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4 Silly Holidays That Will Make Your Long Winter More Fun

Seems like there’s just too much winter from January to March. The holidays were a million years ago already! Blah.

Good news, though! You can perk up your posse with some brand new silly holidays, using activities that will build important developmental skills your kids need.

The American Psychological Association actually found families that build routines and rituals together have improved relationships with one another. These same kids end up “healthier” and “with better behavior.”

Ah, yes please! Who doesn’t want that for our kids?

I’ve got four silly holidays to bring into your living room (and bathroom, and kitchen!) No need to celebrate them on their exact date. They’re silly holidays. Mix, match, reorder – make them work for your family. Even if the “official” date has passed, no drama. Who will arrest you if you celebrate Rubber Duckie Day in February?

Ready to break out the party hats?

Silly Holidays #1
Bubble Bath & Rubber Duckie Day

When: January 8 (Bubble Bath Day) and January 13 (Rubber Duckie Day)
Why: Soak in the silliness while strengthening predictive reasoning and spatial relations skills!

Combining these two silly holidays together is a no-brainer. Just invite a rubber duckie into any of your bath festivities! Here are some quack-tacular ways to celebrate these silly celebration days.

Celebrate with Music

Introduce your kiddos to the traditional Sesame Street anthem Rubber Duckie, or just stick with nursery rhymes like Five Little Ducks, Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath, and Barney’s Bubble Bath are other fun songs to sing while soaking away the winter “blahs.”

You can celebrate without the water, too. Make these songs the soundtrack to a family dance party in the living room to build bodily kinesthetic intelligence. Introduce creative/pretend play and body awareness as the kids pretend to wash each part of their bodies.

Here are some tub-themed tunes to buy on CD or download for bath time:

  • Sesame Street’s classic bath-themed album (including “Rubber Duckie”)
  • John Lithgow delivers a surprisingly charming bath CD (including a song about a hippo!)
  • S.S. Bathtub is accurately billed as a CD for kids “and their grownups” – enjoyable for all ages
  • Don’t forget to score some delightful bath instruments so your kids can play along with the tunes!

Color “Chemistry” in the Tub

You’ll need:

Start with one color per container. Have your child guess what will happen with the colors mix together. This practices making predictions, which is actually an early reading skill.

Your kids will also get a great hands-on lesson about dilution as they add clear water to a container of bright colored water and watch it fade, or when they spill an oh-so-red cupful into the great big bathtub and see the water turn only slightly pink.

Want yet another developmental bonus from this game?  All the pouring, transferring and scooping helps build an awareness of spatial relations and refine motor skills.

Frozen Cubes

You’ll need:

Make individual colors and pour into ice cube trays or any other freezer-safe container you like, and stick it in the freezer so it’s solid before bathtime.

Some moms have used foil cake pans for this, which is great! Just realize those have a very sloooow melt and require a long bath. Depending on how many hours you need to fill until bedtime, though, this could be perfect!

Your kids will love seeing the colors swirl as they melt. They’ll have fun (and develop hand-eye coordination) chasing the floating cubes around. Bring spoons or plastic tongs into the tub for older children to catch and manipulate the ice.

Those preschoolers past the “put everything in my mouth” phase can also enjoy “ice embeds.” Put some surprises into the colored water before you freeze it. Sea creatures, buttons, dinosaurs, beads, snips of pipe cleaners, coins – so many things look cool when they’re revealed in the melting process!  Then let him use his fingers and a popsicle stick as an “ice pick” to dig out the treasures. (Of course, little objects can be a choking hazard…use your mama smarts when deciding if this activity’s right for your family.)

While your preschooler is playing away, take a moment to chat about the scientific concept of “states of matter” and how water exists in three different forms: solid (ice), liquid (bathwater) and gas (steam).

Here’s a picture to help them visualize this concept:

States of Matter illustration from NASA.

