The Children's Busy Book: 365 Creative Learning Games and Activities to Keep Your 6- to 10-Year-Old Busy


Holiday Fun

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.

—Graham Greene

Holidays are the exclamation points of life. As Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons write in The Mother’s Almanac, “The first holiday may have been invented to celebrate fertility or planting or harvest, but we’re sure a mother was behind it. Even then she must have known that nothing could cure her day-to-day drudgery as well as a holiday or brighten the eye of a small child so quickly.”

Holidays provide an important break from routine. Even when we feel too busy or tired or broke to plan a celebration, anticipating a special day can lift our spirits and impart a sense of tradition. Holidays give us a chance to spend time together, enjoy good food, exchange gifts or other tokens of our love, play games, and have fun.

This chapter suggests many ways of celebrating holidays with children. In it you’ll find crafts, gifts, cooking, baking, games, books to read, and more.

However you choose to celebrate holidays, remember that anticipation is half the fun. Be sure to let your child help you plan each celebration.


Valentine’s Day is for celebrating love. Although no one is quite sure how Valentine’s Day and its traditions started, most of us enjoy sharing cards, sweets, hugs, and kisses with those we love.

Children who are in school will likely begin Valentine’s Day preparations several weeks in advance. At home, you can do the same by making heart-shaped cookies and cards and Valentine’s Day crafts and gifts. Read a book or two about Valentine’s Day in the days leading up to February 14. On Valentine’s Day, dress the whole family in red and put your heart-shaped cookie cutter to work for toast, sandwiches, cheese, and finger Jell-O. A family dinner or small party with a few friends is a simple and fun way to celebrate this special day.

Recommended Reading

Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols by Edna Barth

It’s Valentine’s Day by Jack Prelutsky

Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda

Secret Messages

Instead of handing out traditional valentines, your child can send messages in the following fun ways.

• Write on plain white paper with a toothpick dipped in lemon juice. Iron the paper to reveal the message.

• Lay several Popsicle sticks side by side to form a square. Lay strips of tape across all the sticks to join them. Turn the square over. Write a message on the front of it. Remove the tape and put the sticks in an envelope. Put the puzzle back together to read the message.

• Write on a small valentine card. Roll up the card and insert it into a balloon with some confetti. Blow up the balloon and pop it to reveal the valentine inside.

• Blow up a red, pink, or white balloon and pinch the opening shut. Write on the inflated balloon, then deflate it. Blow up the balloon to read the message.


Clay Hearts

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1/3 cup water

Red food coloring (optional)

Rolling pin

Heart-shaped cookie cutter

Drinking straw

Baking sheet


Tempera or acrylic paints

Clear acrylic spray

Glue gun (optional)

Magnetic strips (optional)

Jewelry pins (optional)

Satin cord (optional)

Have your child mix the flour and salt, then add the water and stir the mixture well to make clay. If you like, tint the clay with red food coloring.

Roll out the clay and let your child cut heart shapes from it with the cookie cutter. If a heart will be strung on a necklace, poke a hole near the top of it with a straw. Bake the hearts on a baking sheet at 200°F until they’re hard. (This may take an hour or more.) Let your child paint the hearts. Finish them with clear acrylic spray.

• Glue magnetic strips onto the backs of the hearts to make refrigerator magnets.

• Glue jewelry pins onto the backs of the hearts to make brooches.

• String a heart on a 2-foot length of satin cord to make a necklace.

• Glue the hearts onto a plain picture frame.

Valentine Soaps

Heart-shaped soap is easy to make and is a nice gift for teachers, friends, and family members.

Heart-shaped cookie cutters, baking sheet, and tape (or foil liners and miniature muffin pan)

11/2 cups pure soap flakes or grated bar soap

1/2 cup water

Red food coloring


Cellophane and red or pink ribbon

Place several heart-shaped cookie cutters on the baking sheet and crisscross 2 strips of tape over each cookie cutter to attach it firmly to the baking sheet. Or if you like, use foil liners in a miniature muffin pan to make little round soaps rather than heart-shaped ones.

Have your child mix the soap and water. Add enough red food coloring to get the color you want. Pour the soap into the molds using a funnel. Let the soaps harden before you remove them from the molds.

Wrap the soaps in cellophane and tie them with red or pink ribbons.

Crispy Kisses



Red marker

1/4 cup butter

4 cups miniature or 40 large marshmallows

5 cups crispy rice cereal


Cooking spray

12-inch square of aluminum foil

Cut paper into 81/2-by-1-inch strips. Have your child write a Valentine’s Day message on each strip. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the marshmallows and stir the mixture constantly over low heat until it’s syrupy. Turn off the heat. Stir in the cereal until it’s well coated. Spray the inside of a funnel with cooking spray. Press the cereal mixture into the funnel. Gently remove the cereal kiss and place it flat side down on the foil. Pull the corners of the foil up around the kiss. Insert a paper strip so that half the strip sticks out the top of the kiss. Twist the foil ends at the top. This recipe makes 6 large kisses.


Peppermint Patties

4 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons soft butter

2–3 teaspoons peppermint extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup evaporated milk

2 cups chocolate chips

2 tablespoons shortening

Have your child combine the powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, and vanilla. Add the milk and mix the dough well. Roll it into 1-inch balls and place them on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Chill them for 20 minutes. Flatten the balls to 1/4 inch patties. Chill them for another 30 minutes. Stir and melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler. Use tongs to dip each patty in the chocolate. Place the dipped patties on wax paper and let them harden.

Valentine’s Day Cake

One package white cake mix

Red food coloring

Whipped cream or frosting

Red candy sprinkles or heart-shaped candies

Help your child prepare the cake mix and pour it into the pan(s). Squeeze a few drops of red food coloring into the batter and swirl it through the batter with a knife. Bake the cake and let it cool completely. Frost it with whipped cream or frosting and top it with red candy sprinkles or heart-shaped candies.

Penny Pitch


Poster board or sheet of paper at least two feet square

Small treats and prizes

Ten pennies per player

One small container per player

One small bag per player

Paper hearts

Draw a grid of three- or four-inch squares on the poster board or paper. In each square, place a small treat or prize like a piece of candy or a pencil, eraser, sticker, or any small trinket or toy.

