Baby Steps: Make spring break fun while not breaking the family budget

The birds are chirping, the flowers are beginning to pop up through the ground. Ah, the bliss and beauty of spring.

And then comes the realization that, soon, your children are going to be at home – for several days in a row – and they will demand to be entertained.

So what’s a parent to do?

Sure a trip to Disney is nice. Expensive. But nice. The beach? Well unless you’re talking about the shores of beautiful Lake Erie, the nearest beach is a day’s drive away. How about a cruise you say? Are you serious?

There are alternatives to pricey destination vacations and excruciating road trips. The key is knowing where to look.

The local Marietta Family YMCA, for example, is offering a youth sports camp March 25 to March 29, offering a different sport every day, including dodgeball, soccer, basketball, kickball and whiffle ball. The cost is $15 per day or less if you are a member. Contact the YMCA at 373-2250 for more information.

On March 28, the Belpre branch of the Washington County public library is holding a Spring Fling event for children ages 2 to 11, who are invited to hunt for Easter eggs, make crafts and have refreshments. Other organizations, churches, etc., will also no doubt be holding Easter-related events. The Marietta Times weekend Community Calendar is a good place to keep up-to-date on these events.

For older students, there are even volunteer ideas to keep them occupied as well as gaining experience. The United Way of Northern New Jersey is offering an alternative Spring Break for volunteers wanting to help in an area of the country ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. College-aged individuals and student groups are encouraged to visit

If you would like to branch out, consider COSI in Columbus. Or the Great Lakes Science Center or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Closer to home, however, it’s just about time for the Welcome Back Carp event at the Ohio River Museum. The event will be held March 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and children of all ages will have the chance to hunt for carp eggs. Why, you ask? Well, why not?

Of course, living in Ohio, we all know that the weather can really foul things up. Near 60 degrees one day and 22 with blizzard conditions the next. It’s a pain if you’re trying to plan anything. But if Old Man Winter decides to give us a break over break, it might be a good time to take a bike ride. The River Trail is a good place to start as is the Marietta Adventure Company, which offers bike rentals.

Or, if your child is like mine, they’ve been bugging the heck out of you to go see “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Don’t let James Franco scare you. It might be OK.

So parents, this is your public service announcement for the day. Think outside the box and you can possibly avoid the whines of “I’m sooo bored.”

Erin O’Neill is a reporter and copy editor for The Marietta Times and a mom. She also writes a blog on family and parenting matters on our website