Monday, December 9, 2019

Things To Do This Holiday Season In Des Moines With Older Kids

I was worried the holidays would be less magical now that my minis are older and their belief in the big guy from the North Pole has faded (although, they still keep the charade up, which I LOVE). While it is different (and I find myself looking longingly at the Little People aisle I once spent so much time and money in long ago), it's actually MUCH more enjoyable. There's less meltdowns, we can stay out later, and they still let me get an annual family picture with Santa without complaint.

However, as a mom of school age children and a middle schooler, the special events for the season are often geared towards younger kids. We are definitely past the breakfasts with Santa and seeing Santa at the Zoo. As we move into the older kid territory, I've had to revise what our yearly traditions look like. Here are some of my kid's favorite things to do during the holidays that also make GREAT experience gifts for early presents:

1.) Holiday concerts and/or plays. 
There's plenty of shows that come through Des Moines, in addition to plays at the Des Moines Playhouse, the Civic Center, and the annual The Nutcracker.

2.) Holiday open house at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.
Yes, we've taken our kids for years to their holiday open houses, however, now that the minis are older, our visits are more enjoyable. They actually understand what the World Food Prize is. We no longer visit Santa, but the minis particularly enjoy the free cookies and carolers as we browse the rooms of the building.

Picture from 2014, when the whole reason for our visit was to visit Santa

3.) See Christmas light displays.
I'm not sure if one can ever outgrow looking at Christmas lights. Des Moines and suburbs have several excellent light displays. There's the usual Jolly Holiday Lights at Adventureland campground, Candy Cane Lane (also known as Ashby Ave.) in Beaverdale, and Gingerbread Lane in Ankeny. Several churches have a live nativity throughout the month of December as well. 

4.) Ice skating.
Ice skating has always been a wintertime activity for our family (something to do in January, when the holidays are over and we're buried in snow and freezing cold temps), but making it a holiday activity has become a favorite too. Invite friends and/or family for a day of ice skating at Brenton Skating Plaza for amazing memories.

5.) Local shopping.
Now that the minis are older, I don't actually dread taking them shopping during the holiday season. It's actually become a lot of fun for us to go shopping for family member's gifts. Hubs took the minis for a morning of shopping on Small Business Saturday and picked up a bunch of Iowa made products for out of town family. Our favorite local shopping areas are Valley Junction and East Village where you can get anything from Iowa shirts, mugs, posters to freshly made sweets to antique signs. It's a great way to have fun shopping this holiday season and support local businesses.

6.) Holiday movies.
Local movie theaters have an array of holiday movie classics with special showings that you can attend or you can watch them in your jammies at home (we've done both). Last year, on an unusually cold December day, we put Christmas movies on all afternoon and into the night. It was our first big Christmas movie binge we did as a family and it was fantastic! We introduced the minis to movies they'd never seen and Hubs and I watched a few of the classics we hadn't seen in years (Frosty the Snowman for one).

7.) Glazed Expressions or other art making sessions.
Most studios have special painting or craft classes for families. Glazed Expressions also has plenty of holiday ceramics to paint. If you plan on giving any for gifts, make sure you do them early in the season as they take up to a week to finish.

8.) Cookie decorating competition.
This is another activity we've done with our kids since they were toddlers. I mean, kids love cookies and going crazy with sprinkles. However, as they've gotten older we've upped our cookie decorating game. We've turned them into competitions, we've done baking and decorating marathons all while Christmas music blasts in the background and we consume just as much frosting as goes on the cookies. This year we're spending one full Saturday decorating a variety of cookies to take to our family Christmases. I anticipate it will be a memory filled day.

Cookies from last Christmas's decorating competition.

9.) Volunteering/Giving.
Another one we've always done, but is far more enjoyable now that the minis are older. My favorite thing to do each season is to set aside an entire day for shopping and have the minis pick out toys for Toys For Tots. As they've aged, we also do grocery shopping to donate to the Food Bank and winter clothes shopping to give to shelters. We all have a great time during our shopping sprees.