-by Jack M. Jose
Spring break is right around the corner, and parents are looking to find the balance between structuring every moment, and losing the entire week to sleeping in and video games. Because it is just a week, there is no worry about losing skills like with “summer slide”, so spring break should be a time for extra rest, reading for pleasure, and practicing skills. Here is a guide to a great week.
If your children are going to be home alone for much of the week, help them set up a schedule for each day, with check boxes for each item (here’s a Google search to useful article and checklists.) Be sure to leave them instructions for calling for help if something goes wrong, and when they should or should not call you at work. Each day should contain one or more of the following:
- chores that can be accomplished independently, like those described here, with lists by age;
- instructions for a meal to be prepared independently, based on the skills and responsibility of your child;
- scheduled “screen” time – video game / t.v. / Youtube, etc. – with a time limit;
- reading time – with a Saturday trip to the library in preparation*;
- time to practice a hobby – writing, playing an instrument, knitting/sewing, drawing. These should be done with a plan to accomplish a larger work over the course of the week, like writing a short story, learning a new song, perfecting a certain shot or working on a particular throw.
If you are fortunate enough to be home with your family during the week, and/or can spend time together on the weekends, here is a plan of attack for a successful spring break.
Thursday night: plan your week.
- Look at the weather forecast and pick at least one “indoor” day and one “outdoor” day
- Ask your child/children what they would like to do and find a place for it in the schedule
Friday night: welcome to Spring Break! Plan a family / family + friends night to kick off spring break in style.
Indoor days: Here are some great ways to spend time together on a day when the weather is uncooperative.
- Art museum, (In Cincinnati we are blessed with great affordable arts. The Cincinnati Art Museum has free admission every day, and $4 parking, or take the Metro, route #1);
- History museum, (The Natural History Museum, Cincinnati History Museum and Children’s Museum are under the same roof);
- Local Water Works often offer free tours and fascinating exposure to how we provide clean drinking water to a community;
- Volunteer for a local charity, preparing meals, serving food, sorting clothing and more;
- Factory tours;
- Aquarium (discount tickets to the Newport Aquarium can be purchased at Kroger stores.)
- Unscheduled outdoor play in the yard, (this can be penciled in your calendar almost daily, but should not be the sole plan for spring break week);
- Outdoor play at a neighborhood park or sports field further from home with supervision as appropriate;
- Visit a seasonal fruit farm, and pick ingredients for a cooking project, (better for locales further south than Cincinnati);
- Hike a local trail, or walk between a couple of local historical sites, (find lists at CincinnatiUSA.com or a local tourism board);
- Visit a local college to introduce the idea of going to college and forming preferences. This can be incorporated into family travel plans as well.
- Zoo, (Cincinnati Zoo discounted tickets can be purchased at Kroger stores).
And at night:
- Game nights are always a hit at my household. We can play a game for four, or invite family members or other friends for a great group experience. Choose your family favorites, or try one of ours:
- Movie night is a great way to relax after a long day of activity. MovieMom can help pick developmentally appropriate movies while providing thought-provoking discussion questions.
A good mix of structured and unstructured time helps everyone feel rested and fulfilled over spring break. No promises about whether your child will be ready to return to school!
*while these examples are specific to Cincinnati, most towns and cities have similar offerings.