5 Holiday Fun Activities for the Whole Family to Enjoy

By: Maria Wilcox, MA, BCBA
Boy using sled outside in the snow

The holiday season is a special time of year filled with celebrations, seasonal activities, social gatherings, and of course a break in the school calendar! However, it can also be overwhelming and stressful for those with disabilities due to the disruption in routine, sensory overwhelm, and unfamiliarity.

Do not let this prohibit your family from participating in activities that are appropriate, special, and memory-making for them. Here are some simple ideas in which the whole family can participate.

1. Enjoy a sensory friendly movie

Many theatre chains offer movie times that are sensory and family friendly. The lights are not dimmed, the volume is lowered, and attendees can get up, move around, talk, or even sing-a-long!

Theatre not your thing? Have a family movie night with popcorn, snacks, and a family favorite film. Some favorites are:

  • Elf
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Polar Express

2. Visit your local public library

Libraries often host a variety of holiday themed activities for children of all ages. They are quieter environments for children who may be easily overwhelmed.

Great ways to get out of the house and do something fun as a family are:

  • Story hour
  • Lego clubs
  • Daytime movies
  • Puppet shows
  • Looking at books in the children’s section

3. Pick and choose what you attend

Invited to a large holiday gathering? Many families opt out of large parties and events because of past experiences or unfamiliarity and unpredictability. Instead, you could invite a small group to your home so that your child has a safe place and familiar environment should she/he become overwhelmed.

4. Decorate cookie, do an easy craft, or play outside

Sometimes being home with family during the holidays is enough. As lives grow increasingly busier, simple activities with those closest to you can be the most special.

Buying cookies and decorating them festively, making a winter themed craft, or building a snowman can be great ways for siblings to interact and keep stress levels low in a familiar environment.

5. Visit your local zoo or a new museum

Zoo’s often have holiday lights and decorations for the season. They are less crowded and very family friendly early in the day. There are often photo opportunities and interactive activities for children of all abilities.

Museums also have great hours for families to visit and have many activities that are engaging and target lots of different ages and abilities. Train museums, local history museums, and living history museums are all great options for families to gather together for structured fun.

The holidays are a special time to spend with loved ones, friends, and family. By keeping expectations realistic, planning simple and fun activities the season can be enjoyable and memorable for the entire family! Happy Holidays!

About the Author

Maria Wilcox, MA, BCBA

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Maria Wilcox, MA, BCBA is an experienced educational professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Event Planning, Customer Service, Positive Behavior Support, Applied Behavior Analysis, Consultation, and Learning Disabilities. Interested in consultation, organization and systems development.

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