What are you doing for spring break? If you’re like me, your feet are firmly planted in local soil this spring. So, unless your plans include a beach, your sand may be in a box, changing tides may be the emotional sort, and sunshine may be on the other side of a cold window.
Panic may be setting in. Your mind may begin to spin with thoughts like, “Am I supposed to have plans?” Or, “What AM I going to do with the kids all week?”
But all hope is not lost!
In preparation for my own staycation with two boys, 6 and 4, I crowdsourced ideas from my creative mom friends in response to this question:
What are your best cheap or free hacks for entertaining your kids without a screen?
Bonus points awarded for something that lasts at least a half hour.
Here’s what we came up with. Some crafty, some indoor, some outdoor and beyond. My hope is you’ll find a new idea that will help you and your kids enjoy your spring break staycation a little more than anticipated.
On a cold or rainy day, you can still get them moving indoors.
The Floor is Lava – Scatter pillows or large felt squares across the floor and tell them to avoid falling into the “lava.”
ABC Scavenger Hunt – Ask the kids to find objects that start with each letter of the alphabet and line them up A to Z.
Showtime! – Dancing literally shakes us out of an indoor funk. The Party Freeze Dance Song, I Like to Move It, and Tooty Ta are some of our favorites. My friend L. encourages her kids to make up secret handshakes, dance routines and battle scenes, and then put on a performance. Level up with costumes, signs, scripts and tickets. My kids like to put on shows with a play couch stage and a bag of musical instruments.
Arts and Crafts
When pretend play takes a turn into sibling rivalry, a little downtime at the craft table usually gives us a reset.
All the Tape – Use the painter’s variety for hanging kid artwork on any hard surface (you can even let them do it!) and creating “roads” on the floor. My friend A. keeps colorful washi tape on hand and lets her girls decorate and design to their hearts’ content.
Contact paper – Tape it to a window sticky-side-out and give them tissue paper squares to make a stained-glass design.
Toothpicks – Grab a bag of mini marshmallows and a pack of toothpicks, and let them build houses, shapes, letters, or whatever they can come up with.
Side note: Busy Toddler is my top pick for kid crafting ideas. I will literally search “busy toddler [insert random supply I have],” and Susie will tell me how to use it.
Outdoor and Beyond
With the right weather – or just the right gear – get them outside!
Upgrade your walk – Make it a scavenger hunt for items you may see along your route: a red bird, a bike, a worm, eight squirrels, something yellow.
Races – Use chalk to draw an obstacle course on the driveway, or simply time them running a circle around the house (the timer is such a motivator for my kids).
Public Freebies – Visit a new-to-you branch of your public library. Our library system offers story times, music programs, LEGO classes, telescope rentals, and play areas to name only a few of the amazing resources.
Want to know my favorite answer, from my friend N.? Let them figure it out, and be ok with them being bored. She says to her boys, “You’re a creative kid, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!” Or give them a breadcrumb, like challenging them to make something for a person they love.
We are programmed to over-program our kids, sometimes for our own sanity. I am totally guilty and often assume my role is to be Chief Activities Coordinator.
But as my fifth-grade teacher friend A. pointed out, she observes a lot of overprogrammed kids who never learned the art of being bored. Boredom is actually a life skill that can breed creativity and confidence.
With a little inexpensive creativity and fresh takes on old games, you can survive and even enjoy that upcoming spring break with your kids.
What are your favorite screen-free activities that don’t break the bank?