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Make Winter Vacation Memories Last

Got the post-holiday vacation blues? Here are a few ways to revisit the fun and preserve memories of the good times, good food, and good company.

The winter holidays are nearly over and across the country you can hear the familiar sounds that signal the end of the winter break — the sighs of exhausted parents and the groans of kids returning to school. Okay, maybe there is some relief at getting back to the humdrum activities, but my guess is that after the holiday break most families struggle with re-entry into a regular routine.

Whether your family enjoyed a cross-country road trip, a few days with relatives, or a staycation at home, chances are that you and your children are experiencing post-vacation let-down. And if  your kids are like mine, they probably still have some last-minute holiday energy to burn before school resumes.

Want to make those happy vacation memories last? Try these activities before all the pine tree needles drift to the carpet and the inflatable lawn Santa deflates for the last time.

         Create a personalized memory map. Invite everyone in your family to recall their favorite vacation moments and places visited. Use questions to draw out the highlights for adults and kids alike. For example: Where did you have the most fun this winter? What made this vacation special? What place would you like to visit next year? Why? Then pull out whatever craft supplies you have on hand — markers, scissors, glue, paper, rubber stamps, old magazines — and have fun creating your own map of  favorite destinations. For a greater challenge, ask the kids to imagine the city or country you visited from a different perspective, like from the air, or from the sea, and then work together to draw your vacation spot from that viewpoint. For example: What would grandma’s town look like if we were flying over it? What does our backyard look like to an osprey? How does Orlando look from the basket of a hot air balloon?

         Make your own keepsake. Every parent knows that even the coolest souvenir eventually loses its charm. So, after the vacation dust has settled, set aside a night for making do-it-yourself mementos. Begin by asking each member of the family to think about a significant landmark, person, or event from your winter vacation. Is your eight-year-old still talking about that flume ride? Let him use clay, Play-Doh, or Wikki Stix to mold a miniature replica of it. Or use felt tip markers to color pieces of clear plastic salvaged from food containers to create vacation-themed sun catchers. If you get really inspired, Google “baked holiday ornaments” for a kid-friendly recipe that uses flour, water, and salt. Then get your kids to help you whip up a batch and form a holiday shape that rings their bell.

         Find your memories on a map. Use a real map or Google Earth to locate places you visited over the winter break. Look for ways to bring the map to life by sharing your own recollections about your family’s escapades. For example: Here’s the trail we hiked where we saw that hawk flying overhead. And remember when we found that starfish? Can you find that beach on the map? After you’ve pointed out some places on the map, ask your children to re-tell their favorite parts of the family’s journey. For even more fun, use your smart phone or video camera to record vacation memories, and have the children share them with the people you visited. Or play vacation charades and act out your winter adventures.

         Create a memory jar. The beauty of memory jars is that you can dip into them whenever the mood strikes. To create one, you’ll need a clean empty jar, felt tip markers or pens, and strips of paper. Next, gather your family and ask everyone to recall the winter months. For example: What was something that surprised you during our vacation? Why? What’s something new that you learned? What was your favorite moment? What was the  special moment that you’ll tell your classmates about? What’s one activity you would like to repeat next year? After everyone has had a chance to share and reminisce, ask each person to jot down a sentence or a few key words about their memory on a strip of paper. Older children who know how to write can help their younger siblings get their ideas down on paper. Fold all the strips in half and toss them into the memory jar. Later, on chilly winter nights or rainy spring days, you can randomly pull out some of the paper strips, read them aloud, and take the family on a trip down vacation memory lane.

Taking the time to savor the highlights of a family vacation can make those memories last until it’s time for your next trip!

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