School’s out

Avoid the winter blahs with our 12 days of winter break


Jennifer Gilbert and Kate Pancero


Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’ve likely heard the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." But who really wants three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree these days? We’ve come up with a much more useful 12 days—The 12 days of Winter Break. And yes, we know that most schools have more than 12 days off for winter break, but "The 14 Days of Winter Break" just doesn’t have the same ring to it.




Give something back

Start out your kids’ winter break by doing something charitable as a family. No matter what activity you choose, your kids will be reminded the holiday season isn’t just about getting gifts.


Go to the zoo

Between 5 and 9 p.m., Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights will feature photos with Santa, holiday characters in life-size snow globes, family crafts and Holiday Express train rides. At Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo you’ll find carolers, storytellers, live music and magicians. Free at Lincoln Park Zoo, free with admission ($10, $6 kids 3-11 and seniors, free kids 2 and under) at Brookfield Zoo.,


Bake cookies

Let your kids help measure, mix and shape the cookies. For a quick and easy recipe, try snickerdoodles—go to for a recipe. Kids will love rolling the cookie dough in cinnamon and sugar.


Make it snow

We all know that a white Christmas is never guaranteed. You can always make your own snowflakes inside using paper, scissors and some imagination. Take a square sheet of paper and fold it in half into a triangle. Fold it again into a smaller triangle. Fold one side in toward the middle until a small point of the paper is hanging off of the triangle. Take the other side and fold it over. You should have a triangle with two points sticking out—cut these points off to make a regular triangle again (doing this makes your snowflake circular). From here, all you have to do is cut designs—just be sure not to cut too much. When you’re done, unfold to reveal your snowflake.


Try Something Else!

Families looking to keep the kids busy can head to the Something Else! A Community Festival at Spertus Museum, 618 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, for an afternoon of activities. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m. activities include exhibition tours, craft projects, fun with inflatables, a mini chess tournament and live music. Free, but visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items.


Kwanzaa movie day

The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, offers two children’s films about Kwanzaa today, "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa" and "Rugrats: Kwanzaa," part of Coca Cola Children’s Penny Cinema. Reservations required. Screenings begin at 10:30 a.m. Call (773) 947-0600 ext. 225 to make a reservation. Cost, one penny per person.


Take a sleigh ride

In Wheaton, enjoy a 30-minute sleigh-ride through the DuPage County Forest Preserve with the Danada Equestrian Center, 3 S. 503 Naperville Road, (630) 668-6012. If Tinley Park is more convenient, take a ride with Forest View Farms, 16717 S. Lockwood Ave, (708) 560-0306. Reservations required. $5, $2 kids 5-12, free kids 5 and under at Danada Equestrian Center, $7, $25 for do-it-yourself two-person ride at Forest View Farms.


Play, play, play

Head over to Mayor Daley’s Sports Fest at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago, and play your hearts out. The giant indoor playground includes volleyball, wrestling, martial arts, bowling and other sports. The festival runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Dec. 30. Free.


Snowball fight

Don your coats, hats and your best snowball making mittens for a good old-fashioned snowball fight.


2007 family scrapbook

You’ve spent the last year working hard, playing harder and laughing most of the way. Why not make a book about it? Use what you have around the house. Cut out and decorate the front and back of a cereal box for the covers. Use construction paper for the inside pages. Use photos or have everyone paint, draw and sketch their favorite moments from 2007.


Party in the New Year

Here are two great places to ring in the New Year with your family. Wonder Works, 6445 W. North Ave., Oak Park, (708) 383-4815, offers games, crafts and countdowns at its "New Year’s Eve Party" from noon-5 p.m. Or "Countdown to Fun" with other time zones around the world at the Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769. Make crafts and listen to music while you celebrate from 12:30-4:30 p.m. $5 admission, free kids under 1 and members at Wonder Works, $5, $4 kids 2-17, free kids under 2 and members at Discovery Center Museum.,


Make a movie

Have your kids write a script and star in their own film. Upload them on and post your link on the discussion board.


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