While it may feel like the holidays have just ended, the reality is that February is already upon us, and just around the corner, spring break is on its way.
While your days of spending spring break in Key West may be over, your days of adventuring during the lovely weather that early spring often brings doesn’t have to be. Instead, even those of us with young kids in tow can take advantage of the break from school and regular life for a meaningful reboot.
To feel refreshed, it’s unlikely there is a more reliable option than crafting a vacation wherein Mother Nature is the star. There are endless sources that discuss the effects of spending time outside on kids and adults, and they all agree: it’s really good for us.
According to Lauren Knight for The Washington Post the benefits include, “Improved concentration, a greater ability to engage in creative play, an aid to help treat mental illness (in particular ADHD and depression), and exercise that beats out organized sports with its hour-to-hour physical activity. Children who spend more time in nature develop better motor fitness and coordination, especially in balance and agility.”
For both the body and the mind, spending concentrated amounts of time outside is beneficial. There are a lot of examples that prove it’s the perfect backdrop for physical and mental health to intersect.
Thus, if things are feeling stale for members of your family, the outdoors may be just the place to spend the time needed for a restart. Whether you’d like to travel near or far, you can find a fit for your family.
Take a National Park Road Trip
For many, road trips are integral components of their childhood memories; a great deal is experienced in a relatively short amount of time. Skip the amusement parks and craft a journey that will allow your family to see the best natural beauty the country has to offer. In virtually every part of the country, there are road trips that highlight the national parks.
Do an Outdoor Project
Oftentimes, parents utilize school breaks to work on projects around the house, or they plan crafts with the kids. Redirect that energy into an outdoor project that will get everyone’s creative juices flowing and foster an opportunity to spend concentrated time outside. Projects like a homemade telescope or communal or private garden preparation and planting are smart options.
The key to getting kids, who may typically spend most of their time indoors utilizing technology, to engage outside of that environment is to do what you can to make nature as engaging and as entertaining as you can. So, allow them to participate in the decision-making process and to consider periods of downtime.
Don’t Underestimate a Staycation
You may not have the resources to make a trip outside your city limits, but even then a staycation can be surprisingly refreshing if you’re willing to assess your home with fresh eyes and an open mind.
Take a Tour
Tour a winery (for the health benefits, of course) sans kids or go to a museum with them. There are likely long-standing locations in your community you’ve hardly given second thought to that may actually surprise you in their ability to shift your perspective.
Go Camping in Your Backyard
All you need is a tent, the perfect hot chocolate recipe, and a good story or two. Especially for those with younger kids, backyard camping provides a lot in the way of experience and memories with minimal planning and prep.
Learn Something New
If there’s something you or your children are curious about, why not flesh that out? Local community centers and colleges are ripe with opportunities to learn in a fairly laid-back setting. Whether it’s a special one-time cooking class, or you merely utilize the extra time and the semester break to get signed-up, it’s unlikely to be a choice you’ll regret.
Get Out of Dodge
There are times when the only thing that will truly allow us to feel refreshed is a change in scenery. If that’s you, now’s the time to plan for the upcoming holiday. For parents, it may seem like so much work. And it does require more planning than it did during your pre-kids, jet-setting days. However, it’s planning that is doable; there are plenty of examples of individuals who prove that traveling far with kids can be done successfully and happily.
Whether you’re going across the country or across the globe, travel, even with young kids, is not wasted. It’s merely a matter of having the right expectations and attitude. If you’re hoping for the same type of trip you had when you went alone, it’s probably going to end in frustration at best and disappointment at worst. But, if you’re willing to be flexible and see the world through a child’s eyes, then you could be in for a surprisingly pleasant time.
Some important things to remember:
Keep the familiar in the strange: Curate a small grouping of familiar items without overwhelming your bags with toys. Travel light, but remember that the familiar is what will offer comfort if your children are thrown off by new surroundings.
Maintain the routines you can (especially sleep and mealtimes): While it won’t always be possible, kids are especially sensitive to schedules that are messed up; for happy campers keep what you can, the same.
Consider the destinations: If you can choose a sleeping arrangement that will appeal to the kids, why not? Similarly, if you can incorporate destinations that you know will appeal to preferences or interests, then that’s a surefire way to keep them engaged.
Think through international travel: When making the choice to travel abroad, don’t forget the important housekeeping items including passports for everyone and health insurance and vaccines that are up to date.
In the hustle and bustle that is everyday life, parents would do well to seek out every possible opportunity not just to take a break, but also to build connections and foster communication within the family. Spring is the season of rebirth, when the darkness of winter begins to be replaced by new life. Is there any better backdrop to make a concentrated effort to spend meaningful time together?
While parents are best equipped to pinpoint what type of activities will work best for their unique family the point is not so much where or what, but who. Whether you’re stepping foot in a far-away city for the first time or gazing up at the stars from your backyard for the thousandth time, the right people will make it the right thing.