click to enlarge Low-key but fun family offerings
Springfield Art Association hosts a Gingerbread House Decorating Workshop on Saturday, Dec. 4.

Celebrating the holidays with children is magical, but let's be honest, the lines and the crowds and the stores and whatnot can also be downright chaotic. For some of us, the slowness of 2020's holiday season was a sort of reprieve from the hustle and bustle of all that merry-merry-merry. If you are apprehensive about tiptoeing back into the holiday scene in 2021, might I suggest the following low-key, local events that you and your family can enjoy outdoors, or even from home?

If it's woodland merriment that you and your family crave, head out to Lincoln Memorial Garden, 2301 E. Lakeshore Dr. The staff recently installed a new story walk project featuring the children's book A Feast for 10 by author and illustrator Catherine Fallwell. Also, similar to last year, LMG is putting together a holiday photograph opportunity complete with a Christmas tree and sleigh scene, perfect for DIY-holiday card photos. Lastly, LMG's new giant wooden troll will be decked out in holiday attire to cheer you on as you and the kids hike along.

Want to bake with your kids, without much of the hassle of baking with kids? Check out the Copper Pot Cooking Studio's 12 Days of Dough. My family and I did this last year, and it was fantastic. I loved being able to bake a wide variety of delicious cookies without using every single spatula and bowl in my kitchen. You'll receive a box with 12 delicious portioned-out doughs, as well as baking instructions and fun extras like sprinkles and icing (my kids' favorite part). Dough pickup is on Dec. 14 from 4-6 p.m., and if you donate some canned goods or hygiene items for Copper Pot's micropantry, you'll receive a free bag of homemade peppermint cocoa mix – yum! Order soon, as quantities are limited.

For the burgeoning young artists in your life, the Springfield Art Association offers both take-home holiday kits, as well as one-night-only workshops in the studio. These family-friendly holiday workshops are perfect opportunities to spend one-on-one time with your older child or teen, and to create special gifts that your children's loved ones will cherish forever (grandparent gifts, anyone?). Projects include both felt and hand-blown glass ornaments, ceramic snowman mugs, hand-painted wooden nutcrackers, colorful and edible gingerbread houses and much more.

Cold temperatures got your family climbing the walls? Cool off your cabin fever at the LRS Ice Rink, located on the Old State Capitol lawn. The 4,000-square-foot skating rink features smooth, synthetic and sustainably sourced ice, as well as stacked buckets for younger skaters to use to balance. Tickets and skate rentals should be arranged online ahead of your visit. The LRS ice rink is open from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Always a classic for younger kiddos, and returning in 2021, is the Henson Robinson Zoo's Holiday Zoo Lights series. In addition to a festive lights display, Holiday Zoo Lights will feature a hot cocoa bar, family photo opportunities and a firepit for marshmallow roasting and s'mores. Wondering if your child's favorite animal will be decking the halls? Henson Robinson's red wolves, Arctic fox, eagles, cougars, birds of prey and barnyard animals are all viewable during the winter. Zoo Lights has lots of available evenings, meaning fewer crowds. Buy your tickets ahead of time for any Friday-Sunday from Thanksgiving weekend until the New Year, with additional weekday evenings available during Christmas week.

Another returning event is the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon's Caroling at the Carillon! This glee-filled affair is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, from 3:30-5 p.m. Warm up your singing voices and join your neighbors to sing along to the carillon as its musicians play classic holiday carols. Spread out in the park and enjoy a bonfire and complimentary cookies and cocoa, courtesy of The Carillon Belles.

However you choose to celebrate, we wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer from Springfield who is looking forward to a relaxed holiday with her family.

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