Give each player ten pennies in a small container. The players take turns standing at a distance and pitching pennies at the grid. If a player lands a penny in a square, she claims the treat or prize in that square and collects it in her goodie bag.

If any treats or prizes are too large to fit in the squares, place paper hearts in the squares instead. Keep the large treats and prizes in a box. Let players whose pennies land in the squares with paper hearts choose their own treats and prizes from the box.


Saint Patrick’s Day celebrates the patron saint of Ireland. Bishop Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland during the fifth century, and in Ireland he is still honored with a national holiday and a week of religious festivities.

Regardless of your nationality or faith, celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day can help break the monotony of the end of winter. Dress in green and invite a few friends over for a small party. Make a craft together and play a few simple games. Decorate and enjoy green food like cupcakes or sugar cookies with green frosting. Tint white grape juice with a drop or two of green food coloring or serve limeade or green Kool-Aid. If you like, listen to a CD of Irish folk music or watch a DVD like Riverdance or Lord of the Dance together.

Recommended Reading

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie DePaola

The St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Mystery by Marion M. Markham

Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs: The Story of the St. Patrick’s Day Symbols by Edna Barth

Shamrock Pancakes

These green shamrock-shaped pancakes are perfect for a Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast or lunch.

3 tablespoons plus more vegetable oil

11/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

Green food coloring

Syrup or jam

Preheat an electric griddle or skillet and grease it lightly with oil.

In a large bowl, have your child mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a fork, then add the milk, egg, a few drops of food coloring, and 3 tablespoons of oil. Have her stir the batter just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour the batter into the pan to make shamrock-shaped pancakes. (For each pancake, pour 3 small circles close enough to touch each other, but not so close that they run together into one indistinguishable shape.) Turn each pancake when its top begins to bubble and cook the other side until it’s golden brown. Serve the pancakes with syrup or jam.

Potato Head

Large baking potato

Scrub brush

Play dough or clay, felt scraps, buttons, raisins, miniature marshmallows, toothpicks, yarn or old plastic scouring pad, fabric or ribbon scraps

Clean the potato well with a scrub brush. Give your child an assortment of items with which to decorate her potato. She can make facial features from play dough or clay, felt scraps, buttons, raisins, or miniature marshmallows and attach them with short toothpick pieces. She can use yarn or an old plastic scouring pad for hair and use fabric or ribbon scraps for a collar or hair decoration.

If you like, have each family member create her own potato head. Photograph the potato head family before they become dinner.


Twice-Baked Potatoes

What Saint Patrick’s Day dinner would be complete without potatoes? These are delicious and simple to make.

4 potatoes

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons salt

Pepper to taste

1 cup grated Cheddar

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Scrub the potatoes thoroughly and pierce each one in several spots with a fork. Bake the potatoes for about 1 hour or until they’re tender when pierced with a fork. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice each in half lengthwise. Scoop out the center of the potato with a small spoon, leaving the skin intact. Put the scooped-out potato in a mixing bowl.

Let your child add the butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper to the scooped-out potato, and help her use an electric mixer to mix it until it’s smooth. Have her spoon the potato mixture back into the skins, then place the filled skins on a baking sheet and sprinkle grated cheese on top of them. Bake them for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Shamrock Hop

This is a fun, active game for four or more players. Play it on a carpeted floor to prevent slips and falls.


One sheet of green construction paper per player

Tape or string

Cut one large shamrock shape from each sheet of paper.

Mark a start and finish line with tape or string. Have players form pairs. One player in each pair stands at the starting line. Place one shamrock shape in front of each player at the starting line. Give another shamrock to the player in each pair who’s not at the starting line.

At your signal, each player at the starting line hops with her feet together onto the shamrock in front of her. The player’s partner then places the other shamrock in front of the hopping player. The hopping player then hops onto the second shamrock while her partner moves the other shamrock in front of her. Players continue moving shamrocks and hopping onto them in this way until one pair moves both of its shamrocks across the finish line.

Green Guessing Game


Shoebox with lid

Utility knife

Jar with lid

Green candy

Slips of paper


Tape the lid to the box and cut a slit in the lid. Fill a jar with green candy, counting the pieces you put in the jar.

Place the jar, the box, the slips of paper, and the pencil on a counter. Have each family member guess the number of candies in the jar, write her name and guess on a slip of paper, and place it in the box.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, let your child count the candies in the jar. Then let her open the box and read the guesses. The person who made the closest guess wins the candy.


Hot Potato

This game is best played with five or more players.


Have the players sit cross-legged in a circle. One player sits in the middle of the circle; this player is the leprechaun. The leprechaun starts the game by throwing a potato to one of the players in the circle. The leprechaun then closes her eyes and keeps them closed while the potato is passed among the players in the circle.

After the potato has been passed for a while, the leprechaun shouts, “Shamrock!” and opens her eyes. The player holding the potato at that moment leaves the circle and is out of the game. Play continues until only one player is left in the circle. That player is the winner and gets to be the leprechaun for the next game.

Keep playing until each player has had a turn as the leprechaun.


Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also a time to celebrate the coming of spring and all its delightful signs of new life.

Easter is a good time for family dinners and small get-togethers with friends. Decorate eggs or make candy together. Construct a simple craft and play a few games. Hold an egg or candy hunt outdoors or in, depending on the weather. Have an informal parade in your neighborhood with decorated bicycles, wagons, and tricycles. If you start your Easter activities early, this holiday can help bring some sunshine to the last few days of winter.

Recommended Reading

Easter by Gail Gibbons

The Easter Egg Farm by Mary Jane Auch

The Story of Easter by Aileen Fisher

Jiggle Eggs


Skewer or large needle

Empty egg carton

3 packets unflavored gelatin

One 12-ounce can bright-colored frozen juice concentrate, thawed

11/2 cups water

Small funnel

Show your child how to poke a 1/2-inch hole in the end of each egg, then twist the skewer or needle around inside the egg to break the yolk. Have your child drain the egg into a bowl and rinse the empty shell carefully with cool water. Set the shell hole side down in an egg carton to dry and save the contents of the egg for cooking or baking.

Mix the gelatin with the juice concentrate. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the juice-gelatin mixture and stir the mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm.

