Tag Archives: February vacation activities

Monday Musings: Making your own fun

17 Feb
Using the components from games you already have to create a new game is a fun way to spend a day out of school!

Using the components from games you already have to create a new game is a fun way to spend a day out of school!

It’s school vacation week for us this whole week ahead. Monday, President’s Day, is a day off for many kids around the country, even if they don’t have the whole week off.

For many parents, a whole week out of school during the winter months can seem daunting. What to do? Where to go?

As a mom, I often find that the most fun and memorable moments come from an unplanned event or from the kids’ own minds when left to their own devices.

And I don’t mean electronic devices.

Often we’ll allow some electronics time and then all devices go off and it’s time to find something to do, whether they need to read a book, occupy themselves in their rooms, or play a board game.

Over our last school vacation week, my younger two girls decided to play dominoes after my youngest had played them at school during indoor recess time on a rainy or snowy day. She was thrilled to find out that we had dominoes here as well, and what began as making “domino effect” structures and watching one domino lead to their demise, ended up being an hours-long project, using all of the dominoes plus all of the previously-popular “Squinkies” to create two entirely new games.

Without any parental direction or involvement whatsoever, the girls created a challenge for themselves, to each take a set of the dominoes and some of the Squinkies, and create their own game and rules for the game, which they’d then teach each other to play.

I know I said it, but this bears repeating: this took them several hours.

Creating the box for storing their game components was almost as much of a challenge for them as creating the games themselves.

Creating the box for storing their game components was almost as much of a challenge for them as creating the games themselves.

Between coming up with the game they wanted to create, coming up with the rules for it, playing it for and with each other, and then the next part: creating a box to store the games in, complete with some marketing images on the boxes, took them hours.

The box they created had a challenge to it as well. They decided to use one box, which had originally contained a pair of men’s boots, to store both games. However, they split the box down the middle and each came up with completely unique packaging to market their particular game.

I swear to you, I had nothing to do with this. I was downstairs sorting through *last* school year’s papers that I was archiving into bins to save.

They were completely engaged, not bored, not arguing, not asking us for ANYTHING, for hours.

And best of all, they had a blast. It was a highlight of their week.

It didn’t cost us a dime, we didn’t leave the house. They never even changed out of their pajamas.

It was excellent. And they were so, so proud of themselves.

Sometimes, as parents, I think we get caught up in the pressures of planning the perfect day off, the perfect vacation week, and I think sometimes if we leave some down time in the schedule it can be a good thing.

I know that there’s a fine line between leaving too much time free, and leaving no time free, but I think it’s important as we enter this school vacation week, to remember to leave at least some time for the kids to tap into their own creativity and ability to entertain themselves. Nothing pleases me more than to see my kids all playing together, laughing, talking, thinking out loud and being creative. It’s a valuable skill to foster in kids, and who knows what they’ll create!

Give it a try this week or on your next snow day, holiday, day off or weekend and see what your kids come up with! They just might surprise you.

It’s February Vacation Week: Welcome [Back] to the Jungle!

18 Feb
Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Not every school system has February Vacation Week, but ours does. A lot of people dread vacation weeks, but I look forward to the break. I like having my kids home with me and I like the break from all the stress and running around.

At work, Don gets a lot done through the week while the school building is quiet and it airs out from all the flu and virus germs that fill it all winter.

However, if you’re home for the week you may be looking for ways to fill the time. I find that no matter what, the week flies by, but it helps to have some fun little ideas in your back pocket, just to be safe.

Valentine’s Day was just last week so we have received some new games, crafts and activities which will be perfect for this week. As with last year’s Welcome to the Jungle posts, I’ve decided to feature some of the things we’re doing throughout the week, passing along any fun ideas to you.

Today’s activity idea is one that may or may not shock you: if your kids are bored, let them draw on all your windows, mirrors and glass doors!

Yup, that’s right: day one and I’ve already lost my mind.

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Elizabeth received a new activity as a Valentine’s Gift from my mom and dad this weekend. The Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers were an instant hit when the girls opened them up. We let them use any glass surface: windows, mirrors and the sliding glass door served as their canvasses.

It was so awesome.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The way the markers work is simple: you write on your chosen glass surface and then watch as right before your eyes the regular-looking marker turns into a beautiful crystalized image.

As you watch, it actually looks as if the image is moving while it changes. It’s very, very cool.

We had friends over on Sunday with kids of their own and we let the girls take out the markers while their friends were here and they all seemed to have a blast with them, even the one boy out of the group had a great time, so it’s definitely something a boy would enjoy also.

The one issue we had with using the markers in the bathroom was that we left the artwork up during showers.


It all dripped down the mirror and we had to take it off and start over again. It actually says on the box not to use it in a high humidity area, such as a bathroom. But, our bathroom mirror is so huge, we did it again anyway, but this time we’ll wash it off before the next shower.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

Which leads me to my next tip: taking off the artwork.

You can take it off very simply with a wet paper towel, followed by a dry one to wipe off any remaining residue. Those are the instructions on the box, and it worked just as they said.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

I’d definitely keep this in my arsenal of birthday gift ideas for the future, it was lots of fun and it’s a gift that they can use over and over again, each time with a different result.

Although I don’t know the cost of these, I am pretty sure I’ll be able to find them in my local craft store, and most likely be able to use a coupon for them there.

I think these markers have tons of potential in our house! I can foresee writing special birthday messages on mirrors or windows, or writing fun messages for special house guests when they visit our home, the way we write on our message boards and chalk boards.

If you’ve ever used the Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers yourself and you have any fun tips or activities to share, leave a comment and let us know! We have all week to experiment with them!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

A February Vacation treat so easy even your kids can make it!

23 Feb
Rice Krispie treat cookie cutter snacks

Caroline has been dying to try making this snack for months apparently!

