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15 free spring break activities to do with your kids

15 free spring break activities to do with your kids
Posted at 10:30 AM, Mar 01, 2024

Kids love spring break. Parents? Not always.

If you don’t have a Disney vacation planned, you’re looking at 10 days that need to be filled with child-enriching — or at least child-occupying — activities. It’s an exhausting thought.

On the other hand, this week could be a great opportunity to bond with your kids while engaging with your community, getting some exercise or learning new skills. Now that sounds amazing.

Here are 15 ideas to make this the best spring break ever — without shelling out hundreds for pricey theme park tickets.

1. Read to a Dog

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No doubt your local animal shelter has a gentle dog or two who could use some attention. And when kids are learning to read, there’s no such thing as too much practice.

When my daughters were first learning to sound out their letters, the prospect of reading to a dog made the entire endeavor about 200% more appealing. We did it at the library, where you had to sign up for a slot weeks in advance, because the program was so popular.

I suggest you use a smarter tactic and call your closest animal shelter. Chances are, they will immediately have a gentle dog or cat in mind — one who’d enjoy even a faltering rendition of “The Cat in the Hat.”

2. Make Cards to Celebrate Easter or the First Day of Spring

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This year, the first day of spring falls on March 19, while Easter arrives on March 31. Both are excellent occasions for a creative and colorful homemade card. Break out the markers, construction paper, cotton balls, buttons, yarn, glue and whatever other supplies you have on hand.

After you’ve completed your cards, find someone to give them to. You might start by finding a nearby assisted living facility and asking if you could drop the cards off. The administrator there might even give you the names of residents who don’t have family members, so you could customize the cards and maybe even deliver them in person.

If the cards are a hit with your kids, you can keep the crafting going with these ideas for kid-friendly Easter crafts.

3. Go Bike Riding

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Biking with little ones is a free activity (as long as you already own bicycles!) that’s good for your minds and bodies. Plus, it gets you outside. If your child doesn’t know how to ride a bike, now’s an excellent time to teach them this important life skill.

Ride around your neighborhood, or type your city into this trail database to find a biking trail near you. Remember that adults and kids should wear bike helmets when riding.

MORE: Is your child in 4th grade? Get a free national parks membership for the whole family

4. Get Creative with Sidewalk Chalk

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Although you might run the risk of being one of those parents that turns every game into an educational opportunity, you really can kill two birds (figuratively, of course) with one stick of sidewalk chalk.

Make an elaborate hopscotch game, in which each square contains an activity. Land on the letter E? Name an animal or food that starts with that letter! Land on the number 3? Shout out your age-plus-3! Land on a circle? Name a planet besides Earth! The possibilities are endless.

You can even change up the chalk itself by turning your kids’ old chalk into puffy sidewalk chalk with a little water, dish soap and all-purpose flour.

5. Send Kids on a Scavenger Hunt

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Sometimes all you need to do is send your kids to look for stuff. For pre-readers, draw them pictures of things: a leaf, a twig, a rock, a stapler, an oven mitt, a slipper, etc. For older ones, give them written riddles they need to figure out how to find the items. (“I can smash scissors, but paper covers me. What am I?”)

If this sounds like too much prep work, take comfort that this, too, has been done by others who share lots of scavenger hunt ideas online.

6. Let the Library Do Its Thing

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My town’s library has a slate of activities for kids during the public school’s spring break, and chances are that yours does, too. Check the website to see if there are story hours, book-related craft events or movie showings.

If you missed story hour, you can make your own fun at the library. Take the kids on a treasure hunt, finding books on topics that interest them. (Can we find one with a pink princess? A yellow dump truck? A naughty dinosaur? An author with the same first name as you?)

7. Take a Free Crafting Class

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March is National Craft Month, and arts and crafts stores step up their online and in-store classes for kids. Michaels offers its youngest customers the chance to “craft your way through spring break” with an assortment of online how-tos. (You can make yarn-wrapped creatures, paper birds, clay bugs and more.)

