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Have Fun the Day After

On the day after Christmas last year, my 4-year-old, Kate, woke up and started searching under the tree for the one present she might have missed. There was nothing there, but that didn't stop her. She simply wasn't ready for the holidays to be over. All day long, she'd pitifully inquire about exactly when Santa would come again, my answer clearly never the one she'd wanted.

As Kate examined the barren space beneath the tree and looked for the stockings I had already taken down, I felt pure joy. Joy over the fridge full of leftovers (no cooking for a few days), the houseguests all gone, and my shopping, wrapping, and entertaining behind me. Life suddenly felt wonderfully uncomplicated. The truth is, I felt like my holiday was just beginning.

But while many a mom might be excited to get on with the new year and leave the stress and to-dos of Christmas behind, a child's desire to savor one more moment of gift giving, celebrating, and family togetherness can be a challenge. That's why the key to enjoying the day after (and the ones after that) is to have some interesting new activities at the ready that'll keep the troops from crashing and burning after their holiday high. To make the 26th of December special in its own way:

1. Read together Read your child's favorite holiday books to him one last time next to the tree or by the fire, boxing them up as you finish each one.

2. Make it "Dog Day" Odds are that your four-legged pal's been without a walk or much attention all week. Declare that the 26th is Canine Christmas, and have a pooch party. Make some dog decorations with markers or crayons and construction paper and hang them around the house. Spruce up your pet with a few holiday ribbons and bows. Wrap up dog treats in small packages, and let him sniff his presents before you open them with him. Serve doggy bones on holiday paper plates. When you're done, take him on a long walk.

3. Pull out the presents Have your kids line up all (or some) of the new toys on the floor or on a table and spend the morning examining and playing with each one. The two-for-one bonus: You can take photos of your children with each toy or book that was sent from family or friends who weren't around on the holiday. Then, when you print out or develop the pictures, jot down what your child loves most about the present on the back of the photo, and slip it in an envelope to mail for a quick and easy personalized thank-you note.

Barbara Rowley, a mother of two in Big Sky, Montana, is halfway through writing a novel about motherhood.