Whether you’ve got a movie-mad budding filmmaker on your hands or a science-minded kid who’s crazy about biology, we’ve got your back. Filling March break with interesting activities that have kid-appeal can be a daunting task—which is why we’ve curated five projects that can each be spread over the span of five days. Consult the kids to see which one best suits their interests, stock up on a few supplies this weekend, and you’ll be ready to start the school break with some serious fun—and, with any luck, stave off the dreaded March break madness.
Film your own stop-motion animated movie trailer
Because everybody wants to be a director these days.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A camera-equipped smartphone or tablet, your favourite movie making app, LEGO minifigures or other small toys, Play-Doh or other kinds of colourful clay (find a recipe to make your own here). Extras: an old shoebox and some construction paper, scissors, markers, and any other basic craft materials that can be used to build a set.
MONDAY: Begin the project with a brainstorming session focussed on what kind of movie the trailer will be based on. Questions to ask them: Who are the main characters? What do they look like? Are they human? What kind of adventure would you like them to have? What are the most exciting parts of that adventure? Where will it take place? What will the movie be called? Their answers will make up the mini “script” for the trailer and highlight which scenes to shoot. Ask them to make drawings of their characters and the set.
TUESDAY: Put out a casting call! By which we mean choose the minifigs that will star in the trailer or build original characters using clay. This is also a good day for set design and building. Remove one of the long sides of the shoe box using scissors and use the remaining platform as the stage on which the action will be set. Get the kids to decorate it using the supplies we mentioned under “extras”.
WEDNESDAY: Lights, camera, action! Now that the script, characters and set are ready to go, it’s time to get this thing in the can, err, iPad. Follow the easy to use instructions on the LEGO app, shooting the scenes indicated by your kids’ answer to the “most exciting parts of the adventure” question above. This thing’s sure to be the summer’s biggest blockbuster.
THURSDAY: No movie trailer is complete without an epic soundtrack. The LEGO app includes a feature that lets kids compose their own. Get them to make and try out a few versions to set the right mood for their upcoming release.
FRIDAY: Schedule an after dinner screening complete with popcorn (and a planning session to begin production on the feature-length film version as soon as summer vacation begins).
Build an ecosystem
If you’re not the kind of parent who can abide the thought of a lizard/spider/snake escaping from its pet habitat and making itself comfortable somewhere else in your house, a creature-free terrarium is a great option.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A clear glass container with an opening big enough for your kids to easily get their hands into (and most importantly out of—large mason jars are a great thing to upcycle for this), one or two small plants suited to terrarium life (for a list, go here), soil, polished pebbles (or marbles, or sea glass), sheet moss, scissors, spoons, a funnel. Extras: small plastic animals or other tiny plastic toys to decorate with and a pair of long tweezers to place items with, a notebook and pencil crayons for their plant journal.
MONDAY: Getting kids involved in the gathering of supplies is a fun step for this project. Are there any large glass jars in the blue bin that can be washed and used for this? Can pebbles and soil be collected from the yard? What about tiny plastic toys—do they have any that would like to live in the terrarium?
TUESDAY: Pick a plant (but not just any plant—see the link above for a list of suggestions). A trip to a nursery can be lots of fun for a kid interested in science. Here they can check out all kinds of plants they wouldn’t get to see in their own yards, pick out one for the terrarium, and get the required moss and pebbles for the project, too.
WEDNESDAY: Time to put everything together: start with a layer of pebbles at the bottom for drainage, add a layer of dampened moss, then use the spoon and funnel to add soil. Kids can reach in to even out the layers with their hands. Plant plants the way you would in a garden (by scooping out a shallow hole, loosening up the root ball, adding more soil around the base and patting it down). Use tweezers or hands to place one or two toys inside the plant jungle. Don’t forget to water!
THURSDAY: Teach your kids how to take care of their new ecosystem. While it’s not a snake or lizard, a plant is still a living thing and requires their (occasional) attention. Show them the tag that came with the plant they chose and talk about the instructions for watering and light exposure. Help them pick a spot in the house where the plant will get the amount of sun it needs.
FRIDAY: Start a plant journal. Ask your kids to give their plant a name and draw a picture of the way it looks now. Get them to write a description of its size, shape, and colour. When summer vacation begins, have them revisit the journal to draw and write about any changes their plant has undergone.
Create your own comic book or manga
Is there a single kid out there who isn’t into superheroes? Here’s a chance for them to invent their own and tell their hero’s story.
