8 Holiday Activities for Your Kids During Deployment

8 Holiday Activities for Your Kids During Deployment

Posted by Hannah Fleace on Dec 15th 2019

It is extra hard on kids during deployment when the holidays roll around and even more necessary to have family time. Here are a few ideas you can do to spend more time with your kiddos AND how to include your deployed service member, too!

Caroling1. Sing carols or traditional songs at a nursing home

No matter what holidays you celebrate in December, most traditions include music of some sort. Join a big group in your military community and head to a nursing home to spread some holiday cheer. They are another group of people who are often alone at the holidays.

How to include your service member: Send a recording of your caroling to cheer them up (and share with friends). Or, if you have access, video them in and have them sing along!

2. Sleepover under the tree

If Christmas is your main holiday, grab your blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals and set up underneath the Christmas tree for a sleepover you kids are never going to forget. Turn on some Christmas music and read a book together or watch a classic Christmas favorite (White Christmas and Charlie Brown’s Christmas are staples around our house!).

How to include your deployed service member: if possible, video chat with them (this often works out with time changes overseas). If they’re stateside, the time different usually isn’t too bad, and you can call them earlier or later depending.

Christmas House Lit Up3. Look at Christmas lights

In most cities and towns, there is always one community that goes ALL out. Lights on every house, blow-up Christmas figures in the front lawn, a giant bow on the mailbox – you know what I’m talking about. One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was making hot chocolate, packing into the car one evening, and driving all over town to look at the Christmas lights! Our town also lit up the park so you might check to see if there is a lights show near you. Pro Tip: If you do decide to bring hot chocolate, make sure you have spill-proof cups for little ones. No spills = jolly mom and dad.

How to include your service member: This one is a little tough because you can’t exactly pack your deployed loved one in the car too. Instead, have your kiddos make a map of the neighborhood you went to. They can circle the houses with their favorite lights and maybe attempt a drawing recreation! Mail that off with a few packets of instant hot cocoa, and you can include mom or dad from afar.

4. Create family holiday shirts

Maybe you’ve seen the hilarious matching family pajamas that are floating around the internet. For this “together activity,” grab your kids and some fabric paint or iron-ons. The challenge is in creating matching family t-shirts. Here is some very spirited inspiration!

How to include your service member: You getting a matching t-shirt and you get a matching t-shirt! Channel your inner Oprah and send your deployed loved one a cheerful holiday shirt. Maybe have them take a picture in theirs and make a collage with your image.

Making Paper Snowflakes

5. Make paper snowflakes

If you have a crafty kiddo, this is the perfect way to add a little extra decor to your home or decoration to the inside of a care package. If you need a crash course, this blog post has some great tips! But mostly, all you need is a pair of scissors, construction or copy paper, and adult supervision. I shudder to think of the havoc that could be wreaked by an unsupervised-scissor-wielding kid.

How to include your service member: Pack the inside of a care package with snowflakes that are folded and cut but unopened. Scribble a lyric from a Christmas song or a sweet note on the outside. When your loved one opens up the flake, they’ll have a note and some simple decor for their space.

6. Make Christmas cookies

Another activity in the baking vein is making Christmas cookies! This list has some mouth-watering recipes. Seriously, so good! To make it extra meaningful, fill up a few plates and have your kids deliver them to neighbors, first responders, the local ER staff, or anyone else who could use a pick-me-up during this season.

How to include your service member: Send them some of your yummy baked goods! Pro Tip: Include a piece of bread so the cookies stay fresh, and the bread gets stale.

7. Build a gingerbread house

You can purchase a gingerbread house kit that has everything you need, or (if you’re feeling really ambitious), you can make it from scratch. This is an excellent way for kids to express their creativity and get a little messy. Turn on some Christmas music and have a dance-off while you’re at it!

How to include your service member: Mail them a kit, too! Include a picture of yours and see if your service member can recreate it. Even if they don’t feel like decorating, it will make a great snack! (Make sure you pack it well, so the prebaked cookie arrives intact!)

Build a gingerbread house

8. Donate

Whether you’re cleaning our your closet for the new year or making room for more toys at Christmas, have your kids help you go through things to donate. Being generous is one of the best ways to lift up your spirits – especially if your loved one is away. If you don’t have any material things to donate, take your kiddos to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or charity event.

How to include your service member: Have your kids write them a letter explaining how they donated and why it’s important. It will make your service member feel more connected and help your kids reflect on what being generous means.

Holiday Bonus:

If you celebrate Christmas, consider taking your kids to see a Christmas play (like the Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, etc.) or a live nativity. Your community calendar or Chamber of Commerce should be able to point you in the right direction. If you live on a base or post, they’ll usually have a community Facebook page you can check.

If you celebrate Hanukkah, you can make an awesome Menorah with your kid’s handprints, learn and sing Ashkenazic and Sephardic songs, or play the dreidel game. Check into events at your synagogue or your base chapel to see what they’re offering.

If you celebrate Kwanzaa, there are TONS of craft ideas out there. This post has a few of my favorites! You could also host a party to share your culture with neighbors or friends who might not be familiar. 

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