THE BLOG
11/27/2013 02:12 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

Enjoy the Spirit of the Season With Family

The holiday season is a time of hustle and bustle -- running around to purchase gifts and spending hours cooking, decorating and preparing for guests. The season also is a time for family fun and togetherness -- enjoying a break from work, school and other responsibilities to gather and celebrate special traditions. But time with family often gets pushed to the side during the holiday rush. And it can be a challenge to persuade family members to limit their time on digital devices - especially new gadgets -- to enjoy quality time together.

Research shows that families who spend quality time together -- during the holidays and all year round -- have a stronger emotional bond. Spending time as a family is also associated with better communication amongst family members and children. Children who actively spend time with their parents and other family members do better in school and are less likely to have behavioral problems.

Amid the busyness of the season, it is essential to remember that the most important part of the holidays is spending quality time with those you love. Following are some ideas to limit time on digital devices and get your family communicating and enjoying time with one another during the holiday season.

Cook Together -- With many meals and treats to prepare for holiday gatherings, including everyone in the process is a great way to enjoy time together. Making favorite family recipes is an opportunity to reminisce and share family stories. This is also a perfect time to teach children about cooking and nutrition. And it is a great way for children to keep their math and reading skills sharp during their break from school as well as learn science concepts through various cooking techniques.

Shop for Gifts -- While some items may need to be purchased without family members present, shopping is another great way to enjoy seasonal activities with each other. Children can help brainstorm creative gift ideas, and as a learning opportunity, can keep track of spending and budget remaining.

Create Holiday Greeting Cards -- With children, write cards or letters to family members who are out of town. This is a great opportunity for children to practice their handwriting as well as promote grammar, spelling and creative writing. It is also a great way to keep in touch with distant relatives.

Explore Your City -- Every city offers opportunities to enjoy the spirit of the season and time together as a family. Many local zoos feature light displays and other festivities to celebrate the season. In addition to enjoying holiday activities, visiting a local museum, seeking out historic sites or seeing a play at a local theater are other great ways to spend time together.

Play Board Games -- Playing games during holiday get-togethers is a great way to bring families closer and enjoy quality time together. There are many great games that are fun for all ages and keep friendly competition alive into the evening.

Enjoy Snow Days -- Whether it's building a snowman or hitting the slopes, a snow day is a great opportunity to get outside and participate in physical activity as a family.

And every day . . . Read -- Literacy is critical for student success and families are the key to the development of children's literacy skills. Winter break is a great time to visit your local library. And reading with children is a great way to spend time together, while helping them achieve academically.

While shopping, cooking, decorating and gift wrapping, remember that the most important part of the holiday season is spending time with the people most important in your life. And when gathering together, enjoy quality time with one another. The holiday season is a time to celebrate special traditions together, create new memories and grow closer as a family.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA, a nonprofit association dedicated to being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities and a strong advocate for public education. In addition to leading National PTA, Thornton is a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics and a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel.