Do you ever feel like your family is in a washing machine? Sometimes it feels like we’re just constantly churning....school, lessons, homework, cleaning, laundry, work, dinner, repeat 5 times. Tackle a project, go to church, pack lunches and wash school clothes. Then start over. Our weeks lately haven’t had a lot of time left over for “fun.”
Naturally, that leads to all kinds of mom-guilt when I let it. Childhood is flying by, and I want so much for them to look back and remember it fondly.
As warmer weather approaches, I am starting to crave an unplugged childhood for my kids. I know they don’t need elaborate vacations, or expensive stuff, or a schedule jam-packed with activities to make happy memories. But maybe they do need an outrageous dose of crazy with Mom & Dad once in awhile—something that will stand out when they think back on growing up.
Here are five ideas we’ve done, and will do again, that are epic fun for kids. Yes, some of these are wildly over-the-top ideas that may very well break your sanity. Others are simple to do, but will put a huge smile on your kids’ faces. All of them are about saying “who cares?” and getting messy while your kids are still young enough to want to.
1. Couch Nest Movie Night
This is a regular go-to activity from my friend Holly. Take two sofas and put them together, facing each other, to create one giant bed couch. Then take every pillow and blanket from around the house that you can gather and turn it into a massive nest. Hop into pajamas, fill up the popcorn and pile the family into the nest for a movie night. Then leave it that way for a day or two. It will be so fun to watch your kids turn it into a habitat for play, fort-building and pretending they are birds learning to fly. Yes, your house will feel like a complete wreck, but the fun is worth it.
2. Foster Kittens
If your kids are anything like mine, they’re obsessed with animals. My 8-year-old daughter wants to be an animal rescuer when she grows up, and we even save the bugs that wander into our house. Though she’d love it, adopting a menagerie of permanent pets is not something I can commit to. Still, I want to indulge her love of God’s creatures and allow our kids the experience of nurturing and loving them sacrificially. Last fall, we fostered a litter of 5-week old kittens. Yes, it broke our hearts to give them up for adoption afterward, but the joy in our home was palpable while they were here! And it was worth it knowing that we saved these precious babies from being euthanized, and we gave them love and socialization and the readiness to become lifelong companions. (And ironically, I was the most heartbroken of all at the end of it. The kids were a little sad, but mostly they were just excited for the next batch of kittens to arrive!) Of all my suggestions, this one will probably get the most immediate “no way!” but really, if I can do something like this, then anyone can! Your kids will NEVER forget it. To get started, we just filled out a foster application with a local animal shelter.
3. Project Week
Call me the meanest mom ever, but last year for Spring Break I ordered 6 cubic yards of mulch, had it dumped in our driveway, and gave my three kids shovels. (Of course I shoveled too.) They LOVED it. It was chilly and rainy and my oldest (a 10-year-old boy) had never been so hardworking or happy. The younger ones played in the pile and dug tunnels and helped as well as they could. I put snacks and kleenex on the front porch and locked us all out of the house from 9 AM-1 PM. The job was done in three days, the yard looked amazing, and my kids had never felt such a sense of accomplishment. This was the first time I realized that hard physical work is GOOD for them! So this year for Spring Break we’re tearing down our decrepit old deck. My kids can’t wait. Is there a grown up project you can think of that you can involve your kids in? Their response just might surprise you!
4. Rice Bathtub
If you ask my kids what their all-time favorite fun thing we’ve done at our house is, they might answer “rice in the bathtub.” We’ve done it a few times. I have a large soaking tub in my bathroom, and we will get huge bags of rice from a wholesale store and fill the tub with it. (Word to the wise, close the drain first). We then let the kids hop in with their toys, and play to their hearts’ content. We leave it up for several days. The clean up is horrible! But again, it’s great fun so it’s worth it. If you can’t give up your bathtub, we have also done rice in a giant plastic bin or a kiddy pool. You can use beans too. It’s like a preschool sensory bin but fully immersive. Because, what preschooler doesn’t want to just climb into that table anyway?
5. Frog Swamp
This is another one from my friend Holly. I *strongly dislike* mud, nature, swamps, and all manner of related earthy things that teem with smells and bugs. For her, it is her happy place. Over the years of her dragging our kids (and me) down to one pond after another, I have learned how good these places are for kids, and for the soul. You have to just turn off the disgusted part of your brain, go in knowing you’re going to get dirty, and embrace it. And once you’re knee deep in the pond, covered in slime and past the point of no return, you will love it. And you’ll know your kids are making memories they’ll never forget. Bring some jars with holes in the lids and long fishing nets, and see what you can find! Early March is great because, even though it’s still cold in most places, the pond Holly drug me to last week was filled with huge tadpoles already. Go online to find a nature preserve close to you and head out. Bonus for my fellow non-outdoor-girls, this time of year the bugs are still sleeping!