Sensory Play Shaving Cream Paint

You’ll need:

In small bowls, let your child mix up their own bath paint with shaving cream and food coloring.  Even this preparation step is part of the tactile/sensory play experience you’re creating. (Rinsing away the mess is also a developmental bonus, so breathe easy, mama!)

“Sensory play” is when kids use their five senses (touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing) to explore the world around them. Research shows this kind of play builds nerve connections that are important for all kinds of learning. Sensory play has been credited with helping kids develop language, as well as strengthen social and creative skills.

So, mix up some shaving cream paint! Then let your little one use his hands, washcloths, Q-tips, etc. to paint the tub, walls, and a sibling or two. Feel (and listen to!) the squishy way it moves. Look at the colors and how the foam holds its shape, or drips down the side of the tub. Sniff its soapy scent. But no tasting! A little lick of shaving cream isn’t any more poisonous than soap…but it isn’t any yummier, either. 🙂

Will It Float?

You’ll need:

  • Items that float (cork, bar of soap, empty bottle, leaf, etc.)
  • Items that sink (coin, rock, full bottle, etc.)

You can use all the hangout time in the tub to talk about what floats and what sinks. Try a cork, a coin, bar soap, empty water bottle/full water bottle, leaf, bottle cap, rock…. whatever’s handy.  Like color mixing, this activity will help your child make predictions. You can make a list together with “floats” on one side and “sinks” on the other. This introduces sorting/classifications and language skills in the learning mix too!

Bonus Party Points for Bubble Bath Day

Add some of these to the festivities!

Let your little one drink some fizzy drinks in the tub and then practice their bubble blowing skills! Learning to hold the wand and open the container will increase their fine motor skills, while dipping the wand and and popping the bubbles develops hand-eye coordination. Even watching the bubbles fly in different directions will build visual tracking skills, a vital skill for learning to read.

Silly Holidays #2
National Opposite Day

When: January 25
Why: Zany role play and imaginative games build your family’s empathy towards one another, increases their social/emotional awareness, and improves vital problem solving skills.

Oh mama, this is a holiday that’s begging to be celebrated at your house! Once your kiddo is old enough to understand opposites in action, they’ll love this silly concept. And you can offload so many tasks in the name of fun!

Role-Playing to Build Awareness for National Opposite Day

Start the day by telling the kids they’re the parents! Ask them to:

  • Let them make their lunch (and pack one for YOU)
  • Sweep the floor
  • Make a meal they serve to you
  • Fold the laundry
  • Put away dishes, etc etc.

Research shows that chores are actually good for kids, and it’s likely they’ll have to do some problem solving to complete a few of the tasks. Plus, tackling some of the stuff you usually handle can help them gain insight into your role in the family, building empathy.

This also gives your kids a chance to “be you.” Be warned, though! This role-reversal may reveal some interesting things about your relationship! Through this “silly” game, your child will practice his social and emotional awareness in a relaxed, safe way. They may take the opportunity to bring up questions or complaints about how things are done on “normal” days. Be ready to listen… and to eat some crazy food!

In addition to “playing parent,” try one of these other opposites!

  • Have breakfast for dinner, or meatloaf for breakfast! This helps kids think creatively, by throwing their predictive reasoning for a loop.
  • Say “hello” when you mean “goodbye”, describe milk as hot and oatmeal as cold, claim blue is red, up is down… basically, be a toddler all day.
  • Try drawing with markers with your toes, or other activities described in this silly poem!
  • Play backwards Simon Says: when you say “stand up tall” the players should crouch low. If you say “shout hooray,” they whisper, etc. This works on the critical skill of following directions.
  • Experiment with opposite emotions. Say “show me a sad face” and look for happy smiles, etc. This helps build emotional intelligence and empathy.

Bonus Party Points for National Opposite Day

Kick it up a notch by sleeping in clothes on “Opposite Eve” and wearing pajamas to school on Opposite Day. If you can swing it, wear your PJs all day too – or at least out on a morning coffee run with your kids. (Maybe these faux denim pajama pants could help out.)

