1. Snow days
Take advantage of late snow. At a conservation area, rent inexpensive cross-country skis or snowshoes.
2. Family room fitness
Borrow an exercise DVD from the library or stream one on YouTube, move the furniture and try belly dancing, yoga or the newest hip hop moves.
3. Indoor adventures
Buy a day pass at your local YMCA or community recreation centre. Your kids can try crafts, sports or games, while you work out. Or take the plunge and try a public swim together. (Phone first or check schedules online.)
4. Spring sports
Dust off your warm-weather sports equipment. Organize a game of mud or snow soccer, or play windblown badminton. Blessed with clear roads? Get a spring safety check for your bikes and try some wheel fun!
5. Group activities
Join forces with a few families for an afternoon of skating (check first to see if your local rink is still open for the season) or swimming. Top it off by sharing a potluck dinner and favourite DVDs.
6. Generation celebration
No grandparents nearby? Call your local seniors’ home and ask if you and the kids can visit. Find out if you can help serve goodies at afternoon tea, assist at craft hour or play piano.
7. Garment gathering
Help your kids comb through closets for outgrown or unloved clothes. Bag them up and drop them at a used-clothing charity box.
8. Family fashionistas
Got kids who are striving to escape a fashion rut? Invite friends over for a clothing swap party. (Sure—parents, too!) Designate bedrooms as change rooms and model your ensembles for one another. Afterward everyone goes home with a new (to them) funky outfit.
9. Game swap
Bored of your board games? Host an afternoon where each family brings a game to swap. Also, introduce your kids to the classics—chess and checkers.
10. Tot trade
If you’re craving a child-free afternoon for your own work or play, invite a friend’s kids over for a playdate. The next day, your kids go there.
11. Multicultural menu
Expand your kids’ culinary world by cooking Thai, Chinese, Mexican or Greek recipes together. For inspiration, check cookbooks or look online. Explore small ethnic grocery stores or well-stocked superstores in your community to find the ingredients.
12. Totally unplugged
Visit the library to stock up on books and magazines. Then turn off the TV, phone, computer and iPad. Spend the day in your softest PJs. Read, nap, doodle, veg and cook a kid-friendly breakfast together. Then dine by candlelight.
13. Kids’ kitchen
Take the day off while your kids plan and execute the menu. If you’re nervous, provide guidelines (no jujubes for the entree). Hang around, but assist only at your head chef’s request. For inspiration, check out Sweet Potato Chronicles latest book, How to Feed a Family.
14. Get fancy!
Raid the dress-up bin (or vintage clothing finds) to emulate your favourite rock or pop groups. Crank up the music and strum soulfully on your tennis racquet guitar. Then lip-synch and boogie along. Practise until polished and videotape your performance. (Let your kids have a turn next time!)
15. Vintage adventures
Time for your label-loving kids to break free. At used clothing stores, find bargains from fringed leather jackets to fedoras. Hand over $25 and challenge your preteen to put together a complete outfit. Complete the look with beaded clutches and costume jewellery.
16. Animal magnetism
If your kids are wild for fuzzy folk, let them pet-sit for friends who are away. Volunteer to walk dogs or caress kittens at the humane society. Older kids can ask to help out at your family’s vet.
17. Dollar store crafts
Buy an inexpensive plastic or wood switch-plate cover from a hardware or dollar store. Decorate it with permanent markers, stickers or glued-on photos of friends.
18. Get creative
Check if a nearby craft store offers one-day workshops in beading, ceramics, knitting or doll painting. If not, buy a craft kit and learn alongside your kid. Even better, share a craft from your own childhood—macramé jute belts, anyone?
19. Bird tweets
Cut a grapefruit in half and scoop out the pulp. With a pen, poke a hole in either side of the fruit (about 1 cm from the rim). Thread a piece of string through both holes and knot it. Fill with birdseed, then hang it from a tree branch and watch for hungry feathered friends.
20. Trading spaces
Got a friend who lives in another city or town? Swap houses for a few days and explore.
21. Hotel sleepover
Treat yourselves to an overnight stay in a hotel, either in town or nearby. Many hotels offer special rates, family entertainment and—best of all—pools with twirly slides.
22. Desperately seeking spring
Hit the sidewalk or park with a digital (or disposable) camera for a signs of spring scavenger hunt. Along with your smiling faces, snap a bird’s nest, crocuses, animal tracks or laundry flapping in the breeze. Load the pics onto your computer for a spring slide show (don’t forget popcorn).
23. Bark bliss
Art for tree huggers! Place a piece of white paper against the trunk of a treasured tree. Hold a crayon (with wrapper removed) on its side and firmly rub it over the paper. Admire the cool patterns.
25. Towel origami
Got guests? Wow them with bath towels folded into funky shapes and animals, and left on beds. See foldingmagic.com for online video instructions.
26. Science experiment
Here’s a growing experience for young botanists. Pour 50 mL (¼ cup) water into a clear vase or jam jar. Add 15 mL (1 tbsp) red food colouring and stir. Cut 2 cm off the bottom of a stalk of celery. Place the stalk (leaves pointing up) into the jar of water. Within 24 hours, the celery leaves will change colour. To explain the magic, cut the stalk in half width-wise. You’ll see coloured circles that are really tiny tubes sucking water up the stalk.