’Tis the season for lists — gift lists, ingredient lists, and errand lists. December feels like this tornado of lists. In the midst of pandemic restrictions, most of us will still spend precious hours hurrying through our said lists. This year, if you are in search of a different kind of list, one that brings you together instead of separating your family to their own little spheres, consider this list of holiday ideas to use technology to draw your people together.
Tracey Bianchi is a mom of three teenagers living in the suburbs of Chicago. She shares with us 10 holiday ideas to use technology to create family memories.
Last year, I spent the Sunday before Christmas driving back and forth across our town in a last-ditch effort to get everything done. After hours of errands and preparations, I walked through the back door of our home to find my three teenagers on three separate devices in three different rooms of the house. They were in the exact same places where I’d left them hours earlier.
I panicked, dumped my shopping bags on the floor, and began to holler for everyone to listen up. We were missing out. It was a perfect December night, idyllic, and cold with snow lightly falling. Overwhelmed with the fear of losing these moments, I barked orders throughout the house before my coat was even off, “Come on down, let’s do something together! Put down your phones!”
They dread when I rally them like this. It means I’m about to unleash a bunch of ideas, most of which require shifting their attention away from screens. However, time together can embrace technology instead of disparaging it. I was determined to draw us together in a healthy way around the technology that drives so much of life.
If you also find yourself wondering how you can use the same devices that can separate your children to bring them together instead, then try one of these holiday ideas to use technology to create family memories…together.
But first, snacks…they make holiday ideas even better.
Think back to when people gathered at holiday parties in homes and weren’t considering pandemic parameters. There is a magical magnetism pulling people to the kitchen, and it’s not that surprising — that’s where the snacks are.
Everyone loves snacks, and around the holidays, make it special. Hot chocolate and candy canes. Cookies. Those special candies that you only open for guests. Unlike my example of bombarding my kids after a frazzled afternoon of errands, take a few minutes to set up the snacks.
10 Tech-friendly holiday ideas to create family memories
1. eCards & Videos
There are a variety of apps and easy editing software that provide a platform to send fun electronic greeting cards and mini videos to others. JibJab and Blue Mountain are good ones if you’re looking for ideas on where to start. Grandparents, family friends, aunts and uncles, cousins — all those who you may not be seeing in-person this year — will love receiving these. Even if you are able to see your loved ones in real life, creating the e-card or video will make a few feel-good family moments.
2. Play Among Us
This mystery imposter game recently captured the attention of millions of adolescents. It’s easy for adults to join and you can play a private game with 4-10 people. It’s part Clue and part Alien Abduction. Look for Among Us on the App Store (age 9+).
3. Global Celebrations
Research holiday traditions from around the world to learn the different ways that others celebrate your faith’s holiday or family traditions. Plan an evening of food, music, games, and ideas that you glean from other cultures. Pair people up to do the online digging together, perhaps having different pairs plan different elements.
4. Give Together
Thousands of charitable organizations and nonprofits are vying for your attention during the holidays. Carve out an hour and sit around the laptop to decide which organization your family will gift with a contribution. This is a great way to learn about global needs as well as how to discern the best methods to make a gift. Consider in advance what your family would like to donate (total dollar amount or time or other donations), and remember, small or great, giving is always appreciated! If you have older children, nudge them to give themselves. Talk with your kids to see what causes are meaningful to them and allow them to choose an organization to which to donate. Charity Navigator can help you vet organizations.
5. Watch a Documentary
Once you have watched Elf and The Grinch too many times, change it up and pick a documentary to watch as a family. Consider downloading a discussion guide for the film and engage in a post-film discussion. The Social Dilemma on Netflix is bound to spark conversation for any family where kids or parents are on social media.
6. Advent and Christmas Eve online church services online
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many churches, synagogues, and places of worship to put great services and activities online. From celebrating the different weeks in Advent to watching an online Christmas Eve service, you can stream videos, services, and activities from around the world or from a local church.
7. Slide Show
Most families have thousands of photos stored on their individual phones. Create a digital family album where each person can share their photos. Invite your family members to pull from those photos and create a themed slide show (school days, Christmas, soccer, Halloween, etc.). Then gather to watch each slide show and share it with those who you can’t see in-person this year. Photo apps that come on most phones can help with this. Your kids can likely whip one of these up in under an hour, and the grandparents will love it.
8. Digital Scavenger Hunt
You can do this over Zoom, Google Meet, or Messenger Rooms on Facebook with family or friends. Create a list of household items that are likely found in the homes of all those participating. One person moderates the game by calling for the items on the list. Once an item is read, each family must race through their home to find that item. The winner of that round is the team that returns with the item first. Ideas to get started: rolling pin, soccer ball, television remote, blue socks, hairbrush, etc.
Sit down to create a holiday playlist together. Make sure each person gets their pick, even if you could go the rest of your life with never hearing certain songs again. Post it to all the shared devices in your home. Not only will this help generate a festive vibe for the season but also will give you a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the music and artists your child follows.
10. Tech 101 for Parents
Ask your own kids for ways that your family can use technology together. Invite them to explain those social media platforms and apps that don’t seem to make sense to you. Learn to play their video games and see if you can beat them (not likely). Pick whatever consumes most of their time on devices and ask them to share it with you. You’ll get a glimpse into their world and allow them to be in charge of the family moment.