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5 ways to make the most of holiday kid time

For many parents, the best gift during the holiday season is getting to spend some quality time with the kids. But how can you compete with all the new toys and video games? Stephanie Oppenheim from says, if  you can't beat ’em, join ’em.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

When I went into a store the other day, I felt a familiar rush: “Wow, it’s the holidays and everything looks so pretty!” But that quickly turned into a complete panic attack as I thought about all the things that need to get done between now and the end of the year. Did our mothers feel this way? Or have the “4 a.m. Black Friday specials” turned up our collective anxiety about buying “stuff” for the holidays? I think that’s why I love Thanksgiving so much — good food, being together, watching movies, leftovers that always taste better ... and no presents. 

For someone who spends most of the year looking for great presents for kids, trust me, I see the contradiction. Nevertheless, here’s my goal for the holiday: making meaningful connections with my family. Now that I have teenagers, it means playing the video game Rock Band (even though I’m not particularly good at it!). But if your kids are younger than mine, here are some ways for you to connect with them even as the toys come out of their boxes.1. Get down on the floor and play with them.
Whether it’s playing with dolls or making train tracks, be a good playmate. Listen to your child’s imagination — let him or her guide the play, but give them your undivided attention (that means turn your cell phone off!).2. Try a new craft project.If you have school-age kids, try something new together that interests you both. Decoupage, tie-dye, needlecrafts, sand bottles — it doesn’t matter what the project, just that you’re trying it together.3. Make use of construction toys together.
Many of the construction toys on our list this year are labeled for kids ages 8 and up, which is not really realistic for independent building. But many of these projects would be ideal to tackle together. Again, be sure that you don’t take over the project while your child just watches. The goal is to engage in problem solving together.4. Put on a puppet show.  Putting on a puppet show is more valuable in terms of storytelling and language development than many of the high-tech electronic learning machines. You don’t have to make up your own story — take a classic and act it out. These can be just for you to enjoy together or part of the holiday entertainment for your extended family. Have someone videotape the performance — you’ll be glad you did in about 10 years!5. Play a video game. If you have video gamers in your house and often feel excluded, try one! While your kids will tease you for your lack of skill with a controller (I’ve been there), you will get a glimpse into why they have a hard time walking away from these games that always have a “next level” to achieve.