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Keeping kids busy during the holdiay season

Taking photos will spur a child's creativity and provide you with lifelong memories of what they thought was most important this Christmas.1 / 3
Baking cookies is a good way to entertain the kids and check something off of your holiday to-do list at the same time.2 / 3
Kids will love to see plastic Santas, light-up reindeer and inflatable snowmen in people's yards, so take them for a leisurely drive that will get the whole family in the holiday spirit.3 / 3

With Christmas vacation approaching, suddenly that quiet, peaceful home you've become accustomed to since September is going to once again be the playground for the youngsters you recently sent off to school.

Whether you have one child or six, they're bound to get bored around the house when they're used to having constant activities going on at school.

Keep them away from the television and computer by trying a few activities that will give you some quality time together while still holding their attention.

Get them in the kitchen

Santa's going to need some sweet treats come Christmas Eve, so baking cookies is a great way to engage the kids in a common holiday activity.

Baking from scratch can sometimes be more fun, but it will also result in a lot more cleanup when everything is finished -- which is likely to be something the kids won't want to help with. If that's the case for you, buy dough at the store that the kids can spoon out onto cookie sheets.

Try to give them full control over "making" the cookies -- it'll make them feel important to take charge. After all, it isn't the end of the world if some of the goodies are as big as your hand and others are bite-size by comparison.

To stretch out the activity, frost the freshly baked treats once they've cooled down. Keep in mind, however, it's basically impossible for kids to frost cookies without somehow frosting their face at the same time.

Become builders

There is not a kid in the country that doesn't like having a fort. And if there are, it's probably only because they're claustrophobic.

A fort makes kids feel like they have their own little space. It encourages their imagination and brings them any place they want to go.

Never mind the fact that it's made of blankets draped over chairs or couch cushions stacked high. To them it's a palace fit for royalty. The kids will be proud of what they made and thrilled to have a secret hideout.

The perk for you -- whatever toys they play with that day will no doubt be played with in the fort, so any Lego pieces or Playmobil people will be contained in one area rather than scattered through every frequently used walkway in the house.

Plus, if you still have that child-like spirit in you, you're going to think the fort is pretty cool, too.

Say cheese

Ever taken photos of the family and had the kids immediately ask to see what the picture looks like? They like the idea of a digital camera -- capturing something and seeing the result immediately.

When film was still popular, giving kids the camera made for a lot of photos of the ceiling with just a sliver of dad's forehead in the shot. But now that the digital age is in full swing, those ceiling pictures can be wiped out before printing any masterpieces.

Give the children a camera and ask them to take pictures of decorations around the house or other things they think will be important to remember. It will occupy them and make them happy that they have a task to accomplish. In the end, the photos can be printed and made into an album as a keepsake.

Take in the sights

It will take a little bit of time to bundle the kids up in winter coats, mittens and hats, but once everyone's ready, hop in the van.

Turn up the heat, put on a Christmas CD and drive through different neighborhoods to admire holiday lights and decorations. The kids will be impressed by extravagant displays and can make a game out of the activity by rating the houses to compare which one looks most prepared to celebrate the season.

Who knows? You may even benefit and drive away with a few ideas on how to upgrade your decorations next year.