Beat March Break Monotony and Boredom: Out and About

Edited by Sarah Maloney, Eng, Alma

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Just unwinding from large family dinners, Christmas pageants, your eyes still glittering after days spent away from work nestled in the blissful time as a family that happens around Christmas, you decided to take some time off work this year and spend it with the kids over March Break. Hoping to recreate the Christmas enchantment or just trying to save a little money this March Break, you've forgone Day Care and camps, the last minute all inclusive deals somewhere warmer and are now staring down into the deep hole of realization that you will be spending an entire week at home with the kids. In the darkest dankest of all month of the year.

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Part of what makes March Break so frightening is because it REALLY is stuck in the middle of the grossest, coldest, muckiest, grimiest, wettest week of the year. The weather every March Break is uninhabitable at best, hibernation rousing at worst. Throwing the kids outside is usually impossible, unless you want them to reappear in the foyer muddy, slushy, wet, snow pants crusted versions of their former selves.

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And so, you are stuck mostly indoors with the kids, still in their pajamas at 2:00 pm throwing Cheetos at each other and screaming that they are 'SO BORED' while you hide in the washroom with your iPad Googling last minute all-inclusive resorts that offer childcare.

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If you've decided to join the fleet of parents tackling March Break without camps or vacationing away, this How to will show you how to break up the week and avoid monotony and boredom by going out and about both for and your kids.

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Quality versus Quantity

  1. 1
    Get Rid of the Kids.
    I know I promised this would show you how to have a March Break WITH the kids and all the next steps will deliver on that promise. But first, it is not unreasonable to have a couple of hours in the afternoon for your kids to spend time with their peers and for you to catch up on work, read a book, clean up, grab your groceries or have a cup of coffee. There is no rule that says you have to spend the entire week together, and although you may be using this week as dedicated family time, think quality and not quantity. Do your kids REALLY want to go grocery shopping with you? Probably not, if you can separate for a few hours a couple of days a week you can fly through the grocery shopping without losing patience, your kids can engage in kid activities, and you will all come back refreshed and ready to participate in quality activities together.
    1. Check out your local YMCA, Boys & Girls Club or other community centers: As the only parent to my little guy, he often has to tag along on errands and other very uninteresting outings for an 8 year old. I discovered years ago that it was during these errands that he often became intolerant and bored (understandably) while I started to be impatient and rushing. YMCA's and other community organizations offer drop-in programming every night of the week and on March Break there are even more offerings. The kids get a couple hours of dedicated planned playtime with the counselors and their peers, and you get a couple hours to run your errands. These organizations have a membership fee but most have different options and considerations for payment. Most also offer swimming lessons and other special programming that is free to members. It's also enjoyable to have a place that we consistently go to together, especially through the cold winters. Time won't stop over March Break and you will still have to run errands. Taking this time off will be beneficial to both you and the kids. When you pick them up you will all be refreshed and ready for quality time as a family.
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  2. 2
    Plan…a Little.
    Plan your days and have an itinerary but this is a week that breaks your weekly schedule apart. You don't have to rush kids to the bus stop to get homework finished at the end of the day. Have an idea what you want to do every day, discuss the plans with the kids in the morning, take your time getting ready and then see what the day brings.
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  3. 3
    Be Cheap.
    You don't have to spend a ton of money to keep the kids engaged and happy. There are so many free or very affordable offerings over the break, there are also outings you can do that cost very little or nothing. If you do want to take a special day for a special outing to the indoor waterpark, go for it but everyday doesn't have to be a hailstorm of specialness.
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  4. 4
    Mix it Up.
    Consider some events out and about a few days of the week, or even every afternoon. But don't be afraid to take a day or every morning to just hang out at home. If you're worried about your kids getting bored at home, check out my other March Break article.
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  5. 5
    Take Pictures.
    It isn't often that we get an entire week to just hang out. Take lots of pictures of even the most ordinary of moments and outings. The pictures of my son and I taken by photographers or on vacations together will always be special, but the seemingly uninteresting picture of him standing and waiting for the subway after a City Walk will always be my favorite. It wasn't really a moment you'd think to take a picture of, but every time I see it I remember the entire day and his smile. That's quality time. Capture it.
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Out and About

