The holidays are a wonderful (and stressful!) time of the year.
We’re spending time with family, friends and acquaintances we don’t see often, we’re trying to stay engaged with folks of all ages that we may have little in common with.
And there are kids, ranging from babies in arms to teenagers.
Your worst fears – endless discussions about the weather. Awkward silences. Even MORE awkward political discussions. Kids running amok. Parents yelling at them. Everyone retreating to their cell phones or excusing themselves early.
How can you prevent that terrifying spiral of tension and boredom, and ensure that everyone interacts and has a good time?
1. When You’re Hosting Family & Friends of All Ages
You have kids, grandkids and others visiting for an afternoon, or for several days. You’ve got the basics covered, guest rooms prepared with clean sheets. You’ve got the food allergies and dietary considerations covered, a fridge full of food and kid-friendly snacks in the pantry. And you have planned some dinners, sightseeing excursions, and maybe a even a game night.
But what will the kids do the rest of the time?
The weather is iffy (unless you live in Florida) so you can’t count on many hours of playing outside, and you can only watch Disney Channel for so long before everyone starts to lose their cool.
Suggestion: Set out a few coloring books with a variety of colored pencils and pens on a coffee table.
Within a few minutes, the kids will start leafing through them. They’ll start asking questions. The grownups will start talking. The kids will select a page to color and will get started. The grownups will hunker down next to them, coloring in spaces while they’re talking about science, technology, art, and philosophy.
The kids may relate the conversation to what they’re learning in school. The grownups might relate it to things they do at work.
Suddenly, everyone is connecting on a deeper level than weather! And those discussions carry over to mealtimes, game night, and the rest of the time you spend together.
2. When You’re a Houseguest
We stayed with some friends in Galveston that we hadn’t seen for awhile. They have an eight-year-old son, Justice, and it’s been awhile since I’ve spent much time with a young person.
I brought a coloring book and a new box of pencils.
Justice was delighted. His parents were polite but not as enthused.
During the three days that we spent together, any time there was a lull between planned activities and watching football (or WHILE watching the boring pre-game stuff) Justice and I (and his Dad, and his Mom, and my husband) colored pages, connected dots, and guessed the nationalities of flags; Justice was asking each of us which countries we’d been to and what we remembered about each country.
Such a relaxing and simple activity that we all enjoyed relieved some of the pressure that hosts inevitably feel to keep houseguests constantly entertained. Conversation flowed in directions none of us had anticipated.
By the time we left, Justice’s parents raved about the coloring book. “I’m so glad you brought that! We all had such a great time.”
3. Parenting as a Verb
My dear friend Dan has the world’s most well-behaved children.
His 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son have been welcomed at pretty much every home and every event put together by anyone who knows them because they are so well-behaved and personable.
What’s his secret?
Dan arrives at every event with a backpack of carefully-chosen snacks and toys for the occasion, and often includes coloring pages or puzzles appropriate for the people they are visiting.
He brings a science puzzle or question from the Internet or something from a bookstore when visiting a friend who is an engineer, or locate a civics activity when invited to the home of a local politician. That way his kids will have an age-appropriate way to connect and engage with at least one person at the event.
Coloring books are frequent choices.
4. For Last-Minute Gifts
With a stack of these on-hand, you’ll have an appropriate gift for just about any young (or young-at-heart) person, and you’ll never be caught unprepared.
Coloring books are relatively inexpensive (compared to the electronic toys kids are all playing with these days,) compact, and beautiful for any kid or anyone who is young at heart.
It’s easy to give them as a gift.
- Keep them on-hand for unexpected visitors over the holidays.
- Put one in the mail in a letter-sized envelope to make your Christmas Card more special.
- Use a colorful gift bag and tissue and put it under the tree.
- Roll up a coloring book and put it in a narrow bag meant for a bottle of wine. Better yet, send it WITH a bottle of wine, or a non-alcoholic beverage if your recipient is underage.
- Roll up a coloring book around a small package of crayons or coloring pens, tie the bundle with a festive ribbon, and stick it into a stocking.
Benefits of Coloring for Kids:
Psychology.org lists the following benefits of coloring for kids:
- Improves Motor Skills
- Prepares Them for School
- Stimulates Creativity
- Contributes to Better Handwriting
- Teaches Color Awareness, Recognition and Discernment
- Improves Focus and Hand to Eye Coordination
- Helps Learn about Boundaries, Structure and Spatial Awareness
- Improves Confidence and Self Esteem
- Helps Self-Expression
- Is Stress Relief
Clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, Psy.D. cites three reasons for the recent popularity of coloring for adults and teens on the ClevelandClinic.org web site:
- Attention flows away from ourselves. A simple act, such as coloring, takes your attention away from yourself and onto the present-moment event. “In this way, it is very much like a meditative exercise,” Dr. Bea says.
- Coloring relaxes the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax. “We are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals,” he says. “The difficulties of life evaporate from our awareness, and both our bodies and our brains may find this rewarding.”
- Low stakes make coloring pleasurable. The fact that the outcome of coloring is predictable also can be relaxing. “It is hard to screw up coloring, and, even if you do, there is no real consequence. As result, adult coloring can be a wonderful lark, rather than an arduous test of our capacities,” he adds.
The Citizen of the World Coloring Book is a Great Choice Because:
- It accommodates a wide range of ages. The youngest kids will enjoy the simplest pages, and there are activities and questions to challenge even the adults in your group.
- It has a variety of topics. Whether your interest is aviation, geography, civics, sociology or art, you’ll discover engrossing topics.
- The pages are very high-quality. Finished work will be suitable for framing. You might have family members sign their work and frame it as a memento of your time together.
- It’s an inspiration. The best thing we can do for our kids is to inspire them. Talking about the Citizen of the World mission, and Robert DeLaurentis and his reasons for undertaking this mission, will inspire the kids (and gown-up folks) in your life to think about their OWN missions, and maybe taking some steps toward accomplishing their dreams in the New Year.
Fair warning – I’m stockpiling some of these coloring books this year. Most of the young people in my social orbit will get one.