Whether you're hosting a big family gathering or just have your kiddos home for the holidays, these 10 creative holiday activities will help keep everyone busy, stimulated and in the country holiday spirit.
Looking for some country-fun holiday activities to do with your kids or grandkids while they’re out of school?
Small towns and rural places are the things Christmas cards are made of. Take advantage of it! with these ten creative, fun and simple holiday activities you can do on your land or nearby.
1. Create Nature-Inspired Crafts and Gifts
The holidays are a magical time for arts and crafts projects. It’s also an excellent opportunity for children to practice making handmade gifts for friends, family and neighbors.
Instead of loading them up with generic, template-style crafts from the craft store, try using nature in their creations.
Some simple ideas include:
- Make a Grapevine Wreath. This article provides instructions on how to make a grapevine wreath using materials from your land.
- Make Pinecone or gum tree ball ornaments by spraying or painting pine cones with gold spray paint/paint and affixing a string.
- Make Homemade Vanilla Extract. This simple process takes just two ingredients (vodka and vanilla beans) and will keep kids engaged for months as their real vanilla extract infuses. Homemade vanilla makes a beautiful gift, provided you start six months in advance.
- Create a Nature-Inspired Garland: A quick Pinterest search will yield dozens of ideas for handmade holiday garlands. One quick and easy idea is to use sliced oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes dehydrated in a food dehydrator or oven, combined with natural pine or cypress sprigs, pinecones and cinnamon sticks. String everything together on rustic twine or sturdy thread, and you have a beautiful garland to enjoy at home or give as a gift.
- Make Elderberry Syrup: Elderberry bushes grow wild on roadsides and forests in many parts of the South. Although most are dormant this time of year, you can order dried elderberries to make your own syrup (and maybe harvest your own next year—but take care harvesting from roadsides due to potential pesticide exposure).
These craft projects represent a fraction of what you can create with items from nature.
For more inspiration, check out: Holiday Decorating with Nature Beauty.
As documented by humor writer Jim Mize in: Snipe Hunt: A Rural Tradition Perfect For Holiday Get-Togethers, a snipe hunt is a spoof-hunting excursion organized by adults to entertain eager young hunters.
Children are equipped with sacks to catch the snipes the grownups say they will drive out of the woods.
In the end, the only thing killed on these hunts is the youngster’s gullibility in believing they’re hunting Snipes.
Of course, adult supervision and planning is required. But this could be a fun family tradition to try on young hunters.
Learn how to organize your own snipe hunt in: Snipe Hunt: A Rural Tradition Perfect For Holiday Get-Togethers
3. Chickens, Ducks, Cows or Goats Still Producing? Made Homemade Eggnog
Eggnog is a holiday tradition almost everyone loves.
However, many people shy away from making their own because it seems complicated and raw eggs are involved.
Let’s address the raw egg fear first.
Although there are no guarantees when using raw, unpasteurized eggs, the chances of picking up salmonella from properly handled very fresh, pasture-raised eggs from your own hens are pretty low. This is why people have made eggnog with farm-fresh eggs for years and lived to tell about it.
However, if you’re serving children and/or just aren’t comfortable consuming raw eggs, it’s better to be extra safe than sorry.
To eliminate the chance of salmonella or other tummy trouble, cook the eggs in the milk, cream, sugar and spice mixture, stirring constantly, over low heat until it reaches 160 degrees, which is hot enough to kill bacteria without curdling the eggs.
If you get lumps, they can be strained through a sieve.
As to the complexity of making your own eggnog, it is really a very simple and fun project to do with the kids. And it can be made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, or dairy-free plant milks.
Get more ideas for using up eggs in: Got (Farm) Eggs?
Weather and burn bans permitting, winter is an excellent time to teach older children how to build a campfire safely.
Obviously, this takes adult supervision.
However, children of all ages can participate in collecting sticks and branches for the fire, and everyone can enjoy sitting around it to roast hot dogs and s’mores for a simple weeknight meal.
If your kids are interested, you could even introduce them to other campfire cooking methods, like dutch oven cooking.
An outdoorsman, father, grandpa and survival expert shows you how in: How to Teach Children To Build a Campfire Safety: A Step-by-Step Guide.
No place to build a fire safely? Check out this tutorial on how to build your own firepit (the kids can help with this too!).
5. Feed The Birds By Decorating an Outdoor Tree
This fantastic activity will keep large or small groups of children busy for quite some time.
