Ah, winter break. It's a chance to put down the school books, relax the schedule and enjoy some downtime.
But we all know what that means. After the presents have been opened, the cookies consumed and the hot chocolate chugged, the dreaded B word can set in: boredom.
Tackle the problem before it starts with these suggestions for kids of all ages.
They will head back to school with stories for their friends of all the cool things they did over their holiday vacation.
• Take the Winter Reading Challenge at Lancaster Public Library's Mountville, Leola or Lancaster City locations. Kids can pick up reading logs at all three branches. For info:
• "Winter Treats for Backyard Birds" will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27, in the Lancaster County Central Park Environmental Center. Participants will make treats using nuts, peanut butter and seeds. Register: www.co.lancaster.pa.us.
• Check out the annual gingerbread display from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 26, at RLPS Architects, 250 Valleybrook Drive. The display has a "Frozen" theme, featuring scenes from the movie set in a turn-of-the-century Norwegian fishing village, a tundra and a diamond mining mountain. For info: www.rlps.com.
• Stay active, especially when cold weather keeps you cooped up. Try Fitness Simon Says: Simon says do five sit-ups; Simon says do 10 jumping jacks.
• Attend an open gym session at Prestige Gymnastics, 3549-A Hempland Road. Held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, the event includes access to gym equipment and costs $12. For info: www.prestigegym.com.
• Check out the holiday display at the Choo Choo Barn, 226 Gap Road, Strasburg. Running through Jan. 4, it challenges visitors to look for 53 Santas hidden throughout the display. For a schedule and more info: www.choochoobarn.com.
• Stop by the Ed King Memorial Model Train Open House at the Columbia Preservation Society, 21 N. Second St., Columbia. It features two model train displays and runs through Dec. 28. For info: www. columbiahistory.net.
• Visit the Hands-On House, 721 Landis Valley Road, for some hands-on fun. It is open on Dec. 26, 27, 28, 30 and 31. For info: www.handsonhouse.org.
• Enroll in the Holiday Experience Camp held Dec. 26, 27, 29 and 30 at Spooky Nook Sports, 2913 Spooky Nook Road, Manheim. For ages 6 to 12, it features activities, instruction and games in eight different sports such as climbing and fencing. For info: www.spookynooksports.com.
• Participate in the "Christmas Bird Count for Kids," for ages 8 to 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27 at the Lancaster County Central Park Environmental Center. The free event teaches youth and their parents to identify birds. Participants are encouraged to bring a packed lunch. For info: www.co.lancaster.pa.us.
• Working parents may drop off their kids at the Holiday Camp at the Lancaster County Central Park Environmental Center. It features indoor and outdoor games, crafts, stories and experiments. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29 for school-age children. For info: www.co.lancaster.pa.us.
MIDDLE SCHOOL AND UP
• Check out the Yuletide celebration at Rock Ford Plantation, 881 Rock Ford Road on Dec. 26, 27, 28 and 29, with costumed guides leading visitors through Gen. Edward Hand's 18th century mansion. For info: www.rockfordplantation.org.
• Spend a night glow bowling at Rocky Springs, 1495 Millport Road, or Clearview Lanes, 1990 W. Main St., Mount Joy. Both offer a twist on traditional bowling with music, disco lights and more. For info: www.rockysprings.net or www.clearviewlanes.com.
• Encourage your older child to look for volunteer opportunities over winter break. While many sites require training before volunteering begins, your child can find a list of potential places by visiting the "Opportunities for Caring" portion of the United Way of Lancaster's website, www.uwlanc.org/Volunteer-Center/Opportunities-for-Caring.