If you are looking for fun things to do with your host kids to celebrate the winter season, check out Au Pair in America on Pinterest. You’ll find recipes, crafts, games and winter traditions from a variety of countries to share with your host children.
If you have some fun winter traditions from your home country, share those with your host family. This beautiful season is a great time for culture sharing.
Cold weather can bring a new set of driving challenges, especially if you are not from a climate where you have experience with these conditions. Driving in the snow and ice can be a challenge even for experienced drivers. If you don’t have to go out in bad weather, stay home. If you do have to go out, here are some tips. More information can be found on the AAA website.
Top 10 Winter Driving Tips
Bulky coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness (straps) of a car seat. Check out information here and discuss with your host parents.
Keep cold-weather supplies in your car, such as a blanket, a flashlight, window ice scraper, snacks and water.
Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Avoid sudden moves, accelerate and decelerate slowly.
Don’t stop going up a hill.
Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead of you.
Know your brakes. Test our how they perform on slippery surfaces in a safe place where there are not other cars parked close to you.
Leave early to give yourself extra time and drive slowly.
Even better… If you don’t have to go out driving in snow and ice, stay home.
We’re in that time of year where the temperature starts dipping a little lower. It can be 70°F (21°C) one day and 40°F (4°C) the next. This is a time when many people begin to opt for indoor activities instead of outdoor ones. As the pandemic continues, we may be rethinking that this year. CDC guidelines state that outdoor gatherings and activities are generally safer than indoor ones.
There is a Scandinavian saying about this…
If you come from a warmer climate this may sound impossible to you. Over the years I have noticed that the temperature difference is much easier on those who have a gradual adjustment. It allows your body time to adjust to the lower temperatures. So, that’s the good news for all of you who are already here. Your body is already getting adjusted, give your mind a chance to stay open to enjoying the outdoors.
The next thing to do is get yourself the proper clothing and accessories. Start shopping for cold weather clothing: sweater, coat, gloves, hat, scarf, long underwear & boots. Ask your host family if they have some you can use and then start looking out for sales and checking thrift shops for the rest. Take a look at what you already have and think of ways to layer it. A long sleeve t-shirt under a sweatshirt may be as warm as a jacket. A pair of leggings or tights under a pair of jeans adds a lot of warmth.
It may also help to remind yourself that people in other parts of the U.S. and other countries experience much colder temperatures than we do and are still able to enjoy the outdoors.
Pick your activities carefully. If you are sitting next to a fire pit or doing physical activity you will feel warmer. When you take the kids to the playground or out in the snow, don’t sit on the bench and watch. You will feel warmer and have more fun if you are actively involved and having fun with them.
If you have tips on enjoying the cold weather, please share them!
CONTEST: The first au pair in our cluster to message Christine or Lisa with their favorite cold weather activity will win a prize!
Play dough is the perfect modeling material for children. Their small hands can pat, poke, pinch, roll and knead it into many shapes. Keep it in an airtight container to use another day, or let it air dry into favorite shapes.
Measure 2 cups of flour, one cup of salt and 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of oil to one cup of water in a separate bowl then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. For colored play dough, squeeze 10-20 drops of food coloring into the water before you add it to the mixture. Cook the dough at low heat in a wide pan, stirring constantly until it becomes rubbery. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it for a few minutes. When it cools the kids can play too!
Whether you’re staying home with the kids during a blizzard, a polar vortex, or just because it’s cold and dreary, the hours inside the house during winter can seem endless for everyone. But with just a bit of preparation, you can ward off the winter doldrums and keep everyone smiling. Here are some ideas to get your started:
APIA’s Pinterest Pinboards are loaded with indoor craft ideas and activities for kids of all ages:
America’s Test Kitchen has recipes and STEAM-focused, hands-on activities designed to get kids ages 8-13 cooking, experimenting, and exploring in the kitchen. Learn more by visiting America’s Test Kitchen Kids and following them on Instagram.
