I don't know about you but this extended winter and cold has worn me down. Thoughts of Spring Breaks of yore have me longing for sun, sand and surf. Since we took our family holiday earlier this year and enjoyed a reprieve from this wretched weather, we'll be hanging back in our hometown to chill (let's hope not literally) and hopefully play a bit during March Break.
And as tempting as it would be to run and book a last minute getaway, I am reminded that as a working mom I have to work. And as a working mom, I have to still set time aside to give the kids a chance to experience some fun and get a "break" during their prized week off.
Now, I've been on this rodeo about six times too many. Unless I am going away I find that planning, juggling, coordinating and paying for March Break activities can be daunting. Who am I kidding, I find it exhausting. And them some uber mom starts sharing her perfectly planned March Break activities replete with themed lunches and tea parties, daily set dressing (of her Frozen-themed house no less) and perfectly planned play dates and outings. All with her perfectly happy kids for the rest of us to marvel at.
Yeah well....I'm over it.
If you too have possibly exhausted every family farm and play place, and may be looking for some simpler things to do, here are some tips and ideas for how to plan and survive the March Break without too much expense, or guilt, and create some adventures and memories along the way. Remember these don't have to be all day events, just "breaks" throughout the week.
1. Don't over-schedule your kids. As temping as it is to plan for activities every day, even kids need some down time. Schedule a lazy play day at home. You'll be amazed by the creativity or just sheer laziness that ensues. The fact is a lazy day allows for the break many kids need and appreciate.
2. Let someone else do the driving. Take transit and make the journey to the destination part of the adventure. It's a relatively inexpensive outing. And taking the bus or train, say to an indoor market or the city, make encourage them to actually look up from their devices to catch the sites whizzing by.
3. Navigating a Treasure Hunt. Geocaching is a fun way to get the kids out and exploring while learning about navigation. There are many apps out there that allow you to use your phone to navigate anywhere you land in the world. These are so popular that people of all walks of life leave tokens and trinkets (as should you) that make this experience a glorified treasure hunt.
4. Create a fun scavenger hunt. Or simply create your own scavenger hunt with as many kids as your want. Divide into one or more teams, write out some funny yet cryptic clues and keep them guessing as they explore the landmarks around your home (like mailboxes, your neighbour's tree, under the slide at the park, behind your backyard fence, etc.). Some simple parts of the scavenger hunt could include finding a leaf in the snow, smiling at a neighbor, taking a selfie with a street sign, picking up a piece of trash. Yes it's silly, but this ties in elements of fun, exploration and teamwork. It really only takes about 10 minutes of planning. Even better have the kids take turns writing out the clues for each other.
5. Purge and Plan. With spring-cleaning on the horizon, use one day to encourage kids to purge their rooms with an eye on having a garage sale. Create three piles -- save, share or sell. Not only will they get into a habit cleaning out their rooms and recycling gently used items, they can plan to have a garage sale and use them money to save or spend.
6. Play Games. Remember those? Disconnect and get out those board games that are collecting dust. A lazy day is perfect for a lengthy board game. This is the perfect opportunity to teach them chess, checker or backgammon. But not Monopoly, no one likes a hoarder or a gloating banker!
7. Take Off Eh? There are lots of model rockets out there for kids that require adult supervision -- this would be a good time to teach kids a bit about physics and rocket engineering while launching rockets (and who doesn't love a good rocket launch). Many kids' models are reusable so you can experiment with trajectories and different climate/wind conditions. My three daughters LOVE this and each have their own now.
8. Slip and Slide. Now this may be tricky depending on where you live. As long as there's snow on the ground there's a playground afoot for young and old. All you need is a helmet (my Paramedic husband insists) and your preferred transport -- a sled, cardboard box or even a plastic bag. Remind them to check their landing point for rocks and bushes and to always have a spotter.
9. Get Gardening. This is the perfect time to start seedlings for the spring. Get some regular or organic vegetables, herbs or spices and start growing them in a glass bowl or low vase lined with wet cotton balls. Sprinkle the seeds, add some water and cover with saran wrap. You'll be able to watch the seed sprout over the course of the week and will soon have actual seedlings to transfer into pots or growth packs.
