We really wanted to go to Hawaii for Spring Break. Apparently so did a lot of other people because airfare was through the roof. Add that to the hotel and food costs and we were looking at a $5,000 trip. Gas prices are ridiculous too. $70 bucks to fill up a 20-gallon tank is pretty painful. Two pairs of shoes every time! So we opted for a staycation instead of a vacation.
I took the week off work, and then I started to panic... what am I going to do to keep them occupied and entertained? I wracked my brain for things to do in town with the kiddos, who are 5 and 2. I commiserated with other moms, many of who are stay-at-home and thus experts at keeping little ones from getting bored... on a budget. And here are a few ideas we came up with.
Picnic-Indoors or Out
For some reason, kids love picnics. My kids beg me to go, no matter the weather. There have been many a winter day when we spread a blanket right on the living room floor and nibbled on Girl Scout cookies and tiny sandwiches. There's something about eating away from the dining table that makes it special and fun and my kids can't get enough. We've also had "Beach parties" in the living room as well... with umbrellas and beach towels and slushy drinks. The sky's the limit!
But yesterday, the weather cooperated, a gorgeous 68 degrees, and we packed a picnic (pb&j, fruit and string cheese for the kids... wine, brie and bread for the moms) and headed to the park. It was a win-win... the little buggers ate their meals without their typical complaining and they played to the point of exhaustion.
Grown Up Fun
What little princess doesn't love to get pampered. My daughter can't wait to grow up and that means doing what mommy does. So we got dressed up and going to an adorable local tea house, Victoria Rose Cottage in Clovis. She drank with her pinky up and had croissants and scones. Obviously this is also something we can do at home as well. Now that she's old enough I'll even go ahead and bust out the fine china -- it hardly gets used anyways, right? Another fun at-home activity she's been asking for, is to have a mommy-daughter spa day. One of her favorite books is Ooh La La It's Beauty Day. In it, Nancy treats her mom to a mani, pedi, mask, etc. I don't know if I'll let her paint my nails... but she loves when I do hers.
Nothing like digging in the dirt to provide hours of fun. This is the perfect time of year to plant a garden, and gives kids a sense of accomplishment and something to look forward to.
Help children pick a place that's all theirs. Keep it kid-sized so they don't get overwhelmed. Let the gardeners-in-training mark their plot with a low decorative border they can paint themselves. Kids have small hands -- give them tools they'll be able to use. Having their very own trowels, rakes, shovels, gloves, watering cans (the Dollar Tree has cute ones) adds to the fun. Kids won't get discouraged with proven winners like bright and pretty zinnias, marigolds and poppies.
Climb, jump, swim
We have an awesome local climbing gym called Metalmark. We have a trampoline arena called SkyWalk. I believe The Little Gym, Swim America and TumbleAmerica have kids camps or free play sessions. What's great about these places is, many of them set aside times for certain age groups. That way, my toddler isn't trying to hold his own among 12-year-olds.
We totally underutilize our local public library. My kindergarten-aged daughter has just discovered the joy of reading and can't get enough of her favorite books. Our bedtime stories now consist of her reading to me. We've created a reading challenge for her over spring break, so if she reads a certain number of books, she'll earn a prize. So a trip to the library becomes something she looks forward to. No brain drain... instead of being parked in front of a TV, she's practicing her reading skills.
Fresno is lucky to have the Chaffee Zoo... but even if you don't you can go on an animal safari. Come up with a list of animals you might find at your local lake, zoo, or park, and make your kids into explorers, armed with cameras. A regular walk becomes an adventure and the kids can put together a photo journal.
Equipped with their imaginations and only a few inexpensive supplies, your kids (and perhaps a friend or two) can go on an adventure. Small tents are inexpensive (many under $50). A couple of flashlights, some comic books, board games, and snacks will make your little ones giggle and feel ever so cool as they sleep under the stars! You can even cheat and use your grill or gas burners to make smores.
Suprise Jar of Fun
With your children, come up with a variety of low-cost activities that they want to do. Everyone, ideally, should agree that the choices are plausible and fun! Let each child, and adults, if you wish, take turns choosing a random slip. Some ideas you can include are kite flying, pizza-making, a visit to the science museum, etc.