Have your child hold an eggshell hole side up over a bowl. Insert the funnel into the hole. Carefully fill the egg with the juice-gelatin mixture. Set the egg back in the carton, hole side up. After you’ve filled all the eggs, refrigerate them for at least 2 hours.

Serve the eggs in a basket. Guests will enjoy cracking open the eggs and discovering the surprise inside.

Easter Candy

1/3 cup soft butter

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon flavor extract of your choice

4 cups powdered sugar

Let your child mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough gets stiff, then knead it by hand until it’s smooth. Roll bits of dough into balls and flatten them lightly with a fork. Place the candies on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate them for 30 minutes or until they’re firm. Store them covered in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Basket

13/4 cups chocolate chips

1/3 cup light corn syrup

Easter treats

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Stir in the corn syrup. Spread the mixture in an 8-inch square about 3/8 inch thick on a piece of wax paper. Let it stand at room temperature for 21/2 hours or until it’s dry to the touch. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it stand overnight. Help your child shape the chocolate into a basket, then fill it with Easter treats. The basket can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Egg Decorating

For the following activities, use hard-boiled eggs. Set them on an upside down egg carton to dry. Store them in the refrigerator if you plan to eat them.

• Pour 1/2 cup of water into each of several saucepans (one for each color). Have your child add a different cut-up fruit, vegetable, or plant to each pan. (Try carrots, grass, blueberries, and coffee grounds.) Bring the water to a boil and simmer it until it turns the color you want. Strain and reserve the water. When it cools, soak the eggs in it.

• Have your child soak crepe paper in hot water in small containers (one for each color). Soak the eggs in the water.

• Measure 1/4 teaspoon of food coloring into each of several small bowls (one for each color). Add 3/4 cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Soak the eggs in the water.

• Grate crayon stubs. Fill a big glass jar with very hot water. Drop pinches of grated crayon in the water. When the crayon begins to melt, add an egg. Have your child twirl the egg in the water with a slotted spoon. The wax will make a design on the egg. Carefully remove the egg with the spoon.


Easter Cookies

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon milk

1/3 cup pastel candy sprinkles

Have your child thoroughly mix the flour, baking soda, and salt while you beat the sugar and butter in a separate bowl. Let your child add the egg, vanilla, and milk to the sugar and butter, then beat the mixture until it’s light and creamy. Let your child add the flour mixture and sprinkles and mix the dough with her hands until it’s smooth.

Divide the dough in half and place it on a lightly floured surface. Let your child roll each piece of dough into a log about 11/2 inches in diameter and 7 inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and freeze it for 30 minutes or until it’s firm enough to slice.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices and place them on a baking sheet. Bake the cookies for 8–10 minutes or until they’re light golden brown. This recipe makes about 50 cookies.

Bunny Game

This game is fun for two or more players.


Pink, white, and black construction paper


Clear contact paper


Cut one set of the following shapes from construction paper for each player: one white bunny head, two long pink-and-white ears, two black eyes, one black nose with whiskers, one smiling black mouth with two white teeth showing, and one black bow tie. To make the shapes durable, cover them with clear contact paper.

Have the players sit around a table or in a circle with all the bunny shapes in the center. The players take turns rolling a die. A player takes a specific shape for each number she rolls:


head shape


one ear


one eye






bow tie

Each player may take only one head, two ears, two eyes, one nose, one mouth, and one bow tie.

For a competitive game, declare the first player to assemble a complete bunny face the winner. For a cooperative game, play until every player has assembled a complete bunny face.

Spring Tea

Elegant linens and tableware

Vase(s) and flowers

Balloons, streamers, ribbons, and bows

Special treats

Herbal tea or hot apple cider


Host a formal tea for your child and a few of her friends to celebrate the arrival of spring. Set a table indoors or out with elegant linens and tableware. Include a floral centerpiece or tie several small vases together with a ribbon and put a few big flowers in each. Decorate the room with balloons and streamers and the chairs with ribbons and bows. Ask the guests to dress up for the occasion. (If the kids don’t own fancy clothes, dress up their outfits with items bought at a thrift shop.) Serve special treats like fancy sandwiches, chocolate-dipped strawberries, pastries, cookies, herbal tea, and hot apple cider. Take a photo of each guest. If you like, have the children make a simple craft or play a garden game like croquet.


Jellybean Toss

This game requires two or more players.


One small container per child

Sheet or tablecloth

Large container

Tape, string, or chalk

Small prize (optional)

Distribute the jellybeans equally among the small containers. Lay a sheet or tablecloth on the floor or ground. Set a large container in the middle of the cloth and mark a line with tape, string, or chalk about five feet from the large container.

Give each player a container of jellybeans. Have the players take turns standing behind the line and tossing jellybeans at the large container. Allow the players four or five tosses per turn. Award a point for each jellybean that lands in the container.

The player who gets the most points is the winner. Give the winner a small prize if you like or let her keep all the jellybeans in the large container and on the sheet.

Confetti Egg Fight

Even though this game uses up lots of eggs, takes time to prepare, and leaves a big mess in our yard, I love it!


Skewer or large needle

Egg carton




Tissue paper

Show your child how to poke a half-inch hole in the end of each egg, then twist the skewer or needle around inside the egg to break the yolk. Have your child drain the egg into a bowl and rinse the empty shell carefully with cool water. Set the shell hole side down in an egg carton to dry and save the contents of the egg for cooking or baking.

Use a funnel to fill the shell with confetti. Glue a small piece of tissue paper over the hole to seal it.

Give your child and her sibling(s) and/or friend(s) a supply of confetti eggs and let them have fun throwing the eggs at each other outdoors.


Canada Day is Canada’s birthday. It honors the anniversary of Canada’s confederation in 1867. The celebration of Canada Day differs from family to family, but it usually includes a parade, a picnic or barbecue with family and friends, and fireworks at night.

Help your child understand why Canada celebrates this day and do a few simple things to begin building Canada Day traditions with your family. Your family’s traditions will help your child feel proud of her country. (Even if you’re not Canadian, your child is sure to enjoy learning about Canada and doing the crafts, games, and treats on the following pages.) Fly the Canadian flag and sing Canadian folksongs. Wear red and white clothes and decorate your house in red and white. Bake a birthday cake, light a few candles, and sing “Happy Birthday” to Canada.

