The holidays are fast approaching: Cookies, parties, presents and what’s that? Oh yes. The familiar sound of children who are bored and need to let out all of that excited energy and enthusiasm.

And if you have family coming to visit for the holidays – especially family members who are of the kid variety – you might be wondering how to keep everyone happy and entertained.

Luckily, there are several options to fill the days off from school and work while making fun new holiday memories with your little ones, and family you might not get to see as often as you’d like.

Here are some of our favorite family fun ideas for out-of-town guests:

1. Bake Cookies

Don’t underestimate the power of baking for bonding and laughter — plus a delightful end result! Round up a bunch of fun cookie cutters, including holiday and non-holiday shapes, and gather all the kids in the kitchen to help. Don’t forget to play your favorite holiday tunes or movie in the background!

Let the little ones take charge with mixing the ingredients, rolling the dough and cutting the cookies — and decorating them — since you don’t have to worry about the cookies being done quickly and taken to a holiday gathering, they can have free reign to be as messy and silly as they’d like. Grab all the different kinds of sprinkles and icing you can find. Adults can join in too, to show off their own cookie creativity!

2. Scope out Holiday Lights

It’s something simple and enjoyable to celebrate the season, where everyone can feel like a kid again. Everyone gets into their pajamas, grab some cocoa (and those delicious cookies) and load up the vehicles. Hit the road to ‘ooh and ahh’ over the nearby outdoor light displays. Search community social media pages and news outlets for the most special displays, or try out Christmas Light Finder to see actual lists of addresses close to your ZIP code.

Play holiday tunes during the drive or create your own playlist of carols before you head out. And give BONUS POINTS to whomever finds a house with a soundtrack over a local radio station that coordinates with the dancing lights!

3. Family Swim at Goldfish Swim School

Sometimes, you just need to add water. With all the travel and sitting in a house together over the holidays, it’s nice to venture out and do something physical — so come visit Goldfish Swim School! Call the location near you to find out when we have one of our Family Swim or Open Swim events Our pool water is always set at a tropical 90 degrees, and so is the air outside the pool.

All ages are welcome! With changing cabanas, showers and hair dryers at each location — plus a store where you can purchase kids’ suits, towels and goggles, we’ve got you covered. (Just part of our WOW! customer service!)

4. Pay it Forward

Designate one day while the family is visiting as ‘Pay It Forward Day’. Research beforehand to find somewhere to volunteer with everyone — such as a homeless shelter, community center, senior center, animal shelter, assisted living community, meal delivery service, or anything else you can find. No ideas? Ask on social media, or look up local community pages for resources.

If you can’t find anywhere to coordinate prior to your loved ones visiting, think of ways to pay it forward around your town. Share some of those fancy cookies you made by delivering them to a neighbor, nursing home, fire station or police station. Write letters to soldiers stationed overseas. Get the kids involved — ask them what they want to do!

5. Ugly Sweater Game Night

Dress up in silly holiday garb. Don’t have any? Head to a thrift store where everyone can select their own. Or, for the creative types, make your own with felt, battery-operated lights, pom poms, garland or whatever you have around your home.

For games, wrap family-friendly trinkets and gifts, like candy bars, hair bows, socks, pens, toy cars and whatever you can think of, in layers of plastic wrap to create a gift ball. Then, unroll it! Once you unwrap a gift, pass the gift ball to the next person.

Amp things up and play “Santa Limbo.” It’s just like regular limbo, but players stuff a pillow for their Santa bellies and limbo. After that, play charades where you act out holiday songs and holiday themed items.

6. Gingerbread House Building Contest

A family activity for all ages: Building a gingerbread house! Take it to the next level by building a house, a school, a cathedral — whatever your creative minds conjure up — and turn it into a contest. Make the activity either timed, on teams, most colorful or most realistic.

Grab all sorts of ingredients:

– Graham crackers (honey, cinnamon and chocolate)

– Gumdrops

– M&Ms

– Skittles

– Hershey’s kisses

– Mini candy canes

– Peppermints

– Assorted holiday candy

– Sprinkles

– Colored chocolate dots

– Icing for the “glue”

– Decorative icing in varied colors

Then, let the building — and eating — begin!

***BONUS IDEA: If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, download a few holiday classic songs on your phone and bundle up the family to go caroling through the neighborhood! Some may be hesitant at first, but spreading cheer to those down the street makes everyone smile once they get into it! You can also invite neighbors or friends to join in on the fun!

Goldfish Swim School

If you visited Goldfish Swim School over the holidays, why not sign the kiddos up for swim lessons? Our instructors use integrity, compassion and trust to teach children ages 4 months and older how to swim — with extraordinary results.