It’s winter break … AHHHHHH!

If you’re like me and have kids in school, it’s probably just dawning on you that THEY’RE OFF FOR TWO WEEKS!!!


Yes, with the holidays comes winter break and a good two weeks of the kids underfoot and constantly asking, “What are we doing today?” And a good two weeks of you saying, “Uh … .” Which is what I found myself saying just a few minutes ago. Which is why I’m here now, hoping that between us we can come up with a few things to do over break to keep the kids busy. And not just to take up their time, because as we all know, planting them in front of the TV for the morning may keep them occupied, but it won’t do anything to wear them out and make them go to bed at a decent hour. We need active options here, folks.

I’m going to throw out five options to get things started, you send me your suggestions and we’’ll keep a rolling list over the next two weeks. Think about things we can do with the kids as well as things they can do on their own. OK, some quick thoughts.

  1. Take a wheeled-thing expedition. Every once in a while we gather up the kids and tell them to grab whichever wheeled contrivance they want for a trip around the neighborhood. Our options include skateboards (including my longboard), inline skates, a Waveboard, a Trikke and bicycles. Everybody wears a helmet, there’s frequently swapping along the way. We all keep an eye out for traffic, yelling “Car up!” when there’s a car coming toward us, “Car back!” when one approaches from the rear. It’s varied, it keeps the kids moving. If you’re neighborhood has more traffic than you’re comfortable with, pack the kids and wheeled things into the car and head to a local school, where there should be plenty of open pavement to roam.
  2. Cul-de-sac Olympics. If you live on a cul-de-sac, you have a multi-sport arena right out your front door. You have a Velodrome (see how many laps the kids can turn in a half hour); you have a baseball stadium (Whiffleball, actually, with due respect to the neighbors’ windows); you have a kickball arena (again, because of those windows and other breakables, use a lightweight ball).
  3. Visit your neighborhood park. We have a little park that’s a 10-minute bike ride from the house. It’s got a cool playground that none of us are too old to play on and it’s got lots of green space; I’ll throw a football, a soccer ball, a Frisbee and assorted other playthings into my daypack  to keep things interesting.
  4. Go skiing/snowboarding. This assuming you haven’t already broken the bank on the holidays, because taking the brood skiing ain’t cheap. I suggest this option mainly because the current winter storm has created conditions you don’t often see in the high country. Wintergreen Ski Resort in Virginia (about three hours from the Triangle) has gotten 24 inches of snow in the past 24 hours. (That may be unprecedented.) In North Carolina, Sugar Mountain and Ski Beech are both reporting 14 inches of new snow, Appalachian Ski Mountain (a great place to learn) 16 inches and Cataloochee a foot. Most of these mountains should have all lifts and runs operating this week, and by Monday, road conditions should be good. If you live in the Piedmont or the mountains, there’s a good chance you can do a day trip to one of these mountains. For details on specific resorts visit the resort site, to keep tabs on overall conditions, visit
  5. Explore your neighborhood. Pack your daypack with water and snacks and lead your clan on an expedition into the wilds of suburbia! Think about it: How well do you know your neighborhood? On recent hikes in our neighborhood we’ve discovered: that the people two doors down have a leg lamp just like the one in “A Christmas Story,” the vacant house  at the end of the block just got the interior repainted, the split-level two blocks over always has a football game playing on the den TV, and that the reason the beagle three streets over never comes out of her yard is because the yard has an electric fence (we got close enough one day to see her collar). Start making such discoveries and it’s easy to see how a 10-minute walk around the block evolves into an hour-long anthropological  study of Piney Woods, Phase II.

OK, I got the ball rolling. So how do you plan to keep your kids actively occupied over the next couple of weeks?

Photo: And don’t forget indoor climbing gyms. I’ll touch on those later this week.

8 thoughts on “It’s winter break … AHHHHHH!”

  1. Yes, the onset of Winter Break is one of those universal dates throughout the country (compared to Spring Break and the like). A great alternative to skiing and snowboarding is taking the kids snow shoeing. As this link describes: it’s easy, inexpensive, versatile, and a good workout.

    I haven’t tried it, yet. I planning to take the family this year. There are guide outfits that take groups on snowshoeing hikes and provide the poles and snowshoes. A cool experience is to go snow shoeing at night during a full moon with hot chocolate at the end. A sure kid-pleaser. In fact, the next full moon cycle is Dec. 27-Jan. 1.

    1. Ordinarily, Jeff, I’d say this is North Carolina! Snowshoe? Here? But with half the state under snow, ranging from 6 inches in Greensboro to up to 17 inches in the mountains, I’d say snowshoeing is a fine idea. And I know of at least one place in the state you can do it — Sugar Mountain. Sugar offers 1-hour tours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m., and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (If you have a group of four or more, tours can be arranged on the spot, provided there’s an instructor available.) $20, including snowshoe rental. Visit Sugar’s Web site for more info.

      And had you suggested cross-country skiing, we would have suggested renting equipment ($18) from the Pineloa Inn in Pineola. Lessons available as well.

  2. Shoot, Joe you took my answer about cross co skiing because I just found that place you mentioned.I plan to head that way after Christmas as my brother lives in Morganton just down 181.

    With my boys,I would explore new greenways or parks not on my side of town so new to them. If raining, then we did circuits runs through the house,up the stairs, etc before TV was turned on. “Snowball” fights with balled up socks, and map and compass treasure hunts around the backyard.Each point was spread apart so some walking had to occur because the final prize was found.

    Of course, there is always volunteering with the family as there are plenty of needs in our backyard.

  3. I’m channeling my depression-era parents here, but the answer I always got to “I’m bored” over break was to be given a chore. Either that or “go see if the neighbors have chores they’ll pay you to do”. I hated it, but it sure gave me the proper expectations for what life would be like after school. Yeah, I’m no fun.

    1. Especially effective — not to mention potentially lucrative — if your neighborhood is scheduled for leaf pickup in the next week or so and the neighbors have been slack. I like it.

  4. Well, outdoors is great, but sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate, so some indoor activites,,,, the local roller rink is great to get the ya-yas out, then you can come home and have a rousing Nerf War. When the skies clear its never too early or late to learn a little soccer, and winter is the season for hiking, with all the trails in the area, it’s a no brainer. Now, if you want to combine all that you could host a full woods, roller/hike airsoft war, but that might be a little more involved than some folks are up to!!!!!

    1. That fullwoods-roller/hike-airsoft-war reminds me of what our parents told us to do back in the ’60s: Go outside and play war with your friends. (Curious how that raised a generation of pacifists.) Tomorrow, I plan to lead an exploration of our local storm water drainage. That’s always a hit.

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