This is the first official school year for my kids. Both girls have always been in daycare. We moved my girls to a school this past September which means that this was my first experience with PA Days and now… March Break! And not just one week—my girls are off for TWO weeks! So what’s the plan? We’re lucky that one of us (Dad) actually was able and willing to take two weeks off from work. Still, dad at home all day with two extremely active kids without a plan asking for trouble. So a couple of months before March Break, I started gathering ideas and planning. A perfect mix of enjoying time at home, a few educational activities, and some pure awesome fun was my goal. How do you keep a 4 ½ year old, and a two year old occupied all day for 2 weeks?
In this day of Google, naturally, the Internet was my first stop for ideas.
Tons of places capitalize on March Break and create events specifically for families and children during this time. Although events and programs taking place in places such as Casa Loma, the ROM and the Ontario Science Centre were attractive (and were on my list to consider), I focused my search on York Region. Pottery painting, Princess Parties, Maple Syrup Festivals. Local Recreation Centres offer skating, swimming, and brief drop-in play periods. These were good all good options because they weren’t just one day events and one need not register ahead of time. I like schedules. But I don’t want all my kids’ activities the kind where I have to register them for months or weeks in advance. What if one of them got sick? And there’s something to be said about spontaneity. A beautiful day could mean a walk in the park and time in the playground. A really rainy day is a time to be home in pajamas with hot chocolate and good story books.What I did register for was the Princess Tea Party hosted by the Town of Richmond Hill (on its third year!). Since it was held on a Saturday, I was able to go with both by daughters. I’ve attended the event every year and this year was the first time Sarah participated. Both my girls were in full costume and we thoroughly enjoyed the event. If you’ve never been to this event, I highly recommend it.
- How about some culture? A show perhaps? From children’s theatre such as the ones produced by the Solar Stage, to bigger and more musical productions such as Pinkalicious, there were a few of these going on. Also, they can’t see a play or a show every day which only lasts a little over an hour. That would result in one of the most expensive March breaks ever. However, we couldn’t resist buying tickets to Disney’s Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream. 7PM on a weeknight was our chosen date so I could go. I’ll post about this after the show. We all saw Disney Live! Three Classic Fairy Tales for Sarah’s 2nd birthday and it was quite enjoyable. My older one, crazy about all things Princess, LOVED it of course but even little Sarah was mesmerized.
- Indoor playgrounds are a good option. It’s March, so it could be mild but it could also be raining or snowing so an indoor playground sounds perfect. Let the kids burn energy and Dad can just sit and watch. Well, actually, that depends on the age of your kids and the kind of playground. Because I have a two year old, a relatively small playground (i.e. you can sit one and still see the other end of the room and it’s set up so you don’t lose sight of your child) was the only choice for me.Kinder Zone is always my “go to” indoor playground. It caters to the toddler crowd and yet there’s enough fun stuff for my four year old. So I jotted down operating hours and made a note of other nearby indoor playgrounds just in case.
- Early Years Centres – I checked but wasn’t quite happy with the available programs or hours. But it’s always good to check your local EYC.
- What about other indoor venues? The Woodbine Centre, a fancy indoor park is something we thought of. We’ve been there once and found the fees to be reasonable. The Rogers Centre has their Spring Fling, a large indoor carnival. But spending a whole day indoors when there might be a chance that day might be nice and mild (and maybe even sunny!) put that idea on our “Maybe” list.
There are some obvious potential things to do (and FREE) like going to a park or outdoor playground. And what about the Library? My kids love the library.
We’re supposed to get a few beautiful mild days, and we are so lucky to live near a great park. There is nothing like outdoor play and fresh air.
I also poured over community program brochures for ideas. In Richmond Hill, there was a fantastic list of half-day and full-day March Break Programs—Art Classes, Dance, Sports, and even one that combined everything, and several unique programs. Lots of similar classes in different community centres in Richmond Hill. And of course, March Break Camps option.
The one thing I noticed, much to my disappointment, was that there were really no programs for children under 3 or 4 years old. I remember that some of my friends used to put their child in a daycare just for the week of March Break. How many daycares will take children for just a week.
A semblance of some structure and scheduled activities at home is extremely important. As parents, we know children thrive on routine. And for children who are in school or daycare, I believe we need to incorporate some aspects of the school’s routine into their time at home. I try my best to keep naptime and meals at the same time. Homework or study at night even when on March Break (and I cannot believe, the teachers sent homework for my 4 year old). We succeeded on all these points except for nap time. Unfortunately, although Sarah is such a good napper in school, Dad can’t just convince her to take a nap. It doesn’t help that the little one wants to keep up with older Sis who no longer naps.
Fun Activities at Home
My daughters are close enough in age that they can play well together… until they start fighting. But really, the one joy with siblings is that the parent(s) doesn’t have to be the playmate all the time. We are well equipped at home—dress-up costumes, play kitchen, tea party sets, dolls, painting and colouring sets, stickers—enough to keep two young kids occupied for a long time. Well, not long enough for Daddy, apparently; not when “Daddy must play ‘Hotel’ with them, and referee who gets to sit on the Tinkerbell chair next. And when the girls are beginning to get extremely tired and a bit cranky, and Daddy needs time to make a meal, then a good ol Princess or Dora movie does the trick. Ah, peace and quiet. That is, until meal time.
Time with Grandma
Ahh… who doesn’t love grandparents who are retired and like to spend time with grandkids? I made sure to make my mom-in-law part of the plan and insisted that Daddy drop off the kids with her for a few hours while he has his ME time. Extremely crucial lest I come home one evening to find him ready to give up the kids for adoption.
Caribbean vacation, anyone? The one disadvantage of March Break is that parents like us feel compelled to take the family vacation during this time especially when this “break” is two weeks long. So, we looked for deals. No such thing for March Break. And the prices! After much research and considering a few vacation options, including a Holland Nickolodeon cruise, we settled on the ever predictable all-inclusive Carribbean resort vacation. Found a tax-free deal one night and jumped on it. And after the transaction was completed, it dawned on me (too late) that we may be trapped in the resort with large groups of loud, obnoxious, drunken university kids. But then I realized that we were travelling on my kids’ second week of March Break and not on the first week, which was the official March Break for most Ontario schools and many provinces. So cross fingers, everything will be fine.
When I was confident about my plan and after discussing with hubby, I plotted everything into Google calendar with full descriptions, address locations when appropriate – a couple of days with planned and scheduled classes and activities and several “free, whatever works” days—and shared it with hubby. Too much? Well, it works and gives me peace of mind.
Of course, after I had planned all this, the school, decides to run a March Break program for parents interested. SIGH. That would have been so much easier. Still, one of us was on vacation, and the school’s program was not free. So we stuck to my plan. As of this posting, the girls have been alone with Daddy all day for one day. So far, so good.
What are your kids doing on March Break? Were you a planning fiend like me? Did you escape on holiday? Leave them with Grandma and said “good luck, have fun!? Or are you a free-flowing spirit and taking it day by day?