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10 Projects to Do With Your Kids During Spring Break


10 Projects to Do With Your Kids During Spring BreakIt’s day 5 of the Spring Break from Hell. Send help!!! (Just kidding…) Last week, our school district shut down early and extended spring break to 2.5 weeks. That’s okay with me. Some extra days off wouldn’t hurt. Our son is very happy about it and I already have a few projects lined up for us. That’s what I thought at first. Then yesterday, the governor announced the school will be closed until the end of April. That’s 6 and a half weeks! Our son is ecstatic, but we’re not happy at all. I really hope things are better by then or else spring break will stretch into summer. Oy vey!

This extra long spring break isn’t easy for anybody, but I’m better prepared than most parents. I retired from my engineering career in 2012 to become a SAHD/blogger so this is old hat. In fact, it is way easier now because I don’t have to deal with diapers, feeding, and random tantrums. Older kids are so much easier to handle than a baby/toddler. Blogging will be harder with RB40Jr around, but I can handle it. The posting frequency might decrease a bit over the next few months, though.

Another problem is the disruption to RB40Jr’s education. But I’m not too worried about that either. He’s only in 3rd grade so we can homeschool for a few weeks. For now, we’re making him do 1-2 hours of schoolwork every day to maintain his basic competency. He complains this is the worse break ever. Welcome to the club, kiddo. Hopefully, the school district will send out some kind of online learning program in April. The disruption to education is a much bigger deal for college and high school kids. We’re lucky our son is in 3rd grade.

Spring break projects

Anyway, spring break is supposed to be fun, right? That’s why I’m trying to make it less painful for everybody by coming up with some projects. Originally, I had 2 projects lined up for 1 week of spring break. Now, we’ll have to expand a bit. This is a great opportunity to learn some old school economizing skills. Who knows how long this lockdown is going to last. I’ll add some of those so Junior knows how regular people get through lean times in the olden days. Check out our projects and share your ideas. We all need to keep busy to get through the next 6 weeks.

1. Growing food

My first project is inoculating some mushrooms! We just cut down a huge tree in our backyard so we have a big stump and a bunch of logs lying around. They wanted $400 to haul the wood away, but I opted to keep them. We’ll use some for firewood and grow mushrooms on the rest.

I ordered 400 spawn plugs of blue oysters, pearl oysters, shitake, and reishi mushrooms. The process is pretty easy but somewhat time-consuming.

  1. Drill holes for the plugs.
  2. Hammer the plugs (dowels) in.
  3. Seal the holes with wax.
  4. Provide shade to minimize moisture loss. I’m using old cardboards.
inoculate mushrooms

RB40Jr is fairly helpful. He learned how to use the drill and only smashed his fingers once with the hammer (so far.) He’d rather go play, but I’m making him help. Kids need some tough love too. This project will pay off in about a year when we can harvest the mushrooms.

That’s the first part of our food growing project. Once we’re done with the mushrooms, we’ll work on our vegetable garden. We have a planter and 6 big pots that we can work with. It’s about the right time of the years to start a vegetable garden. Hopefully, the garden centers are still open in a few weeks.

2. Making YouTube videos

The 2nd project I had was to make some YouTube videos. We’ll visit some food carts in Portland, try new food, and make some videos. This is a great way to learn about building a personal brand. Kids need to learn how to shoot a video, edit, write a blog, and build followers. It’s a new world. If RB40Jr knows how to do these things, he’ll have a head start on his peer. Focusing on education isn’t enough anymore. You need a great personal brand too.

* Start a blog with the help of my tutorial – How to start a blog and why you should.

We visited one food cart so far – Tokyo Sando. They make these Japanese style sandwiches (sando.) They were awesome. These local small businesses really need some support right now so we’re trying to do our part.

Our first video isn’t too great, but we’re learning. RB40Jr helped with the shoot and I’ll make him help with the editing as well.

