Sarah Kesty knows kids. An award-winning educator, Kesty has taught everything from kindergarten to high school, often with special needs students. She currently teaches second grade at Oakdale Elementary, and was chosen as Twin Rivers School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2014. She has been the requested speaker for teachers’ groups around the world on issues including disability advocacy, awareness and behavior management. She is an active community volunteer and the author of the acclaimed children’s book, “Everyone Has Something. Together We Can.” She is an especially great resource for staycation ideas because she loves to celebrate life, act goofy and have a lot of fun.
To keep up with school, teams, homework, friends and family commitments, many kids have their lives scheduled down to the minute. According to Kesty, one easy way to make the spring break staycation special is to simply not follow the typical daily schedule. If the family normally eats breakfast at 7 a.m. on school days, move it to 8 a.m. during spring break. “Everything is novel,” Kesty says, “when even very small things are changed.”
Introduce a bit of silliness to kick the fun up at notch, and even staying at home will be entertaining for kids. Instead of talking to communicate, have everyone sing what they want to say to each other. Or try having spaghetti for breakfast and pop-tarts for lunch.
There is a reason why theme parks are so popular – kids love activities that are part of a central theme. Kesty says there are endless possibilities for free or inexpensive fun both at home and around Sacramento, you just need to pick a theme.
“Under the sea” is always popular with kids, notes Kesty, and sites like Pinterest offer a multitude of ideas for virtually any age group. Younger children can make fish, turtles and other undersea creatures using construction paper, crayons and glitter. Decorate a paper plate like a fish tank, complete with glued-on goldfish crackers. Use tissue paper and streamers to make jellyfish to hang from the ceiling, and make plastic margarine tubs into boats. Older kids can do water science experiments and projects.
Kesty also suggests a camping theme with hikes, spending the night in sleeping bags on the floor and having picnics. “Creek week” can include exploring local waterways, learning about ecosystems and cleaning up litter that can harm birds, fish and other creatures. A cooking school theme can mean anything from kids helping stir cookie dough to larger meal preparation and planning.
Sacramento nonprofits always need help and volunteering with the kids can be a fun way to help the community. This requires some preplanning, as many organizations have requirements about volunteer training, how much time of a time commitment is needed and how young a volunteer can be. Kesty suggests groups like Harvest Sacramento, which allows “drop-in” volunteering and lets children directly help people in their area while having fun outdoors.
It is not necessary to be on-site at a nonprofit in order to help, especially for younger kids with attention spans that are more limited. If they love animals, they can help collect donations of food and other supplies for the Sacramento Pet Food Bank. Every charity needs funds to operate, so the family can sell crafts, baked goods or raffle tickets to raise money for whichever cause is near and dear to their hearts.
Kesty encourages families to visit libraries often, both during staycations and all year round. “They have a ton of things to do,” she exclaims, “There is always so much going on at the library.” The public library systems in Sacramento and Placer have programs and events for families and for children of every age, even teenagers. Just a few of the many options are Lego-block parties, movies, nature and wildlife programs, paper airplane competitions, crafts, science and reading clubs and puppets shows. Older kids love Wii, X-box and Minecraft programs, anime and parties.