How to Survive Spring Break

How to Survive Spring Break

Looking for inspiration for what to do when the kids are out of school? Look no further.


By: Elizabeth Jenkins

Rites of Spring
We all remember fondly when the last bell of the day rang at school, signaling the start of spring break. What we likely don't remember, though, is the panic on our parents' faces as the reality set in that they were stuck with us for the next week ... or two. No matter how much you love your kids, you must admit that a week without school can be a challenge. That's why we picked the brain of Leigh Oshirak, mom to 8-year-old Jack and co-author of Balance Is a Crock, Sleep Is for the Weak, for ideas on how to keep this spring break from turning into a spring breakdown

Game Plan
"I definitely burned myself in the early years," says Oshirak, "because I didn't plan far enough in advance. Here in San Francisco, we have two two-week breaks eight weeks apart—ski break and spring break—and a lot of parents only get two weeks of vacation the whole year." Whether you work or not, have a full-time nanny or are a full-time mom, you need to pull out your calendar far in advance and figure out how exactly those weeks (and summer vacation) will be spent. If it's too late for you to salvage this year's spring break, use this as a reminder to map out your child's summer vacation.

Take Turns
If work obligations or budgetary concerns mean you're staying put over spring break, divide and conquer with the help of your spouse and friends. "What my working mom friends and I do is all agree to take one day off," she explains. "On that day, we take each other's kids. So I'll say, 'I'll take Friday and I'll take your three boys to laser tag.' It's fun for your kids because they get to have a special day with their buddies."

Camp Out
"Many day cares close over spring break as well," says Oshirak. If your child is enrolled in day care and you can't get the time off work, you may want to look into a weeklong camp. She recommends setting a reminder on your mobile device to give yourself plenty of time to register. "I do everything by my calendar," she says. "A bell rings and tells me where I am supposed to go and what I am supposed to do." No matter what your child is into—basketball, karate, ballet or art—a camp probably exists that is dedicated to that activity.

Something New
If you can work from home during your child's spring break, find a way to get your work done but still spend quality time with your child. "It's easy to plop a kid in front of a TV, and sometimes when you've got a wicked deadline it's necessary," says Oshirak. "But you need to spend at least an hour of each day really being present." To make the rest of the day fun for your child and "workable" for you, Oshirak recommends identifying "that shiny bright object that is going to capture your child's attention, such as a puzzle, a new game or a building activity—what I call good, old-fashioned fun. You won't get three hours of engagement out of something that is old."

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School Spirit
For the sake of your child, yourself and the teachers, make an effort to stick—at least somewhat—to the daytime schedule he follows at school, advises Oshirak. If your child normally plays outside in the late morning, eats lunch at 11:45 a.m. and rests at 1 p.m., try to do the same. He'll be back at school in a week or two, so maintaining that routine is recommended for a smooth reentry afterward. "The teachers have a well-oiled machine at your school, and your kid is just one spoke on the wheel," she says. "If you don't stick to their schedule, it makes life difficult for them."

Shut Down
At the same time, Oshirak thinks it's important to take a break from the educational part of school. "There are definitely families who enroll their kids in after-school learning programs like Kumon because they want to get ahead," says Oshirak, "but I think they deserve a break. I don't think that's what spring break is for." Instead, she suggests spending the day at the beach or finding another activity that's new and fun and will engage your child. "We have a beautiful beach near us, and though we have to pay $7 to park, it's so worth it." Think of the time spent building castles, chasing crabs and collecting seaweed as another kind of learning experience.

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