The kids are home from school, and you have some days off.
The youngsters are already tired of their new games, or they aren't tired of their games but you want to do something together as a family, and the age groups are too diverse for most board games. No one can agree on a movie everybody wants to see, and besides sitting in the dark and staring at a movie screen isn't interacting with each other.
Plants to the rescue!
Leaf rubbings. You will need leaves from landscape plants, plain white (printer) paper, and crayons with no paper wrapping on them. Put the leaf under the sheet of paper, vein side up. Lay the crayon long way on the paper. Rub. Move paper, get a new color, rub more. Leaves can be used over and over. When the page is filled, have the artists sign their work. Now write thank you notes on the back and send them off.
You can get very elaborate with this project. Use one leaf type rubbed all around the border with one color and one big leaf in the center. Use larger paper (legal or ledger size) then seal the creation inside clear sticky shelf paper for some truly unique homemade placemats. Since no two leaves are alike, no two placemats will be alike.
Sprouts. Grow plants from vegetables common in most kitchens. Sweet potatoes, yams, regular potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlics and the tried and true avocado pit can all be started in jars of water. Just find a jar where the plant is partially submerged. Skip the toothpick thing and find decorative gravel, rocks, buttons, or marbles to fill the jar with and hold the vegetable upright with its base barely submerged. Yes, it is not an immediate plant, but the hunt for decorative elements to fill the jars is a big part of the project.
Pot People. This is a great one if you also have cats. You will need pots, a way to draw or paint faces on, wheat or catgrass seed, and some potting soil. Have the kids paint or draw faces on the pots. The grass will grow "hair" on top of the "head," and the cats will give the people "haircuts." If you want, recycle cottage cheese containers and wrap them with faces drawn on paper. Be sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom of the so the seeds don't drown.
Build a bird feeder. Any flat piece of wood will do, just put an edge around it so the seeds don't fall off. Make one with each kid and let them decorate their own. Use water-soluble caulk to "glue" some pretty rocks or colorful craft marbles onto the edges of the feeder. A base coat of light colored paint will make a fine surface for small people to draw on with markers or paint. The feeder can be hung from a tree with strands of wire in each corner or nailed on a post in the ground. Include apple cores with the seed to entice cardinals to visit.
Instead of a specific project, take a walk together. Or putter in the yard putting things to right in the landscape. Kids of all ages can help. Put them to work finding … something. Perhaps the chunks of concrete from building mixed in with the rock mulch (almost every home I have ever visited has some). Perhaps the smoothest rock they can find. Perhaps the bluest.
Please note that "finding" such rocks in the neighbors' yard and taking them home is technically called stealing. The neighbor may love their rocks and want them right where they have them.
Many people find it difficult to understand that when interacting with kids, it is not about the product, it is about the process. The process of getting together and creating something is far, far, far more important than the final product you create. Long after the bird feeder is rotten and gone, the children will remember the day they spent working beside you.
It does not even have to be the creation of a product. Simply taking a walk around the block and watching a hummingbird visit the neighbors' flowers can be a precious memory years later.
With best wishes for Happy Holidays. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy!