The school holidays are upon us again and unless you are travelling or holidaying away then there is the usual predicament of entertaining the kids, managing to still get work/house/errands done, making sure siblings don’t kill each other and trying to spend some quality time together too, without taking out a second mortgage!! So how can we all have stress free school holidays?
So here are our top tips for achieving all this and coming out the other side feeling like an Easter flower in bloom rather than a cracked Easter egg!
1. It’s all in the planning.
As much as it might sound militant it actually helps everyone to know roughly what is happening and when. Not just for you as parents but it’s good for children to have an expectation of ‘we will have one day out at this point in the holiday’ so that they don’t start badgering halfway through to spend every day at a different theme park!
2. Balance – achieve a ratio of planned activities and free play.
It’s not realistic to have a day out every day of the holidays; but it is nice to have a couple of special trips or adventures planned! It’s a good idea to involve the kids in the planning of the days out. I ask each of my kids to come up with 3 ideas for a holiday activity that they would like to do and then I choose one from each of their lists.
3. Don’t fear free play.
Free play is a critical part of childhood. Nowadays kids have less free-play than previous generations had as they have so many entertainment options. But encouraging them to just play with toys, be around the house and in the garden and make their own entertainment actually teaches them much more than any structured activity! They learn to be creative, imaginative, independent, problem solve. If they have siblings it also helps to reconnect them, as often siblings can lost that sense of play together as they are focused on their own activities, screens and friends. Unstructured time together helps them to reconnect and help with skills such as co-operation, leading and following. And if they argue that’s fine too – they are learning to co-operate (or not!) but it’s a critical part of child development!
4. Set screen time rules on day one and stick to them!
Especially if you want them to get better at free play than you need to give the expectation and rule for screen time per day and be strict on it! We all know it’s far too easy to be busy and getting on and the kids are quiet because they are on their devices so not giving you any bother. But actually, it’s not doing them any good and is of very little benefit to them in both the long and short term. However, they don’t have the ability to understand this and are just engrossed in their device/game/video. So if you suddenly tell them to get off them because it’s been too long, that’s when the tantrums come!
However, if you have set the perimeters at the start of the holidays of ‘one hour per day’ or whatever it is and make sure that is agreed at the time, then when they ask to go on their device you can remind them they have an hour max, make sure they understand and agree to this and set an alarm. It is far easier to get them off it then because they were expecting it. It’s when children are not expecting sudden rules to be enforced that they kick off! Generally, if they know something is coming they are better at dealing with it!
5. Use holiday clubs.
There are all manner of school holiday clubs and activities and its worth utilising them if only for 1 or 2 days or when you are working. The children enjoy it, it gets them out, active and socialising. It’s also a good way to get them to meet new children and also try a new skill or activity that they may not have previously have tried as there are lots of specialist holiday camps, such as tennis, arts and crafts and drama.
6. Make sure chocolate eggs are counteracted with activity!
We all love an Easter egg or two! But it’s a good opportunity to help children to understand the correlation between food choices, exercise and how your body and brain performs. Therefore if they are going to have some of their Easter egg ask them to counteract it with a run around the garden, bouncing on the trampoline or 100 skips with their skipping rope!!
7. Involve the kids in jobs.
Holidays are often a time when parents are off work and also want to get jobs done around the house; some spring cleaning, sorting out clothes and chucking old winter clothes that are too small or tidying the toy boxes! So get the children involved; you can make it fun by giving them an age appropriate objective (for the young ones find all the socks that pair together, find all the trains in the toy boxes, for the older ones, go through the clothes and put to the side the ones that don’t fit or organise the books into alphabetical order) Usually there is something fun that can made out of jobs and especially if you put a timer on, some music, sing while you sort and have fun! And then have a treat together at the end whilst surveying the job well done!
8. Explore the fun in your own square mile
It’s amazing how many things are happening in our own community that we don’t know about. We don’t always have to get in the car to find something fun to do for an hour with the kids. From exploring new areas of where we live, going to a different park or taking a bus to the next town; to finding small scale events happening on our doorsteps at schools, charities and libraries. Often these are free and can be a good way to while away an hour or so and be a change of scenery. And if you bump into friends and end up with an impromptu playdate for the kids even better!
9. Set them a challenge
Give the kids a challenge that you want them to complete over the holidays. This could be a project that can be done across a number of days. For example, an art or craft project, like making a series of greeting cards or decorations for their room. Or it could be getting them to practice their football skills. Try to ask them to do 10 ‘keepie-uppies’ by the end of the holidays. Or even getting them to write a story or poem. Something that they can do a little bit on every few days and have as a focus for their downtime whenever they moan “I’m bored!”
Obviously, it needs to be something of their choosing so they are motivated. But if you can, give them a platform for their achievement at the end. You could send their greeting cards to family. Or they could be performing their show, or print and bind their story for them.
10. Appreciate the time
If you look at the big picture there are not that many periods of time that you will have with your kids to just enjoy being together in the holidays. Before long they will be teenagers and wanting to spend their school holidays with their friends or off doing their hobbies on their own! So make the most of the time. Enjoy some Pyjama mornings. And don’t worry about what you ‘should be doing’ do what you want to do!