By Hannah Grieser

Finding fun and productive ways to fill the time when school’s out each December can be a challenge. With all the baking and shopping and wrapping to do on top of everything else, the weeks before Christmas can already feel overwhelming. And when the weather outside is frightful, keeping a group of restless kids busy can require more creativity than usual.

Some moms I know seem to transform into human Pinterest boards at this time of year, but I struggle to think up suitable activities that won’t break the bank or turn the kids into passive non-participants. You can only allow so many Christmas movies before you have to admit you’re just cheating.

Sure, we bake things. We hang lights. We tromp through the snow to cut down the annual fir tree. But beyond that, I’m often at a loss.

Even when they were little, my houseful of boys would usually rather pelt each other with snowballs than sit quietly constructing artificial ones out of glitter glue and styrofoam.

But one thing I love about this season is that it forces us to slow down and take notice of the things and people that are too easily overlooked during the normal hustle of carpools and basketball games and late-night study sessions.

There may not be any roses to stop and smell, but one of the simple ways I’ve found to draw attention to those overlooked details is through photography.

During the other seasons of the year, I tend to zoom out and photograph entire landscapes. But in winter, I love to stick closer to home. And I especially like to take my kids with me to see what we can find, often without ever leaving the neighborhood—or even our backyard.

To enjoy a little photo session, you don’t have to be an art expert or a master baker or a craft queen. You don’t even need a fancy camera; the phone in your pocket will do. The only rule is this: to capture the little things.

Nothing is too ordinary to care about. And some subjects will present more of a challenge than others. Together you can hunt for single perfect snowflake or find the longest icicle or listen for winter birds, or spot an autumn leaf still hanging on for dear life. Or maybe, if the timing’s just right, you’ll discover the local moose enjoying some holiday R & R across the street. Then see if you can catch those moments on camera.

Afterward, you can warm up with a cup of peppermint cocoa and show each other what you captured—or enjoy a good laugh at what you failed to catch.

It’s nothing fancy, I know. It’s not going to land your kids a job with National Geographic or win you any prizes for the most spectacular Christmas craft. But that’s not the point. The point is to sit up and take notice together of the breathtaking wonder of all the little things God has placed within our reach, and to love them—and each other—more deeply as a result.