Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are nearly upon us, and this year I have 7 glorious weeks of playing, exploring and creating with my boys. I look forward to this holiday most of all. Yes it’s long but because it’s long you can get into your own rhythm, your own routine during the day. I love that it feels endless and that we really get quality time together, something that can feel rushed during other holidays.

A few people have asked me recently if I can share my enthusiasm and give them some ‘survival’ tips. I disagree with the phrasing of that, it’s not about surviving, it’s about living it. I do have some top tips though, which I have shared below:

1. Routine
At school, children have a routine. There are markers throughout the day which help them to know what might happen and how far through the day they are. Try wherever possible to keep this going through the holidays. You don’t have to be rigid and restricted, but get up at the same time for example, have lunch at the same time, dinner, bedtime and so on. For young children plan a morning and afternoon activity so they get used to the idea of doing something before lunch then having something fresh to look forward to after lunch. Don’t let this prevent you from far flung day trips, but do bear it in mind for regular days where you stay at home or use home as your base for meals and bedtime.

2. Plan
This should not be underestimated. Of course it’s lovely to have days where you kick back and relax and take things as they come (see below) but planning is important too. Want to paint a picture? Get the paint, brushes, sponges, paper and anything else that you might need out the night before to save on preparation time whilst you have impatient young people around your feet. If you’re going to have a mass building session find all the blocks and heap them in a room waiting to be used when you’re ready. Of course build in elements for your children to take charge and realise their ideas which might not be quite what you had in mind in the twilight hours of the previous day, but at the very least attempt to organise, to maintain momentum for everyone’s sanity.

Planning ahead is equally important and worthy of a mention here. If you’re thinking of organising day trips, spread them out, consider the weather, think about what else you might be doing during the course of a week. Don’t bunch everything into the first couple of weeks exhausting yourself and your children in the process. 

3. Back up plans
Best laid plans can go awry, rather than have a panic about what to do now the weather report has changed, your car has broken down, your dog needs veterinary attention, have a little list of back up plans, or a box of new books, stickers, paper, dressing up clothes that you can dip into if needed. They’ll be other holidays you can use it for if everything runs smoothly so it’s never a waste of time and effort to put back up plans in place.

4. Research
There’s nothing worse than turning up somewhere and finding that you can only pay in cash, that you should have taken wellies, that you might need a picnic. Do your research before you go, look at reviews, read the relevant website. Look for money off vouchers or top tips to make the most of your time and save some all important pennies for your next adventure.

5. Involve others
Hoping to see friends or family? Don’t sit there waiting for an invitation, invite them on your days out, ask if you can have a play date, arrange a sleep over or look after each other’s children for a few hours to give other parents (and yourself) a little breather. If you’re feeling adventurous split the cost of a holiday or go camping for a night or two locally with your little ones.

6. Have a breather
In and amongst the planning, days out, days in, and holidays, schedule what I refer to as ‘down days’. Days which you take as they come. Nothing may be planned but you can have fun being spontaneous, playing games, making dens, reading stories, watching a film, listening to music. Days where the pressure is off and you can relax with your children, play with your children, enjoy time with your children.

7. Take advantage of offers
As I noted above there are nearly always offers for one place or another, for meals out, for cinema bookings. Keep your eyes open, read the local press, sign up for email alerts, join pages on Facebook or follow venues on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest deals.

8. Let your children take charge
This is so much fun! As I’ve noted in a previous post you can learn so much from your children and it’s delightful letting them take the lead and observing their favourite kind of day. If your children are very young you may want to limit the time that they are in control to an hour or two, but give them long enough to feel that you’ve listened to them and enjoyed their favourite activity too.

9. Outside
There are so many things to do in the big outdoors without spending much or any money. Bark rubbings? Treasure hunts? Pack a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass (or both) and head to your nearest park. Relay races are fun as is playing with a football or beach ball. Use chalks on your patio, let them paint a plant pot or some stones, give them clean bushes to wash down your doors. Invest in a paddling pool for your back garden. Not warm enough for water? Fill it with balls. Buy some seeds or ready grown plants (especially fruit or vegetables) and get digging with your little ones. Small watering cans are normally cheap and can be picked up at a DIY store or supermarket to get children involved with looking after any green space you own or potted plants you might have.

10. Inside
Baking normally goes down a treat here, and whatever goes in the oven is normally cooking for long enough to have a story whilst you wait. Or get creative, pull out a pile of recycling and see what your little ones turn it into. Boxes and bottle tops have been used to make cars and robots in our house. Act out a favourite story, make a video, what about a theme day? Get your children involved with the ideas then turn a room into a wonderland for them the following morning. Many an hour has been spent in the evenings here creating a train track around our playroom, or a little city with a transport network to enthral our boys the following day, with elements purposefully left out to give them space to make amendments or additions to our design. Music days involve playing, composing, and dancing. Perhaps you can have a family focussed day, get out some old photos, make a family tree, watch videos, talk about important events in your family life.

11. Mix it up
Do you normally eat breakfast, lunch or tea inside at the table? Take it outside, into the garden or better still, to the park. Do you make your dens outside? Bring them in. Do you have stories downstairs on the sofa during the day? Take them upstairs. Bring toys down. Let your children have water play in the bath in the middle of the day instead of in a paddling pool. Think of new settings for favourite activities and watch how the change reinvigorates an old game or a standard part of your daily routine.

I hope you enjoy your summer holiday! Please check back here for our postcards of what we get up to.

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