10 Unique Ways to Use PTO to Spend Time with Kids - Lollipops & Laptops

We can’t always afford the time or the money to take a weeklong vacation with the family. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t utilize our time off. Historically, I always felt like I should just stock up on PTO if I’m not doing anything fun. But that’s a bad idea for two reasons: first, many companies, mine included, max out PTO and you stop accruing it if you don’t take it; second, the burnout struggle is real if you never take a day off. And what better way to use that time off than to spend a little quality time with the kids? Granted, it’s important to spend time taking care of yourself as well, but here are some unique ways you can use that PTO for some good old fashioned fun with your family, bank-breaking not included.

Volunteer in the Classroom.

This is a hot button item for me, since it’s frustrating to be asked to help out in the classroom when I work full time. But I had racked up so much time off that I was able to take a day off of work and be present in the classroom for my kid. It was much less stressful than trying to book out a couple of hours on my work calendar. With my email set to Out of Office, I was able to focus on being totally present for my child and her classmates. My daughter was so proud to have me there during her school day. And I got the school off my back for a little while by volunteering in person.

Random Acts of Kindness.

Put together toiletries bags for women at a shelter. Let your kid pay for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. Hold the door open for everyone at a crowded location. It’s best if they help choose the random acts, but spending a day doing nice things for others, however big or small, is a great way to teach empathy and compassion, and it’s an easy spirit-lifter for you and your kids.

Let the Kids Help.

Usually, when I need to run to Target or try to get the laundry done, it’s a burden to stop and let my kids help. I don’t want a 30-minute errand to turn into a 2-hour trip or folding laundry to take all day. But sometimes if I take a day off, I use it to run errands or catch up on home maintenance things. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing a day to let the kids get involved in those things. At least for my kids, it’s a treat for them to help pick out each apple and place it in the bag. They love feeling helpful around the house, especially if I’m not asking them to get out of the way so I can finish vacuuming. Use it as a learning and bonding opportunity.

Go to the Library.

I’m ashamed to admit that despite being an avid reader, I hadn’t been to the library in many years. But this is an awesome way to spend time with your kids. Not only are there mid-week story time activities, but letting your kids browse the books, choose their own, and get set up with their very own library card is truly awesome. Very few things can hold their attention as much as this can (besides an iPad and hours of weird YouTube videos).

Take a Hike.

Although we are relatively adventurous, we are not a camping family, so that’s just not in the cards for us. Lucky for us, within walking and short driving distance to our home, there are plenty of super easy, kid-friendly hikes that even my non-off-roading-totally-urban-mom stroller can handle. With either my double stroller in tow or my single stroller and a baby carrier, I’m sure to manage when both kids get tired. Check out this website for trails near you.

Get Crafty.

Some parents might do this regularly, but as I made clear in a recent post, I’m not a crafty person. But when there is time to get creative, make a mess, and even clean up together, it’s a lot less stressful. Go on Pinterest and search for easy crafts with household items and then let your kids choose from the list.

Cook and Bake Together.

To be honest, I’m pretty terrible at cooking at home in general, so the last thing I need are some grubby hands getting in the way of efficiency if I do cook. But my kids are so happy to join in on the cooking, so when there is plenty of time, it’s great to get them involved. It can also be used as an opportunity for picky eaters to try something new. They’re more likely to try it if they’re the ones preparing it. Include baking a sweet treat and they’re sure to enjoy it.

Play School and Let Your Child Teach.

Every day after school I ask my daughter what she did at school and I’m either ignored or met with a shrug. But if I ask if she wants to play school and she will be the teacher, she lights up with excitement and wants to teach me all the “jobs” from her Montessori classroom. It’s fun to watch her develop her imagination, take on a leadership role, and share what excites her most about school through teaching.

Ask Them What They Want To Do.

The other night while I was asking for the tenth time for my daughter to get in the bathtub, she said to me, with the sass and eye roll of an experienced teenager, “Mooooom, you’re always telling me what to do and we’re always in a rush.” Sadly, it’s true that we are always in a rush–in the mornings trying to get to work and school on time and evenings trying to fit in dinner, school lunch prep, bath, and a teensy bit of playtime before bed–so we’re basically just in a constant state of moving from one obligation to another. When I recently asked my daughter what she wanted to do, she chose to put together puzzles with me. See what interests them and let them take the lead. It’s empowering (for you and them!) to hand them the reins every now and then.


I find myself physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each day, and though I’ll give good night kisses and hugs to their hearts’ desire, it sometimes feels more like work. But give me a day off that doesn’t get interrupted throughout with laundry, errands, and appointments and I realize that I need the snuggles as much or more as they do.

How would you spend time off with your kids?