Silly Holidays #3
Random Act of Kindness Day

When: February 17
Why: This lovely holiday is an opportunity to introduce the concept of self-sacrifice and service to children while strengthening social/emotional learning skills.

I love that this silly holiday falls right after Valentine’s Day. It’s a celebration of non-romantic love, and shows the value of inclusion while incorporating the oh-so-fun element of surprise! (No one ever expects a random act of kindness!)

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aseop

Family Ideas for Random Act of Kindness Day

  • Babysit for another family. You can do this as an entire family, for free, and your kids will probably enjoy the company.
  • Round up your extra crayons and markers to create a “coloring care package” for the local urgent care center to make a family’s wait there more relaxed. Pair with a few coloring books for a soothing surprise. (Animals and Disney are always a hit!)
  • Scour the house for other toys/clothes your kids don’t use often. Donate them to a children’s charity or give them away on Freecycle. Your specific giveaway route can springboard into a conversation about people in need, or introduce reuse-regift-recycle principles to help protect the environment.
  • Go to a local sports event – even pee-wee hockey will do – and cheer on every player. On both teams.
  • Cut up coupons from your local newspaper or collect some from Red Plum.Then go to the store and put the coupons on the shelf by the item. Someone will be thrilled to find them! (This is also a way to sneak in fine motor skills using toddler scissors.)
  • Show older kids how ‘community based’ review sites work (ex. Yelp, Google Reviews). Write a positive review for your hair stylist, locally-owned restaurant, plumber, etc.  This will help other consumers choose wisely, and will bring new clients to the business. People always take the time to write negative reviews, but far fewer bother to write in when they’re satisfied. A conversation about focusing on the positive/finding and expressing gratitude might be in order.
  • Older preschoolers can take their birthday money (or yours) to make a loan on Kiva. (The initial $25 investment eventually comes back to you, as the borrower pays back the loan.) Browsing loan requests from around the world builds global awareness and can open doors to conversation about poverty, access to educational, health care disparities and other topics.
  • Bring gloves to your local park or playground and pick up trash. Besides being a community service, this gives you a chance to open up a conversation about unseen workers: who usually picks up the trash in a park? Empties the trash cans? Waters the flowers and mows the grass.

Gratitude and Kindness on Random Act of Kindness Day

  • Leave a special “thank you” note on a trash can thanking the sanitation crew, write a letter (or draw a thank you picture) for the Parks and Rec staff, drop off coffee to the folks who plow the roads on a snowy day. Talking about how good it feels to be recognized for your work, or how it might feel to be “invisible,” can build empathy in your kids. Bus drivers are definitely in the “unseen” category. A smile and a warm “thank you” lets them know they’re appreciated. Your child can practice right from morning school pickup!
  • Honor one of your children every day as the “Queen/King of Kindness.” Make or buy crowns that are awarded to the individual in the family who has really demonstrated a sweet spirit!  (Heather’s girls loved figuring out how to earn the right to wear this very special crown during dinnertime!)
  • One family dubbed themselves the Kindness Krew, and made buttons they wore all day. Besides building cohesion/strong identity among family members, it allowed them to chat up the day with other people. One act of kindness, they decided, was inspiring it in others! Plus they were able to use the family name to help clarify their values year-long. If someone was treating another unfairly or with malice, the question, “Is this what we’d expect from the Kindness Krew?” was a simple prompt to build (or repair) their relationships at home.

For more ideas on how to teach the art of kindness, read through 60 Simple-Yet-Powerful Ways to Teach Your Kids How to be Kind.

Bonus Party Points for Random Act of Kindness Day

Kids also love handing stuff out, so why not make “I See You” cards, either by hand or designed on a computer and printed onto business card paper. Fill them in and leave around strategically: “I See You working hard to keep our school clean. Thanks, custodial staff!” can be taped to a school bathroom mirror.

Stick one in the mailbox for the postal carrier or on the tray you’re returning after lunch. Hand one to the cashier at the grocery store. Alternates to the “I see you” phrasing might include some version of “notice,” “appreciate,”  “thankful” or even just “wow!”

