The Spring Break playlist

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?


About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
This entry was posted in Camp, Crafts, Family, Mothering, things to do and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Spring Break playlist

  1. All great ideas! We had our March Break two weeks ago. The kids decided it would be fun to catch a flu bug, which they then proceeded to spread around the entire neighbourhood. Aside from puking, pooping, cleaning up puke and poop, and commiserating with the other parents on the street, there wasn’t much time left for this kind of fun…

    Will keep my fingers crossed for you that your kids don’t decide to spend their break like ours did!

    • Oh, I’m so sorry! I think I remember you saying that the bright side of one kiddo throwing up in the car was that at least it wasn’t on a long trip that you had planned to take. Was that the same time?

      Guess the good news is that the whole neighborhood had it at the same time. It’s so not fun to be the only one sick while your friends are out playing!

  2. Our spring break is coming up next week! You gave me such good ideas Joan! We are definitely running Camp Mom here and I especially love the Rube Goldberg idea! I also just started watching that show btw and LOVE it! I had no idea there was a chocolate Scrabble edition…I need to get my hands on that!

    • Hopefully your Spring Break weather will be a little more Spring-like than ours too!

      I love that show “Elementary.” I also really like “Sherlock” but it’s on hiatus right now (or maybe that’s just for us in the States?). And that Rube Goldberg at the beginning is fabulous.

      We found the chocolate Scrabble game at Target, in that seasonal section that I always promise myself that I’m ONLY going to look…. 🙂

      Hope these ideas are helpful as you plan out your own Camp Mom. Let me know what your campers end up doing; I always like ideas to have at the ready!

  3. mtetar says:

    Arts and crafts, dance and music, creative snacks and beverages with water being #1, etc. You have a lots of ideas for the children.

  4. Pat Kovach says:

    You have some great ideas for the kids. And they do need to know Joan Jett. Don’t forget the Beatles!!

    Sorry to heard the weather in Chicago is not that great. We are spending this spring break in Punta Cana. Today is sunny and 86.

    • Sunny and 86. Sigh. I can only dream of it — but I hope you are having a lovely time there. Toast the sunset for me, would you?

      As for the kids, we started them on the Beatles young. Couldn’t have them grow up in a cultural void, you know? 🙂

  5. amyp22 says:

    Sounds like you all are going to have a great time at Club Mom.

    We go on break this Friday. I know we are seeing one movie and the rest is kind of open with the exception of my teen and husband getting in a White Sox game.

    • Wow! I hope your son and husband have an excellent time at US Cellular Field! That seems like an amazing thing to do over break. Are they Sox fans?

      Seems good to have the week after Easter off; I wish ours fell that way. You should definitely have better weather, at any rate.

  6. Katie B says:

    I wish I could be home doing spring break stuff but I have to work love your ideas. And yes kids should know all about 80s music. E is spending spring break with his grandmother. Today he got to see Nana get 3 stitches and a tetanus shot after she cut herself on a bit a rust on her car. Not the day either of them planned. Library will have to wait until tomorrow.

  7. sew vintage emporium says:

    these are some great ideas! My daughter has only been in pre-k for two semesters so I’m still new to this whole thing and got it completely wrong. Next week isn’t Spring half term it’s Spring Break. 3 whole weeks of it! Eeeek! I guess I gotta get right onto that list of activities i posted.

    • Wow– 3 weeks? That’s a whole lotta break! 🙂

      You’re good to go, though. I read your list (love that list!) and you’ve got hundreds of good ideas there. All you need is food on the fridge and you’ve got it made!

  8. paigesato says:

    YES to the 80s music question! And LOVE the Rube Goldberg idea.

    • Excellent! Cranking the 80s tunes now. Cultural touchstone and all that, right?

      Building a Rube Goldberg machine is the idea that just keeps going. They plan it, improvise, rework it, and then, once it works, they keep doing it over and over. So fun.

  9. Time With Thea says:

    Absolutely brilliant ideas for keeping the kids busy. They are diverse, creative, engaging and what fun! I wonder which one ens up being the most popular? ~Thea

    • Thanks, Thea! And as of Friday night, the one about making iMovies is by far the most popular. Even more so than games with chocolate! They’ve really gotten into making stop animation movies and editing others with music and special effects.

      Second favorite was the “camp” out. It’s hard to go wrong with hotdogs and s’mores cooked out over a campfire. 🙂

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