Home Depot and Lowe’s both have monthly in-store DIY workshops for kids. At my local Home Depot this spring, kids can make a butterfly house, a lattice planter and a blooming picture frame.

8. Enjoy a Picnic

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Picnics are always fun, but they’re also another opportunity for hands-on learning. A picky eater might even be enticed to try some new foods if they have a hand in making them.

Dreadful weather doesn’t have to stop a picnic, either. Just put down a very large blanket on the living room floor. Pretend that the area around the blanket is the ocean. No jumping in until we’ve all used wet wipes on our hands!

MORE:13 Restaurants where kids eat free

9. Learn About the Animals and Plants That Live in Your Yard

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Who exactly are you sharing your habitat with? Which plants are populating your yard, and how does their presence affect you? You and your children can answer these important questions! All you need is a nature app like iNaturalist.

Download the app and create a free account. Once you do that, you can explore the wildlife around you or make your own observations and identify the plants in your neighborhood.

10. Host a Fashion Show (with an Ulterior Motive)

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Your kids are growing fast, and their clothes aren’t keeping up. This time of spring break togetherness is a great moment to sort out the too-small T-shirts and no-longer-buttonable jeans.

How do you get your kids on board with this project? Host a silly fashion show. Put all the iffy-sized clothes on the bed, and offer a challenge to your children: Who can put on seven clothing items, each a different color of the rainbow? How many shirts can you fit into at one time? Meanwhile, you’re sneakily recording which clothing items belong in the donation pile.

11. Learn a TikTok Dance (or Any Kind of Dance)

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TikTok is brimming with silly dances, a few of which I’ve been roped into learning. (Living with teens is always interesting.)

This is great exercise for parents and kids of all ages, and you don’t have to post it on social media. I do recommend recording it because the comedy potential is pretty great. You might end up with a clip to send to “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

12. Research Careers

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It’s never too early for your kids to start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. You might use these long spring break days to consider various options.

Monday could be the day you all learn about being a doctor or nurse. Do you know someone with this job that you kids could interview?

On Tuesday, you could try out being a detective. Take this photo analysis challenge. Or play the game where you place 20 items on a tray, give the kids a long look and then remove it from the room. How many can they remember?

On Wednesday, talk about what it means to be a lawyer and host a debate.

13. Bake Treats for Friends and Neighbors

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Yes, baking with kids is messy. But it offers opportunities for learning — like math through measuring and reading comprehension through figuring out recipes.

Once your brownies/cookies/cupcakes are finished, you’ve now got an opportunity to show kindness by bringing the treats to a neighbor. Let your kids practice their writing skills as they attach a note to the plate, wishing the recipient well.

14. Make a Time Capsule

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Find a shoe box and work with your kids to add some memories from this moment in time. Figure out what to add. Some options include a wrapper from their favorite snack, a ticket stub from a play/movie/theme park trip, a sample of their artwork, a handprint made with finger paint, a USB drive with their favorite TV show, or a photo you take today.

Write the date on the outside, along with a directive about when you’re allowed to open it — like a date that’s five or 10 years in the future.

You don’t have to bury the box in the yard. Shoving it in the back of the attic or a crawl space would suffice. Now put it away and forget all about it … for now.

MORE: 8 mistakes to avoid making when traveling with kids

15. Make a Pet Rock

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Finding a rock and decorating it to be your pet is an interesting and amusing craft project. But pet rocks can also be a great source of imaginative play.

Once your children have added paint, glitter, glue and googly eyes, they can now be charged with caring for a pet rock. And they have lots of creative decisions to make.

Ask your child to determine the rock’s name, gender and age. Find out if the pet rock needs a shoebox house to live in. If so, how will your child furnish it? Perhaps the pet rock would like to socialize with other pet rocks — maybe while celebrating a special birthday.

By the time your child has answered all these questions, you’ve filled up at least three hours of the day. And maybe they’ll stop asking for a dog now?

Or maybe not!

This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money.