MY NINE-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, Rayna, wasn’t much bigger than Cindy-Lou Who when she got wise to the fact that there is a season when lots of tasty goodies and presents are around and—the best part, in her opinion—school is out. If she could set the daily agenda during this time, it would go something like this: Sleep until ten, catch an hour of cartoons while snacking on something sweet, begin several art projects, leave them all unfinished with bits of dried glue, glitter, and paper scattered about the house, play computer games for another hour, then announce that she’s bored and, by the way, “Have you bought my presents yet?”
Sound familiar? If so, you are probably the parent of school-age children, and your challenge is the same as mine as you prepare for the holidays: keeping them entertained while minimizing their exposure to the season’s commercialism and retaining your sanity. I have found that there are ways to do this that are both fun for kids and not too nerve-racking for those of us who, if we hear one more chorus of “Holly Jolly Christmas,” will punch the next fat guy in a red suit we see. Most of these suggestions will get you and your little ones on your feet and outdoors, and some might even teach them about giving rather than receiving. Call it thinking outside the (gift) box.
Let the parade pass you by. Everyone loves getting up early on a Saturday morning during the holidays to snag a good spot from which to watch the pomp and pageantry of a parade, right? Although the Neiman Marcus-Adolphus Children’s Parade in Dallas is free, this year I’m dipping into my Rolling Stones concert-ticket fund to spring for some reserved bleacher seats so Rayna can get a good gander at her favorite cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants. (Yes, my priorities have changed, but I’m sure Old Saint Mick would understand.) The televised parade is the only one in the U.S. designed specifically for children, and all proceeds (from sponsorships and ticket sales for related events) benefit the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Other good bets include Chuy’s Children Giving to Children parades in Austin and San Antonio, which encourage kids to take a toy (new or gently used, unwrapped) to Santa for less-fortunate children. The first time Rayna did this, she was barely three. When the floats paused, allowing her and other children in the crowd to hand their gifts to the volunteers, she looked at me with modest pride. I still remember that look, and I say it was worth the fight (think baby strollers turned BattleBots) for the perfect curbside vantage point.
Get a move on. Since you’ve surely been setting a good example by eating carrot sticks instead of cookies and sipping eggless soynog, stay on top of that New Year’s resolution by exercising with your kids. A recent