Kids Home For Spring Break? Keep Them Busy With These Free Activities

03/22/2017 04:54 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2017

By Cathie Ericson

This post originally appeared on LearnVest as Fun (and Free!) Things to Do With Your Kids During Spring Break.”

Spring break season is here — and if you’re still looking for that elusive rock-bottom airfare for a family vacation, it’s probably too late. Adios, Cancun; hello, staycation.

Just because you’re not jetting out of town doesn’t mean you have to queue up a week-long binge of Daniel Tiger or deal with restless kids gripped by cabin fever. These creative and fun boredom busters for the preschool set and older tykes take minimal planning and won’t cost you a dime.

1. Launch a yoga dance-off competition. Positions with descriptive names like downward-facing dog and the warrior pose help focus energy and build coordination. An even more kid-friendly yoga twist is to play dance music and when it stops everyone tries to hold their pose, suggests Nancy Albright, a kids' health coach in Washington state.

2. Try an indoor obstacle course challenge. Have little ones crawl under or over chairs, jump over a line of socks and skip over doorways. Use anything on hand and have them move their bodies in different ways. Time them or get them to do it backward for an added challenge.

3. Put local playgrounds to the test. Choose a few playgrounds that you’ve always wanted to visit in nearby neighborhoods or towns and have your kids help you map out a route on screen before heading out to visit them. At the end of the day, rate the parks by the features you liked the best.

4. Plan a theme day. Read a book, do some crafts — these are ho-hum routine for kids. But unite them all around a theme, and you have a day to remember, suggests Karen Whittier, owner of Red Gate Preschool outside Seattle. With springtime here, one theme could be birds: take out bird books from the library, make a bird feeder and go on a nature walk to look for feathers and nests in trees.

5. Put kids to work with a toy wash. Trying to do your own spring cleaning? Get the kids involved with a toy wash. Bring out all the bikes, trikes, trucks and more and run them through the hose, sprinkler or kiddie pool with some mild soap. End the wash with a Super Soaker fight.

6. Start your own MasterChef Junior competition. First, have kids find fun recipes online and make a grocery list. Then head to the grocery store together and be “food label detectives,” checking out packaged foods to see how many ingredients are lurking. Finally head home, fire up the oven and let the cooking and competing begin.

7. Organize an art show. Break out the paints and brushes, clay, chalk, glue, scissors, macaroni, rocks and scraps of material and give kids an hour or two to create their own mini-masterpiece. When everyone is done, have them sign their work and hang it in a designated area of your home, just like a museum or gallery.

8. Host a campout. If weather permits, take the fun outside; if not, your living room can provide the perfect campsite for your kids and their friends. Pitch a tent (or make a fort with blankets and pillows) and roll out the sleeping bags. Have a camping dinner like roasted hot dogs, and don’t forget the s’mores. Take turns telling stories by flashlight or the fireplace.

9. Climb trees. Many kids these days never get the chance to climb a tree, and it actually teaches them more than you might imagine, says Whittier, if you do it safely. “Climbing trees gives them the opportunity to develop strength, spatial awareness and coordination and also requires creativity and problem-solving skills.”

10. Make summer plans. Ready to look ahead to your epic summer? Create a “dream chart” together, suggests Albright, and plan where you want to vacation and other summer goals. Kids can research destinations and camps online or create a collage of images from magazines or online clip art depicting their ideal summer break.

11. Start a savings challenge. It's never too early to reinforce the idea that kids should save some of their money. Wash out pickle jars or other containers and help them create homemade personalized banks, then brainstorm ways they can earn small change — say by doing little chores. Set goals for how much they should try to save in their banks by summer.

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