Christmas Break Family Fun Ideas for Kids with Anxiety in Chicago

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The much-anticipated Christmas break is upon us with the promise of quality family time. But for families with kids experiencing anxiety, this time of year can also bring challenges. The good news? There are plenty of delightful activities that can be both enjoyable and calming for kids with anxiety and their families during the holidays.

10 At Home Ideas for Family Fun for Kids with Anxiety

Prefer to stay at home during the kids’ two-week break? No problem. We’ve got you covered with these 10 at home ideas that can sprinkle some extra cheer into your family’s holiday season:

Cozy movie marathons

Transform your living room into a cozy movie theater. Gather the family, pop some popcorn, and indulge in heartwarming movies. Choose movies that bring laughter and comfort, creating an atmosphere of togetherness and joy.

Creative crafting sessions

Unleash your inner artist. Engage in soothing art and craft activities that encourage creativity and relaxation. From DIY holiday decorations to personalized gifts, crafting together fosters a sense of accomplishment and bonding.

Nature adventures

Take a breather in the great outdoors. Explore nearby parks, go for nature walks, or simply enjoy the fresh air. Nature has a magical way of calming nerves and refreshing spirits.

Culinary fun in the kitchen

Get baking or cooking as a family. Whip up delicious holiday treats or prepare a festive meal together. The joy of creating something delicious is surpassed only by the fun of sharing it.

Game night galore

Gather ’round for some friendly competition. Board games, puzzles, or card games are fantastic ways to bond and have fun together. Plus, they’re perfect for cozy evenings by the fireplace.

Story time spectacular

Embark on imaginative journeys together. Snuggle up and share tales or dive into favorite books. It’s a wonderful way to unwind and escape into captivating stories.

Mindfulness moments

Practice peace and tranquility as a family. Introduce simple mindfulness exercises, like deep breathing or gentle yoga, to ease anxiety and promote relaxation.

Comfort corners

Create a safe haven at home. Designate a cozy nook filled with pillows, blankets, and calming items where kids can retreat if they need a moment to relax.

Tech-free family time

Schedule dedicated family downtime where electronics are put away, and the focus is on low-key activities or just relaxing together.

Open communication and flexibility

Encourage open dialogue. Allow kids to express their feelings and preferences and be flexible with plans to ensure everyone feels comfortable and heard.

25 Outside the Home Ideas for Family Fun for Kids with Anxiety in Chicago

After spending some quality time at home during your first week of Christmas break, perhaps you’re ready to venture out to some of the more family-friendly places in the area?

Here’s a diverse list of 25 places that provide a range of indoor and outdoor experiences ensuring that kids with anxiety can experience comfort and enjoyment, while exploring Chicago during the winter.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Offers interactive exhibits and activities, including the Tinkering Lab and Play It Safe exhibit.

The Field Museum

Explore natural history exhibits at a leisurely pace, including the famous Sue the T-Rex exhibit.

Adler Planetarium

Provides immersive experiences in astronomy, perfect for a calming and educational outing.

Museum of Science and Industry

Offers engaging exhibits like the Idea Factory and the U-505 Submarine for a hands-on experience.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

During the winter, the zoo transforms with beautiful light displays, offering a festive and relaxed atmosphere.

Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon

Enjoy ice skating in a picturesque setting with skyline views.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Explore nature exhibits and the butterfly haven, providing a serene environment.

Garfield Park Conservatory

A tropical oasis in winter, featuring lush plants and calm surroundings.

Navy Pier Winter Wonder Fest

A winter-themed indoor amusement park with rides and activities suitable for kids.

Winterland at Gallagher Way

Offers ice skating, festive decorations, and occasional family-friendly events.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Enjoy art exploration at a slower pace, focusing on areas that interest the family.

Shedd Aquarium

Pick quieter times to visit and explore the serene underwater world during the winter.

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland Express

A holiday train exhibit with miniature trains and Chicago landmarks made of natural materials.

The 606 Trail

A former railway line turned walking trail, perfect for a serene winter stroll.

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic

Experience a winter wonderland with light displays, ice carving, and indoor animal exhibits.

Chicago Public Libraries

Host occasional winter-themed events and provide a warm, quiet space for reading and exploration.

North Park Village Nature Center

Offers winter nature walks and educational programs in a peaceful natural setting.

Skokie Exploratorium

Indoor play spaces and interactive exhibits suitable for younger kids.

The Morten Arboretum Illumination

A magical light display in a natural setting, offering a serene and captivating experience.

Cantigny Park

Winter Wonderland events, indoor exhibits, and outdoor trails for a family-friendly day trip.

Schaumburg Boomers Stadium Winter Wonderland

Occasional events including winter light displays and family activities.

Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier

A botanical garden offering a tranquil environment to escape the winter chill.

Chicago Park District Indoor Play Spaces

Several locations offer indoor play areas for kids to expend energy in a safe environment.

Ice Castles in Lake Geneva (near Chicago)

A bit of a drive, but worth it for a mesmerizing ice-themed experience during winter.

Virtual Events and Workshops

Many organizations in Chicago offer online workshops, story times, and virtual events suitable for kids during the winter months.

Strategies to Make Outings Smoother for Your Kids with Anxiety

Kids dealing with anxiety can find it challenging to navigate public spaces. The fear of the unknown, large crowds, various sensory stimuli or being in an environment where they feel they don’t have control can heighten their anxiety levels. This can make it harder for them to enjoy the experience or even participate fully in activities.

Let’s look at some strategies to make outings to public spaces, like a museum for example, smoother.

Preparation is key for kids with anxiety

  • Preview online

Check the museum’s website beforehand. Show your kids pictures, videos, or virtual tours to familiarize them with the environment.

  • Plan the visit

Discuss what to expect, including the duration of the visit, available facilities, and any special exhibits they might be interested in.

Timing and Environment

  • Choose off-peak hours

Visit during quieter times to avoid crowds. Mornings or weekdays might be less crowded.

  • Arrive early

Being among the first visitors can help your child acclimate to the environment before it gets busy.

  • Designate a safe space

Identify quieter areas or benches within the museum where your child can take breaks if feeling overwhelmed.

Comfort measures

  • Bring comfort items

Allow your child to bring comfort items like a favorite toy, a blanket, or stress-relief objects if they find them calming.

  • Noise-canceling headphones

Consider using headphones to reduce overwhelming sounds if your child is sensitive to noise.

Communication and support

  • Encourage communication

Let your child know they can communicate their feelings anytime during the visit and that it’s okay to take breaks.

  • Set realistic expectations

Be flexible and open to adjustments. If your child needs to leave earlier than planned, it’s okay.

 Engagement strategies for kids with anxiety

  • Interactive exhibits

Focus on hands-on or interactive exhibits that allow your child to engage at their own pace.

  • Follow their lead

Let your child lead the visit. If they’re interested in a particular exhibit, spend more time there.

After the visit

  • Debrief

Discuss the visit afterward, acknowledging any challenges they faced and praising their efforts. This helps in processing the experience positively.

  • Plan future visits

If the first visit is challenging, consider shorter or more frequent visits to gradually build comfort.

Every child’s anxiety is unique, so adjust these tips according to your child’s specific needs. Remember, the goal isn’t just to have fun, but to create an environment of understanding and support. By embracing these activities, you’re not just making happy memories but also fostering an atmosphere of love and care for one another.

Wishing you and your family a joyous and peaceful holiday season!

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