Our family took a few days away last week, and it reminded me of how great it is to set aside time for fun! No, holidays for the mama are not always “restful” in the usual sense… but the change of scene from home, routines and the joy that comes from seeing your kids delighted provides a refreshment all on its own. And it made me realize that I need to make sure we get a “stay-cation” in for the remainder of our spring break.
I have to admit, making time to simply play doesn’t come easy for me! It’s a real challenge to NOT fill my time up with projects, tackling the cleaning or just “getting stuff done.” So for those of us, who perhaps ironically, find it hard to MAKE time to rest (or to spend money on “rest”), here are some “stay-cation” ideas that help us truly enjoy our entry into spring- and feel like we’ve had a break from the everyday! And will save us some money too while we have fun with our kids!
1) Mark the calendar
It’s easy to say “we’re on holidays” but unless you set it apart as something very distinctly different, it’s easy to have the time gobbled up by pressing, everyday needs. It should take just as much planning and intention as it would to book a real vacation.
Turn off the phone & computer. Even take a few moments to set up an “auto-response” on your email program so that incoming mail will be replied to. Seriously- if working professionals do this, we mamas need to do it all the more. Even 24 hours of not-even-a-peek at the screen is such a gift! We have friends who physically cover all their “devices” with a blanket or towel to fully avoid the temptation of checking “just that one” email!
3) Activity plan
Brainstorm a Have-Fun list with the kids! I’m always amazed at the simplicity of what they choose to do. “Eat sushi”, “feed the seals”, “meet___ at the playground”… it can be really easy to make memories with them and it does not need to be expensive.
4) Just do it.
Commit to having FUN! The plans and circumstances will not necessarily fall into place perfectly. Especially with a big family- when there’s all sorts of possibilities for lost shoes, forgotten bathing suits, a bumped head, peed-in-pants, pushing through a missed nap… and so on! But a smiling face and adventurous spirit go a long way in creating an atmosphere of happiness where we all remember only the good stuff! Follow through and do SOMETHING on the day you have planned, cancelling only if there’s sickness.
Some ideas for free- or nearly free:
Check out your town! Look at the paper or library for free family activities: often the tourist attractions will have reduced entries on certain days of the school breaks. Planning these activities earlier in the week (Monday-Wednesday) are typically less busy than the end of the week
Find the free or nearly-free swimming lessons, taught by student teachers. Do them with a friend, or add on a play in the park with a thermos of hot chocolate after. Or hit the pool as a family and just play!
Family hikes, beach walks, or other outdoor adventures! Pack homemade healthy treats, or splurge on taking them out for ice-cream after.
Within the “fun-money” budget:
Take an overnighter in a nearby hotel. Such a fun getaway, especially if there’s pool or hottub in the facility. Park the car, and explore by foot the next day.
Go out for a meal! As a big family, we find that going out for breakfast or lunch is more affordable, still provided the “treat” experience and decreases the likelihood of a meltdown at the table with toddlers or babies.
Alternatively- buy ingredients together for a “treat meal” and invite a family over to join! Eat or make something that you wouldn’t normally do: BBQ hamburgers or steaks with chips, a big taco bar or homemade sundae bar.
And for the rainy days:
Host a games afternoon or evening. Pull out the cards and boardgames. (Even better is to pull them out the day or two before and check for missing pieces, pencils, timers and dice!)
Look at family photos or watch home movies. Bring them out, allow for lots of time to visit, look, watch and laugh together. Really fun!
Have a Family Movie Night. Pick a movie that all (or most) will enjoy, make huge bowls of popcorn, climb into PJs and hang out together!
For a REAL rest for the Mom & Dad:
Treat yourselves to a sleep-in! Let the kids know the night before that they can get themselves their own breakfast (for us, having cereal around is a “treat”!) Be prepared that there might be a little sweeping and spills to clean up in the kitchen when you get up, but again, if you plan ahead, or put one of the older kids on clean-up, Mom & Dad can have a leisurely morning. I’ve even brought our electric kettle and Bodum coffeemaker into our room before- to help it really feel like a hotel wake-up experience!
Have one or two good movies that will keep them engaged and entertained for a later morning appearance by Mom & Dad! We have multiple Little House on the Prairie episodes, and Veggie Tales available.
Plan a kid swap with another family: take each others’ kids for an overnighter and bless one another with the gift of a quiet evening, a good night’s sleep and a slow wake-up.
These are just a few simple ideas to get you started…be sure to enjoy some family time this spring break!