In honor of our fantastic Children’s program, Gingerbread House Making, I’ve put together a brief list of other activities for you and your family to enjoy this holiday season. Like our gingerbread house program, these ideas are meant to generate family bonding and togetherness. So, bring your restless grade-schoolers, invite your stepmom, your grandmother, or the collection of friends who make up the family you have created for yourself, and take the time to savor these special moments with the people you love.
Long Islanders were heartbroken when this annual spectacle was on the receiving end of budget cuts a few years ago. But, thankfully for us, the Holiday Lights Spectacular is back again for the second year in a row. Last year, I eagerly attended, and as our car drove down the long lane of giant, glowing candy canes, beloved characters, exotic animals, and more, it was like I was transported 15 years to the past, when my family and I first experienced this magical event. The Holiday Lights Spectacular runs through Sunday, January 4th, and tickets can be purchased in advance. After driving through the light show, you can park and walk around the Holiday Village, where you can make s’mores, take pictures with Santa, browse the vendors and concessions, and more. On Tuesday nights, you can even drive through a second time for free.
I have always wanted to learn how to ice skate! I can’t be the only little girl who spent long winter weekends pretending that my Barbies were Kristi Yamaguchi and Elvis Stojko, right? Right? Anyway…a family trip to the ice rink can lead to the next great figure skater, hockey player, or ice dancer. At the very least, it could be a fun hour or two of exercise (but the good kind of exercise, when you can’t even believe that you’re burning calories). The Long Island blog Mommy Poppins has a list of indoor ice skating rinks. There’s also Twin Rinks Ice Center in Eisenhower Park. If you’re spending the day in NYC, you can also visit the iconic rinks in Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Bryant Park.
I have three words for you: Hot. Chocolate. Party. Is your mind blown?! Take thirty seconds to let that thought sink in…30…29…28…27…26…25…5…4…3…2…1…
Okay, have you collected yourself from the shock and awe of this idea? Doesn’t this sound like the perfect way to spend a cold, cozy winter’s night? Here’s my vision for your hot chocolate party: a buffet table lined up with seasonal mugs and jars of different stirrers, marshmallows, whipped creams, syrups, and other add-ins for guests to select. You can keep things simple with a basic, instant hot chocolate in a variety of flavors, or get wild and crazy and prepare homemade hot chocolate. If you decide to go all-out, this list of 16 Sinful Hot Chocolate Recipes includes instructions for decadent flavors like Salted Peanut Butter and Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream. Take it to another level with different varieties of add-ins, like peppermint marshmallows, butterscotch chips, crushed mints, nuts, and pirouline cookies for dipping and stirring. Speaking of stirring, hot chocolate stirrers and spoons are all the rage right now. Add a beautiful jar of specially-made, yummy stirrers to your buffet; your family, friends, and neighbors will never want to leave.
Family Coloring Party
Coloring books are making a comeback, thanks to the latest creative trend: adult coloring books. I have a few colleagues who have been enjoying this form of stress relief, and my own mother has become a big fan. A twist on the trend that could prove especially meaningful for a family night would involve turning your photos into coloring pages. There are a few ways to do this. First, the DIY website instructables provides detailed, step-by-step instructions that call for the help of pixlr, a free, online photo editing app. If you read the comments section, it looks like most DIYers found success with this method. On the flip side, if you try following the instructions and run into trouble, check the comments to see if someone else had a similar problem and how they corrected it. I also found the site ReallyColor.com. Although you would have to purchase “photo credits” (10 for $3.99 or 50 for $14.99, with one photo credit giving you one coloring page), this service would save you the time and “hassle” of formatting and printing them yourself. Once you have your pages printed, gather the family together and relive the happy memories as you color. You can frame the photos and give them as a gift, or hang them up alongside the originals.
Start a Family Book Club
This is an activity that requires very little legwork. The hardest parts will be deciding on a book (there are so many to choose from!) and finding a time when the whole family can get together to discuss it. A family book club that includes a range of ages means that everyone gets to participate, but some family members will have to read a book that skews a little younger, while others might take this an opportunity to read something a bit more advanced than what they usually read. Goodreads provides a Family Bookclub Shelf that offers suggestions. And of course, our Reference, Young Adult, and Children’s librarians can give you assistance in picking a book that will appeal to certain age groups. A book club can open the door to a conversation that expands beyond the page. In discussing The Secret Garden or The Martian, for instance, you could end learning more about the people closest to you. To make it more of an “event,” you can also offer giveaways or raffle prizes at the end of every book or at the end of a cycle of books, like we do at the LPL during our summer reading programs. Another idea: Combine a super fun hot chocolate party with the book discussion. What could be better than books, family, good friends, and hot chocolate? Sounds like the perfect start to winter.