Less money, more time helps make the season bright during COVID-19

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published December 8, 2020

 The BBAC offers art activity kits — which contain a number of projects suitable for ages 5 and up, instructions and all materials — for purchase.

The BBAC offers art activity kits — which contain a number of projects suitable for ages 5 and up, instructions and all materials — for purchase.

Photo provided by the BBAC

 Children ages 5-12 can learn the coil making ceramic technique using air-dry clay to make their own holiday trees virtually with the PCCA during a number of free workshops Dec. 12-13.

Children ages 5-12 can learn the coil making ceramic technique using air-dry clay to make their own holiday trees virtually with the PCCA during a number of free workshops Dec. 12-13.

Photo provided by the PCCA

METRO DETROIT — Families are being asked to celebrate the holiday season in a more intimate way as they stay at home amid COVID-19, making this the perfect year to start new traditions and make lasting memories together.

Setting aside time each night to read holiday books — and play games — as a family is a fun, free and educational way to spend time together at home, according to Rochester Hills Public Library Youth Services Manager Betsy Raczkowski.

“Especially nowadays, I think sharing a book with a family is the best way to easily bond,” she said.

Whether you opt to purchase books to help build your home library or decide to save cash and space at home by checking out a few books from the local library, the benefits of reading together are many.

“Sharing books together is a great way to ensure your child grows up to also have a love of reading and a love of books,” Raczkowski added.  

A few holiday book titles Raczkowski recommends include:
• “Silent Night,” illustrated by Lara Hawthorne.
• “‘Twas Nochebuena,” by Roseanne Thong.
• “The Nutcracker of Harlem,” by T.E. McMorrow.
• “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” by Rachel Griffin.
• “I Got the Christmas Spirit,” by Connie Schofield-Morrison.
• “Santa’s Kwanzaa,” by Garen Thomas.
• “Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Christmas and Chanukah,” by Michael Rosen.
• “Seven Spools of Thread,” by Angela Medaris.
• “Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas,” by Pamel Ehrenberg.
• “The Great Santa Stakeout,” by Betsy Bird.
• “Hanukkah Haiku,” by Harriet Ziefert.
• “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins,” by Eric Kimmel.
• “My First Kwanzaa Book,” by Deborah Chocolate.
• “A World of Cookies for Santa,” by M.P. Hampton.

“Everyone feels so far apart right now, so books are a great way to start to explore … what other people might celebrate during the holidays and maybe introduce new traditions that you could try,” said Raczkowski. “And many of the books I recommended have ideas for activities or recipes to follow as a family, to add another layer of fun.”

Playing together — whether you build a box fort, put on a family play or simply gather around a board game — is also an integral part of literacy and bonding, Raczkowski added.

“Developing imagination, curiosity and the freedom to be silly at home is really important. You can do anything,” she said. “Even just making up games together is a good idea. Encouraging creativity right now, especially when people need things to do, is a great way to bring in dramatic play and let your imagination run wild, which will always benefit your children.”

The Clinton Township Parks and Recreation Department is offering a virtual “25 Days of Christmas” this year.

Each day, starting Dec. 1 and concluding Dec. 25, the department will upload a video onto its Facebook and YouTube pages, sharing crafts and games, from Christmas karaoke to making gingerbread houses or reindeer food.

Recreation Coordinator Tami Letcavage said weekday videos will provide an easier variety of activities, in terms of being able for children to follow along at home with supplies. Weekend videos may be more elaborate.

“We thought it would be a good opportunity to come back with some fun for the winter months,” Parks and Recreation Director Brian Kay said.

To join in the festivities, individuals have to subscribe to the department’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/myctpr.

After the holidays, families can stay busy by visiting the Clinton Township Virtual Recreation Center at https://clintontownship.com/virtual-rec-center.html, which offers free tutorials, crafts, fitness, games, virtual trips and tours, and activities for all ages to keep families active at home.

Another great way to bond is to create something unique together, whether it’s a homemade present, a coloring page or completing an art challenge.

The Paint Creek Center for the Arts, in partnership with Meijer, is offering free holiday art making workshops virtually every weekend through Dec. 20.

PCCA staff said holiday art making workshops provide family members the opportunity to make hand-crafted gifts, holiday ornaments, keepsakes, seasonal decorations and happy memories.

Registration is required for each workshop and will open the Monday before each weekend of workshops. Space is limited. For more information, visit https://conta.cc/3kHWSH4.

Over at the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Center, President and CEO Annie VanGelderen, said the art center has been sharing free “Art Challenges” every week since March via email and on its website in an effort to get families’ creative juices flowing.

“It’s a creative project every week using household items — so it can be spice, it can be papers, it can be newspapers, it can be cardboard. Every week is a new challenge. It’s a great multi-generational tool — adults can do them as well as children — and it’s completely free using the items you would have at home,” she said.

Past challenges have included: celebrate artist Auguste Rodin’s birthday and do “The Thinker” drawing challenge; make an origami paper quilt; paint a whimsical Yayoi Kusama-inspired pumpkin; build-a-monster drawing game; and more.

“It’s fun, and every week is a new, unique project,” VanGelderen said. “A family could maybe look at what we did in July or August, and create a whole family project and use them for gift-giving.”

Those who don’t have art supplies readily on hand can opt to purchase art activity kits for their children from the BBAC for $15 each.

The current art activity kit, VanGelderen said, includes a variety of winter-themed projects.

“The art activity kits have been super popular. Since March, we’ve sold over 600 kits,” she added.

Each kit, which the center periodically changes, contains projects suitable for ages 5 and up, with adult help for the little ones. Instructions, all materials and mailing costs are included — or you can request curbside pick-up.

To order a kit, call the BBAC at (248) 644-0866. To sign up for the free email blast for weekly project ideas, visit www.bbartcenter.org or email info@bbartcenter.org.

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.