I See You cards can also be used within the family to bring more awareness to kind acts. Give one to a child who helped a sibling in an impressive way or made an effort to include a classmate who’s been left out. Who knows, as your kid’s social emotional development continues, you might even get a card recognizing your hard work!

Silly Holidays #4
Tell a Fairytale Day

When: February 26
Why: Jumpstart your entire family’s creative thinking, reading and language development with this celebration! It also incorporates dramatic play and motor skill  development.

Reading Stories Out Loud for Tell a Fairytale Day

Of course, the number one way to celebrate this day is to read fairy tales! There are many versions – some Disney, some gruesome Grimm, and some in between. Ask a librarian for an age-specific recommendation. They’d be thrilled to help you celebrate with an appropriate book.

Reading aloud isn’t just for the under-five set, either. There are benefits of reading aloud to kids all the way through high school. Kids who are read to have a huge leg up in reading and language development.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. ~ Albert Einstein

Here are a few sample conversation starters:

  • What would happen if Snow White met Goldilocks in the woods?
  • What tools would you pack if you were going up the beanstalk with Jack?
  • What if Cinderella wanted to leave the Prince a clue at the ball? How could she have communicated without using her clothing?
  • If Anna had a superpower like Elsa, what would hers be?
  • What other animals might Little Red meet on her way to Grandma’s (besides the Wolf)? What would those animals say and do in the story?

Telling Your Own Stories for Tell a Fairytale Day

Since fairytales started off as an oral tradition, a perfect way to celebrate is to tell stories aloud. Help your preschooler along with one of these creative family games!

  1. Tell Tale Card Game
  2. Tall Tales Storytelling Card Game
  3. How to Tell a Story Blocks
  4. Tell Tale Fairy Tales Card Game

With younger kids, you can create a story using elements from their day:

Once upon a time, Princess {Child} of {Town} wanted apples for lunch. But the entire kingdom had run out! The Queen needed to take a long trip to the marketplace, so she summoned her dragon to get a ride. But she had some trouble along the way…

Every once in awhile, pause and invite your child use creative thinking to participate. Ask, “what happened next?” Or, of that’s too open ended, try something concrete like “But I couldn’t pass through the road! What was blocking the way?”  

Acting Out Stories for Tell a Fairytale Day

What preschooler or toddler doesn’t love playing make-believe? Why not have them re-enact fairy tales once you’ve read them?

Try using elements from the story to encourage motor skills and problem solving. For example, ask “How can we make a bridge?” and actually have them make a bridge with masking tape on the floor, or blocks, or couch cushions in a line, dining chairs covered with a blanket…etc. Do the same to make a castle, a beanstalk or a “deep dark forest.”  Then have them practice “crossing the bridge” while hopping, crawling, dancing, or sliding for motor development.

You can also “accessorize” your playing with paper plates taped to popsicle sticks as masks for everything from the Big Bad Wolf to the troll under the bridge. (Add glue sticks, construction paper and crayons to customize.) Don’t forget to raid the closets for capes, crowns and “monster” outfits!

Bonus Party Points for Tell a Fairytale Day

Have the kids wear their costumes to a Fairy Tale Dinner (or Lunch or Snack) Party! Make up a fairy tale name for each family member and using it throughout the party. Then serve food inspired by stories you’ve shared.

  • Pretzel ‘sticks’ and fruit snacks or cereal ‘bricks’ to make the Little Pigs’ houses.
  • Chickpeas or baked beans to celebrate Jack’s adventure.
  • Apples for Snow White
  • Oatmeal “porridge” for the Three Bears
  • Candy for Hansel and Gretel

Celebrate Until Spring!

There are 78 long, dark days between New Year’s Eve and the official start of spring.

We can use them to carb-load and huddle under a blanket… or we can create celebrations that help our family bond while reinforcing learning!

I’m choosing the second option, and I’m inviting your family to the party!

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