With Spring Break upon us, pandemic-weary parents will be looking for new ideas that are both entertaining and educational to help keep kids active and engaged. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, the area’s leading youth development organization, offers practical, yet creative, tips for parents during the week-long vacation, which won’t “break the bank.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston urges parents and children to exercise caution over spring break, since we are still in a pandemic. Although the state of Texas has lifted the mask mandate and is allowing the full opening of businesses, the nonprofit recommends that families still follow best practices of wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and avoiding large indoor crowds.
“Our Club families and others around the Houston area want to provide fun, safe and meaningful experiences for their children and teens during Spring Break,” says Zenae Campbell, Vice President of Programs and Club Operations. “Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston has stepped up to meet the needs of the community during the pandemic, along with providing tips, support and guidance to parents in several areas, from stress and mental well-being to wholesome activities that kids of all ages can enjoy. With a little planning, a staycation can be memorable for all family members.”
Recommendations for keeping kids busy and active include both indoor and outdoor activities, and most are free or inexpensive. Engaging both mind and body can mitigate boredom and make for positive experiences for parent and child. Keeping academic and critical thinking skills sharp help with pandemic learning loss, while good nutrition and physical activity keep bodies healthy, all of which are important pillars of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
Top ideas* include:
- Get outdoors, even if it’s in your own block or neighborhood. Riding bikes or scooters, roller blading, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, going on a scavenger hunt to find various items in nature, building a fort in the back yard or having a picnic can provide exercise and connect kids to nature. Take some books along to read while you picnic or relax on a blanket.
- Since nature isn’t closed during the pandemic, check out any of the Houston area’s many parks or green spaces. The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Mercer Arboretum, Armand Bayou Nature Center and the Katy Prairie are great nature sanctuaries. City and county parks are located all around Houston, many with hike and bike trails near bayou greenways. Some have tennis courts, softball fields and disc golf.
- If the weather isn’t cooperating or you feel like staying inside, hold a game day with board games, cards, checkers, chess, dominos, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzle books and brain teasers. Use these games to reinforce math, language arts and critical thinking skills. Set aside an hour per day for reading books, whether novels, nonfiction or educational materials.
- Dance the day away: Kids need daily physical activity, so let them teach you how to do a new dance — or choreograph your own. Make it memorable by recording it on your phone or contacting family and friends via FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype so they can see your fancy footwork from afar — but in real-time. Introduce kids to your favorite music from younger days and show them some of your dance moves. Talk about different music genres.
- Host a snack competition: Food projects are a no-brainer when it comes to keeping kids entertained. Taking a cue from the Food Network show Chopped, create a mystery basket of ingredients—one per kid—and give a set amount of time for each “contestant” to create their own snack. Easy ingredients to use that inspire creativity include spreads like peanut butter or Nutella, dry cereal, fruit, crackers, pretzels and something special like mini marshmallows or chocolate chips. Also, have your kids plan and help with healthy meal preparation during the week.
- Get cultured by visiting one or two of Houston’s many museums in the Museum District, some of which are currently open, including the Museum of Natural Science, Buffalo Soldiers Museum, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Holocaust Museum Houston. The Children’s Museum Houston has virtual programs over spring break that require registration. Many have free admission on Thursdays. Consider a trip to the Houston Zoo.
- Have an arts and crafts day at home with any number of activities, such as origami, painting, drawing, dyeing eggs or white flowers, making binoculars with toilet paper rolls, creating paper bag puppets, nature sun catchers, raised salt paintings and shadow tracing art.
- Limit screen time during the break, and focus on age appropriate educational content, such as documentaries, science experiments, history, music and travel.
Spring break is an opportunity to bring out your child’s creativity and keep his or her mind occupied. Be safe and follow good health guidelines outside the home.
To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, please visit www.bgcgh.org.