3. Homeschooling

Two projects are enough for one week, but now we have 6+ weeks of social distancing. Our son will forget everything if he doesn’t keep learning. This is also a great chance to practice homeschooling. We plan to travel for a year when Mrs. RB40 retires so road schooling is a must. For now, we’ll study for 1 to 2 hours every weekday. Hopefully, the school district will send some material out in April. Here’s what we’re doing.

  • A few modules of 3rd-grade math at Khan academy. We’re starting division now. It’s a hard concept for kids to grasp.
  • One math worksheet. RB40Jr’s teacher sent some work home. This will run out soon so I guess we need to make up some worksheets.
  • 30 minutes of reading. Luckily, we checked out a bunch of books before the library closed down. We can download some ebooks too.
  • A bit of writing. Junior hates writing and his report card reflects this. We’ll make him write a bit every day.

4. Physical activities

At school, the kids have PE twice per week and they expend a huge amount of energy playing during recess. It’s much harder at home because there are no friends around. Mrs. RB40 is also working from home right now and she needs exercise too.

I’m going to start an exercise program for our household. This is what I usually do after I drop my son off at school.

  • Stretches – shoulder, back, side.
  • Step up – 40 reps
  • Push up – 10 reps
  • Squat – 10 reps
  • Pull up – 5 reps
  • Plank – 20 seconds

We’ll start with 2 sets and work up to 3. Once the weather improves, we’ll play soccer in the backyard. Hiking is another good option for us.

5. Backyard improvements

Actually, this was another thing on my to-do list. I took down the rope swing last fall when it started raining. I want to put that up. I’ll order a set of pop up goals so we can play soccer too. We also need to put some grass seed down. We have some bare patches from the leave pile last winter.

Lastly, I want to install a fire pit in the backyard. I’ll have to move the old planter so it’s going to take a lot of effort. RB40Jr is only 9 so he won’t be much help, but I’ll make him do as much as he can.

6. Cooking

Cooking is another economizing survival skill everyone should have. I’ll try to involve Junior more and we’ll make more videos too. I think we might have to be creative soon. The local grocery stores are out of many items.

Here are the cooking videos we made this year on YouTube – SAHD Recipes.

7. Canning/food preservation

Now, we’re really dipping into the depression era skillset. I love kimchi (Korean preserved vegetables), but I always buy them from the Asian grocery stores. They’re not cheap. A 28oz jar cost $7-9. Now that we have a basement, I can try to make this at home. Maybe we can try making pickles and sauerkraut too.

8. DIY hair cut

Heh heh, RB40Jr was due for a haircut so I gave him one yesterday. We saved money and avoided a public outing. This spring break is a great chance to try giving your kid a haircut. If you screw up, the hair will grow back enough in 6 weeks. Do it!

hair cut by dad

9. Xbox

My big screen TV + Xbox investment is paying off big time this year. I got them over on Black Friday and they’re awesome. Now, I’m replaying the whole Halo series with my son. This brings back memories from my college years and it’s a lot of fun to play split-screen with him. Playing video games is perfectly okay as long as you don’t overdo it.

10. ??

I’m out of ideas. What would you suggest for a 9-year-old boy? Maybe we can try fishing. That will give us a chance to get out of town and maybe catch some food. Kayaking would be a lot of fun too, but we don’t have space to store it.

What are you doing this spring break?

How are you holding up this spring break? It isn’t easy to have the kids at home if you’re not used to it. Little kids are very disruptive when you try to work. What kind of projects are you planning with the kids?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Benny Squirrel @ The Wine Squirrels March 29, 2020, 5:15 am

    Great conversation! I find that when the weather is good and we just go outside, we find ways to entertain ourselves. Lots of tag and hide and seek.

    We are also working on improving our tree fort and making a small mountain bike path in our woods.

    My daughter is super crafty and has found great YouTube videos that are giving her new ideas as well.

    While we long for normalcy, we are trying to make the most of it!

  • drplastickpicker March 22, 2020, 11:10 am

    We save so much money! My mother-in-law is Korean and she makes Kimchi by the VATS! Its so much better homemade and much less salt. Good luck! Your plans sound so interesting.

