas
Like most people, I will be having some time off over Christmas and New Year, but I will be available to members of The Absolute Academy for part of Christmas Day. If you want to be with a community of women who get it this festive season, come and join us! You can find out more and sign up here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com