Making Paper Snowflakes: Cutting paper snowflakes is a fun and simple indoor winter activity. Tip: For younger kids, keep the designs simple to avoid frustration. Here’s a great video showing you how to cut some of your own.
During the last week of December and first week of January, many host kids will have between ten days to two weeks off from school for winter vacation. The thought of having the kids home for multiple days during the winter can send even the most seasoned childcare giver into a panic. Cold weather, shorter days, extra sugar, later bedtimes, and visiting relatives can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning, you can provide your host kids with a vacation to remember.
Play tourist with your host kids. Again, use the free time to explore DC. (Use the DC Guides section to help.) We live in an amazing city!
Tip #2: Dress the Part
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Winter has finally arrived in DC. It’s important to dress for cold weather and to make sure that your host children are dressed warmly too. If this is your first experience with really cold weather, ask your host parents for advice on staying warm. For more info, read this blog post from October: It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather.
Help the kids organize their toys and rooms with these suggestions. With mom and dad’s permission, perhaps your host kids can donate some of the toys they have outgrown. This will create more room for the new toys from Santa.
Looking for a fun baking activity? Gingerbread is a delicious way to celebrate the season!
Tip #4: Make a Date
Playdates can be a great way for kids to socialize and work on the important skills necessary for being a good friend. Talk with your host family about planning a playdate over winter vacation. With their permission, you can use our cluster list to find an au pair who lives near you and has host kids who are compatible ages with your host kids. If hosting doesn’t work, you can also make plans to meet up at the library for a free story hour or crafting session.
Nov 23 to Jan 1 (except Dec 24, 25 and 31) |5 – 9 PM
#DCZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with two dazzling laser light shows set to music.
The 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting at The Ellipse in President’s Park on November 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi)
Nov 29 to Jan 1 |10 am-10 pm weeknights/11 pm weekends
The National Christmas Tree will be lit every day starting from approximately 4:30 p.m. as part of the “America Celebrates” display at President’s Park (White House). The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree. Please visit the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)
Dec 7 to Jan 1 |Nightfall-11 pm
This year’s 80-foot-tall #uscapitolchristmastree traveled over 3000 miles from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon to Washington, DC, aboard a 106-foot-long truck and trailer. Seventy smaller companion trees from Oregon also decorate government buildings and public spaces around Washington, DC. Oregonians contributed 10,000 handmade ornaments celebrating the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife. Click here to learn more.
Gingerbread is an important part of many cultures’ holiday celebrations. Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and even gingerbread-flavored coffee are just a few of the yummy treats available this time of year. DC-based cookie guru Meaghan Mountford details the history of gingerbread cookies on her fabulous website, The Decorated Cookie.
The story of the Gingerbread Boy has been retold in many versions. Head to your local library and check out a few of these fun books:
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
The Cajun Gingerbread Boy illustrated by Berthe Amoss
The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
The Gingerbread Man: An Old English Folktale illustrated by John A. Rowe
The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt
The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Pam Adams
The Gingerbread Man by Eric Kimmel
The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth
Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies
A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie
Excited to make some of your very own gingerbread? Below is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. (Don’t forget to use American measurements and temperature settings!)
Preheat oven to 350F
In a large bowl, sift together:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
In a smaller bowl beat together:
¾ cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup of molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Place on a rack to cool. Decorate.
Gingerbread Fun Without the Baking
If you aren’t a baker, head to almost any store (Target, 5 & Below, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter are just a few) to buy a kit to make a gingerbread house, It will include everything you need ~ just add your imagination!
Even More Gingerbread Ideas
Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie
Or if you’re ready to take your gingerbread to the next level, The Decorated Cookie has loads of fun ideas. If you decide to try any of these projects out, be sure to post pictures on our cluster group page on Facebook.
We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs.
Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.
Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)
In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)
In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.
The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
DecoratedChristmas treesbegin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
Children write letters to Santa Clausrequesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”
The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)