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I’m sure I’m just one of the many parents who hugged their kids a little closer on Friday night after hearing about the horror at an elementary school in Connecticut. Perhaps this horrible tragedy will serve as a reminder to cherish the time we have with our children.

During the holiday season, we’re tempted to spend too much time on our iPhones, on the computer, or watching television. Following our example, our kids isolate themselves too. We’re together physically, but no one is having fun. No wonder by New Year’s everyone is ready to get back into the normal routine.

Can I challenge you, parents? Don’t let this holiday season go by without spending time just having fun with your kids. No agenda. Just fun.

My friend, Zach Nielsen, sees in a parent playing with their kids a picture of the gospel. He writes:

I am continually reminded how much our kids need our undivided attention, on their terms, and not ours.  This communicates volumes in terms of humble service which is the essence of the Gospel.

You want your kids to understand the Gospel?  Get on the floor and play with them.  Then when you speak of God coming down and condescending to our weakness they’ll have a picture of loving service to equate it to.

Likewise, Michael Kelley writes about the surprising side effect of playing with your kids:

Who would have ever thought that the main way to mortify my flesh today was playing with my kids?

I play with my kids, and hopefully then have a small notion of the great willingness and desire of God to be with His people. And as for me, playing with them – really playing with them – is another means by which God uses to pry my white-knuckled fingers off my idol of self.

So, dads, can I encourage you with this today? Play with your kids – not only for their sake, but also for yours.

Here are some creative options for playing with your kids this holiday season:

1. Instead of watching a movie, create your own movie story.

In five minutes, organize the toys with your child. Pick out two or three main characters. Always have a superhero waiting in the wings. Use a toy house, a toy jungle, or some lego castle as a backdrop for the action. Have a plane, a rocket, or some mode of transportation. If you need a flood, have blue sheets nearby. Just look at what you’ve got and get ready for a Story. You don’t have to plan the whole story out.

Then, create an iTunes playlist with movie music that you can play in the background. Here’s our favorite five-song playlist for a twenty-minute story:

  1. “The Wardrobe” – from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  2. “Prince Caspian Flees” – from Prince Caspian
  3. “The Aslan’s Camp” – from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  4. “Battle at Aslan’s How” – from Prince Caspian
  5. Return of the Lion” – from Prince Caspian

The more you use the same playlist, the more familiar you will be with the music. You can anticipate the musical cues, and begin to play with the toys accordingly.

Some of the music is mysterious and filled with wonder. Other parts sound suspenseful and would make good background music to a thrilling chase or battle. The beginning of “Aslan’s Camp” right after “Prince Caspian Flees” is perfect for a stunning entrance from a super-hero to save the day.

My son and I have made these playlists from more than a dozen movies. The music makes the playing much more exciting, and it gives you a creative way of adding drama to the story. Try it. It’s fun.

2. Instead of playing Mario, let your child be Mario.

Set up an obstacle course in your living room. Tell your child the carpet is fire that he can’t touch. Take washcloths and place them in strategic places until there is a path of stones that the child has to jump on as he makes his way through the course. (Ask Mom first, of course.)

Lob plastic balls at him as if they were fire balls keeping him from getting to the end. At the end, give him three pillows, and be the big Bowser that is trying to stop him. He has to hit you three times. You have ammo (pillows) to throw at him too. It’s fun to do this on the sidewalk too, using chalk to create an obstacle course.

3. Build a fort around the couch and chairs in the living room.

Find the best sheets, towels, and pillows you can. Transform your sofa and chairs into a cave. Spend some time underneath the sheets with a flashlight telling ghost stories.

4. Play Hide-and-Go-Seek.

I’m not going to give away my favorite hiding spots in our house, because my son Timothy could stumble upon this blog and discover where they are! I recommend two variations of this game.

In the classic version, more than one person hides at a time. Those hiding can run back to “base” before getting caught.

If you are worried about too much running in the house, you can use the second option – “Sardines.” One person hides and everyone else is on the search team.Whenever someone finds the person hiding, they hide with them and remain quiet. The last person to find the growing number of kids crammed into a closet or hiding behind the couch becomes “it” for the next round.

5. Play Card Games.

Our favorites? In no particular order:

  • Speed
  • Hearts
  • Monopoly Deal
  • Uno
  • I Spy Snap


- Play Board Games.

Some of our favorites:

  • Stratego
  • Battleship
  • The Settlers of Catan (3 or more player)
  • Catan Card Game (2 player)

- Have a Tea Party

Nothing wins a little girl’s heart like a pretend tea party with dear old Dad. Especially if the tea cups have pictures of Disney princesses on them. If you make some real tea afterwards and let her have some with you, she’ll be even happier.

