All Ages

The Secrets to a Kid-Pleasing Staycation

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

When you book a family vacation, you likely plan out a bit of an itinerary to ensure everyone gets to do what they want — whether it’s lazy days on the beach or busy days in a new city. To a degree, there’s a schedule.

Try to take that same approach when “planning” a staycation; plan out specific activities for each day. If you have children in different age groups, plan specific mommy- or daddy-and-me days with each child so you can have quality one-on-one time with your kids. Remember — it’s the memories that matter most, not necessarily where those memories are made.

Whether it’s a long holiday weekend or a week-long summer staycation you’re considering, these are our ideas and secrets for the ultimate kid-pleasing staycation.

A family enjoying a movie night at home.

Stay at Home

Go Camping: Set up a tent and sleeping bags in the back yard (or even in the living room)! Add a campfire, S’mores and sing-alongs for an authentic (and affordable!) camping experience. Tell ghost stories, play flashlight tag, collect lightening bugs or fireflies and enjoy your time under the stars.

Related: The Best Staycation Idea Ever

Field Day Olympics: On your mark, get set, go! Get outside and show your kids some old-school fun. This one can be tailored to any age group. Create teams or do parents vs. kids, and have a day of egg-on-the-spoon races, water-balloon tosses and three-legged races. Tally up the scores at the end of the day and have little prizes like movie tickets, candy or board games for the winners.

Movie Night: Speaking of movies, there are a variety of ways to enjoy a family movie on a staycation. You can, of course, go to the movie theater or better yet, a drive-in movie theater for a double feature. Or, you can create your own theater at home! Pop a giant bucket of popcorn, put all the pillows from the house on the floor and get cozy before you push play. Or, take the fun outside and project the movie on the side of the house or on a sheet. If you have a pool, make it a dive-in movie!

Related: Drive In Movie Theaters for Families

Bake Off: For those with a sweet tooth, challenge them to a bake-off on your staycation. Teens might love to uncover the best recipes on Pinterest, then head to the store to purchase all the ingredients. Gather the mixing bowls and measuring spoons and get to baking! Bake your sweet treats before movie night and you are all set for goodies later.

Ultimate Hide-And-Seek: This one can be geared towards younger kids or teens, depending on the perimeters that are set. For younger kids, keep the boundaries small to only the lower-level of the house or in the backyard only. For teens, go all out. Everything goes! Hide anywhere on the property. For added fright, play at night! You could even create teams and pair a teen with a younger child. This makes hiding more fun and seeking less scary. It’s a fun way for siblings who may not usually hang out together to bond during an activity, too.

A brother and sister holding hands at the zoo.

Get Out of the House

Animals: When you are beginning to climb the walls at home, head to the zoo! Whether you have a large city zoo nearby or a small petting zoo, kids will love monkeying around with the animals during a staycation.

Related: 10 Best Zoos for Kids

Thrill Time: Spend the day riding roller coasters at an amusement park or on the Ferris wheel at the local fair. Maybe there’s a festival taking place in your town and the Merry Go Round is calling your kids’ names. Thrill rides, whether big or small, equal guaranteed fun and excitement for a kid-pleasing staycation.

Related: The Best Amusement Parks in Every U.S. State

Get Wet: On hot summer days when the family is beginning to meltdown, head to the beach, a public pool or a water park. If none of those things are nearby, then set up a slip-and-slide in the back yard, and everyone will have a blast! Cooling off is key during a hot summer staycation.

Related: 10 Best Indoor Water Park Resorts

Tour the Town: If your staycation happens to center around the holidays, hop in the car and take a tour around the neighborhood to see the decorations. Whether it’s ghosts and jack-o’- lanterns at Halloween or twinkling Christmas lights, the kids will surely be entertained, even for a short bit of time. Play your favorite holiday album or listen to a scary story podcast as you drive around for some added ambience.

Get Creative: Take an art class, visit a museum or grab the camera and take a photo tour down the street. Most local communities offer art classes a few times a month, or visit one of the many paint cafes where you can paint a ceramic sculpture or a canvas. Or visit an art museum to get inspiration and then head home to do a DIY art project.

Volunteer: It’s always nice to help in the community — and it’s especially nice to volunteer during the holiday season. Consider a family food drive or an adopt-a-family-program for Christmas. Plant trees or do yard work for older neighbors. Bring some of those baked goods you made earlier in the week to your local assisted living home or fire or police stations. Have your teens volunteer at the local library, where they can read to younger kids. Encourage your younger kids to visit with animals at the local animal shelter. There are numerous ways to get your kids involved in the community, and what better time to start than during a staycation?

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