10 Fun Things to Do With the Kids on Your Staycation

Make the most of your vacation time when a costly trip isn't in the cards for your family. Whether it's a week off school or summer break, these staycation ideas will keep your clan happy and help you make memories that will last a lifetime.

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Build a Fort

The joy you felt as a kid building a fort in the living room is alive and well with little ones today. Use some of your downtime to revel in this simple childhood pastime. You can opt to go the high-end route and build a permanent and reusable fort, or keep it old school by using chairs, blankets, sheets and every pillow in the house. This activity will keep the kiddos busy while they're building, and once it's erected there are hours of fun to be had reading books, playing make-believe and rebuilding it once it (inevitably) gets knocked down.

Get Scientific

Science experiments can easily get pushed way down on the to-do list when school and work schedules are jam packed. Use your vacation time to do some experiments. You'll sneak in a little learning while the kids are having loads of fun. Make slime and learn about non-Newtonian fluids. Hand-dye some flowers for a kid-made bouquet, or have your young Einsteins create some squishy soap for your bathroom.

Visit a Botanic Garden

If you think of botanic gardens as a place to entertain grandparents, but not little kids, think again! Spring is the perfect time to introduce future green thumbs to these often overlooked gems. Many of them have children's gardens where the kids can get their hands in the dirt, touch the plants and even taste some of the things that pop out of the ground. Because it's not indoor, you can rest a little easier about how much noise they make. And if they get tired, you may be able to plop down in the grass for a little R&R. Go ahead and pretend you're lying in the yard of your personal vacation villa.

Be Crafty

A staycation can be the perfect time to take control of the chaos that happens in your house when you've got kids. You can sneakily get the kids involved with clean up with this fun crayon craft. Have them gather up all their sad nubs of broken crayons, sort them into their favorite color combos and with your help, they can create beautiful multi-colored coloring discs.

Take a Hike

Shake the boredom that can set in at home by heading to the great outdoors. Whether you live within driving distance to the mountains, are near the shore, natural preserves or even a part of your city you've never explored, take the time to lace up your sneakers and head out for the day. Take your kids' ages into account when planning your journey. Smaller kids may not have the stamina for a long hike, but they will probably have more endurance than usual if you're outside.

Learn a New Skill

Use your downtime to teach your kids a new skill, or learn one with them. If you've got a week or a long weekend, you can learn how to finger or arm knit and create some truly special keepsakes. If you've never knitted, this is a great place to start. And even if you have, this is a fun break from the traditional knit-and-pearl. The pride your kids will feel when they tell people they made that throw on the couch is priceless.

Have a Picnic

Vacation time is the perfect opportunity to luxuriate in a picnic with your family. If the weather is warm where you are, head to your favorite park with a blanket and a picnic basket. If you live in a colder climate or have never-ending spring showers, create a magical indoor picnic. Have the kids help plan the menu, and fill the picnic basket with their favorite finger foods. Task the little ones with planning activities they can do between bites, like tossing a Frisbee, setting up a game of croquet or finger painting en plein air. For an indoor picnic, try word finds, board games or makeovers to complete the fun.

Plan a Pizza Garden

Your kids are in good company if they love pizza. During your time off, you can make them even more excited about their favorite food by planning, planting and starting to grow a pizza garden. They'll have to practice some patience until their crops are ready to be harvested for a make-your-own pie, but you can teach them some gardening basics with this cute kids garden. Go all-out and make the garden in the shape of a pie, or for smaller spaces, use pots for tomatoes, basil, oregano and peppers.

Make a Work of Art

Great art takes time, so use your staycation to nurture the artistic side of your little Picasso. Your house is probably full of art that comes home from school, so opt for projects that can have a use in your house or ones that can be used as gifts. Hand-painted mugs make for great teacher or holiday gifts. But if they're just too beautiful to part with, you'll have a cupboard full of memories from your time together.

Cook With the Kids

Weeknight dinners usually need to be all about efficiency and routine. When you're on vacation, though, you can take all the time you need to cook with the kids. They really love getting to be the "boss" in the kitchen and tend to be really proud of their creations. Depending on your child's age and skill level, they can do everything from planning the menu to being the prep cook or the master chef. If you're truly adventurous, pick a day when Mom or Dad isn't allowed to say no to anything the kids pitch as a meal (though you may want to set a few basic guidelines). One day of eating what the kids choose from breakfast through dessert will be well worth the experience.

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