  1. 1
    Community Offerings.
    We live in a small town surrounded by small cities, but every March Break I am always surprised by the amount and diversity of offerings at our local community organizations. The programming is always well planned, well supervised and the kids have a ball. It does take a little bit of research and pre-registration but definitely worth it.  
    1. Libraries. With technology taking over the way we read, libraries have become very creative and diverse in their offerings. No longer do you just go to get books, now computer coding classes, crafts, 3D printing, video games and other programs are offered at most libraries. During March Break libraries have events for kids daily and most are free or very affordable ($2 to $5). Events might include story time for younger kids, crafts, painting, computer coding, robotics, Lego building and parties, movies, magicians and science shows. They really do an excellent job of offering a diversity of programs. And check out libraries outside of your local library, most don't require a membership to attend. A lot of these you can attend with your kids.
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    2. Museums and art galleries. Most will have offerings over March Break that you can attend with your kids. And don't think you have to visit the ROM or MOMA, there are small museums and art galleries in even the smallest towns.
    3. YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. These organizations always have additional swimming and programming during March Break.
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  2. 2
    I was surprised a few years back when a parent told me that her son was taking classes at Home Depot. But many stores offer programming over March Break.  
    1. Home Depot. Offer classes for kids that teaches them basic carpentry, gardening, painting. Over March Break your kid could build a bird house, start seeds for planting in the spring or build and paint a wooden car. Most of these are free, there may be materials cost for some of them.
    2. Michael's. The craft store has tons of craft classes for kids. From beads and necklaces to floral arrangements, cake decorating, calligraphy, knitting, clay creations there is something for everyone. You do have to pay for most of these programs.
    3. Chapters. The kid's section in Chapters is worth a visit anytime, but during March Break they have additional offerings for kids. Storytime, Face Painting, shows, science, building toys, check out the offerings at your local story online. These are generally free.
    4. Bass Pro Shop. If there is one near by they always have great offerings over holidays and on March Break. Shooting ranges, fishing games and crafts are usually offered. Have a look on their website.
    5. Malls. I noticed this March Break that all of our local malls are offering events, which makes sense. Most malls have a central space that is perfect for concerts and shows, best of all, most of them are free.
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  3. 3
    Local Events and organizations.
    Check out your local art studio, pottery studio, business associations, bookstore, church, a lot of organizations offer diverse events over March Break.
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  4. 4
    Special Meal.
    For your little foodie or explorer, have them choose a type of food they have never eaten but would like to try (sushi, Pho, catfish), and go for lunch. You can research the type of food before you go and discuss the country it originates in.
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  5. 5
    It Doesn't have to be March Break Programming:
    Think about what you're kids are interested in, got a kid interested in Thomas the Tank Engine? Check out a railway museum in the area. Is one of the kids into elephants? Check out the local zoo. Even if they don't have any events over March Break your kids will enjoy the visit.
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  6. 6
    It is possible that there may be a day or two over the Break where the weather is not completely inaccessible. On this day, take a hike, visit historical sites, go to the park, visit the zoo or botanical gardens, go for a walk, if it's REALLY nice get the bikes out and go for a ride.
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  7. 7
    City Walk.
    If you live near a big city, spend a day walking around a neighborhood you don't usually go to. Visit Chinatown and have Dim Sum. Ride the subway or streetcar. Visit the local stores and markets. You'll be surprised how intrigued your kids are by everything around them.
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  8. 8
    Flea Market.
    Take a walk through the indoor Flea Market. Most communities have one near them. There are so much strange and distinct things to see.
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    1. You can make a scavenger hunt on a piece of paper. Either list the objects or just put a picture for kids who can't read yet. Try to think of the stranger offerings at flea markets (an old record player, used hockey equipment, a doll with moving eyelids, a slushie machine) each kid has to try and find all of the objects while you're there. The weirder or mundane the objects the better! This can easily last an entire afternoon and is really SO much fun.
    2. Consider giving each kid a small amount of money ($2 - $5). It's interesting to see what in such a huge amount of space and stuff each kid will choose.
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  9. 9
    We started Geocaching a few years ago, and although it's best outdoors, you can try it on a milder day and there are caches that are indoors or close to shelter (historical sites etc.) If you have no idea what Geocaching is, it can seem a little odd and a little overwhelming. I can assure you it is a bit anomalous but very easy to do and SO much fun. It is a bit like Pokemon Go but with real treasures.  
    1. The premise is there are objects hidden (caches) everywhere, millions of items hidden around the world. People in the Geocache community (which is massive) hide stuff in little containers. Using the app, you find the caches. Once you find them, you open it up, have a look and sign your name. Sometimes you can add to the cache, sometimes you can trade a cache for a cache. I know, it sounds a little undeveloped but it's not. It's really addictive and fun and you will get very excited the first time you find something.
    2. Check out the website [1], the video will give you a better idea of the premise. You essentially just download the app on your phone and you're ready to go. Try it once. I guarantee you will be a cache addict in no time.
      Meme A good Cache! 36889.jpg
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  10. 10
    Fun Stuff.
    There are a lot of family friendly outings you do over March Break that are open during the day and accessible to all ages.  
    1. Movies. Our local library and one of our historical sites offer family movies at a very reasonable rate. Have a look at yours.
    2. Bowling. This is an all time kid favorite and reasonably priced. You can easily spend a day at the alley. Many offer glow in the dark bowling at night but over March Break you can find it during the day.
    3. Swimming. Check out your local indoor swimming pool.
    4. Skating. Arenas usually offer additional skating times over the Break.
    5. Plays and Concerts. Have a look at your local theater or kid musicians. Most are busy performing during March Break.
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Tips and Tricks