Recommended Reading

Discovering Canada series by Robert Livesey

The Kids Book of Canada by Jock MacRae and Barbara Greenwood

Wow, Canada! Exploring This Land from Coast to Coast to Coast by Vivien Bowers

Water Play

• Fill four plastic bottles with water. Place a Ping-Pong ball on top of each bottle. Challenge your child to shoot the balls off the bottles with a squirt gun or hose.

• Soak sponges in water and throw them at each other.

• Play catch with water balloons.

Canada Day Cake

1 package white cake mix

One 3-ounce package vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups cold water

One 3-ounce package red Jell-O powder

1 cup boiling water

White frosting

Scissors and cardboard

Red candy sprinkles

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Beat the mixes, eggs, oil, and 1 cup of water until smooth. Pour the batter into the pan and bake it for 45–50 minutes. Let the cake cool slightly. Dissolve the Jell-O in the boiling water. Mix in 1 cup of cold water. Let your child poke holes 1/2 inch apart all over the cake with a toothpick, then pour the Jell-O over the cake. Chill it for at least 2 hours. Frost the cake. Cut a maple leaf shape from cardboard. Set the leaf on the frosting and let your child shake the sprinkles on the cake. Remove the leaf to reveal a stenciled shape.

Canadian Flag

As you make this flag with your child, talk about its shapes and colors.

One sheet each red and white construction paper (same size)


Pencil and maple leaf


Tape and dowel (or clear contact paper)

Fold the red paper into thirds along the long side, then unfold it. Cut along both folds to make three equal strips of red paper. Draw or trace a maple leaf onto one of the strips and cut it out. Lay the white paper on the table with a long side facing you. Glue one red strip onto the left side of the white paper and the other red strip onto the right side. Glue the maple leaf onto the middle of the white strip. Tape the flag to a dowel and wave it proudly or make a place mat by covering the flag with clear contact paper.


Maple Syrup

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon each vanilla and maple flavorings

Cook the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Do not stir; instead, gently shake the pan. When the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat and let your child stir in the vanilla and maple flavorings. Serve your syrup over ice cream for a delicious Canada Day dessert.

Popcorn Relay

Two empty wine or soda bottles

Three large bowls

Unpopped popcorn kernels

Two equal-size measuring cups

Put each bottle in a separate large bowl and set the bowls on a table. Between the bowls set another large bowl filled with popcorn kernels. Set the measuring cups in the kernels. Divide the players into two teams. Have each team line up in front of a bottle. The first player on each team scoops up a cup of kernels and tries to pour as many as possible into the bottle. When the cup is empty, she passes it to the next person in line. Play continues in this way until one team fills its bottle and wins the game.


Independence Day celebrates the United States’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This holiday is America’s birthday. The celebration of Independence Day differs from family to family, but it usually includes a parade, a picnic or barbecue with family and friends, and fireworks at night.

Help your child understand why the United States celebrates this day and do a few simple things to begin building Independence Day traditions with your family. Your family’s traditions will help your child feel proud of her country. (Even if you’re not American, your child is sure to enjoy learning about the United States and doing the crafts, games, and treats on the following pages.) Fly the U.S. flag and sing American folksongs. Decorate and dress in red, white, and blue. Bake a birthday cake, light a few candles, and sing “Happy Birthday” to the United States.

Recommended Reading

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags by James Cross Giblin

Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley

The Star-Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier

Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? by Jean Fritz

Old Glory Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

Red and blue food coloring

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is creamy. Beat in the flour to make a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Put each of 2 portions into a separate small bowl. Have your child add 5 drops of red food coloring to one and 5 drops of blue food coloring to the other, then work the food coloring into the dough with a fork until it’s evenly blended. Add more food coloring if you want deeper colors.

Have your child divide each portion of dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Then help her flatten the balls and stack them, alternating colors. Roll the dough into a log 8 inches long. Use a sharp knife to slice the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (If the log is too soft, refrigerate it for about 30 minutes). Bake the cookies on ungreased baking sheets for about 10 minutes.


Pie à la Mud

This cold, chocolaty pie is perfect for a summer celebration.

6 tablespoons melted butter

2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

1 quart (or more) chocolate ice cream, softened

1/2 cup chocolate fudge topping

1/2 cup chocolate chips, M&M’s, crushed candy bar, or miniature marshmallows

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered hot cocoa mix

Have your child mix the butter with 11/2 cups of cookie crumbs and press them into a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze the piecrust for 20 minutes. Spread half the ice cream on the bottom of the chilled crust. Let your child dig 8 holes in the ice cream and fill each with a tablespoon of fudge. Return the pan to the freezer for 10 minutes or until the fudge is firm. Stir the chocolate chips, candy, or marshmallows into the remaining ice cream and spread it over the pie. Return the pie to the freezer.

Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it thickens. Add the cocoa mix and beat it for 2 more minutes or until it’s stiff. Spread the whipped topping evenly over the pie. Sprinkle it with the remaining cookie crumbs, then cover the pie with plastic wrap and freeze it for at least 3 hours. This pie serves 6–8 people.

Fruit Kebabs

Apples or bananas, cut in chunks

Lemon juice

Strawberries or pitted cherries


Wooden skewers

Sprinkle the apple or banana chunks with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Let your child arrange the fruit on wooden skewers in a red, white, and blue pattern. Serve the skewers with fruit dip.

Patriotic T-Shirts


Red and blue fabric paint

White T-shirt


Red and blue plastic pony beads

Let your child paint a phrase like Happy Independence Day! or a picture of a flag or fireworks on the shirt.

Cut a fringe around the bottom of the shirt. Have your child thread red and blue beads on each strip. Tie an over-hand knot at the bottom of each strip to secure the beads.

Frisbee Golf

Boxes, sticks, rocks, and so on

Markers or index cards

One Frisbee or gallon ice cream pail lid per player

Pen or pencil


Set up a Frisbee golf course using boxes, sticks, rocks, and so on as “holes.” Number the holes consecutively by writing on them or attaching numbered index cards to them. Number each Frisbee as well and give one to each player.

