10 Staycation Ideas for Families With Small Children

Written by Charise Rohm Nulsen on August 19th, 2013

This entry was posted in Natural Learning, Playtime and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
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The nice weather in our area always incites thoughts of vacation in my mind, but when you have small children, some vacations may seem out of reach due to schedule, budget, or time. If you haven’t gotten to travel as much as you wanted this summer, here are a few ideas for bringing the fun of vacation right to your own home. They can be one-day adventures, or you can have each staycation idea follow the next to create a weekend of fun.

10 Staycation Ideas for Families with Small Children

1. Water World
Dedicate a day just to playing with water. Set up sprinklers, baby pools, and buckets of water. Fill up a water table or sensory bin. End the day with playing in the bathtub.

2. Scavenger Hunt
I love scavenger hunts! In my pre-motherhood life, it was a favorite activity for bachelorette parties. Now, it’s just as fun to do with little ones. The hunt can be on whatever scale you want it to be — within a single room and moving from room to room, the backyard, a park, or a hiking area. For very small children, use picture clues or photographs.

3. Day of Art
Even the most basic art activities seem more exciting when they are brought outside, and the best part is that everyone feels a lot more comfortable with getting messy! Paint rocks, build a bird house, lay out a long roll of paper and paint with feet, paint with ice cubes, draw chalk silhouettes, or use leaves and sticks as your art tools.

4. Book and Drama Day
Pick your family’s favorite books and characters and spend the day outside reenacting the story with costumes and with a set that you build together as a family. Better yet, write your own story together first as you sit under a shady tree in the morning, and let the playacting take over the afternoon.

5. Outdoor Museum Fun

10 Staycation Ideas for Famiiles with Small Children

Enjoying a little known roof deck at one of our favorite museums.


Museums often have the best outdoor areas! Reserve a museum pass from your local library or check your local area for free museum nights or first Fridays. Although the outdoor areas at museums are probably not the first thing you associate with the museums, you’re bound to find some hidden gems. Our local museums offer wonders like amazing sandboxes, sculpture gardens, roof decks with incredible views, beautiful courtyards, and waterfront property. Bring games, books, and art supplies, and make the most of your new surroundings.

6. Hiking Adventures
We love hiking, but it can often feel too hot during the summer for anything too strenuous. We like to find hiking areas that also have ponds or lakes nearby. A swim feels even better after working up a sweat, and you can pack a picnic lunch with special treats. Many of the areas that have hiking trails near bodies of water also often have playgrounds nearby, too.

7. Playground Exploration
Speaking of playgrounds, this is another area where you can find amazing hidden gems. You probably have a couple of standby playgrounds that you always count on, but what about taking a day or weekend to devote to visiting as many playgrounds as you can? There are several playgrounds in our area that add a water component to the fun after Memorial Day, and that can make an old playground seem like a brand-new play space. There are even apps for your phone to help guide you. For instance, in the Chicago area, Playground Pointers currently offers information on almost 300 playgrounds just in that area!

8. Backyard or Indoor Camping
If you can’t get away for a camping adventure, or if you’re not sure if your little ones are ready for this kind of trip, why not try a night of camping in your own backyard? Make s’mores, tell stories, play some wiffle ball under the moonlight, or catch fireflies. If there is a tent set up nearby, the kids will have a blast, and if you don’t make it through the night, you can always bring the camp inside and set up a tent or a homemade fort in your living room. For some families, that may even be more fun than sleeping outside!

9. Theme Days
Theme days can be especially exciting for preschoolers. Declare that a day is backwards day, pirate day, or opposite day. You’ll all be giggling and creating memorable moments before you know it.

10. Music Days
Create a family band and make music videos together. You don’t have to be real musicians to rattle, drum, and shake. Half the fun could be creating homemade instruments. Top off the day with a visit to a free music performance in the park.

What is your family favorite staycation plan?

About The Author: Charise Rohm Nulsen

I Thought I Knew Mama ithoughtiknewma My NPN Posts

Charise Rohm Nulsen is the proud mama of a son born in June 2010 and a baby girl born in May 2012. She is also the author of I Thought I Knew Mama where she blogs about the adventures of stay at home mamahood, natural parenting, and green & healthy living.

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3 Responses to 10 Staycation Ideas for Families With Small Children

  1. Jennifer Hoffman  

    So great. I love these ideas, Charise. Theme day is happening in my house this week!

  2. Crunchy Con Mom  

    Yeah how did I not think of doing theme days?!?
    When I was in high school I was actually the chair of the dress up days committee for dances. Lol. So uh I should be good at this game…

  3. Larry Roloston (@LarryRoloston)  

    How about taking a bus tour of a famous city or historic site? My family and I have gone on countless NYC bus tours (we live in NJ) and have had a blast. They are perfect for a family with small kids since you don’t have to push them around in strollers or listen to them whine that their legs are to tired :).

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