'Staycation' ideas for parents
You don't have to head for the hills to have fun sleeping under the stars. Just pitch a tent in your backyard. Dust off your grill and sizzle up some burgers for dinner, with s'mores for dessert. Light up some tiki torches or bug-repellent lanterns, or go all out and build a campfire if you plan to make a regular thing of it. Just make sure there isn't a burn ban or any other rules against lighting fires on your property before you dig that fire pit.
-- By Liz Murtaugh Gillespie
When's the last time you hunkered down for a movie right after breakfast, queued up another and stayed glued to your TV until — oops, how is it dinnertime already? It's one of those lazy luxuries you never get a chance to say good-bye to before parenthood hits. So give yourself a treat and reacquaint yourself with the movie marathon. If your kids are old enough, set them up with their own private screening of their favorite shows and/or flicks. Then fire up some classics or Westerns or espionage thrillers or knuckleheaded comedies — whatever floats your movie-loving boat.
Bing: Camping in your backyard
What better time than a school break to shake out those musty rugs, make your fridge sparkle and mop your floors with wild abandon? If you don't, all that grime that built up in every nook and cranny imaginable will soon start to look like it's under a spotlight, a microscope or both. No need to tackle this annual ritual all on your own. Make it a family affair; assign your kids age-appropriate chores and award prizes for jobs well done. Or invite over some friends, feed them for their efforts, and return the favor at their place.
Video: Tips for spring cleaning
Girls' Night Inn
A girls' night out every now and then does wonders for any mom's stress level. Sometimes you just need to get away and whoop it up a little. But let's face it. Sometimes parenting can be so exhausting, there's nothing that sounds more relaxing than jumping into your jammies at 5 o'clock. So instead of a night out on the town, book a Girls' Night Inn at one of your single girlfriends' places and gather a gaggle of your favorite ladies under one roof for a night off from kid bathtime and bedtime duty. Make it a potluck of appetizers and appletinis. Chick flick: mandatory. Pillow fight: optional.
Family photo album-fest
Are you one of those moms who went gangbusters with your first born, capturing every moment on camera (still and video) and cataloguing them in albums until… yeah, it was all you could do to keep up? And then came the second kid. And now you whip out your smart phone ever so occasionally and never do anything with them? Well, time to shake off the guilt. You have plenty of company. Block out some of your spring or summer break time to sift through your neglected, disorganized stash of pictures, print some out and start filling up those family photo albums you've been meaning to get to for years.
While you're ridding your closets of wool sweaters and corduroys, why not ditch a bunch of those sad same-old, same-old threads you only wear when everything else is bundled up in the dirty laundry? Pile up the pants, tops, skirts and jackets you're too sick of to wear one more time, pluck out whatever's too ugly to pawn off on a friend, and then invite a dozen of your favorite (and ideally most fashionable) gal pals over for a clothing swap. You can make it a grown-ups-only affair or seize the opportunity to thin out your kids' closets, too, and see if any of their friends have worthy hand-me-downs to share.
Bing: Tips to host a clothes swap
Neighborhood ranger for a day
How many plants and animals call your neighborhood home? Uh, right. You have no idea. So grab some field guides and figure it out. Wear comfortable shoes, dress for the weather, and pack snacks and water bottles as if you were going out on a real-deal hike. Have your kids bring notebooks and jot down the names of the flowers, trees, weeds, birds and bugs you find. If you get stumped on some flora or fauna, make a note to look it up on the Internet when you get home.
What in the world feels more whimsical and fancy-free than blowing bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles? Chase them in the wind or see if you can slowly fill up a shiny orb the size of a cantaloupe. It's enough to keep kids from 3 to 93 entertained for hours. You don't need much to host a bubble bonanza in your backyard: some snacks, lemonade and enough bubbles for everyone. You can use store-bought bubbles — they're cheap and easy to find. Or if you're the crafty type, you can make your own bubble solution — there are tons of easy "recipes" on the Internet. And there are lots of things in your kitchen drawers that can double as a bubble blower: a funnel, a slotted spoon, a fly swatter, a bundle of straws or cookie cutters.
Playing games is a great way to dial down day-to-day stress and bond with family and friends. It's good for your brain, too. So carve out some of your wide-open break time for some Bingo or Monopoly, Scrabble or Parcheesi, whatever suits your game-playing fancy. In the mood to discover some new games? Host a BYOG (Bring Your Own Game) party and try out some of your friends' favorites. Or pop into a local toy or book store with your kids and pick out a new game together. Maybe you'll get hooked and figure out a way to make game-playing a more regular, relaxation-inducing thing in your busy household.
When's the last time you and your kids romped around at a playground for the very first time? It's probably been a while, right? You stick to the favorites in your usual rotation for practical reasons. It's close by. Or it has that terrifically twisty slide your daughter loves more than any other. Well, why not bust out of your routine, check out your city or county parks department website and pick some playground you've never been to? It's always a treat to discover the unique mix fun features every playground has to offer.