Entertaining The Kids

School vacation week is winding down. You and the children have baked enough heart-shaped, jelly-coated cookies for the next three Valentine's Days, watched the "101 Dalmatians" video at least that many times, and nearly broken the record for the longest Monopoly game ever.

Sound familiar? First of all, congratulations on keeping the kids well entertained. It's not easy to make the switch from school days to vacation days. Especially when your children's friends are off building sand castles on a tropical beach or shaking hands with you-know-who in Orlando, and they're miffed to be the only kids in the neighborhood who stayed home.

By now your well of ideas may have run dry. So how about using this section as a launching pad for fresh activities for the family.

For example, if you haven't already, go see "Titanic," read about it here (Page B3), and then host a debate with one side arguing the movie's merits and the other its flaws. What about all those Oscar nominations? Did it deserve them? Why or why not? Is it a shoo-in for best picture?

Or let Olympics coverage (Page B8) inspire your own winter Games at a nearby hill or skating rink. Close with an awards ceremony. E-mail your favorite Olympic athletes afterward: (www.nagano.olympic.org)

You could even get a jump on next week's news and fill your home with the music of Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Fiona Apple, and other Grammy nominees. Before the music industry's big night (Feb. 25), take a family vote, submitting picks for best album, best vocalist, or best single. See how they stack up.

Still poking around for something to do? Not to worry. Some of children's most creative moments happen when doing absolutely nothing. And they love it.

I'll never forget a trip to Wyoming last summer when one of the children in our large group protested after several days of jampacked activity: "Can't we just have a hangout day?" His words stopped us in our tracks.

Whether or not this is your children's vacation week, February is a great month to hunker down and hang out. Even for an hour, put your calendar away, don't answer the phone, and let spontaneity be your guide to family fun.

* Comments? Write to Arts & Leisure editor, One Norway St., Boston, MA, 02115 or e-mail wolcott@csmonitor.com

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