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March Break is here, whether your family is ready for it or not. And typically, this week of school-free children doesn’t come cheap. According to BDO, last year the average Canadian family planned to spend just under $600 on activities for the week.

Who exactly is getting the “break” here?

Luckily, March Break doesn’t have to drain your bank account. There are loads of free activities that will keep your kids entertained and engaged. Here’s a list of March Break family fun with our favourite price tag: free-ninety-nine.

Be an explorer

City park, provincial park, national park, whatever, just get out there and explore. Play! Run! Ski! Take photos! Have a snowball fight! Pick a nearby provincial or city park you haven’t been to, pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

Get aquatic centred

Nothing tuckers out the little terrors like a few hours treading water. Tim Hortons is once again hosting nation-wide swim events at various community pools, footing the bill for your kids in celebration of March Break. For more details and full listings visit their website.

Spend time around books

If you happen to be a parent who doesn’t regularly take your kids to the library, know this: you are missing out! Canada’s library system is alive and well, and many libraries offer children’s reading programs and all sorts of other activities. Check out your local library’s website, or better yet, drop in with the kids to see what they’ve got going on over the break.

Meet a hero

Touring a fire station may not seem like a screaming awesome way to spend an afternoon to you, but your 11-year-old may beg to differ. With many local fire departments offering free tours, March Break is the perfect time to meet the real everyday heroes who battle blazes and answer the call of duty in those big red trucks. Open Google and search “fire and emergency services” plus the name of your town. The city website should be able to direct you to the right spot to see about tours. We did it for Hamilton, Ontario, as an example here.

Visit a toy store and don’t bring your wallet

Going to Toys “R” Us is a big deal for most kids (and some adults) — its aisles are full to overflowing of expensive plastic and plush temptations. Take the cheap route this and attend one of the free events held Monday through Friday of March Break from 11 am to 1 pm at participating locations. They’re hosting giveaways, make-and-take crafting sessions and more.

Support a farmer

They may pout and drag their heels at the grocery store, but take your kids to an indoor farmers market and watch boredom turn to wonder. This can be free — snag a few sausage samples and a couple cherry tomatoes — or you can get some of your grocery store shopping out of the way at the same time. Teach your little ones how to pick out the best produce, and maybe even a thing or two about negotiating.

How do you say “free babysitting” in Swedish?

The younger members of your family probably don’t get the same kick out of wandering around IKEA that you do, but they might this March. The Swedish brand offers a bunch of activities for those who’ve yet to acquire the taste for shelf shopping, including scavenger hunts, crafts and performances by magicians and children’s musicians. To see if and where you can get your family in on the action, visit your local store’s site.

Embrace your inner Irish on St. Patty’s Day

No, we don’t mean by getting buzzed on green beer and kissing people. If your town is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, March 17th, take part in that. But if you’re in a smaller community, host your own celebrations. Hit the dollar store and pick up some green supplies like construction paper, pom-poms and food colouring. Have the kids cut out and decorate four leaf clovers, or bake (okay, or buy) some plain cupcakes and have a St Patrick’s Day decorating competition.