My kids have definitely inherited my creative bug. They like to craft and bake all the time. They’re constantly looking in their magazines for recipes, crafts and games. I can’t keep up with all of the things they find that they want to make, try or do, in addition to all the things I want to make, try and do. (And, can I just say, it’s a good thing none of my kids are on Pinterest yet. They’d be addicted!)

Apparently way back in the fall Caroline found a snack she wanted to try out and allegedly I gave my standard answer of “We’ll see,” or maybe it was “Yup, but not today,” and forgot all about it.

Alex told me that this day was her favorite day ever because she got to paint AND play Playdoh both on the same day. Both make for good, relaxing vacation day fun!

Saturday she came up to me out of the blue and asked if she could please make this snack for her sisters, who were painting and playing play doh. She reminded me that she’s been asking me since October and that I keep brushing her off for one reason or another. This time I really had no reason to say no. I mean there was already a mess in the dining room, what’s one more activity going on in the kitchen? (And I must say, she didn’t even make a mess, she was very neat.)

Painting, like coloring, is a relaxing and engaging activity for kids of any age.

She went in and didn’t allow anyone else in there the entire time she was working, so I don’t have a ton of details for you. What I do know is that at some point on the TLC show, “Cake Boss,” she saw Buddy, the Cake Boss himself, take Rice Krispie Treats and flatten them out, using cookie cutters to make them into shapes, then frosting them to add to their cake creations. We happened to have a package of individual serving Rice Krispie treats in our snack box for school snacks. Caroline took “a whole bunch of those, there’s not too many left Mom,” and rolled them into balls together. Next, using a pizza dough roller, she rolled them out to a more workable thickness and used a variety of cookie cutters to make them into shapes. She then used several of my frostings, icings and other decorative treats to create cute little snacks for her sisters to eat when they were done with their crafting fun.

Decorated Rice Krispie Treat snacks

I was proud of Caroline for trying out this cute snack for her sisters.

Everyone stayed busy that afternoon, everyone loved the special snack, and Caroline was so proud of herself. I was proud of her, and glad I’d finally said yes, even though I only vaguely remember being asked to begin with!

I can definitely recommend this as a snack that kids can make in the kitchen themselves, with little to no help, depending on their ages. It’s not a particularly healthy snack, but it’s a fun treat and makes for a fun afternoon! If you’re looking for something to keep your kids occupied this February Vacation week, try out Caroline and Buddy’s Rice Krispie Treat snack!

Welcome to the jungle…it’s school vacation week!

21 Feb

“You drive us wild, you drive me crazy.”

Peanuts 550 piece puzzle

The Gang's All Here! It's February Vacation Week! Jigsaw puzzles like this one might be one thing you can use to keep older kids busy during school vacation week.

Welcome to school vacation week!!

As I type this those words are echoing in the background because the kids and their dad are playing Guitar Hero on Wii. It just so happens that those exact words are playing at this very moment.

Coincidence, totally.

Additionally, Alex has found another guitar downstairs and is playing a completely different tune on that one while Guns N Roses plays on the TV for the others.

School vacation week has the potential to make any parent crazy. The kids are home full days for a full week and depending where you are in the country, you may be confined to the indoors due to the weather. Knock on wood, it’s been a beautiful winter here. I can’t remember a February this warm in a long time. We have been outside without jackets several times this week and each time, I’m amazed that it’s February and we’re getting to play outside, and not in the snow!

I don’t plan a ton for February vacation and my friends laugh at the reason, but it’s true: we have never had a February vacation where no one has thrown up. The stomach bug usually hits our house this week every year so we end up having to cancel whatever plans we’ve made. Each year, including this one, I’m cautiously optimistic, but even so, I bought two bottles of Gatorade last week just in case. It’s a regular full time work week for Don, which also surprises everyone, since schools are closed, but yes, he has to work and yes he’s got a ton to do.

Overall, I look forward to school vacation week. It gives us a break from all the running and scheduling that we have to do during a regular week when you’ve got two people working and three kids with three different schedules. It’s a lot to manage and I love the break. I love having everyone here. However, if we’re not careful, it can get ugly pretty quickly. We’re not in any way immune to the bickering and arguing that can erupt if they’re left to their own devices for very long.

The secret to a successful school vacation week is having 1) plenty of snacks on hand to prevent low blood sugar meltdowns and 2) plenty of things to do (free or almost free) even if you don’t end up doing them all. Activities can range from crafts and activities to outings or a good combination of both.

Two of my kids have birthday parties this week and I’m hoping to schedule them all for a playdate one day also. I have to work a day, and we’ll have a cousin sleeping over here a night as well. Other than that, there’s lots of free “stuff” to do locally because everyone knows the kids are out of school. For example, if you live in Rhode Island and have younger kids, check out the Learn All About It website to see what kinds of activities they have going on this week. If you see one you’d like, be sure to sign up by calling the store.

I’ve got more projects around the house planned in my head than we’ll ever do, but at least I’ve got plenty of options. My goal is not to have everyone sitting around bored all week or sitting in front of the TV all week either. There’s plenty of other things we can do instead. The week will end up flying by, I’m sure.

Below is a recipe I’ve shared in the past, but never on my own blog. I’m sharing it because I’m sure it’ll make an appearance on my table this week for a snack.

Sour cream dip for fruit.

This is a great snack for kids and adults alike!


The girls found this recipe in one of their kids’ cookbooks: “Silly Snacks: Family Fun in the Kitchen.” It was so fast and it’s SO good!

Mix together:

8 Ounces Sour Cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Fruit of your choice.  In the past we have used red grapes, nectarines, plums, apples, strawberries, peaches and bananas. We also have skewers, which makes it even more fun to eat.

Mix and dip!