School’s Out! Happy Holidays!


School’s out! And now it’s time for parents to take over and provide a summer of entertainment…. Which is tough.

The long break is a strain on parents and on your pocket, with estimates suggesting that each child will cost you £1000 plus over the period (not including any holidays) with food and leisure costs being the highest. So what can we all do to have fun without bursting the budget? Here’s how I plan to approach the summer holidays.

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Make a plan:

Get a clean piece of paper (or a spreadsheet) and make a plan.  Long expanses of unstructured time are really stressful for everybody, kids included.  Drawing out a plan, and allowing room to be spontaneous will keep everybody happy.  You could even put the plan on the fridge so the children know what’s going on and have some structure.

Do some research: 

There is a lot going on if you know where to look and much of it is very inexpensive or no cost.  Libraries, for example, very often run summer reading challenges and have author events that are worth booking into, as does the National Trust.  In fact, if you are reasonably close to one or more National Trust properties then it is well worth considering becoming a member.  It doesn’t take many visits before you see its value.
Museums, leisure centres and local clubs have also become more inventive and creative with all sorts of interesting summer activities taking place.  Check out your local tennis clubs for example for sports activities for all ages.

Don’t over-schedule: 

The long summer holidays are a marathon, not a sprint so schedule just one or two events per day and allow the rest of the time to evolve.  See below for things that the children can do at home.

Consider supervised activities: 

Let somebody else take the strain for an hour, a day or week.  There are plenty of options for all ages that range in cost and commitment.  This will be particularly important if you need to squeeze in some work or have jobs that need doing.  Plus, it’ll be easier to carry on the summer if you’ve had some breathers.

It’s OK for the children to be bored:

I think children get lazy if you provide a constant stream of entertainment and expect you to be on hand to cater for their every whim.  I buy new puzzle books and colouring books for example and will go to the library to get a heap of new books.  That way when the inevitable cries of ‘I’m bored’ ring out then I’ve a list of suggestions.

Manage expectations:

I think this is really important.  I’ve had a discussion with my kids about how the summer will pan out so they know that I am not planning to be their full time entertainer; neither will they spend their time attached to a digital device.
Pinning your plan to the fridge gives them some structure and the rest of the time they will need to find something to do.  For older children, you could even pin a list of things that the children could do at home by themselves.  Include items like clearing out their book shelves or tidying their drawers so that some of the other things on the list look more interesting! 😉

Expect them to help:

I think even quite young children can help out, it’s a team effort after all.  So laying the table, counting out the right number of cups etc is vital in helping you to stay sane.

Limit time on the TV or on digital devices:

I know how easy it is to let the children loose on the Wii and then to realise that a couple of hours has passed by.  I find that my children become really groggy and uncooperative if they spend too much time on one device and this affects the vibe of the household.  Use a kitchen timer (or similar) to keep track.

Dig out old toys:

If you’ve ever had a clear out you’ll know how the kids become keen on toys that have been hidden away for some time, even if they have grown out of them.  Dig down to the bottom of the toy box to find hidden treasure.

Staying at Home: 

With a little bit of thought and imagination, but not too much cost, there are plenty of things that can be done at home to entertain the kids.  Old dust sheets, bamboo poles and pegs make the basis of a great den building kit.  If you have a trampoline you can turn it into a ship using dust sheets and clothes pegs to make a roof and cushions and bunting to decorate it.  Then have a picnic.
All three of my kids are really keen on cooking.  The older two make cupcakes, chapattis and focaccia whilst my youngest who is 3, helps to make pizza and scones and is on hand to press the button on my Magimix or to knead dough.
Water provides endless entertainment.  Whether it’s putting out a bucket of water and a mix of cups,  filling up the paddling pool or pots and aerosol lids or a full on water fight, your children will be very grateful.
The internet is also full of craft and play activities.  Pinterest in particular is a crafters paradise.  You can also try emptying the contents of a box of cornflour onto a tray, add water slowly and let your little ones play or make salt dough, again there are plenty of recipes online.  For toddlers in particular try not to be too prescriptive and let them lead the play.

Time out!

If your children are still young enough to have a nap at lunch time then that is great news, alternatively reinstate a lunch time rest.  When you are setting out your plans for the holidays, tell them that you’ll do plenty of wonderful, fun and exciting things, but it’s a long holiday and you’ll expect them to spend some time in their bedrooms after lunch where they read, sleep or play with Lego.
This will give you some peace and quiet, keep them out of the sun and send a firm message to the children that they will need to entertain themselves.

Lastly, count to 10!:

There will be some moments during the holiday where you’re likely to feel exasperated.  If you are losing the plot, take a deep breath; go off somewhere quiet for a few moments to take stock or decide not to get cross.  Pick your fights and look after yourself.
If necessary, book the children into a club or activity where somebody else can take the strain for an hour or two.

 Remember: you do not need to be a super-hero, you just need to get the children through the summer holidays safely and happily.

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Tanya Johnson
Tanya Johnson

Tanya Johnson is the Marketing Manager at Tots to Travel, mum of one, big fan of family adventures, the great outdoors, sport and fitness.

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