WHAT YOU NEED:
Drawing and writing implements (fine-tipped markers, pencil crayons, pens, and pencils), a ruler, an eraser, blank paper or an empty sketchbook. Extras: a comic book or manga for inspiration, printed comic book template pages (that you can print for free here), a stapler, washi tape.
MONDAY: Start the project off by helping your kids craft the story of their superhero or main character: ask them what kinds of powers they have, who their friends are, and if they have enemies. Where do they live? Do they have a cape or a mask? What do they do all day? What kind of escapades will they get up to in the story? If you’re not printing off templates, draw them using a ruler and black marker or pen. Keep cells bigger for little kids whose drawing skills aren’t as refined
TUESDAY: Fill in the comic book cells with drawings that show the progression of the story. Do this in pencil—colour and outlines will come later. Advise kids to draw some speech bubble for their characters and to leave some small cells empty for text. Don’t forget to make a cover!
WEDNESDAY: Fill in the story and dialogue. Again, use pencil. The option to go over the text in fine-tipped marker comes next.
THURSDAY: Today things get colourful. Hand over the pencil crayons or markers and let kids colour in their new comic book. If they’re into it, they can also go over the pencilled-in text with a fine-tipped black marker. If the book is made up of loose pages, staple them down the spine (and cover the spine with colourful washi tape if you have some).
FRIDAY: Now for the best part: reading the comic book your kids created together!
Make an origami mobile
Arts-inclined kids will love learning about this centuries-old artform, practiced in Japan since 1680.
WHAT YOU NEED:
Origami paper, string or fishing line, pencil crayons or markers, clear glue, glitter, a hole punch, a wire clothes hanger or an embroidery ring.
MONDAY: No idea how to fold origami animals? No problem. The internet is full of sites that have easy to follow instructions (we like this one because it has both diagrams and animated instructions for all kinds of shapes). Let kids practice folding several shapes to find out which creatures they are best at or like the most.
TUESDAY: Turn your kitchen table into a paper-folding factory. Six to ten shapes will be needed for the mobile, but get kids to fold extra so that they can choose their favourites to be part of the final project.
WEDNESDAY: Decorate the shapes with paint, glitter, crayons, marker, or whatever your kids like. Add faces to animals or cover them in crazy designs.
THURSDAY: Time to assemble the mobile. For more complicated mobiles, this can be a tricky balancing act. To avoid frustration (and possible meltdowns) we recommend a simple base for the structure: a wire clothes hanger or an embroidery ring. As long as the origami animals are evenly spaced. balance shouldn’t be an issue. Use a small hole punch to affix different lengths of fishing line or string to the animals and tie them across the bottom of the hanger. If you’re using the embroidery ring, cut lengths of fishing line that are a bit longer—you’ll want enough excess line so that each strand comes together above the mobile and can be tied in a loop (for an example, look here).
FRIDAY: Now for the big decision: where to hang your amazing new mobile! Talk to your kids about where they think the mobile should live, whether that means the best spot in their bedrooms or the best place in the house. Then help them hang it—a screw eye is likely your best option.
Put on a puppet show
The appeal of this low-tech, old-school option is still strong for creative kids with a theatrical streak.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A puppet theatre (this can be anything from an oversized cardboard box to curtains you rig up between two chairs), puppets (all those sock singles in your drawer are about to get a new lease on life). Extras: notebooks, markers, construction paper, felt, yarn, buttons, googly eyes and other basic craft supplies.
MONDAY: Arm your future playwrights with notebooks and drawing implements. Help them come up with a story outline or suggest one of their favourite books to adapt for the stage. Suggest they draw what their characters will look like and what the world the characters live in will look like.
TUESDAY: Consult the character sketches your kids made on Monday and use them for inspiration in making sock puppets. If your kids are old enough, this is a great opportunity to teach them some basic sewing skills. If not, we love double sided tape for sticking on button eyes and felt mouths.
WEDNESDAY: It’s theatre day. Build, assemble, or decorate the stage. While a big old cardboard box is ideal, the puppet theatre doesn’t have to be fancy—but it can be. If you’re going with something simpler (say chairs, an old curtain, and a curtain rod) encourage kids to spend the extra time composing a song for their play. An easy way to get started on this is to ask them to choose a well-known favourite and make up their own lyrics.
THURSDAY: The countdown to the big performance is on. Thursday can be spent rehearsing the play and crafting handmade paper tickets for theatre goers.
FRIDAY: It’s showtime! Gather round for an evening at the (puppet) theatre—and make sure you bring your tickets.