For a full year, COVID-19 has created challenges in nearly every aspect of everyday life. And children haven’t been immune to the difficulties. For kids in North Texas, the pandemic has been disruptive and stressful to both their education and health—two of the building blocks of opportunity.
Luckily, March brings spring break, a chance for many families to reconnect and take a well-deserved rest. Although this year’s spring break may look different than most years—with events cancelled and travel put on hold due—the week can still be an opportunity to enjoy the type of fun, novel experiences we’re all craving.
We’ve put together a list of spring break activities that are safe and completely free—and will keep kids’ minds active and engaged:
Explore New Worlds through Reading
Reading will always be one of the best ways to experience something new without ever leaving home. You can make reading a family affair over spring break by reading books with your kids and then talking about the plot and characters together, creating drawings inspired by your favorite scenes or acting out key moments.
Here’s another fun way to bring reading to life: As part of United Way Reading Day, we’re providing free one-year subscriptions to Vooks animated storybooks to North Texas children ages 3-6. Sign up to get your free subscription here.
For more free reading resources, check out Wilbooks—which has thousands of free online books, coloring pages, word searches and more—and Pinna, which offers a free 30-day trial to its wide variety of audiobooks and podcasts for kids.
Plan Some Safe Social Time
Research has shown that children’s mental health can suffer when they can’t see friends and relatives for extended periods. If your kids are eager for some social time during their vacation week, here are some ways to do it safely:
- Set up virtual calls or playdates: Apps like Facebook Messenger Kids and Houseparty make it easy for younger kids to keep up with friends without the pressure of a phone call. Online games like Roblox and Among Us let friends play together from anywhere.
- Have a virtual movie night: Kids and their friends can pick a movie to watch at the same time while they chat online. Or they can use Teleparty, a free app that makes it easy for kids to remotely watch a movie or TV show together.
- Get a pen pal: Finding a pen pal in another country is a fun way for kids to make a new friend and learn about different cultures and locales. Peaceful Pen Pals Project and International Pen Friends are organizations that match pen pals from around the globe with each other.
- Look for ways to safely meet in person: If your child is craving some in-person social time, consider how to do it safely and outdoors—for example, by meeting up at a playground, going for a hike or riding bikes together.
Educate and Entertain with STEM
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be so fun and engaging for young minds. Consider these activities that will educate and entertain your kids:
- Have a science experiment day: Here are some great ideas from Parents magazine that use everyday items you may already have at home.
- Share some brain-building activities. Vroom has created amazing printable tip sheets for parents that feature activities for kids ages 0-5, such as cooking together and ways to de-stress. Tips are available to download in English and Spanish.
- Make it a game: The EVERFI Remote Learning Portal has 100+ interactive, game-based lessons to help families bring learning to life at home.
- Get inventive: Explore these fun at-home activities by the Girl Scout STEM Center partners at Camp Invention.
- Inspire kids to love science: Mystery Science has dozens of incredible open-and-go lessons for kids from grades K-5.
- Make math fun: Prodigy is a curriculum-aligned math game loved by more than 50 million kids from grades 1-8.
- Go out of this world: NASA STEM Engagement offers a variety of games to play, activities to do together away from the screen and even educational curriculums chock-full of STEM-focused content.
- Discover coding: The Australian Coding Academy offers free coding programs for kids, like this Blockly Turtle challenge that teaches you how to control a turtle and draw pictures.
Plan an Art Day
The Dallas Museum of Art is offering free arts and craft kits (while supplies last) that you can pick up and take home on March 17-20.
Or, you can take a do-it-yourself approach with ideas like these:
- Repurpose junk mail to make a creative sculpture or collage.
- Print coloring books, like this one from artist Mike Perry.
- Collect pretty rocks and then paint them with your favorite colors.
- Make a scrapbook of family photos and memories.
- Grab some chalk, head outside and decorate the sidewalk with your most creative drawings or poetry.
Head to the Great Outdoors
After a year stuck at home and severe winter storms, we’ve all earned some nice spring weather. Here are some ideas for getting out and enjoying it:
- Explore some of North Texas’ parks, trails, lakes and natural areas, which make up one of the largest municipal park systems in the U.S. For a list of parks near you, visit Dallas Parks and Recreation, Plano parks and trails or McKinney parks and trails. Many parks are still hosting limited in-person, family-friendly events, so be sure to check schedules.
- Head to Cedar Hill to take in the views and watch the birds and butterflies at Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Ridge Preserveand Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center.
- Go to your backyard or a local park and see how many different types of birds you can spot.
- Discover the joy of reading outside. Grab a blanket, head outdoors and enjoy the sunshine.
Physical activity offers a variety of benefits for kids, including lower stress levels, greater focus and concentration during school, and healthy growth and development. Take advantage of the free time this week to enjoy some fun fitness activities:
- GoNoodle has a ton of games, crafts and exercises that are great for guided movement, mindfulness and more.
- Cosmic Kids Yoga or Yoga for Kids! introduce kids to yoga in fun and engaging ways on YouTube.
- Kids and adults can learn how to do a new dance with Kidz Bop dance-along videos, Just Dance–or make up your own!
Take a Virtual Trip
Grab a computer, cozy up with your kids and explore some of the most interesting places on Earth:
- AAA’s virtual tours include America’s most beautiful national parks, world-famous zoos and aquariums, Walt Disney World, international landmarks like the pyramids of Egypt and even the International Space Station.
- National Zoo Webcam has four different webcams to providing a glimpse into the daily life of mole-rats, lions, giant pandas and elephants in Washington, D.C.
- Explore and Learn with Smithsonian Museums. Access dozens of fun games, quizzes and activities.
- Check out 12 famous Museums with Virtual Tours with this list from Travel + Leisure.
- Explore Adventures in Familyhood’s list of 20 Virtual Field Trips to Take with your Kids.
Volunteer as a Family
Helping others feels good and is a great example for kids of all ages. Think about how you and your children could help someone else during spring break. Here are some ways to volunteer safely this spring break:
- Share your children’s love of reading with others by volunteering for United Way Reading Day throughout March. This year, registered volunteers can participate in local and virtual book drives and record videos of themselves reading their favorite books for other children to enjoy. Volunteer for Reading Day here.
- Sign up for a virtual volunteering opportunity with United Way, such as writing e-messages to healthcare providers and patients, creating care packages and helping with food distribution efforts.
Enjoy Some Screen-Free Time
Eager for some activities that don’t require technology? Try some of these:
- Interview a family member about a unique experience they had.
- Stay up late and see how many stars you can spot in the night sky.
- Find, pick and dissect a flower.
- Learn three new jokes, and then share them with your family.
- Draw a map of your home.
- Construct a family tree.
- Imagine, create and fly a full-size flag that tells the world about you.
- Build a “fable fort” out of blankets and chairs. Camp in it all day while you create stories to tell your family over dinner.
- Create a Venn Diagram that compares and contrasts two people in your family.
- Write a short story and illustrate it.
- Make cards and send them to family and friends.
- Create your own Olympic games with some silly events, some physical activity and some helpful chores around the house (like organizing, etc.).
We’d love to hear how you’re keeping your kids active and engaged. Snap a picture and tag @unitedwaydallas to share!
This article was published on: Mar 11, 2021