March break. The time of the year all kids look forward to and most parents dread. Why? Well, for starters, it’s smack-dab in the middle of winter. So, whether you’re travelling or staying home, your risk of being at the mercy of Mother Nature is pretty high (envision spending hours in an airport line-up with your five year old, or, literally power-less at home). If your budget is tight, as it is for most of us, you’re probably choosing to stay home for the break, offering a huge challenge - what to do with your kids for seven days straight?
My daughter is nine months old. Most of my time is spent trying to find fun and creative things to do with her every day. With that said, my options are pretty limited to Jolly Jumping, banging things together and chewing on everything in sight. So, with a little research and a little brain power, I came up with a few ideas for keeping your kids busy during the week.
I’m a Mom. I love lists. So here goes:
1. Organize a play-date for your child and a small group of his/her friends. Plan a fun activity to keep the kids busy, like Funky Fondue. In bowls, set out all sorts of candy, fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t normally be chocolate dipped (ju jubes, apricots, peppers, etc.). Warm up some broken chocolate bars or milk chocolate chips and let the kids go crazy! Imagine the combinations they’ll come up with… I’m curious about chocolate dipped red pepper! Or, let them make a brownie pizza. Bake brownies according to directions in a pizza pan. Once out of the oven, sprinkle milk chocolate chips allowing them to melt. Spread the melted chips over the top of the “pizza” and allow kids to decorate with whatever toppings they want - fruit, candy, nuts, etc. Obviously the point is to let them eat this when it’s all said and done so pre-warn parents that kids will be sent home with a little extra “energy” (a.k.a sugar high)!
2. Inspire your child’s inner HGTV guru. Spend the week re-decorating his/her playroom or bedroom. You can take this as far as you want to - may want to enlist Dad if you plan on bigger projects like painting. If you want to keep it simple, hit up your local Dollarstore for some canvas and paint to create new artwork for the walls. You can also find unfinished storage boxes, stools, etc. at Michaels for kids to paint and embellish however they want.
3. Act like a tourist in your own city. We rarely take the time to visit our local tourist hot spots. Sit down with your kids and choose 4-5 places you’d like to see or visit. Check out a different place every day - the zoo, the discovery centre, the museum, the park, etc.
4. Have theme days throughout the week and organize activities accordingly. For example, throw the rules out the window for a day - stay in your pj’s, have chocolate for breakfast, watch movies all day and so on. Have a “camping” day - set up a tent in your basement, eat s’mores, hot dogs and other campfire favourites on the floor outside your “campsite”. Go for a walk in the park instead of turning on the TV and let kids sleep in the tent for the night (or as long as they last down there). Other ideas - beach day (go swimming, eat summer-themed foods, etc.), spa day (for the girls), and so on.
5. What’s wrong with the classics? Pull out board games and movies from when you were a child (you may have to rent the dvd - hard to find a VHS player these days). Spend the week catching your kids up on the best of the best - Monopoly, Boggle, Grease, E.T., The Goonies, etc. Grease was my favourite movie growing up but may not be age appropriate for all (obviously I was advanced :p)! Older kids may roll their eyes at this one but it’s up to you to make it fun for all (e.g. come up with fun prizes for game winners - an extra hour of tv or a treat after supper).
6. Teach your kids to bake. Outline a week’s worth of fun recipes (think cupcakes, cookies, anything that makes a mess and tastes yummy). Not only is this fun but it teaches kids how to follow directions which is fabulous. What kid doesn’t love being Mom’s little helper?
We often scoot our kids out of the kitchen when we’re cooking - why not involve them for once?
If you’ve already got plans for the week but are looking for something to fill a few hours, here are a few other ideas if you’re working with a smaller time frame:
1. Sign up for a Home Depot Kids Workshop. Each Month, Home Depot stores offer workshops where kids can build their own project using pre-fabricated kits supplied by the stores (think bird houses, tool boxes, etc.). The workshops are held in-store and are offered for free for kids aged 5-12. If you have a large group of kids you may be able to organize your own little building party as well. Google “Home Depot Kids Workshop” to find out about workshops in your area.
2. Hide age-appropriate prizes or treats throughout your house for an indoor treasure hunt - use maps for younger kids and clues for older kids. My Mom did this for us at Easter until we were 16 and I actually was upset the year she stopped because I enjoyed it so much!
3. Have Dad challenge kids to a video game tournament (unless, like me, you’re the Rock Band champion of the house). Winner gets bragging rights and whatever else you want to offer up! This also guarantees Mom a little “me” time, if she so chooses.
Life is busy. It’s likely that in the time we spend together most days, we’re often not entirely present - thinking about that email we need to send or the project that’s overdue at work. One of the most important lessons I learned from my Mother was that if you continue to play with your kids, you’ll always have fun together. The ideas above are only as great as you make them. Participate. Laugh. Be a kid yourself. Be present.
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