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It’s SPRING BREAK which is essentially a literal warm-up for a long entertainment-free summer.

Kids on "poison ivy corner"
Kids on “poison ivy corner”

Remember when I wrote: How to look like you’re playing with your kids? I wrote that in the desperation of winter snow days when I could not muster another flicker of playful energy.

This time I’m sharing with you how to PLAY with your kids but without the pain of actually feeling like you’re “playing.”

IMG_2022There is nothing that irritates me and shows my age more than holding up a Barbie and mimicking dialogue. UGGGGGGH. “Hi Barbie, It’s me, Barbie. Wanna go to the dance?” At that point Barbie flips her hair. And I shoot myself in the foot.

I’m terrible at building with Legos. I — maybe — at best — can do “beauty shop” with My Little Ponies because it means brushing the ponies’ hair. And I can do that. Plus I am so satisfied when we put away all the ponies with their synthetic manes neatly braided.

Here’s my tip: Have a MISSION and go on an ADVENTURE. It doesn’t have to be far or complicated or really that adventurous especially if your kids are little.

Here’s what we’ve done:

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1) Where does that water go?

Last week, the weather was finally spring-like so we decided to follow the streams in Hopewell Boro. We noted which direction the water flowed, followed them to see whether they met up with other bodies of water. It took us an hour and a half of walking and exploring. The following day, I printed out a map of the Boro, found out the stream is Bedens Brook, and my 5-year old held the map and drew in landmarks as we followed the brook. The day AFTER THAT we went in the direction of the origin of the water following a map. And after all that?!? We came home and drew our own maps.

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2) What got buried in snow?

This one is a little untimely but you can store it in your brain until next spring Btw, I can’t store any information in my brain for more than 2 days. So, we went around town finding out what things had been buried in the snow that were emerging in spring weather — Christmas trees, a picnic umbrella, an egg carton… Can you spy the carpet in this picture?

IMG_20143) Find signs of a new season.

It is SO much fun in spring and fall — looking for buds or changing leaves. (My measure for whether I am living a happy life is if I notice the change in seasons so I make a conscious effort to do it.)

Once you’ve found nature’s cues take pictures or go home and draw some together.

4) Take a short drive somewhere else to explore.

I don’t mean a bounce-place, I mean someplace you’ll enjoy too, someplace without an entrance fee or exposure to the stomach bug. We went to Howell Farm to see the baby lambs. My girls stood near the lambs baaaah’ing at them for probably 10 minutes until one of the farm-hands came by and offered to show the girls around the barns including visiting the fluffy baby chicks.

When we got home, D1 drew lamb pictures carefully for a long while.

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HOURS of fun. HOURS of walking. HOURS of fresh air. HOURS of no fighting. And ZERO hours of me playing with bits of plastic with one hand and checking Facebook with the other.

How do you plan to relax/entertain/stay sane this spring break? 

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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