At Home Together

Remember the good ole days, back in 2019? We were making a stink over shitty weather, parents posting inappropriate memes on social media, and dry Thanksgiving turkey. We all said it: I can't wait for 2020! But 2020 ended up kinda being a jerk, primarily thanks to COVID-19 creeping into our lives early in the year and continuing through to the bitter end.

For a lot of us with families, it turned our lives upside down. This whole year we've been managing through school closures, missed celebrations and milestones, upset kids because they just don't understand. And with the holiday season fast approaching, it feels like the icing on the cake to pare down activities during such a cheerful time.

You could get down about it. Or you could view this as a time to experience holidays from a new light and push away all the chatter around you. It's a time for making family memories. Just because they're going to look a little different this year, that doesn't mean they aren't totally worth doing.

If you're reading this, it's safe to assume you're probably balancing being a professional, a parent, and a teacher. All the while your kids are looking at you, the conductor of fun, waiting for their holiday cheer to start. Here are our top recommendations to keep the kids busy this holiday season, and it starts with getting them outside.

No Such Thing as Bad Weather

We have to remember, kids are much more fearless than we adults. While we're dipping our toes into the ocean water to start our 20 minute descent to the waist, kids run in with vigor, completely unphased by temperature. The point is, don't let your personal temperature preference interfere with a day of fun--just suck it up and get the kids outside as much as possible.

"Thinking back to my childhood, there wasn't the instant gratification of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, so when the sun was out, you were out. There was no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing."

- Magda Cooper, COO and Co-Founder at BOTE

Staying Close to Home

With the right layers for the day's climate, pretty much all outside activities are on the table, and while they may grow tired of the swingset in the backyard, experiencing outside activities they typically do in the summer, in the winter, can be a really cool moment for them.

Try getting them out on the water. If you live close to a river, lake, or ocean, stand up paddling, an activity typically associated with summer but more and more is finding its place in all seasons, is a great activity to get them out and wear them out. Just make sure to be aware of your surroundings, like potential for gusty wind or rough water, and dress appropriately. Once you've thoroughly exhausted their upper bodies after an hour or two of stand up paddle boarding, go hang by the bank of the river or lake, or set up shop on an uncrowded patch of coastline. Here's your chance to teach your kids a thing or two about nature. Let them pee in some bushes (it's called marking your territory, animals do it, so it counts as a learning experience), dig for worms, and build a bonfire. Like the good ole days, but better, because you're doing it with your kids.

If you've never been stand up paddle boarding with kids, we have some helpful tips and tricks on how to successfully make it happen.

Venturing Out

If you're not in close proximity to a friendly body of water, no problem. Stay in your bubble somewhere else. Check out what's in driving distance to you, like a mountain cabin or campground, then pack up your family and head out. You may not have good paddling water within 20 minutes of your home, but by expanding your horizons, you'll see that a couple hour drive can land you in some serene and quiet wooded areas, with nothing but peaceful seclusion (we're hellbent on not using the word 'quarantine' in this article). Take your kids for a hike, go fishing along a stream, and if you happen to have inflatable paddle boards, well, they're built for traveling, so you should probably take them, too.

Trying Something New

Whether you're staying close to home or renting a cabin a little ways away, having this extra time with the family can be the perfect time to try something new. Inflatable kayaks are super durable and easy to use, making them a great item for kids to try out. They get to learn a new skill and you don't have to worry about them breaking it in two. Whatever new activities you decide to teach them, make it one you've been putting to the side because you know the time commitment it would take. Time is kinda on our side right now.

"Make the time to be with your family and do an activity where you can be together. Paddling with young kids, sometimes they can be weary of it, but it helps build their confidence by doing things that aren't always comfortable for them. Teach them that outdoor activities can be done in cold weather; really, in any weather."

- Magda Cooper, COO and Co-Founder at BOTE

Create New Traditions

You may not be able to go to the town tree lighting, stand in a jam packed line to say hey to Santa, or sit front row at your kids holiday recital, but you can insert a healthy dose of holiday cheer in a new way by scrapping old traditions and creating new ones.

The great thing about kids is they don't get hung up on traditions. Yeah, they're nice to have and we certainly want to keep them going, but pivoting for a year isn't the worst thing, especially if it creates a new tradition that will carry on.

Just take it from this random six-year-old, Benjamin, from Pittsburgh, PA. When we asked him what he'd like to do this winter that was different from other years, he said, "We should collect leaves to make a craft, because leaves are technically the same thing as paper." His younger sister, Aoife, suggests we "build a snowman and take mommy's phone and shape the phone like a carrot so it looks like a nose." Hmmm… we lost her on the carrot phone, but our point is, kids are just happy to do something, anything, that's new and even slightly novel.

So while you're navigating this holiday season, take a moment to pause and enjoy what's happening with your family. Think how it can be turned into a tradition, and then, well, turn it into one.

A Time to Recharge (and Relax the Rules)

Power down the electronics for the whole family and take this time to recharge. Don't worry, Mario Kart and your Instagram feed will still be there. Take advantage of the fact that you don't have a million holiday parties to go to and take back your energy. Because for the first time in your lifetime, your big holiday energy is just for you and your immediate family--not the whole neighborhood, your extended family, the PTA, and certainly not for the formerly-obligatory-overly-fancy cocktail party you dread dressing up for every holiday season.

"Our extended family won't be traveling this year so the planning and prepping for visitors will naturally make for a more relaxed holiday season. We'll miss seeing them, but it will make things less hectic."

- Rob McAbee, Creative Brand Director at BOTE

Remember, kids need to recharge, too, they just do it in different ways. This whole year they've been having to follow strict rules around mask wearing, distancing and not touching things. Can you imagine what it's been like for them? To go into a candy store and only touch the one piece of candy you plan on purchasing for them? It's probably their own personal nightmare. With all the rules on the outside, use this time to help them recharge by loosening up your house rules. Let them eat Doritos on the couch, a little cheese dust never hurt anyone. Or better yet, bring your Aero Chair or Couch out of storage and make a fun environment inside the home. They're a lot easier to get cheese off of, too.

Spring Cleaning in Winter

This may not sound like a lot of fun, but you have the time and you have your kids to put to work. Do your spring cleaning now, so it's out of the way, and when it starts to warm up, you won't waste a single minute getting back to the outdoors the way you're used to experiencing it.

Having your kids help won't make the process so… boring. They'll surely break something you planned to stow away for when they have children of their own or wash something really important with the wrong kind of soap, but hey, you just made a memory. And they just learned why spring cleaning is such a pain in the ass.

At the end of the day, family is everything. So take the time this holiday season to treat it as such and spend quality time together. Get creative with it. Be different. Stand apart… together. Next year, when this is all behind us (fingers crossed) and we are operating as normal, we'll be wishing for extended time with our kids. You're just gonna have to trust us on that.