With the school holidays now in full swing, the bank account and the fridge both almost empty, and many of us with no hair left to tear out or no more ideas of how to keep our children occupied without electronic gizmos, the big question for parents at this stage of the summer is….WHAT NOW?!
It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times over the sixteen years of summer-holiday-juggling that I’ve done with my three children. It’s about finding things for them to DO after they’ve done just about everything a hundred times already, and declare themselves to be ‘Bored, mum!’
Here are some tips to breezing through what’s left of the summer break:
Make the most of playschemes – They are a Godsend, frankly. Far from being ‘somewhere to park the children’, the good ones can be the most fun your child will have all summer. From sport to art, music to film-making, there’s a huge range of holiday activities on offer, and many of them still have places in the second half of the holiday. It’s not the cheapest option, but then neither is handing over a tenner every time your child walks in the room, because they want to go to the cinema, swimming pool or bowling alley.
Share the childcare – A rota of play dates with friends is essential. You’re all in the same boat, so share the work days/childcare days, and you can all help each other out, and not go mad – assuming you haven’t already! Even if you only get half a day to stock up on food without a toddler emptying all the supermarket shelves as you go by, it’s enough to just BREATHE for a moment.
Go on a short holiday – Going abroad is all very useful for learning to say ‘Don’t hit your sister with the TV remote!’ in a foreign language, but you don’t need two weeks in Greece to get the benefits of holiday; just a few days on the beach, or in another town, can be the mental lift you all need. Car travel isn’t so bad these days, with all the portable electronic gizmos with DVDs, games, music and so on available. It can backfire though – my children once refused to get out of the car when we arrived in Bordeaux until Harry Potter had finally finished killing a giant snake.
Holiday with three generations – The summer holidays are a fantastic opportunity for children and grandparents to hang out together. Not only does this ease any worries you might have about elderly relatives being alone over the summer, but they might also offer some respite for you and your partner when you fancy a moment to yourselves without the kids.
Get app-happy – Find a treasure hunt app like Geocaching. This is basically The Famous Five meets Treasure Hunt, for 2014 kids. There are lots of different ones available, so have a look around and choose one that suits the ages of your kids. It’s also perfect for children who hate being separated from their phones… but who still want to run around outside.
Detox your digital lifestyle – On the flipside of encouraging use of apps, nothing drives me madder than seeing all three of my children with their heads buried in a screen of some kind. Try to go without all electronic devices for a few days, and see what happens. You might even find that your children start to TALK to each other…and end up creating things, inventing games and so on. Boredom is the seed of most creativity, after all.
Get some outside help – It may feel like a bit extravagant, or even unnecessary if you are off work already, but actually it may be an even more important time to get help with the basics like housework, laundry etc. when your children require constant entertaining.
Enjoy the break while it’s here. Before you know it it’ll be back to school uniforms, alarm clocks and homework.
Assuming we survive until then!
LIZ FRASER – MODERN FAMILY EXPERT FOR CARE.COM
Liz Fraser is one of the UK’s best-known parenting writers and broadcasters, appearing almost daily on national TV and radio, from ITV1’s This Morning and Daybreak to Sky News, BBC Breakfast, LBC radio, BBC 5Live, Channel 5 News and many others. Liz has a degree in Experimental Psychology from Cambridge University, is a key panel member of the think-tank The Centre for the Modern Family, and is now acting as Modern Family Expert for Care.com.