How to have a great family spring break staycation

UAB experts recommend activities to move children’s bodies or minds during this spring break.
Written by: Ann Marie Stephens
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

Stream StaycationUAB experts recommend activities to move children’s bodies or minds during this spring break.For families who are staying in town this spring break, it can seem like there are not many ways to keep children occupied without a device. Experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham share educational and active ways to keep children engaged.

Activities to get the whole family moving

The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends physical activity that is at least moderately intensive for an hour minimum per day for 6-17-year-olds. Claire Mowling, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Education, encourages families to break up this activity time for children if this recommendation seems overwhelming.

“Children prefer to play over working out or exercising,” Mowling said. “As parents, we should encourage playtime that elicits the idea of fun through movement. In addition, if parents will participate in the activities, it often increases motivation and provides an opportunity for creating memories.”

Mowling and Jennifer Summerlin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Education, suggest the following ideas for active play.

Take a hike

Spend time exploring the neighborhood and create a personalized hiking trail. Children can create a map that includes prominent features throughout the trail. Create invitations that include the trail map, deliver them to neighbors and encourage them to post a family selfie with a hashtag created by the child, such as #HenrysHike. 

Family Olympics

Gather the family and put together a series of outdoor activities. Some ideas could include races, hula-hooping, corn hole, jump rope and hopscotch. If desired, keep scores and create a medal as a prize for whoever wins the most activities. Larger families can also form teams to participate in.

The floor is (not) lava

There are lots of other games to play indoors if it is raining. One classic game is “The Floor Is Lava.” Create an obstacle course around the house, set a timer and go. Challenge the child to see if they can complete the course faster each time. This activity gets children moving while building sequencing, memory and problem-solving.

Get groovy

Turn on some family-friendly tunes and get moving. Children can put their personal touch on the family dance party by creating the playlist and dance moves. Games such as freeze dance are also a great way to play. Encourage children to create their own choreography and perform it if they wish for the family.

Kitchen-worthy science experiments

Rosianna Gray, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, works with community partners to find ways to incorporate science into fun activities.  

“With these activities, students are able to hone their skills in science, math, technology and reading,” Gray said. “Implementation and exposure to the wonderful world of STEM should be done at a young age to get a desired successful impact later in their academic path. Identifying engaging activities can make science enjoyable and fun for all ages.” 

She suggests parents and caregivers try one of the following activities with their children to open their minds to the world of science. 

Can glue bounce? Fun with glue and borax

The objective of this experiment is to demonstrate the difference between a chemical change and physical change.

Physical changes occur when the speed of energy in a substance causes it to change between a solid, liquid or gas, such as an ice cube’s melting. Chemical changes are smaller and happen at a more intense level, such as color changes.

In conducting this experiment, children will see how physical changes are made when combining the two mixtures to create “flubber.” Chemical changes are shown by using the heat of a microwave.


  • Water
  • Borax soap
  • Microwave
  • Glue
  • Two beakers or containers, one of which should be microwave-safe
  • Stirring rod
  • Food coloring in the child’s favorite color
  • Gloves (because this experiment can be messy) 


Put 1.5 inches of water in container A. Add one teaspoon of Borax soap to container A. Heat the mixture in the microwave for one minute and set aside. Be careful, as the mixture will be hot.

Put 1.5 inches of glue in container B, and add six teaspoons of water and 12 drops of food coloring. Add the contents of container A to the mixture in container B. Stir well. The combination makes “flubber.”  

Can colors run? Fun with soap and colors


  • Six paper plates
  • 1 percent milk
  • 2 percent milk
  • Half and half
  • Buttermilk
  • Whole milk
  • Glue (to make a cool souvenir)
  • Food coloring: green, blue, red and yellow
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Cotton swabs 


Lay paper plates out in a straight line, one plate for each type of milk and glue. Pour various milks into the plates, enough to cover the bottom of each. Drop three or four drops of different food colorings into the center of the milk. Be careful not to mix the colors. Dip a cotton swab into the liquid dishwashing detergent and place it in the center of the food coloring drops. Watch and discuss what happens as each plate transitions to a beautiful piece of art. 

Tasty bacteria: fun with milk, yogurt and heat

Microbes are used to produce a wide variety of foods through fermentation, a metabolic process that releases energy from a sugar or other organic molecule. The process can be carried out with or without oxygen. In dairy fermentation, or yogurt production, microorganisms use lactose and produce lactic acid without using oxygen.


  • Homogenized milk
  • Nonfat dry milk
  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic spoons
  • Foil
  • Thermometer
  • 100-milliliter graduated cylinder
  • Plain yogurt
  • Hot plate  


Heat the milk to 80 degrees Celsius for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let it boil. Cool milk to 65 degrees Celsius and add one teaspoon of nonfat dry milk per person. Stir to dissolve. Rapidly cool milk to about 45 degrees Celsius.  

Inoculate each cup with one to two teaspoons of plain yogurt and cover with foil. Incubate the cups at 45 degrees Celsius for four to eight hours or until they are firm or custard-like. Cool the yogurt to about 5 degrees Celsius. Taste, add some type of flavor, like strawberries, peaches, granola, etc., and enjoy. 

Here is how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius:

  • Determine the temperature in Fahrenheit.
  • Subtract 32.
  • Multiply the result by 5.
  • Divide that answer by 9.
  • The final answer is the temperature in Celsius.  

Here is how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit:

  • Multiply by 1.8 or 9/5.
  • Add 32.
  • The final answer is the temperature in Fahrenheit.