10. Maple Magic. That sweet nectar so near and dear to Canadians is at its prime right now. We're heading into maple syrup season and with that comes festivals, pancake lunches and horse-drawn carriage rides. While most of these festivals are in Ontario and Quebec there are a few in other provinces around the country, primarily the Maritimes. Here is a listing of festivals around Ontario (scroll down the maple festivals tab to search by region): http://www.ontariomaple.com/pages/greater_toronto_area/ and across Canada: http://www.bbcanada.com/bb_traveller/edition112/
11. HomeEc 101. Create a cooking school for the kids. Schools don't seem to teach Home Ec anymore yet with busier lives wouldn't getting off lunch duty be a help? Most kids aged 9 and up are capable of making a healthy balanced lunch for themselves, it's just the prep that scares most parents. Use this time to create a cooking class to teach how to use a knife properly, how to portion out snacks into containers and how to properly use measuring dishes.
12. Get Organized. I know some people are really good at this but I think most of us just have good intentions. This is the perfect time to ask kids to go through their art piles. Have them pick their favorite pieces to keep and let them take pictures of the ones they'd like to remember online. There are some online photobook services that will allow you to create a professional digitized photobook.
13. Give Back. Volunteer some time at a soup kitchen, animal shelter or with a local non-profit. You are never too young to learn the importance of community outreach. And helping others fosters a sense of understanding and appreciation for members of our community, while hopefully giving kids an appreciation for how much they already have.
14. Snack Attack. Plan for lots of snack breaks, most kids have a recess between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., lunch between 12-1 and possibly another break between 2-3. If you have time, pick up some healthy snacks like nuts, pretzels and dried fruits along with some fun treats and have kids create their own trail mix (with favorably portions of the healthy stuff).
15. Be Camera Ready. Whatever you do always bring your camera and take candid shots. Kids usually aren't fans of posed shots so take some on the sly; those can capture the best moments. You can guarantee some "memorable" shots of those crazy excursions you planned for them as kids if you shoot it at just the right angle i.e. not straight on.
16. Book Now! If by day two you're ready to call in the reinforcements, then that's a pretty good reminder to book your summer camps now before you limit your options. Gauge your kids' interests and get them to do some searches. Same goes for cottages and getaways. Involve kids in the search process for your summer getaway and teach them about the different transport options, have them map out routes and have them search local activities as well as interesting historical or cultural facts.
17. Play Dates. Seems simple enough but again, plan ahead. If you work from home, coordinate play dates with 1-2 other parents. This will give all of you a chance to work and get some fun time with the kids.
18. Coupon! If you do decide to head to any of the popular play options or waterparks, know there are always deals to be had. There are lots of coupon codes, corporate and affiliate (alumni, CAA or credit card) discounts out there...and don't be shy to ask for specials. Most booking agents and customer service reps know what promos are out there and are willing to share them if you ask nicely.
19. Learn to Camp. Check out Parks Canada's website for camping opportunities throughout the country. They have camping boot camps you and your family can attend that will teach basic camping and survival skills that you can use all year long. www.pc.gc.ca
20. Pack a picnic. You don't even have to go anywhere. If you've got a tablecloth to spare, you can spread it out in an open area and pretend. The caveat to this one is to have the kids help you wash, prepare and package your fare. This is a great opportunity for them to select healthy snacks and balance them with treats.
21. Explore Local! There are many wonderful kid-friendly businesses in your hood that have special days planned including regional farms, rec centres/YMCA and art or sports venues that have activities planned. You don't have to venture far to have a great experience. Most cities, towns and local MPP offices list them on their websites.
22. Give 'em a treat! Teach your kids to make your own homemade five-ingredient "Nutella." Here's one of my kids favorite recipes that their friends have now learned to make:
Healthy Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Serves Two (or one if you LOVE it)
· 2 tablespoons of unsweetened almond butter or almond hazelnut butter (or sunflower seed butter if nut free)
· 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup
· 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa
· 1 teaspoon of organic extra virgin coconut oil
· 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla
· a dash of sea salt if you wish
Recipe courtesy of Kathy Smart: http://livethesmartway.com/what-chocolate-for-breakfast/
So keep calm and plan on...it's only March Break.
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