Simple Can Bring Spring Break Family Fun

Spring break can be a great chance to relax and reconnect with your family amid a long school semester. Even if finances don't allow for a trip somewhere, it's still possible to make the most of your time together. Consider a springtime break that's more of a 'staycation' to take advantage of free activities in your area and build family connections.

"Spring is always a good time to explore close to home, whether it's a visit to the museum or the local nature center," says Erika Rackers, director of special education for Great Circle. "Admission is often free, and they usually have plenty of educational activities for kids. Or consider a day trip to someplace an hour or two away on a nice day. Being in the car together will give you time to talk with your kids and catch up."

Rackers suggests having the family write favorite pastimes on individual strips of paper, then putting them in a bag and pulling one out each day. These ideas could be anything from daylong activities to small, fun projects at home.

"It might be family game night, movie night, making a special dinner, doing a craft project, baking cookies, or going on a nature trail walk," she notes. "Even if it's cool outside, you can bundle up and get some exercise together."

Whichever activity you choose, you've made the children part of the decision-making process, and that adds to their enjoyment.

"Kids might surprise you with the simplicity of their needs and ideas," Rackers says. "Any parent would enjoy hearing, 'I just want to go for a walk with you.'"

If you've chosen an activity that does cost money, like going shopping or to the waterpark or arcade, set a dollar limit ahead of time, Rackers advises.

"To keep the cost low, tell kids they can get X dollars worth of tokens. When they're gone, that's it," she says. "It will teach them about setting limits, spending wisely and keeping expenses under control."

Spring break activities that include learning opportunities are always a great idea, Rackers says.

"Try going to the library and seeing what kinds of programs are being offered, like speaker sessions and story hours," she suggests. "Show kids how to start a garden at home by germinating seeds in containers. They'll enjoy nurturing something and watching it grow."

If your family will be at home most of the time over break, set up a puzzle or Lego table and let everyone participate when they feel like it. Make paper airplanes and see whose flies the farthest or come up with a new recipe to try for dinner. Sometimes, the simplest ideas can be the most fun and productive.

Whatever spring break activities your family enjoys, keep in mind that togetherness and communication are the most important outcomes, Rackers says.

"Spending quality time together is essential, and it should be done away from electronic devices as much as possible," she notes. "Use the time off to get to know each other better. Ask your kids about school and friends – not just 'yes' or 'no' questions, but open-ended ones that encourage more thoughtful answers."

During car rides and before bedtime are some of the best times to communicate, as they can set the tone for a positive day or a restful night.

You don't have to force kids to sit and talk for hours; just engage them in a conversation here and there, and give them your full attention, Rackers suggests.

"Put away the bills and paperwork and ask what they feel like doing or talking about," she says. "Just interact and connect in a nonjudgmental way – if you don't, you may not realize when there is something they're struggling with."

Spring break is an ideal opportunity to focus on each other a bit more than you normally might.

"Every positive interaction strengthens your relationships with your family," Rackers says. "The more you connect with kids in these casual moments, the more likely they will be to come to you when there's a problem."

Five Budget-Friendly Tips For Family Spring Break Fun

Sometimes, simple is best. This is especially true when it comes to spending time together as a family. Use these five tips to help make your spring break a fun and relaxing experience that doesn’t break the bank.

  • Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions in your area like parks, museums and nature centers. Figure out which ones you haven't been to yet and put them at the top of the list.
  • Let kids be involved in deciding the day's activities. Write everyone's favorite pastimes on slips of paper, put them in a bag and pull one out each morning.
  • If you're heading somewhere that does cost money, set dollar limits ahead of time and stick to them.
  • If you're going to be at home, set up a table with puzzles, games or Lego projects that kids and adults can work on together.
  • Whatever spring break activities you decide on, keep electronic device use to a minimum and spend the time connecting with your kids.