I joked with a friend the other day, “I can’t believe the kids expect to be fed. Every. Single. Day!”
They are always hungry, so it seems, on the school holidays. Despite being a feeding machine, dealing with constant shifting family dynamics and very little quiet, I do enjoy the school holidays (most of the time).
Sometimes we stay in PJs all day. Sometimes we visit friends and family and enjoy a spontaneous dinner at a park somewhere. Sometimes we go on outings.
There are key things I’ve developed over the years to ensure a successful school holidays, especially over the long summer break. By successful, I mean creating a fun childhood for my kids (while giving them the down time they need) and staying sane myself. It’s a lot about adjusting my expectations, doing a little planning and balance.
1. The 3-day hurdle
In my experience, the first three days are the hardest. Everyone is adjusting to the change of dynamics and lack of the school routine. I often remind myself that an adjustment is expected, and things will get easier as everyone settles with the changes.
2. Adjust my expectations
I don’t know about your kids, but my four kids are really (really) loud and play boisterous games. Plus trying to keep the house organized is challenging at the best of times, and even more so when the kids are home all the time. I’ve learned to adjust my expectations and just go with it rather than trying to fight it.
School holidays can be fun when you balance out these four things: cost, keeping the kids busy, down time and planning activities you enjoy too.
I like to spoil my children on the holidays; an ice-cream here and a special outing there. However, to keep the costs down, I plan a few bigger (and more costly) outings each holidays and space them out between the weeks. For example: going to a play center, visiting a waterpark or enjoying the movies. This gives the kids something to look forward to and I can plan many non-costly activities in between.
Keeping the kids busy
Planning small and big outings keeps my children active, busy and happy. Visiting friends, bike riding and the beach are some of my favourite things to do with the children. See the activity list below for other ideas.
Balance out activity with home days in-between. This gives me an opportunity to regroup myself and the children can have some rest. The kids might watch movies, play board games, read, draw, jump on the trampoline, play computer games, and that sort of thing.
Do things you enjoy too
I plan things for me to enjoy on the school holidays too! I might catch up with a friend at a park while the kids play, put an early movie on for the kids so I can enjoy a lazy breakfast or go for a walk on the beach while the kids collect shells or sea glass on the way.
4. Plan Activity Ideas
At the start of the summer break, I brainstorm a list of ideas so I have enough up my sleeve to draw on.
Big Play Projects: School holidays are a great opportunity to think big about play. One year, I visited a second hand shop with the kids, gave them each $5 and challenged them buy what they would need to make a backyard cubby during the holidays. It was a hit! They bought sheets, pots, pans and created an awesome spot to play in for weeks. Other ideas are to collect boxes and do construction challenge, create small worlds with small figurines (examples below), find creative ways to use everyday items for play (heaps of ideas here) or encourage a reoccurring game (like a spy game or ninja game) where the kids can create props and systems to add to the play over days.
Small World Ideas
- Paver roads: Draw lines on pavers with chalk, plastic container with sand
- Play tablecloth: old sheet, permanent markers
- Desert island: plastic tub filled with water (add a drop of blue food colouring if desired), bowl of sand
- Magic water: plastic tub, a few drops pink food colouring. Note: if you only use a drop or two, the food colouring doesn’t stain hands because it’s so diluted.
Say Yes: Have a day of yes! Yes to everything (within reason). Don’t tell the kids and see if they work it out.
Say No: I often say to my kids, “Find something creative to do!” I want to challenge my kids to create their own fun. Some of the best and long-lasting games resulted because I pushed the kids past the “I’m bored and want to sit and be entertained” phase. There are important skills for life to be made here! The BORED system works quite well:
R-ead a book
D-o something helpful
Or there are always jobs around, so I remind my kids.
Other fun ideas:
- Drive down a new street or take a different road home
- Go outside when it’s night with a torch and explore
- Look at the stars or watch a sunset
- Have a sleep out in the family room
- Find a new park out of town
- Go hiking or bush walking
- Visit an airport
- Catch or watch a train
- Eat outside
- Go geocaching
- See what’s on at your local shopping centre
- Swim at the beach
- Visit a public pool
- Go to the museum
- Turn the music up loud and DANCE
- Visit friends or family
- Have a themed day:
- Make up a play
- Volunteer and help someone
- Straw construction: a pile of straws and sticky tape is all you need
- Let the kids make ALL their own food for a day
- Create Blu-tack animals
- Sock puppets
For even more ideas, you can read this list on my blog: 100 School Holiday Ideas.
With two daughters in their teens, I can see how fast the school years fly by, and there’s an opportunity to foster connection and deepen relationships during the school holidays.
Enjoying your kids on the school holidays isn’t about celebrating every single moment. It’s about fostering a childhood your children will look back on fondly. It’s about deepening family roots and shared experiences. It’s about giving yourself permission to slow down and just chill with your kids. There’s a lot of satisfaction in all of that.