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2020, 9:59 am

      I got all the stuff I need to make kimchi and I’ll try a small batch this week. 🙂

  • Ryan March 20, 2020, 3:49 pm

    Some great ideas here!

    We’ve been letting our 3 and 1 year old run wild with the paint (washable of course) to explore their creative side.

    We flattened out a bunch of cardboard along our patio and let them squirt paint all over and walk (and roll) in it.

  • ML March 20, 2020, 10:03 am

    As an engineer dad with 3 engineer sons (mechanical, bio, & electrical), we used to like building paper models of rockets and spacecraft. You need a color printer, cardstock, scissors and glue. Just print the pdf, cut it out, and try to glue it together. You can get the pdfs at sites like these:
    There are probably lots of other sites for other models if you search for what you want. We later moved up to paper rockets using model rocket motors like these designs:
    We even did some of our own designs as the kids got older. The experience may be why my oldest is now an aerospace engineer working on satellite propulsion systems.
    I’m a little jealous of you as a SAHD with a young son.

  • Michael Williams March 20, 2020, 8:18 am

    Hey Parents and Students –

    Use this time to plan for your future of debt free higher education. My wife and I developed a step by step plan that has been proven to work for students of all academic aptitude and athletic abilities (not required). Just follow the plan. Check it out at GuidetoFullRide.com

    Our daughter actually got paid to go to college and she continues to get scholarships as a first year medical student. We have helped musicians, technical school students, and every academic path students, find, position, and obtain scholarships.

    Due to the COVID-19 situation, I am making this program accessible to everyone. Originally as was offered at $497. Parents use this time wisely. A great time to focus on the future, develop a plan, and set your child up for a lifetime of success.

    This will pass. We will have treatments and vaccines that will be effective. Three things we can do:
    1) Stay positive.
    2) Set the example and;
    3) Keep focused on what you can control.

    God Bless

    Michael Williams

  • Mr. Tako March 20, 2020, 2:36 am

    Great list Joe! It’s hard to keep my kids occupied and learning without leaving the house. As the weather improves we might go for some hikes — I believe national parks and state parks are still open.

    My main goal for the next couple of months is to keep ’em occupied and learning even though school is canceled. I’m no teacher, but I’m trying my best. It’s not easy!

    Good luck to you guys for this “extended” spring break.

    • retirebyforty March 20, 2020, 7:47 am

      Parks are still open here. Plenty of room to keep 6 feet distance, usually.
      Good luck! We’re sticking with the basics for now. Math, reading, writing.
      Hopefully the district will send some kind of guidance soon.
      It’s too bad the library is closed. The ebook selection is much smaller.

  • Lazy Man and Money March 19, 2020, 10:58 am

    I was able to get in on Adventure Academy for free when a school district code was floating around. I thought it was just a coronavirus promotion, but I guess it’s not. Anyway, it’s learning tablet time, which may be a good compromise for RB40jr. They gamify learning. My son was just getting started with it today and was entertained for about 90 minutes before wanting to go back to YouTube videos.

    We also worked on solving a 2×2 Rubik’s Cube today with instructions on the internet. It’s not practical, but maybe abstract/spatial learning has value?

    Finally, we’re continuing their language learning from school with Duolingo.

    I realize these are all educational things – and most of them online. We are doing basic things like learning laundry and cooking (which you covered) as well. My wife found out how to Kids Facebook Message with some of their friends. We’re working on virtual play dates. Look up Netflix Party as well – would be good with some kids’ shows maybe.

    • retirebyforty March 20, 2020, 7:45 am

      I’ll look up Adventure Academy. Thanks.
      We should visit the toy store too and see what kind of fun toys they have.
      Great job with your kids.

  • jim March 19, 2020, 9:21 am

    Kinda tangent question here but …
    “. They wanted $400 to haul the wood away”

    Anyone know why they charge for hauling off wood? I thought that wood would be valuable enough that people would take it for free.

    • retirebyforty March 20, 2020, 7:42 am

      It’s time-consuming for the tree cutting company. Hauling wood and cutting them up for firewood isn’t a good use of the worker’s time. T
      I read they don’t have storage so they give away the wood or have some kind of partnership deal.
      It was surprising to me too. A small bundle of firewood is $8 at the store.

