March Break is upon us (already?!) and that means it’s time for a game plan. But preparing a jam-packed schedule of activities and excursions is not necessarily the secret to success. We understand that keeping the kids busy is important, but you shouldn’t have to pull your own hair out to get through it.
So, instead of just offering up suggestions on how to entertain the kids, we’re going to arm you with strategy. The following tips will help you attack March Break this year while keeping the kids happy and your sanity in tact.
1. Start and end with a bang
March Break doesn’t necessarily mean non-stop exciting entertainment all week (that would overwhelm even the best of us). Kick off the break with something fun, perhaps an excursion that you’ve been wanting to experience with the kids. Think museum, aquarium or the movie theatre. By ending the week in the same fashion, you’ll be giving the kids something to look forward to. (It’ll also give you a good-behaviour bribing tool!)
2. Don’t break the bank
If there’s one thing that surely leads to parental insanity, it’s overspending. Having a few ideas planned that cost money are okay, but be sure to mix in low-cost activities, too.
3. Don’t mess with their routine
Just because March Break is about relaxing and having fun doesn’t mean that the typical day-to-day routine should be completely tossed out the window. A special late night or a favourite dessert can (and should!) totally be incorporated into the week. But things like proper meals and appropriate bedtime routines are key when it comes to keeping your happy, well-adjusted kid from turning into Demon McCrabbypants.
4. Make them part of your routine
If you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent, you likely already have your day-to-day routine set in stone. By completely rearranging your normal schedule to accommodate the kiddos, you’ll feel frazzled and out of control by the week’s end. Instead, work the buggers into your existing routine. Blast music throughout your home and have everyone help with the chores one day. Do you like to work on your computer in the afternoons? Make that chunk of the day “chill time” for the kids with reading, watching a movie or playing board games. Skip your workout at the gym and head outdoors so that everyone can get physical together.
5. Go easy on yourself
And don’t feel guilty about it, either. We all wish we had a little more Martha Stewart and a little less Pinterest-fail in us at times. But we also need to be realistic. Instead of planning and preparing themed crafts, let the kids choose random materials at the dollar store and go buck wild with their own creativity. Instead of grandiose meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking with the kids, let each family member choose something already in the house that they want included in that night’s dinner – then make a giant smorgasbord of everyone’s favourites. (Even if they don’t go together. At. All.) The point is, a lot of fun can be had without major stress on your part.
6. Coordinate with other parents
Share the burden, people. Arrange a full-day or half-day play date that involves shipping the kiddos off one day, and having all of them at your place the next day. Sanity = you having a bit of time to yourself, too.
7. Split the duties
Much like coordinating with other parents, you should be sure to coordinate with your own partner, too. Decide in advance if there will be whole-family activities taking place throughout the week, and which days and nights each parent should be responsible for.
8. Give them space
If you’re like most on-the-go mamas, you probably don’t get a ton of quality time to spend with your kids during an average week. So, with March Break upon us, we understand your urge to spend every moment with them – regardless of the activities you may or may not have planned. But here’s the thing. Your kiddos (as much as they love you), may be looking forward to some solo time, too. Remember that this is their break from the stresses and structure of school. Make the most of the time they want to spend with you, but cut them some slack if they’re craving alone time. Forcing them into activities or family time for the entire break will drive you ALL insane.
9. Have boredom alternatives
At some point during the week, you’re going to hear the cries of, “I’m bored” – it’s inevitable. But once again, it doesn’t mean you need to wrack your brain preparing an hourly breakdown of scheduled activities in order to survive the week. Instead, have an I’m Bored Jar on hand for desperate times. Fill it with simple ideas that require minimal effort from you, or feel free to mix in some suggestions that will require your involvement. Think fashion show with items from mom and dad’s closet, lip synching contest with siblings and friends or making a movie using an old video camera.
10. Avoid the hot spots
This might seem contradictory, but try not go where everyone else is going on March Break. If hot spots can be avoided, it’s probably a good idea to do so – or at least be smart about where and when you’re going. Local play places, for example, could end up being more disappointing than fun for kids if they’re overly crowded. If you do plan on hitting up a play place, call ahead to get a feel for the least busy times, and be sure to reserve a spot in advance. Seeing the newest animated movie with the family would be fun – but choose a day where there are multiple showtimes to avoid too much congestion at one time and skip the late afternoon/early evening showings when everyone else is likely to go. And through it all, repeat this mantra: Think smart, stay sane.
11. But above all, be realistic
Even with a solid game plan, you need to have realistic expectations. This probably isn’t going to be the week you get ahead on housework, even if it happens to be the first week you’ve taken off in two years. Weather may not cooperate on the day you’re hoping for some outdoor playtime, and the ideal movie showing might occur right when your youngest decides to fall asleep on the couch. Hey, that’s alright. The main thing is spending time with your loved ones, giving them space when they need it and not stressing too hard about those brand new grey hairs. (Thanks a lot, March Break.)