Spring Break Plans

9480227_SEven if you can’t leave town this year for Spring Break, you can plan some special family activities while your kids are out of school. Here are a couple of fun ideas.

Start a garden: Whether you begin with a few herbs in pots or decide to rent a rototiller, a garden is a great way of getting involved in something different. You might want each child to choose a vegetable to grow or give everyone a small area to plant whatever they want.

Begin by visiting a local nursery. Talk to the experts there to find out what options would be best for your available space and the season. You might want to mix some plants with a few packages of seeds to you have immediate crops and some that will come up later.

Look for heirloom varieties of vegetables, the ones that are hard to find in stores. Cherry tomato plants are also a good choice for the Arizona desert climate.

Let your children take the lead in planning and choosing. Get them directly involved in the planting and tending. If one child wants flowers rather than vegetables, that’s OK. It’s the process rather than the results that are important.

7954179_STake a hike: No, this is not a rude remark. How about planning a nature walk either in the area or within a few hours’ drive? Once again, let your children take the lead. Pick up a book of interesting local hiking areas at your local bookstore or library.

Make the hike extra fun by including a picnic that everyone contributes to making and packing. Take along a book that helps you identify local plants and birds. Have someone wear a pedometer so you know how far you’ve gone at the end of the day.

Make this Spring Break special by finding an activity or event that everyone in your family can enjoy and working together to make it special for everyone.

Making Thanksgiving Memories

Would you like your Thanksgiving celebration to be more memorable this year? Here are just a few ideas to spark up the day.

Talk across the generations: For many people, as many as three or four generations of family members gather together. Take special advantage of this by planning some conversation starters that will get everyone involved.

Questions could include “What was your favorite Thanksgiving and why?” “What were the holidays like when you were a child?” or “What’s your favorite holiday food?” Add any other questions you think of and write them on pieces of paper or make a list. No matter the age range of your guests, the opportunity to share memories will contribute to a nice event.

Get everyone involved: If you have children, include them in the Thanksgiving preparations. Have every child take responsibility for one dish. Or if they’re too young for this, have them decorate the table with Thanksgiving-themed drawings or make name-plates or menus. Teach them the right way to set a table. Also ask Aunt Harriet to bring her famous potatoes, Uncle Bob to bring a nice bottle of wine or any other combination that works for you and your guests.

Remember the first Thanksgiving: Have your children research the first Thanksgiving feast and then tell about it at your own table. This gives them a chance to contribute to the discussion and reminds everyone of why we celebrate every year.

Say why you’re thankful: Before, during or after the meal, ask everyone to express what they are most thankful for this year. This is another reminder that the holiday is about more than food. And whether you have two or twenty at your Thanksgiving table, have a lovely memory-filled day.

Add a Creative Space for your Family

Artistic efforts by children have been shown to improve their reading and math skills as well as their scores on achievement tests later in life such as SAT’s and ACT’s. Unfortunately, limited budgets have trimmed art budgets for many school-age children, but you have a chance to create opportunities for art in your home.

A dining room can become a temporary art studio with the right supplies. If you’re concerned about spills, stick to crayons or colored pencils like the family in the photo above. Some colored pencils have watercolor capability – dip them in water to create art that’s more like painting but with less chance for a mess.

If your dining room table may be damaged by your art plans, invest in an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth or head to your nearest fabric store for a length of oilcloth to cover the table. Either can be cleaned easily with a sponge.

For younger children, look for a corner of the family room or dinette with enough space to set a child’s table and chairs. Set up a shelf nearby with a collection of paper and art supplies. This proportional work space can invite children to bring art into their everyday lives.

To encourage your children to experiment with art, have a place for hanging their finished work. The most common option is the refrigerator, but you may want to hang a cork board as a changing display of current projects. Another option is demonstrated by the photo above. A simple line hung along a hall or family room with clips to hold the pictures allows you to showcase the family art.

Providing an opportunity to experience art in your home can help your child develop, but it is also a great way to get the whole family involved in a fun activity.