- Falling Off the Boat

Place pillows and bed sheets all around the biggest bed in the house. Then climb on the mattress with your kids and pretend the bed is a big boat. If you want to make it exciting, pretend there are alligators trying to drag you off the bed. The real fun starts when you’re sliding off the bed and grabbing onto your kids’ feet and arms as they try to keep you on board. Next switch places and try to save them as they slide off. Simple, I know. But oh so fun!

What about you?

Let me know some of the ways you play with your kids, and we’ll add them to our list this Christmas!

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20 thoughts on “5 Ways to Play With Your Kids This Christmas”

  1. Randall says:

    We do scavenger hunts. Just a little creativity and some post-it notes guarantee a fun time. And I usually put a small treat at the end for a prize.

  2. Melody says:

    Great blog today Trevin! We’ve always played games! Our kids are just out of college now, and we have a new son-in-love. We play a board game called Quelf. It’s a hilarious, laugh till you cry kind of game. The only prerequisite is that you must be humble enough to risk being embarrassed (The guys once found themselves dancing the Tango) or pay the “penalty”. THanks again!

  3. My two daughters (3 and 1 yrs old) have started to love the ‘Sack Game’. They get inside a large cloth sack and I carry them around the house. They love it.

    Sometimes I honestly wonder why we need to buy real toys.

  4. Reg Schofield says:

    I’m not defending video games here but when we bought our boys the WII fron Nintendo , we had a blast playing tennis , bowling and golf . We were interacting , laughing and had a grand time . But the suggestions are great . Now that my sons are college age , its a bit different but also they help make the Christmas supper . Plus we have a rule in our house , all movies if watched at all have to be Christmas classics , no regular TV , we play Christmas hymns and yes , we still play some board games .

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  6. Lily Todd says:

    These are great ideas! Thank you so much for casting the vision that we do die to ourselves when we stop what we’re doing and serve our kids :)

    One game my son and I love to play is a game we invented together called “Don’t Tickle the Driver!” We put pillows all around the biggest bed. One person is the driver of the bus, the other (others) are passenger(s). Then, we pretend we’re driving somewhere. The driver directs the direction we turn and what happens next. But at some point, one of the passengers reaches forward and tickles the driver. At which point, the driver turns around and says, “Don’t tickle the driver!!” Actually, all involved can say that and then, of course, we all start laughing together. Great fun and it can be exhausting too! Probably better for smaller kids :) :)

    Thanks again!
    Lily (in Miami, FL)

  7. Luke Rosenberger (@LukeRosenberger) says:

    We like to play flashlight tag. Turn off all the lights in the house and you are only allowed to use a flashlight to find the hiders. While waiting for mom in the car at the grocery store we play “i-spy” a letter. There are usually a lot of store signs all around the parking lot and they have exactly what sign we found our letter from.

  8. Jack Hager says:

    We have legomaniacs in our home…occasionally we will parcel out equal amounts of legos to all participants, set a timer to 15 or 30 minutes, everyone starts building; and we vote on the “best” at the end. Simple, fun, and requires no batteries…

  9. Al says:

    Top game for us is Dinosaurs. Dad pretends to be a dino – a scary one on all fours who roars a lot. All the kids team up to get him on his back. A kiss on his forehead means he’s lost. Meanwhile he’s trying to eliminate the kids one by one by doing the same to them. It’s ridiculous and huge fun.

  10. Matt Sliger says:

    Trevin, this is really helpful. As a first-time parent of a ten-month old, I’m learning the joy of taking myself much less seriously and acting like a ten-month old from time to time. As you said so well, God’s used it to sanctify me.

  11. Philip Doggart says:

    The best games are those when we parents are told what to do by our offspring. My current favourite is when my 7 yr old tries to work out the best way to sit on my shoulders, whether I am standing, sitting or kneeling. It is like having my personal Cato (fun films by the way) waiting to ambush me and is always better when I try to stop her!

    Is the best thing not to turn the box off and do whatever? It changes from year to year, but spending time with them will be paid back when we are old.

  12. Bill says:

    Since most of the break is after they have their new presents, I would say suggest to them ways that can enhance their play with what they have. For example:
    R/C helicopter – Help them set up an imaginary city with buildings (boxes), lakes, etc. and practice landings.
    Nerf guns – Set up a target range with plastic cups.

    Usually my kids are pretty good with creating their own thing to do, but they always like it when I can get into it with them.

  13. Edward Fudge says:

    And don’t forget that nothing you can purchase will provide more fun, over mmore time, in more imaginary contexts than an empty box (the bigger the better) with doors and windows cut out or cut to swing open and shut!

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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