The idea is, you’re giving the wild birds a holiday gift by decorating a tree with various bird foods, such as:
- Peanut butter and birdseed pine cones
- Strings of popcorn
- Strings of cranberries or other dried berries
First, you make the peanut butter pine cones and strings — this can take a few minutes or much longer, depending on how much the children want to make for the tree.
Next, everyone goes out and decorates a designated tree or bush.
This is a lot of fun for children of all ages, and they will enjoy watching the birds for days to come (depending on how quickly they take out all those yummy bird treats).
You can also leave out some whole nuts for the squirrels.
6. Bake and Deliver Gifts to the Neighbors
Rural living can either mean you’re part of a tight-knit community…or that you have no idea who your neighbors are all the way over there!
Either way, you can’t go wrong with baking up some holiday goodies with your kiddos to spread some tidings of neighborhood joy.
Looking for some tried-and-true recipes to share? Check out these 3 country-inspired holiday quick breads from farmwife Catherine Pond.
They’re less labor-intensive than cookies and freeze well for flexible delivery.
7. Go To A Small Town Holiday Parade, Winter Market or Christmas Play
Big cities may have reputations for extravagant holiday festivals, parades and theater, but small towns have their own holiday traditions.
Check your local listings for information on your town’s Christmas parade (or better yet, enter a float for your farm!), winter markets and festivals, and local theater and school Christmas plays.
Your kids will enjoy the festivities, and it’s a wonderful way to support your small town and make family memories.
If your children like building things, now is the ideal time of year to build nesting boxes for bluebirds, who will be looking for safe nesting spaces in the coming months.
Bluebird populations plummeted in the 20th century, but thanks to enthusiastic efforts to provide habitats, their numbers are growing today.
The North American Bluebird Society provides detailed information on how to propagate bluebird populations by building nesting boxes. Including a list of materials needed, dimensions for boxes, and even a diagram of how to lay out and cut the boards for best utilization.
It doesn’t take much skill to do this, and even preschoolers can participate by banging in nails, and painting and hanging the boxes.
Older children may be able to complete the project independently with little or no help from parents.
Get the details in: How to Build Nesting Boxes That Attract Bluebirds to Your Land.
9. Try Winter Sowing in Milk Jugs
If you think now seems too soon to start seeds, you must try winter sowing in milk jugs with your kiddos.
As homesteader and homeschooler Mara Watts explained in her original article Winter Sowing in Milk Jugs: A Step-by-Step Guide.
“Winter sowing is a method of starting seeds in milk jugs, or similar plastic containers, outdoors during the winter. This simple yet effective gardening technique utilizes protected and vented containers to allow seeds to germinate naturally.
“Over the course of winter, the soil freezes and repeatedly thaws until warmer temperatures arrive. This is the natural process of cold stratification --- an action that helps to loosen the seed coat, preparing for germination.
Due to their genetic makeup, each individual seed knows when it is safe to break the soil’s surface. At that point, as outdoor temperatures begin to warm, you will notice little seedlings appearing in your winter sowing containers.”
Watts, and other winter-sowing enthusiasts, swear by this simple method for growing the healthiest, most robust and disease-resistant plants.
All you need are:
- Clean milk jugs or similar translucent containers
- Seeds and potting soil
- Spray bottle
- Coffee filters
- A drill or sharp knife
- Duct tape, permanent marker and plant tags
Get the full tutorial, including a winter sowing schedule, in: Winter Sowing in Milk Jugs: A Step-by-Step Guide.
10. Build Trails or a Campsite on Your Land
With scrub brush, plants (and kudzu!) and trees dead or dormant, winter is an ideal time to carve out trails and/or a campsite on your rural land.
And if you have responsible teenagers capable of wielding sharp objects and using clippers, this may be a perfect activity to drain their energy and keep them busy.
Get helpful starting points and how-to advice in:
Finally, Consider a Less is More Approach for a Happier Holiday Break
The holidays can get excessive fast, which can be overwhelming to adults and children alike.
Living rural and away from the big-city hustle and bustle gives us an opportunity to create simpler traditions for a more relaxed and authentic holiday. Especially when school is out.
So sure, plan some of these activities for your children, but also consider giving them plenty of downtime to explore and create their own fun.
You’d be surprised how well children can entertain themselves when living close to nature with plenty of room to roam.