Have the players take turns throwing their Frisbees at the first hole. Tell the players whether their Frisbees must land in the hole (if it’s a box) or on it (if it’s a stick or rock). Count and record how many throws it takes each player to get her Frisbee to the hole. When all the players have completed the first hole, move on to the second. Continue playing this way until all the players have completed the course. The player with the lowest score at the end of the course is the winner.


Halloween began in ancient times, and there is great debate over the origins of various aspects of the celebration. One thing is certain, however: People in Europe and North America have celebrated Halloween for many centuries.

If any of the stories, imagery, and/or customs surrounding Halloween bother you, you can still enjoy the holiday by focusing on its seasonal aspects. Many churches and community centers host fall carnivals or Halloween parties where children can play games, eat food, and have fun together while avoiding the dangers associated with trick-or-treating. If you want to have a small Halloween party yourself, encourage guests to dress in fun (not frightening) costumes. Make simple crafts, play a few games together, then decorate and eat some Halloween cookies, cupcakes, or other treats.

Recommended Reading

It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky

Halloween Is . . . by Gail Gibbons

The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes

Spider Bread

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1/3 cup dry powdered milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup softened margarine

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

31/2 cups flour


In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water. Mix in the remaining water and other ingredients except the milk until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Stir the dough. Cover it and let it rise again for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Each piece will make one spider.

For each spider, have your child roll half a piece of dough into a ball-shaped body. Set it on a greased baking sheet. Have your child make eyes and legs with the rest of the dough and press or pinch them onto the body. Brush the spiders with milk. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Let the spiders rise for 20 minutes, then bake them for 12–15 minutes.


Pumpkin Cookies

These are ideal for pumpkin pie lovers!

1/2 cup softened margarine

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Help your child beat the margarine and sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin until the batter is smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and stir them just until they’re mixed.

Let your child drop the batter onto greased baking sheets with a spoon. Space the cookies about 1 inch apart. Bake them for 15 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheets and let them cool on a wire rack.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Pumpkin Punch

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg

1/2 cup orange juice

4 cups vanilla ice cream

Cleaned-out pumpkin shell (optional)

Help your child mix all the ingredients in a blender until the mixture is smooth. Serve the punch immediately. If you like, pour it into a cleaned-out pumpkin shell.

Pumpkin-Painting Party

Invite your child’s friends over for a pumpkin-painting party. Tell the kids to wear old clothing or provide an art smock or old T-shirt for each child.

One small pumpkin per child

Permanent markers or paintbrushes and acrylic paints


Give each child a pumpkin and markers or a paintbrush and paints in several colors. Display the finished pumpkins, photograph them, then let each child take her creation home.

Scarecrow Contest

Old clothing

Prize (optional)

Hold a scarecrow contest with the families in your neighborhood. Provide old clothing and have the children dress up like scarecrows. Decide ahead of time how the winner will be chosen: Perhaps you’ll appoint several judges, or maybe each participant will vote for her favorite scarecrow. If you like, before the contest have each family contribute a few dollars toward the purchase of a prize for the winner.


Halloween Whatsit


Several sheets of paper

Hat, box, or other container

Write a different Halloween word on each sheet of paper. Fold each sheet several times to conceal the word on it. Put all the folded sheets of paper in a container.

Choose one player to be the guesser. The guesser stands at the front of the room facing the other players; the rest of the players sit facing the guesser. The guesser closes her eyes, picks a sheet of paper from the container, and hands it to you. You stand behind the child, unfold the paper, and hold it up so the seated players can read the word, but the guesser can’t. The guesser may open her eyes but may not look at the word.

The guesser then tries to guess the word by asking only yes-or-no questions. For example, if the word is pumpkin, the guesser may ask, “Is it something to eat?” but she may not ask, “What color is it?” The guesser may ask up to twelve questions before she makes a guess. If she guesses correctly, she gets to try guessing another word. If she guesses incorrectly, choose another player to be the guesser and start over with a new word. Continue playing until each child has had a turn as the guesser.


The first Thanksgiving celebration was held by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in 1621. Although many of the original settlers died that first year, the remaining Pilgrims were grateful for the abundance of their harvest and invited their Native American neighbors to join in their three-day feast.

Thanksgiving celebrations today usually include a huge family meal of roast turkey with all the trimmings. The sheer abundance of food on the table makes this an excellent time to encourage a spirit of thankfulness in your child. Talk with your child about things for which you both are thankful.

You can also use Thanksgiving to encourage a giving spirit in your child and make a positive impact on your community. Donate canned food to a food bank. Set aside good, usable clothing and toys and take them to a local relief agency. Bake a plate of cookies or other treats for home-bound friends or community workers. Invite someone who is alone to share your Thanksgiving celebration. Your child will learn just how good it can feel to share her blessings with others!

Recommended Reading

A Pioneer Thanksgiving by Barbara Greenwood

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh

Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols by Edna Barth

Cranberry Shapes

Canned jellied cranberry sauce

Small cookie cutters in Thanksgiving shapes

Open the can and remove the contents in one piece. Cut it into slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Let your child cut shapes from the slices with cookie cutters and arrange the shapes on a plate. Serve the cranberry shapes at Thanksgiving dinner. Serve the scraps with the next day’s leftovers.

Hot Cranberry Punch

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg

Two 16-ounce cans jellied cranberry sauce

4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

Have your child mix the sugar, 1 cup of water, and spices in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cranberry sauce. Have your child stir in the rest of the water and the juice. Reheat the punch before serving it. This recipe makes 2 quarts of punch.

Turkey Treats

One 15-ounce package prepared piecrusts

Turkey-shaped cookie cutter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Unfold the piecrusts on wax paper. Let your child cut shapes from the pastry with the cookie cutter. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture over the shapes. Transfer them to an ungreased baking sheet and bake them for 8–10 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes about 16 turkey treats.

Thanksgiving Journal


Blank journal or notebook


Sometime on Thanksgiving Day, have each family member record what she’s thankful for in the journal or notebook. If you like, describe your celebration, the names of guests, the foods you ate, and so on. Take a photo of everyone at the dinner table and glue it into your memory book. Bring out your journal each Thanksgiving. Have fun recalling past celebrations and adding new material.

