The summer holidays are upon us. Six weeks of freedom from school runs, homework, hunting for lost P.E. kits and finishing last minute projects. The summer fair, sports day, school plays and exams – all that’s behind us now, and we parents can relax with our children. Or can we?
It’s fair to say that the summer holidays can be both loved and dreaded by parents. Arranging trips, keeping smaller children amused and scheduling work around childcare can be a logistical operation to tax the most organised of minds. So, we’ve asked a selection of mums and dads to share their tips for a Summer Survival Guide.
Tip 1 – Share the childcare
The key thing to remember is that you are not alone. Team up with other parents from your school to agree a rota. Take it in turns to have a day or week off with all the children.
With a crowd of kids, you can organise team games such as cricket and rounders, play the old favourites of hide and seek or sardines, or get the dressing up box out to stage a major performance. Children love each other’s company, so having more of them around can be less work than trying to keep your own entertained.
“We are lucky to have grandparents on hand for some of the holidays,” Vanessa (midwife) says. “We share another 2 weeks with another family – I have their kids in my home for a week and then we swap.”
Tip 2 – Set up a schedule
Self-employed parents can really struggle with holidays. When your income relies solely on the work you produce, taking time off is never an easy option. But while you try to fit work and play into the same day, your children get frustrated that you are at home but out of reach.
“Tell the kids which days you will be working – and they have to amuse themselves – and which days you’ll be spending with them,” says Ruth (childminder). ‘They’ll appreciate knowing what to expect – and have something on the calendar to look forward to.”
Tip 3 – Challenge yourselves to a holiday project
Although it seems like a long time, the six weeks of summer can be gone in a flash, making you wonder whether you actually made the most of them. Why not set up a holiday project for the whole family?
“We’ve decided to take a photo a day of our summer, to make a collage for the wall. The challenge is to have a different background every time, so the children are planning walks and bike rides around the area.” Sue (full time mum)
Why not set up a challenge with six or more things to complete by the end of the summer? Reading a book, foraging for food and making your own meal, visiting a museum, painting a picture – whatever you decide to add, have something on the calendar to look forward to.”
Tip 4 – Banish the boredom
We’ve all heard the moans. You could spend all day running around, and the moment you stop, those two words echo through the house – “I’m bored.” Any minute now you know a grumpy child will be hovering around you, muttering about the lack of things to do.
Clara (careers coach) says “We've created a Bored Jar for this year. Actually, creating it was an activity in itself. We’ve put together a long list of things to do around the house, such as playing Monopoly or making a kite, and written it on a piece of paper. Any time the kids say they are bored, they take one out and do it.”
Tip 5 – Find the free activities
“The biggest problem with holidays is getting the kids outside and away from screens without spending a fortune.” – Sue (virtual assistant).
Have a look online for activities in your local area. Places like the Forestry Commission website have family focused activities in the forests, such as the Gruffalo Trail. There’s lots of space to walk or ride bikes, getting the children active and out in the fresh air.
It’s also a good idea to look at your local council website. More and more councils are putting free activities for children over the summer. Hannah (teacher) says “Our local council takes part in Play in the Parks – a free scheme for children ages 3-12. We’ll be taking a picnic down to join in the fun.”
Tip 6 – Get rid of the guilt
Whether it’s because you are working or because you just can’t face another hour of building Lego monsters, every parent sometimes feels guilty for not being with the children every minute of the day. But guilt doesn’t solve anything, and just makes you feel worse. Letting your children amuse themselves is as good for them as it is for you, so feel free to drop the guilt.
Tip 7 – Take a break
Plan a short break later in the holidays. It’s something to look forward to, and it keeps that guilt at bay if you know you have something up your sleeve for later. On a Forest Holiday, you can spend happy days with your children, exploring the forest, building dens, riding bikes and splashing in streams. When they have worn themselves out, bring them in for a wind-down movie before bed. Now, jump in the hot tub and enjoy some well-deserved child-free relaxation.
We hope you have picked up the odd nugget or two here for the summer break. Plan your days in advance, share the kids, build in some highlights and some everyday activities and take a break. Make the most of it, September will arrive soon enough, and when it does we will all be wishing we had another week to capture memories with our children!