Welcome to Spring Break week. Parents, this is not a drill.
Spring Break is like an intense game of wills and wits that lasts roughly 236 hours from the moment they step off the bus on Friday to the second they’re back on it on Monday morning. And like any good coach going into a tough game against a better, faster, more agile opponent, I need to have a set list of go-to plays that I can toss out at a minute’s notice to shift the momentum and keep us on track.
And food. Lots and lots of food in the fridge.
Last year, I ran “Camp Mom” for my kids (you can read about our “adventures” here, here and here), and it was pretty low-key. The weather was unbelievably warm for Chicago in March and we were able to go out to parks, playgrounds — even a road trip to Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin.
This year, with temperatures hovering around freezing, I need a new set of plays to call to keep the kids on their toes. I’ve said it before: I’m not opposed to unstructured time. I think it’s good for kids to get bored and make their own fun. But I find it’s good to have a solid diversionary tactic at the ready to keep boredom from devolving into a mass of bickering and destruction.
Among my Spring Break playlist:
1. Throw down an Iron Kid Chef challenge. I’m thinking of one challenge revolving around desserts (right now, I’m wondering what kind of concoction they can make with Jello as the main ingredient) and one challenge revolving around a vegetable (broccoli comes to mind). I’m always interested to see what foods they combine. If nothing else, it’s one less lunch that I need to plan.
2. “Camp” out. If it were a little warmer, I’d pitch our tent in the backyard. But with temps more suited to January than late March, we’ll be camping out downstairs. We can start outside, roasting hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for s’mores over the fire pit. Then I’ll let the kids set up sleeping bags downstairs in the family room and watch movies until late, late, late. Flashlights and ghost stories are optional — but c’mon! Of course they’re going to do that!
3. Make a Rube Goldberg machine. Have you seen the opening title sequence to the show “Elementary?” You know those crazy “chain-reaction” contraptions where (for example) a marble hits a lead domino which makes a long line of dominoes fall onto a lever that pulls a string that tips a cup holding another marble that rolls down an inclined plane…. etc.? That’s a Rube Goldberg. My oldest son M had to make one using simple machines for a school science project, and he really enjoyed coming up with new configurations and ways to keep it going. He used cardboard, Legos, old wooden train tracks, cups and marbles which had to lift a flat domino to a standing position. It was awesome. I’m envisioning a contest for the best/most effective Rube Goldberg, with candy prizes (naturally).
4. Play games. We’ve got loads of board games, but I’m thinking specifically of games with food. Poker using pretzels, Starbursts, and Hershey Kisses as chips? Yes, please! And then there’s this:
Scrabble with chocolate tiles. Need I say more?
5. Make movies. My kids love using iMovie to piece together pictures and videos into tales of intrigue and suspense. I have loads of movies, taken by the kids, starring Louie the Wonder Pup. Positively hysterical.
6. Teach the dog new tricks. Speaking of Louie, I’m all for the kids training him to do some new tricks. That puppy will do a lot for the kids and doggie treats. For this challenge, I’m planning a little contest: first one to get him to roll over wins a “Get Out of Chores Free” card.
7. Organizing some new tunes. Some of our iPod playlists have grown a little stale. We have a LOT of songs in our iTunes library that are just waiting to make a new playlist — so I’ll get the kids on that.
As an aside: is it wrong that I want to make sure that they know the entire 80s music compendium? Shouldn’t we all know “Don’t Stop Believin'” was actually a Journey song before the kids from “Glee” sang it? Shouldn’t they recognize that the guy named Sting who recently sang an entire CD of songs for the lute is the same Sting who was the lead singer of The Police? Isn’t it important that kids know who Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, and Peter Gabriel (among others) are?
Don’t answer that. I’m worried the answer will be a resounding NO.
I’m sure we’ll also have our share of outings and “field trips;” after all, downtown Chicago and the zoo are close by and beckoning. Good old standbys like trips to the library and the park are always in the mix as well.
In the meantime, I’m going to go over my grocery list. Around here, food is the true game-changer when I’ve lost all other hope for a bicker-free day.
Have your kids already had their Spring Break or is it upcoming for you too? Are you planning a vacation to somewhere fun or are you running your own Camp Mom?