Pilgrim Hats

Utility knife

10-ounce paper cups


Black and white paper


Any circular item about 4 inches in diameter

Pen, pencil, or marker

Popcorn, candy, or other


For each hat, cut the bottom out of a cup with a utility knife. Cut black paper to fit around the outside of the cup, then glue it in place. Have your child trace a 4-inch circle on black paper. Cut the circle out, then glue it onto the rim of the cup to make the hat’s brim. Turn the hat brim side down. Cut a strip of white paper 1/2 inch wide and long enough to wrap around the cup at the brim. If you like, write the name of a dinner guest on the strip of white paper. Glue the strip in place just above the brim.

Fill each hat with treats and place it at a place setting.


Alphabet Game


26 index cards

Write each letter of the alphabet on a separate index card. (If you like, omit the tough letters like Q, X, and Z.) Shuffle the cards.

Choose one player to be the caller. The caller chooses a card and holds it up or announces the letter. The first player to call out a Thanksgiving word that begins with that letter (for example, turkey for the letter T or pumpkin for the letter P) wins the card. Continue playing this way until all the cards have been won. The winner is the player who has the most cards at the end of the game.


Award a small treat, toy, or coin as each item is named and shuffle the card back into the deck. If a letter comes up more than once, players must come up with a different word each time.


Hanukkah, the most joyous and festive of Jewish holidays, lasts eight days and takes place in December—sometimes early and sometimes late in the month.

The Hebrew word hanukkah means “dedication.” Hanukkah was first celebrated more than two thousand years ago. It commemorates a time when the temple in Jerusalem had been restored and was about to be rededicated. Only one day’s supply of oil for the holy lamps was found, but the lamps miraculously burned for eight days! This is why Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights and why the main focus of the celebration is the lighting of candles. A menorah, a special nine-branch candleholder, is used each day throughout the celebration.

Every year, families gather to light the Hanukkah menorah, remember their ancestors’ historic struggle for religious freedom, recite prayers of thanks, exchange gifts, eat special foods, play games, and retell the story of Hanukkah.

Recommended Reading

The Golem’s Latkes by Eric A. Kimmel

An Adventure in Latkaland: A Hanukkah Story by Karen Fisman

Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen

Patchwork Star of David




Fabric scraps in contrasting colors


Ribbon or trim (optional)

Cut a triangle from the cardboard. The triangle should have 3 equal sides, each about 11/2 inches long. Trace the triangle on fabric scraps and cut out 12 triangles.

On a piece of cardboard, have your child arrange 6 of the fabric triangles to form the points of a Star of David. (The bases of the triangles join to form an empty hexagon in the middle.) Glue the triangles in place. Fill in the middle hexagon with the remaining fabric triangles and glue them in place.

Carefully cut around the outline of the star. If you like, glue a length of ribbon or trim along each side of the middle hexagon. Glue a small loop of ribbon onto the back of the star for hanging.


Cheese Fritters

Because oil is an important part of the Hanukkah story, eating foods cooked in oil is customary during Hanukkah. Hot oil can be quite hazardous, so insist on frying these fritters yourself while your child is occupied elsewhere. (For safety’s sake, use a sealed deep fryer if possible.) Your child will enjoy helping you make the batter and sprinkling the fritters with powdered sugar.

1 cup drained cottage cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup light cream

1 cup all-purpose flour

13/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Vegetable oil

Powdered sugar


Beat the cottage cheese and egg in a medium bowl. Stir in the cream, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and nutmeg until the ingredients are just mixed.

Fill a deep fryer or pot with 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil to 375°F. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the oil. Fry the fritters for 3–4 minutes or until they’re golden brown on all sides. Drain the fritters on paper towels and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Serve them hot with jam on the side. This recipe makes 10 fritters.


Hot oil is hazardous, so fry these doughnuts yourself while your child is busy elsewhere. (Use a sealed deep fryer if possible.) Your child will enjoy helping you make the dough and rolling the doughnuts in powdered sugar.

21/2 cups flour

2 cups hot milk

2 ounces active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm milk

2 eggs and 1 extra yolk

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon rind

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup jam

Vegetable oil

Powdered sugar

Sift 1 cup of flour into the hot milk, beat the mixture until it’s smooth, then let it cool. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Mix the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon rind into the dough. Stir in the butter and the remaining flour. Knead the dough well. Cover it with a damp towel and set it in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size (about 45 minutes). Roll the dough into 2-inch balls. If you like, use a cake decorator to insert 1 teaspoon of jam into each doughnut. Let the doughnuts rise again for about 30 minutes. Fill a deep fryer or pot with 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil to 375°F. Fry the doughnuts in the oil until they’re brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels and roll them in powdered sugar. This recipe makes 12 doughnuts.


A dreidel is a small spinning top used to play Hanukkah games. Follow these directions to make your own dreidel. Dreidel games appear on the next page.

Single-serving milk or juice carton


Plain paper

Pen or marker


1/4-inch dowel or unsharpened pencil

Flatten the top of the carton and tape it down securely. Cover the carton with plain paper. On each side, write one of the letters N, G, H, and S or the following Hebrew characters:


These characters are the first letters in the four words of the Hebrew message nes gadol hayah sham, which means “A great miracle happened there.” (Hebrew characters are read from right to left.)

Poke a small hole in the centers of the top and bottom of the carton and push the dowel or pencil through both holes to make a spinning top.

Dreidel Games


Pennies, dry beans, raisins, or other tokens

Distribute the tokens evenly among the players. Each player puts one token into the center, making a pile called the pot. The players take turns spinning the dreidel. The letter that lands faceup determines what the player does:

Images or N: The player does nothing.

Images or G: The player takes the pot, and everyone puts in one more token before the next player spins.

Images or H: The player takes half the pot.

Images or S: The player puts one token in the pot.

Whenever the pot is empty or contains only one token, every player puts in one token before the next player spins. The game is over when one player has won all the tokens and everyone else has nothing.


Hebrew characters also have number values. Images is fifty, Images is three, Images is five, and Images is three hundred. When a player spins the dreidel, she wins the number of points corresponding to the Hebrew letter that lands faceup.


