Plan a Smooth, Enjoyable, and Satisfying Spring Break for the Whole Family.
If your child is like most children, he or she is looking forward to Spring Break with intense interest and excitement. "Yay, no school for a WEEK!" As a parent you may also be counting down the days to your own break and vacation, or quite likely, you are looking upon the upcoming break with a mix of uncertainty and trepidation. "What will I do with the kids for five whole days? Will we have to spend another week or so transitioning back to regular routines after the break is over?! We JUST recovered from winter break!" Whether you have an exciting travel itinerary planned or you are mapping out the ultimate staycation at home, the key to a smooth vacation and transition back to school is preparation.
Count Down the Days
Pull out a calendar and review the schedule with your child. Count out the days remaining before the break and make sure to check off days as they pass.
If You and Your Family Are Traveling
This is an ideal opportunity to turn this into a teaching opportunity!
If you have maps at home, grab a seat and explore the destination(s) that you and your family with be heading to during the break. Review distance to be traveled, weather at your final destination, explore food options and what to expect and take a look at pictures of upcoming locations and activities. Even the most adaptable child can worry with uncertainty, so you can help relieve your child's concerns by exploring together what is to come.
For children who will be traveling by plane, you can help prepare them for the experience by highlighting features of the airport and plane. Search online for pictures of the airport and plane and discuss procedures for security and boarding. A more educated and knowledgeable child will be more likely to adapt to inevitable changes and much less likely to exhibit grumpiness and irritation.
Help soothe nervous and bored travelers with a few easy steps. Sit down with your child and discuss what they would like to pack in their travel bag for the car or plane.
Many parents turn to electronics as a quick and easy way to cope with boredom. It is appropriate to allow your child extra screen time and electronics during travel and vacation, but it is important to set expectations in advance. Let them know that vacation is a unique and special time, and they will be allowed more time with electronics than is normal allowed, but when school is back in session, the electronics will not be as accessible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours a day of screen time for children and teens. Decide in advance what games or movies your child will be watching and work together, so they can have some choice and influence over the included media.
Complement electronics with non-tech choices that are educational and fun. Search for "busy bag" ideas on Pinterest for compelling ideas on what to pack.
If You Are Planning a Week at Home
Decide in advance whether you would like to plan some, or all, of the week, or whether you would like to create a more relaxed, "winging in" vibe. If you are planning some activities, invite your child's feedback about what sorts of activities they would like to engage in. Again, choice and volition go a long way toward a more cooperative child!
If you decide to take a more freestyle approach to the week, you should still plan! Take a look at local offerings and know what your options are. Review the schedule for nearby libraries, museums, and the YMCA/YWCA. Look up children's activities on websites, such as Koddler. Get informed!
Prepare your home for children looking for things to do! Head to the store and stock up on baking supplies and go to your local dollar store and ready yourself with art and craft supplies of stickers, paper, markers, and paint. Here is a great list of 109 Spring Break Activities for Children. Get your supplies ready!
Get outside! Look up local hikes with shorter distance mile markers for little legs or plan some spring gardening, go on a bike ride. Or plan fun inside activities like painting, sculpting, or writing a story.
Whatever your intentions are for Spring Break, plan ahead, prepare your child for what is to come, and arm yourself with the appropriate supplies and equipment to ensure a smooth, enjoyable, and satisfying break for everyone.
By Laura C. Kauffman, Ph.D.