Holidays equal Family Time. Or do they? In 2020 family time is going to look a little differently than in years past (and hopefully years to come).

Big family gatherings are out. So what can we do to make the holidays special and spend extra time with our grandchildren?

Putting a little extra creativity into the holidays adds extra fun. Why not start now planning special outings with grandchildren that will be drive-by entertainment, get them out of the house for a bit, and experience the holiday spirit they can share with others.

Many news stations announce the locations of beautiful and copious light shows in your area during the holidays. Take note of those and plan a light-filled evening. Pick up the grandchildren and visit neighborhoods near your home. They often have competitions for the most lights, best light decorations, etc.

If you really want to kick it up a notch, make it a destination tour! Near where we live there are two small towns side by side. Both of these towns take great pride in lighting up the entire town for the Christmas season. They, too, make this a competition.

One year we rented a conversion van. After picking up the grandchildren we drove through a restaurant and ordered food for everyone and put it on the table in the van. As we drove the forty miles to these small towns, the grandchildren enjoyed supper in their rolling restaurant and had a fun time eating and laughing together as they traveled.

By the time they finished their supper, we rolled into town and they spent the next hour driving through the town and looking at the lights.

2. Bring the Cookie Swap to Your Neighbors

Does your family or neighborhood usually have a cookie swap? Instead of inviting a crowd to come to your house, invite the grandchildren to come over for an afternoon of cookie making. Then get in the car and deliver fresh cookies to those you usually swap with.

Have the grandchildren include a hand-drawn Christmas greeting or picture.

3. Look for Community Places or Museums That Create Special Holiday Displays

Some zoos incorporate thousands of lights into their pastures and animal pens. Not only will your grandchildren enjoy the lights, they can feed the animals from the car, visit the petting zoo where they have the baby animals, or take pictures with the animals.

Our community has a science center. They light the walking paths leading to the planetarium. Often there are characters are along the path sharing season’s greetings.

If you prefer, you can drive through the grounds and enjoy the lights without even getting out of your car.

Recently, I saw an advertisement for our international equestrian center. This year for the first time they are creating a light display by decorating the riding rings, stables, and roads leading up to the center.

There are restaurants on the grounds that will probably be open for a snack or meal to those who visit.

4. Go Caroling

One of the highlights of the Christmas season for many grandchildren is caroling. Nursing homes, hospitals, and senior living apartments usually welcome groups to carol.

This year will assuredly be different. But don’t give up on the caroling.

Pick up the grandchildren and head out to carol. If you are going to a group home, be sure to call first to see what their rules are. This year we will probably have to carol outside the building. Grab the megaphones!

Make them out of colorful paper and decorate them before you leave the house–all the more fun. If you need suggestions of places to go, check with your church and ask for a list of those who cannot go out and would enjoy seeing the children and hearing their sweet voices sing carols.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

5. Play Christmas Decoration Bingo

Create a bingo card for each grandchild. When you pick them up, provide a card and a colorful marker. Explain that you are looking for specific decorations that fit the card exactly.

Items that could find themselves on the card are a lighted wreath on the side of a house, a cross on a church steeple, a nativity scene in someone’s front yard, a house that has three or more lighted trees in the windows, a restaurant that has a blinking “Merry Christmas” sign, a house with lighted candles in every window, etc.

It would be a good idea to drive around before your grandchildren outing to make sure the things that you have on your cards exist. Part of your preparation would also include making sure the items are mixed up on the cards so that every card is not alike.

6. Make a Christmas Scavenger Hunt

Pick your grandchildren up. If both Grandpa and Grandma can drive a car and there’s enough people, connect the two cars by having a working walkie-talkie in each car. Cell phones could also be used.

Once the children have all been picked up, have them choose which car they will ride in by drawing a number out of a jar. This scavenger activity could be tailored to any holiday just by changing the things you look for. Each car will have a list of things to collect on the hunt.

This activity may require some preplanning and prework on your part. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find a yellow ribbon tied to the bush on the left of the front door. Bring the ribbon back to the car. You will find this item in the West Glade neighborhood. 
  • Go past your school. Look for a nativity outside the Baptist Church. One of the shepherds has put a gift at the manger. Pick up the gift and open it. (You could fill it with candy canes for everyone when you go hide it.
  • Mrs. Glenn has a hot treat for you. She lives across the street from the park you pass going home from Grandma’s. Take time for a hot cocoa break at Mrs. Glenn’s house.

7. Make Your Own Snow Day

Does it snow where you live? If not, line up a snowy afternoon for your grandchildren. Check the weather service and see where the nearest snowfall has been. If it is a reasonable drive, take them on an afternoon outing.

Find a public park or playground covered with snow and have a 30-minute play break.

If there’s no snow in sight for you–make your own! Have the grandkids cut out snowflakes, fill your livingroom with cottonballs, and see what their imaginations can dream up.

8. Gift Shop for Mom and Dad

Holiday shopping is not something children can do alone. Since they can’t drive, they don’t have a way to go and because they would like to shop for gifts for their parents, they want it to be a secret.

Plan a lunch outing to help your grandchildren get their shopping done. Have lunch in the mall, purchase your gifts, then go back to your house and help them wrap their treasures.

9. End with a “Progressive Dinner”

Arrange with the parents for you to visit one house for appetizers, one for the main course, and one for dessert. If you don’t have but two sets of parents, end with dessert at the nearest ice cream parlor, parents invited.

Holiday outings are not just fun, they are opportunities to make memories. So no matter where you go on your holiday outings or what you do, make sure everyone has a great time!

The games and activities will be part of the memories. But the most important part of every holiday is for your grandchildren feel loved and treasured.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez

Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!