published Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Baumgardner: Countdown to spring break, things to keep kids busy

By Julie Baumgardner

After the winter that was, everybody is looking forward to spring break. Well, sort of. If the plans are made and the trip is confirmed, the impatience and excitement are probably palpable. However, if you aren't planning on going anywhere, you might have a knot in the pit of your stomach from the anxiety of trying to come up with fun activities to do during your "staycation."

In this day and age, frugal, fun and free are not necessarily easy to come by when thinking about ways to entertain your children for an entire week.

For starters, pull the family together and brainstorm ideas for your break. Perhaps you set a money limit and, depending on the age of your kids, let them figure out all of the things they can do within your budget. This could be a great life lesson (you don't have to tell them that) about getting to do a lot of things that cost a little money or one big thing that blows the entire wad.

If they are struggling because "we've already done everything there is to do around here," perhaps you can give them a few tips from back in the day for fun things to do such as:

• A photo scavenger hunt. You come up with a list of things they have to find or do, and take pictures to document their find. Get creative about what you ask them to do.

• Make kites. Everything you need can be found at a craft store.

• Build a fort in your family room. This is great for a rainy day. Grab blankets and sheets and throw them over furniture, card tables, chairs, etc. to build your fort. Once it is complete, have a picnic inside the fort.

• Make playdough or goo. They're easy to make and everybody loves them.

• Go camping in the back yard. If you don't own a tent, borrow one and have a camp out in the backyard complete with s'mores.

• Pack a picnic and head out for the day. There are plenty of great parks in the area. Pack your quilt, Frisbee, wiffle ball and bat, and enjoy a relaxing day at the park.

• Build an obstacle course in the back yard or through the house. Let the kids build it and time each person who goes through it -- including you.

• Volunteer somewhere as a family. Find someone in your community who could use some assistance with their yard or planting a garden.

• Just hang out. There's nothing wrong with hanging out at home. You aren't a bad parent if every minute of the week isn't scheduled. It's actually good for children to have unscheduled time where they have to figure out how to entertain themselves.

nGet everyone involved in keeping a journal and taking pictures throughout your week. Then put everything together in a picture collage or scrapbook. It will make for fond memories and great stories around the dinner table.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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