by Julie Snyder
December offers a whirlwind of opportunities for your child to get involved -- learning about tradition, helping others or simply having fun during the holiday season.
Where you live plays a major part in which activities will be available to your child.
A good friend of mine lives on a farm near a tiny town we affectionately call "just north of the middle of nowhere." Her kids have acres to roam, inches of snow and great hills for sledding. The local community offers several holiday events for all ages but their activities won't include a trip to the zoo or the science center.
If you live near a large city, your problem might not be finding an activity for the kids, but rather, picking and choosing which ones match your child's schedule and interests.
Try out these kids' activities. They'll teach more than how to hold down the couch or fight zombies.
December holiday activities for kids
Cleaning and decorating
Clean your room! I saw you roll your eyes. Yes, sorting and then sharing teaches the reason behind the season. Plus it makes room for new loot. Donate the toys and books your child no longer plays to a community center, day care or homeless shelter.
Purging toys and books may not be as easy as you thought. Each seems filled with special memories. Take a breath, hug your child and picture another family enjoying and loving it.
Decorate for the holidays. Now you can spiff up that spotless room with sparkling snowflakes and other holiday decorations. Make a pot of hot cocoa and some memories as you create them yourselves. It's even more fun if you invite friends to join the activity.
Check the calendar
Take a peek at the December calendar. Few months have as many multicultural holidays. You'll find Saint Nicholas Day, the Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia Day, Chanukah, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and Omisoka, among others. Learn about one this year.
As an example, for the Feast of St. Nicholas, share the historical story of the "real" St. Nick. At bedtime have your child set their shoes outside their door in hopes of a "treat" come morning. St. Nick may stop by to fill them with "gold" chocolate covered coins and candy canes.
Join a community event
Family events in your area might include a fantastic range of theater, music, dance, films, coloring contests, museums, lighting ceremonies, family concerts and performances, hands-on activities and fun exhibitions for you and your kids.
Read through your local paper, the community center announcement, your church's bulletin and keep an eye on the social media. You're certain to find the perfect holiday treat.
Give the gift of time
Organizations like toys for tots can always use volunteers to sort and pass out gifts. Maybe your tween or teen would like to help.
Does your local hospital connect kids with those cooped up in the hospital? An afternoon painting faces, playing games or doing a little girl's fingernails can make a child feel better.
Serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter. Your child may discover their inner angel. Many in the world don't have family to share their holidays. Hearing laughter and knowing others care can be the best gift of all.
Check with your local church or shelter to see how your child can help. They may be able to spur a donation, make goodie bags or hand out blankets and bag lunches.
What's happening in your community? Do you the activities offer a good balance between having fun and helping others?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.