Christmas is a time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For some, Christmas means the arrival of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Père Noël, or Saint Nicholas. Christmas celebrations usually emphasize family togetherness, thoughtful and loving acts, and good food.

But Christmas often brings more than just peace, joy, love, and goodwill. For adults, Christmas can be frenzied, stressful, and financially demanding. Unrealistic expectations can make it hard to truly enjoy the season. Add too many late nights and too much rich food, and it’s no wonder that we often breathe a sigh of relief when Christmas is over!

The best way to make the most of your Christmas is to forget what everyone else is doing and concentrate on what matters most to your family. Spend your time, money, and energy on activities that build or uphold family traditions and make memories for your child. Don’t forget simple pleasures like reading, singing carols, making crafts, baking cookies, taking walks, and sipping hot chocolate together. Your child needs your time and attention more than anything. She’ll soon forget toys and other things, but she won’t forget the memories you’ve made together.

Recommended Reading

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Family under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Candy Advent Calendar

Ornamental frosting

Matte board, poster board, or heavy cardboard

Markers, stickers, rubber stamps, or old Christmas cards

Plastic knife

Small bowl

Wrapped Christmas candy



Make a batch of ornamental frosting. Draw an Advent calendar for your child on a sheet of matte board, poster board, or cardboard.

Have your child decorate her calendar with drawings, stickers, rubber stamps, or pictures cut from old Christmas cards. Then give your child a plastic knife and a small bowl of frosting. Let her spread frosting on pieces of wrapped candy and stick one candy to each space on the calendar. Lay the calendar flat until the frosting sets, then poke a hole in the top and tie a loop of ribbon to it for hanging.

Hang the calendar up and let your child remove a candy each day of Advent as a tasty reminder of the number of days until Christmas.

Christmas Card Magnets


Old Christmas cards

Self-adhesive magnetic strip

Help your child cut images from old Christmas cards. Cut small pieces of magnetic strip and attach one to the back of each cutout. Use the magnets to decorate your refrigerator or bring them with a baking sheet when you’re traveling.

Cinnamon Ornament

Glue gun

6–7 cinnamon sticks

2 feet red ribbon


Small sprig of holly or other greenery

Glue 2 cinnamon sticks together. Glue the remaining cinnamon sticks one at a time to make a little bundle.

Let your child knot the ribbon around the middle of the bundle and tie the ends of the ribbon into a loop for hanging. Trim the ends if necessary. Tuck the sprig of holly or other greenery under the ribbon knot.

Strawberry Ornament

Large whole walnuts in the shell


Red and black acrylic paint



Green felt

4 inches thin gold cord or ribbon

Glue gun

Magnet (optional)

Have your child paint a walnut red. When the paint is dry, use a very fine brush to paint tiny black dots all over the walnut. Cut a 11/2-inch square of green felt. Then cut a 4-pointed star from the felt. Poke a small hole in the center of the star. Glue the ends of the cord or ribbon onto one end of the walnut shell to make a hanging loop. Slip the felt star over the loop and glue it onto the walnut. Voilà—a strawberry!


Omit the cord or ribbon and glue a small magnet onto one side of the walnut.


Reader’s Digest Christmas Tree

Old copy of Reader’s Digest

Tape or stapler

Green, gold, silver, or white spray paint

Beginning with the first page of the magazine, fold down the top corner so the top edge meets the binding. Sharply crease the fold. Let your child fold all the remaining pages in the same way. Fold the front and back covers last. Tape or staple them together so the pages fan out to make a tree shape. Spray-paint the tree.

Chocolate Mints

8 ounces white or semisweet baking chocolate

1 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

Lightly grease a large, shallow pan. Break the chocolate into small pieces and heat it in a double boiler until it’s almost melted. Turn off the heat and stir it until it’s melted. Let your child stir in the candy canes and spread the mixture in the pan. Refrigerate it for 30 minutes or until it’s hard. Break the chocolate into small pieces and store it covered in the refrigerator. Fill a new coffee mug with chocolate mints and wrap it with cellophane and ribbon for a quick, easy, and delicious gift for chocolate lovers.

Hot Cocoa Mix

1 cup cocoa powder

21/2 cups powdered sugar

2 cups dry coffee creamer

1 cup nonfat milk powder

Have your child mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Store the mix in a Ziploc bag, Christmas tins, or pretty canning jars. Cut a circle of Christmas fabric and tie it over a jar lid with ribbon. If you’re giving the mix as a gift, attach a gift tag or card with serving instructions: “To serve, put 3 tablespoons of mix in a mug. Stir in 3/4 cup boiling water.”

Glazed Spiced Nuts

1 egg white, slightly beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups pecan or walnut halves

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Have your child mix the egg, sugar, and cinnamon well. Stir in the nuts until they’re completely coated. Spread the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet, separating them to prevent clumps. Bake the nuts for 20 minutes or until they’re light brown. If you like, package the nuts in Christmas tins or pretty canning jars. Cut a circle of Christmas fabric and tie it over a jar lid with ribbon.

Ginger Crinkles

1 cup soft butter

13/4 cups sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1/2 cup mild molasses

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

White chocolate (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Help your child beat the butter, 11/2 cups sugar, egg, corn syrup, and molasses with an electric mixer on low speed until they’re blended. Then beat them on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.

Have your child stir in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt until they’re moistened, then roll the dough into 11/2-inch balls.

Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Let your child roll the balls in the sugar one at a time until they’re coated. Bake them on ungreased baking sheets for 12–14 minutes. (To make extra special cookies, dip the cookies in melted white chocolate.)

Store the cookies in a covered container. This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Our Christmas morning wouldn’t be complete without cinnamon rolls. If you like, you can make and freeze these ahead of time, then take them out to thaw on Christmas Eve and heat them up on Christmas morning.

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

One 11-ounce can bread stick dough

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Let your child mix the brown sugar and cream in an 8-inch round cake pan, then sprinkle the mixture with pecans and set it aside.

Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Open the can and unroll the dough, but don’t separate it into bread sticks. Have your child sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on it, then roll it up, starting at one of the short ends. Use a knife to slice the rolled-up dough at the cut marks. Lay the slices on top of the sauce in the pan.