  • Carolyn March 19, 2020, 9:17 am

    Great ideas. Teaching your children how to grow their own food is a great life skill. Same with teaching them to cook, sadly there are adults who can only microwave prepared foods. The physical activity is definitely important not only for the children but for adults too. 30 minutes of exercise daily reduces the chance of heart attacks and strokes by 90%.
    Canning and preserving your own food is a great money saver and you know what you are eating without toxic pesticides.
    Giving haircuts at home is definitely a big money saver. My husband is the family barber and stylist. He gives my boys their monthly haircuts and I take a seat every couple months and get my long tresses trimmed. He has been doing them for years and has gotten really good at doing them. I get compliments on their haircuts from their teachers, other parents and Friends. I get asked where I take them as the local barbershops really don’t do very good work. It is so convenient to be able to just tell him that the boys need haircuts, and he does them, boys vacuum up the clippings and head to the shower afterwards. Less time than driving one way to town. I joke with him that he should do it as a side business being he cuts my mom’s hair and a couple other friends of mine. He is not interested though, he is fine just doing a few haircuts a month. Besides he wouldn’t charge my friends anyway. Doing more things at home with your children is definitely a great thing to do.

    • retirebyforty March 20, 2020, 7:39 am

      It’s pretty sad that the frozen food aisle is cleaned out. People need to learn how to cook. It’s not hard now with YouTube.
      I’m not great with haircuts, but good enough. 🙂

      • Carolyn March 20, 2020, 4:31 pm

        Sadly I have to admit, that hubby cooks 98% of the time and he is a better cook than me, but I am the baker in the family. Except pizza and stromboli, and he cooks the holiday meals that have family members bringing containers for leftovers. But I am great at cookies, pies and brownies. I use my grandmother’s recipes, and I make an awesome jello salad as well as baked au gratin potatoes and stuffed peppers. We do work together doing canning and picking fruits and vegetables. I can solder a copper water pipe and build a campfire. I however am not allowed to cut anyone’s hair, my mother was at the house for me to color her hair and she mentioned she needed her hair trimmed. I offered to cut her hair and got a firm NO! She wanted hubby to cut her hair, even my boys fired me. I have gotten pretty good at doing hair color for my mom, that saves her a lot of money. So I would call that a win.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire March 19, 2020, 8:02 am

    These are some fun ideas! My daughter has a YouTube channel (that I moderate) and I taught her to do the video editing. She’s stacked up a ton of videos over the past few months that she just needs to edit and upload. So I’m pushing her to work on those during this time.

    She’s been toying with building and some basic programming though lately so I can’t complain. She got a Jimu Robot UnicornBot Kit from her grandparents on Christmas that she’s working on right now… fun stuff!

    On the subject of haircuts, I always cut my own hair and have done my daughters most of the time as well. Now I just need to convince my wife to let me cut hers, too! 😉

  • Nathan March 19, 2020, 5:01 am

    I was homeschooled the entire time I was in school. I’m sure we drove my mom crazy but it was my parents decision to homeschool lol. I think we rarely did more than 4-6 hours of school in a day. I don’t feel any smarter than an average person but I think homeschooling was at least sufficient. I always wanted to go to school because I always felt like an outsider around school kids.

    • retirebyforty March 20, 2020, 7:37 am

      4-6 hours of school is a lot. We’re only doing 1-2 hours for now. Hopefully the district will send out some guidance soon.

  • Nicoleandmaggie March 19, 2020, 4:25 am

    Since social distancing started, neighbors across the street have been using their fire pit every day it doesn’t rain which means I get a headache and drippy nose unless I take anti allergy medicine or keep all our doors shut and turn on the a/c. I hate burning so much.

  • David @iretiredyoung March 19, 2020, 2:50 am

    These work for Covid-19 social distancing too so it’s a doubly helpful list. On the minus side, you’re making me feel old, my kids are grown up and have left home…I’m sticking to the story that I had them very young!

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