  • Have a look at discount deal sites online such as Groupon. You can find really great deals for day visits. These can be used for a special day during the week such as an indoor water-park, arcades, shows, laser tag or paintball, crafts.
  • Scavenger Hunts (See: Flea Market) can be made for almost any visit. These keep kids intrigued and gives them something to do during the more uninteresting time out (getting tickets, washroom breaks).
  • Pack a Lunch. It makes me crazy when we are out at a museum or store and are forced to pay for really bad food. People don't go to these places for the food so the offerings are usually pretty unpleasant and the pricing inflated. What was a $20 day at the museum can quickly turn into a $50 day with food and drinks. Packing a couple lunches with sandwiches and snacks in the morning will save a lot of money and your taste buds will thank you.
  • It will be busy. There have been a couple times that we have arrived to an event (usually free) took a look at the line and headed out for ice cream instead. I am not patient enough to stand in line for half an hour, nor is my son. So if it looks to busy and you anticipate it being more frustration than it's worth for you and your kids bypass the really busy places and head somewhere else. It's just not worth it. I also find that going early in the morning or late afternoon are less busy. Depending on the timing of the event this isn't always possible, but it's good to keep in mind.
  • Pack snacks and little activities such as coloring, Uno, a deck of cards, Lego or brain teasers for the times you're forced to wait. You can grab a lot of these little activities at the dollar store. These will keep the kids busy while you wait.
  • Keep a few quick games you can do without props in your head. Whenever we eat out, we play a game where I place items at the table in front of my son, he closes his eyes and then I hide one and he has to tell me which one I removed. This game can go on until even after the food arrives. I always keep a deck of cards in my purse. Go Fish or building a card tower are quick activities during down time out and about.
  • Take your time. Don't rush through or look at your watch. I have spent an entire afternoon at a Flea Market with a scavenger hunt. The idea was to go take a walk through the market and then have a swim at the pool nearby. We never made it to the pool but instead spent the entire afternoon looking at stuff and talking to people and completing his Scavenger Hunt and it was totally OK. You're on a break, remember?
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Categories : Holidays & Traditions

Recent edits by: Eng, Sarah Maloney

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