I’m not going to help you hide, but to cope. Entertaining children during March Break may appear to be a daunting task, but you really can come out of it unscathed. And if you’re not escaping to the sun, you can seek solace in the fact that this will not last forever. As soon as kids hit their teens, they’re quite happy to fend for themselves and would rather you not interfere with their chill time anyway.
First of all, weekends don’t count so you’re really only faced with five days to fill, unless of course your children are in private school, in which case I wish you much luck and plenty of wine. I’m down to one child in need of entertainment, and I can’t stress enough the importance of friends. It’s more fun for your kids, and everything they do lasts a bit longer when they’re together.
Unless you’re going on a big outing like skiing, mornings should be long and lazy; that’s half your day already. Let the kids indulge in some cartoons, or throw them outside to play in the snow. Forget the snowman, challenge them to make a snowwoman which will have them in fits of laughter; give them squirt bottles filled with coloured water for a little Pollock on ice; have them shovel the driveway. There could be incentive in this, if you know what I mean. After all, we are also interested in preserving your sanity. Little stolen moments to read the paper and have a cup of tea are golden.
Lunch. At this point, you better have a plan for the afternoon like a friend coming over. Give them lots of opportunity to fend for themselves. Set them up with an arts and crafts activity, karaoke, a dress up theme like Alice, board games, computer games, a treasure hunt, etc. Maybe you’d like to bake something with them that could end up being their snack, and the beginning of a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. You could play ‘beat the clock’ and have them clean up the kitchen before the timer goes off and the muffins are ready. Before you know it, your kitchen’s clean, the kids are proudly enjoying a snack they made, and evening is around the corner.
I’m a firm believer in not having to go out to the same, overpriced, crowded places, year after year. The wonderful thing about Toronto, and many other North American cities is how multicultural they are, giving you an opportunity to play tourist. You can actually go to neighbourhoods like Little India, Little Italy, Greektown, and Chinatown, and feel momentarily immersed in that culture. The people, colours, sounds, smells, food, street signs all help to transport you. Why not propose a day trip to China with your children and their friends? Walk through your local Chinatown, visit the shops, eat some local food for lunch, and don’t forget to buy a little souvenir. Make sure the kids bring a notepad to record their thoughts or make sketches of things they enjoyed seeing. They can also take photographs, and save any receipts and business cards, so when they come home they can create a wonderful collage of their outing.
If you live in Toronto, I do have a few suggestions. First would be the Textile Museum, where they have special activities for the occasion. Since it’s off the beaten path, it’s calmer than the big museums and a beautiful space to visit. The Paper Place is having a collage competition and providing materials free of charge. You just have to pick up the package, take it home, and bring back the collage once finished. It’s an inspiring shop to take your kids to. Another plan is to hang out at a bookshop, followed by a hot chocolate. Indigo/Chapters and Mabel’s Fables are really great about letting you hang out for as long as you want. And while I’m hoping to stay far from the madding crowd most of the time, I might brave one visit to the AGO, or the ROM which has a new bat cave to visit. And this time, make the gift shop your friend; it’s good for at least half an hour. Bonne chance!