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A Contester’s Guide to Surviving Spring Break

Posted on Mar 13, 2017

I don’t know if “contester” is an actual word, but just go with it for now. Maybe, like me, your brain is already frazzled by the perpetual presence of your kids. They’re fighting for the remote, chasing each other around the house, screaming, arguing, and generally just bugging each other. What’s a Mom to do?

These two weeks would not seem so long if we had any money to spend. I’ve read a dozen posts by Mom bloggers about “free” or “cheap” things to do with your kids during spring break, but every one of them assumes you have a car. Or at the very least, bus fare. I have neither. Nor do I have the money for the adult ticket which you have to buy in order for the kids to get in free!

Now what? It’s raining, so outdoor activities are not especially inviting. We already did the walk-to-the-store-while-jumping-in-puddles trip yesterday. What else can we do that is ACTUALLY free? That literally costs you nothing?

When all of the big contests are on, I can’t be wandering too far from the radio and the landline, so I need things to keep my kids happy at home. Here is my list of things to do with kids without spending a dime (even on gas!):

Find the Toy: this is where I take one of their stuffed animals and hide it somewhere in the house. The kids love the challenge, as with each play it gets harder and harder to find a sneaky place to hide it.

Find the Treat: this one is tricky if you have pets because they love to sniff out treats! I hide candies around the house and the kids get to eat every one they find. Sometimes I don’t have candies (I seem to have gone through all of the Halloween stash) so I hide chocolate chips or marshmallows or granola bars or whatever. Keep track of how many you hide, otherwise you may find sticky treats in some funny places next time you clean.

Board Games: sometimes these are called “bored games” but not at my house! We love a raucous game of CandyLand or Trouble. At this age, they don’t end in fisticuffs… yet. If we have homemade popcorn, all the better.

Puzzles: I tell the kids we’re going to sell all the puzzles at the next yard sale so we need to do them all to make sure we have all the pieces so we can get more money for them. Nothing motivates my litte entrepreneurs like the prospect of earning money!

Yard Sale Collection: it’s kind of a tricky way to get them to clean their rooms and get rid of stuff, but as I said, the promise of money is a great motivator. They will spend hours going through their things and making a pile of stuff to sell at a yard sale. It takes hours because they are easily distracted by toys which they forgot they had.

Find the Poop: this game is best on sunny days, so we haven’t played it yet this week. We go into the back yard and look for dog poop. Every time they point out a pile for me to pick up, they get a point. The one with the most points after all the poop is gone wins a prize. It may only be a teaspoon of honey, but that’s worth playing for at my house.

Where’s My Money: you can play this inside or out. Hide a bunch of coins (even pennies) and have the kids hunt for them. Then walk to the nearest corner store where they can spend their 10 cents on a sour candy. Motivation: candy.

Who Can Last the Longest: I give the kids challenges and the winner gets a prize. Who can hold the plank the longest, or stand on one foot without falling over, or stand on their head or hold their breath or whatever. Great fun until someone passes out.

Write Letters: I found some contests online where kids have to draw or write in their entry. When they’re done, we puddle-jump to the mailbox and the kids send them in. If we don’t have stamps, we walk the extra 15 minutes to the post office. Two birds, one stone.

Library: my kids love going to the library to look at books, and I love looking at my phone on the free wifi. But this takes me away from my land line so I only go at certain times of the day. Like between 11:30 and 2. Luckily our local library is only a 30 minute walk for us. Again, if it’s raining, I’m probably not going unless there’s a hot toddy at the end of it (there isn’t.)

Rice pins: pour a couple cups of uncooked rice into a bowl, then mix in 30 safety pins. Cover their eyes with a blindfold and see which one can pick out the most safety pins in 20 seconds. This is not easy! Pro tip: make sure the safety pins are closed. Heh.

Can You Do This: We roar with laughter when we play this game! We get the kids to try doing things like rubbing their tummy and tapping their head at the same time, licking their elbow or curling their tongue. If you google it, you can find lots of ideas.

What Page: take one of their books, open it to a random page, pick a sentence, note the page number, close the book, and tell them to find that sentence. Don’t make this too hard or they lose interest, maybe use a Dr. Seuss book. Or use a picture book and tell them to “find the horse” or other picture.

Put on a Play: my kids love putting on shows for us, especially when I offer to pay for my “ticket” in candy or coins. They will spend a good chunk of time (perhaps long enough to write a blog post!) writing and choreographing a skit or dance. At the end of it, you likely only have to sit through a five minute show, if that.

What’s That Sound: this is my favourite game, where I make my kids listen to the ZFX over and over. First we listen on the computer, then we listen with earbuds, then with the cell phone, then with the cell phone via earbuds, then loudly, then quietly. Then we wander around the house trying to recreate the sound. Motivation: money!

If all else fails, I turn on the tv at 8, 11, 2, and 5.