Bake the rolls for 25 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Let them cool for 1 minute, then turn the pan upside down onto a plate. Let the pan sit on top of the rolls for 1 minute to let the sauce drizzle over the rolls, then remove the pan. This recipe makes 6 rolls.

Beeswax Candle

Sheet of beeswax

Newspaper and wax paper


Utility knife



Place the beeswax on newspaper covered with wax paper. Lay the yardstick so it bisects the wax diagonally. Cut the wax in half along the yardstick with a utility knife. Set aside half the wax. Each wax triangle will make 1 candle.

Turn the paper so the shortest edge of the wax triangle is near you. Cut a length of candlewick 2 inches longer than this edge. Lay the wick along this edge so a little wick sticks out beyond each end. Starting at this edge, help your child roll up the wax and press it into the wick. Work slowly so the warmth of her hands softens the wax. Continue rolling the wax, trying to keep the perpendicular edge (which will be the bottom of the candle) even. When you’ve finished, press the end of the wax triangle firmly into the candle. If the bottom of the candle is uneven, tap it gently on your work surface. Trim the wick to 1/2 inch at the top of the candle and cut off the wick at the bottom.


Balloon Game

This game helps use up extra energy indoors.



Pen or pencil

Red and green balloons

Small candies or other prizes

Cut small strips of paper. On each strip write instructions like sing a Christmas carol, jump up and down twenty-five times, or recite the first verse of “ ’Twas the Night before Christmas.” If you like, you can also write jokes, riddles, and tongue twisters. Roll up the strips and insert each into a balloon. Insert small candies or other prizes into other balloons. Blow up the balloons, tie the ends, and put them on the floor all around your home.

Have your child (or any Christmas guest) sit on the balloons and try to pop as many as she can, collecting the prizes and paper strips from the balloons as she pops them. When all the balloons have been popped, have the player(s) do the stunts (or tell the jokes, riddles, and tongue twisters) written on the strips of paper.


Kwanzaa is a seven-day African-American cultural celebration. The Swahili word kwanzaa means “first fruit of the harvest,” and the holiday is based on the traditional African winter harvest festival. During this time, African Americans reflect upon the year that’s ending and celebrate their African heritage.

Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas, but the two celebrations are very different. Kwanzaa celebrates the harvest and a way of life handed down by ancestors and parents. Special handmade gifts or educational games and books are exchanged, but Kwanzaa emphasizes values rather than gifts. Each day of the Kwanzaa week celebrates one of seven principles or values. These are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Recommended Reading

Celebrate Kwanzaa: With Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest by Carolyn B. Otto

The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington

Kwanzaa Necklace

One of the symbols of Kwanzaa is zawadi, or gifts. A handmade gift like this necklace is the most treasured.

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon oil


Acrylic paints

Clear acrylic spray

Fishing line, beading thread, or thin elastic cord

Help your child mix the flour, salt, water, and oil to make a smooth clay. Roll the clay into small beads. Poke a hole through each bead with a toothpick. Let the beads air-dry or bake them on a baking sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes.

Have your child paint the beads in the Kwanzaa colors of red, green, and black. Or if she likes, she can paint the beads to look like the hides of African animals: white with black stripes for a zebra, orange with black spots for a cheetah, and so on. Finish the beads with clear acrylic spray. String the beads on fishing line, beading thread, or thin elastic cord to make a necklace.


Kwanzaa Place Mat

Another Kwanzaa symbol is the mkeka, the mat upon which the other symbols are placed. Be sure to use a bold, expressive pattern and bright colors when you design your place mat. (Kwanzaa Crafts by Judith Hoffman Corwin contains pages of beautiful patterns you can copy.)


White muslin



White or black construction paper or poster board

Brightly colored paper (optional)


Clear contact paper

• To make a fabric mat, cut a piece of muslin about 12 by 18 inches. Have your child use markers to draw bold geometric patterns on the muslin.

• To make a paper mat, have your child draw bold geometric patterns on a sheet of white construction paper or poster board. Or if you like, have her cut geometric shapes from brightly colored paper and glue them onto the mat. For a dramatic effect, glue the shapes onto a black mat. Cover the place mat with clear contact paper.

Corn Muffins

Vibunzi, or dry ears of corn, are another symbol of Kwanzaa. They represent children and hope for the future. These delicious corn muffins are easy to make and taste great served with bacon, ham, chicken, or soup.

1 cup cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup corn oil

1 cup sour cream

1 cup creamed corn

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, have your child mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the eggs, oil, sour cream, and creamed corn until the ingredients are well mixed.

Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes. Remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes about 10 medium muffins.


Bake the batter in a greased loaf pan instead. When the loaf of corn bread is cool, use a knife to slice it.

Peanut Cookies

George Washington Carver was a famous African-American scientist who developed many uses for the peanut. One of my favorite ways to use peanuts is in these delicious cookies.

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

21/2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Help your child cream the peanut butter, butter, and sugars with an electric mixer, then beat in the eggs. Have her mix the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and gradually beat them into the creamed mixture. Stir in the peanuts just until they’re blended.

Let your child roll the dough into walnut-size balls and place them on greased baking sheets. Flatten the balls with a fork. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes.

This recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Kwanzaa Brainteasers

Education is an important part of Kwanzaa. Here are some problems that will test your child’s brainpower!

• One day Josh was running home with ten rocks in his pocket. As he ran, two rocks fell out, but he found three more and put those in his pocket. As he continued on his way, four more rocks fell out, but just before he got home, he found another rock and put that in his pocket. How many rocks did he have in his pocket when he got home? (Answer: eight.)

• Emily has fewer than twenty books. When she puts them in piles of two, she has one left. When she puts them in piles of three, she has none left. When she puts them in piles of four, she has three left. How many books does Emily have? (Answer: fifteen.)

• A hamburger and a soda cost one dollar and seventy-five cents. Two hamburgers and a soda cost three dollars. How much does a soda cost? (Answer: fifty cents.)

• When two people shake hands, there’s one handshake between them. When three people shake hands, how many handshakes will there be? (Answer: three.) What about when four people shake hands? (Answer: six.) Five people? (Answer: ten.)

• Old McDonald raises chickens and pigs. The animals have a total of ten heads and twenty-eight feet. How many chickens and how many pigs does Old McDonald have? (Answer: six chickens and four pigs.)