I deliberately avoid using the term “staycation.” I don’t like it. It feels like a lame attempt to cover up the fact that my family’s not going away on vacation (which we aren’t) because it’s too expensive (which it is). Am I so desperate to feel like I’m part of the “vacation” scene that I’ll use a made-up word that rhymes with it?
Vacations are great, no question, but if you’re not travelling anywhere this spring, there are still ways to have fun with your kids while keeping the spending to a minimum.
IF YOU'RE AROUND HOME:
Mix something up. Yes, it’s messy, but having kids in the kitchen is positive in almost every other way. Choose a day with an open time frame so you don’t feel rushed. Give them cookbooks (ideally, with pictures) to flip through and see what catches their eye. Start with a simple recipe, like cookies or muffins, or let them build their own smoothie. They’ll be proud of the final product and it may pave the way to trying a new food.
Unplug. Designate a day (or half a day, if that’s more realistic for your household) that will be screen-free. Turn to old-school activities like toys, board games, colouring, crafts or Play-Doh. You can also let the kids brainstorm a theme, such as “Pajama Day” where everyone stays in their PJs and eats breakfast foods at every meal.
Turn junk into a craft. Pull out your existing supplies for an open crafting session using odds and ends – you know, those random, leftover pieces from past projects or craft kits. Dive into your recycling bin for containers, bottles and boxes that can be turned into pencil holders, robots, Hot Wheels parking garages or Shopkins houses.
Test a hypothesis. Not the crafty type? Maybe you’d rather host a do-it-yourself science camp and lead your kids in some wacky experiments. Check out Science Bob, Steve Spangler Science or Science Kids for ideas and instructions.
Tackle the toy bin. You don’t have to be a KonMari master to know that it’s satisfying to have everything organized and in its rightful place. This is a great opportunity to clean and declutter the playroom as a team – after all, your kids are likely the only ones who can confidently distinguish an LOL accessory from a LEGO one. Try a partitioned plastic container or empty egg carton to hold all the tiny pieces. You can also get a jump on spring cleaning by sorting items into categories such as Donate, Give Away, Sell Online and, if all else fails, Toss.
Embrace March Madness. Got a sports fan in the house? My kids don’t follow basketball all year, but they go bonkers for the annual NCAA college basketball tournament. Print out a bracket where your kids can predict the winning teams and track the scores. Set up an indoor or outdoor hoop so they can play along or make their own match-ups.
Test-drive an active video. Using a screen to help kids get active might sound like a stretch, but you’ll be a believer once you try GoNoodle, a free online library of high-energy movement videos. Its popularity is growing in schools, so your kids may already be familiar with the funky dances and goofy songs. If everyone needs to mellow out a bit, try Cosmic Kids Yoga, where a bubbly British instructor named Jaime provides simple kid-friendly poses to match a theme, such as Pokemon, Frozen, Harry Potter and Star Wars.
IF YOU WANT TO BE OUT AND ABOUT:
Take it outside. If your region still has snow on the ground, turn the kids loose for some unstructured winter play. If they’ve been begging you for more play time on the snow hill after school, head over there to have the schoolyard all to yourselves. If the weather turns mild, dig out your bin of spring toys and spend some time re-connecting with balls, jump ropes, Frisbees and bubble wands.
Redeem gift cards. If you’re like me, when you (or your child) receive a gift card, you immediately stash it away for safekeeping – and then forget about it entirely. This is the time to unearth gift cards that are only partially used or have been set aside since Christmas. Double-check all your best hiding spots (including that zippered section of your wallet that you rarely open) for some “found money” to put toward movies, shopping, restaurants or ice cream.
Swim or skate. Check your local community centre’s website to find out the public swimming and skating times. Certain time slots may be free of charge, while others require a small fee. Or, inquire at your nearest family fitness facility to see if they offer a complimentary one-week trial pass.
Book it. Your local library is a great resource for age-appropriate activities and workshops. Look up their programs online, or take the kids in for a visit and inquire while you’re browsing.
Trade up. Book a playdate with friends or cousins and make it a toy or book swap (according to your child’s comfort level, of course). Use your phone to take pictures of each child with the “borrowed” items, so everything can be properly returned later.
So, even if you’re not jetting away or hitting the road this spring, there is plenty of fun to be had close to home. Who needs a vacation, anyway?!