This is a great article for anyone who’s hitting the half-way mark on the holidays.
Everyone looks forward to the holidays with great anticipation: no more uniforms, early morning rush, school lunches and deadlines. But if you’re staying home or working, the idea of keeping the kids busy and out of trouble for weeks on end can be really daunting, and stressful on the purse strings!
Our favourite parenting expert Meg Parkinson of PEPA Paradigms has some great advice for you. She says the key is to maintain a little bit of structure, which most kids need. In addition, you need lots of inspiration for activities to help you enjoy your time at home with the kids without having to strain your brain every day.
Here are some of Meg’s Top Tips:
Plan it – then pick your fun out of the jar!
Each day over the holidays at breakfast (or the night before, whatever suits your family) get together to plan the day ahead.
The reality is that even though you’re on holidays, you still have things you need to do each day, such as eating times, jobs, visits to the shops/ family/friends houses, baths, feeding the dog. So the key to having fun is to build it around those events. Otherwise things just go haywire.
Organise the day into parts. Set aside different times for active activities, time for passive or quiet activities, and time for activities that you do together. Plan to have a quiet activity follow active or physical activities so that your children don’t get over stimulated (and vice versa).
Now for the fun part. Together, write down all the activities that you could do in each part of the day. This way, you won’t feel pressure to try and think up something amazing on the spot that’s the answer to everybody’s dreams. Then cut up your list, throw it in a jar and get the kids to pick out an activity each. What a great answer to ‘what can I do now?’
Don’t be afraid of ‘nothing to do’. Unstructured ‘quiet time’ encourages boredom-inspired resourcefulness!
Some parents are quite fearful of child-directed play these days, because they worry it equals children getting up to mischief. But quiet unstructured time is extremely important for learning how to apply rules, learn what’s ‘fair’ and discover how others might see things differently. Those loud arguments about whether an out-of-bounds ball was actually out-of-bounds actually do serve a purpose!
Children also need time to stop and stare. The ability to take pleasure and interest in their ideas and imagination requires practice. Looking out the window has its benefits in developing creativity and resourcefulness.
The great author, A.A. Milne wrote a poem, “Waiting at the Window,” in which the narrator names two drops of rain, then creates a pretend drama as they make their way to the bottom. Such suspense! But the point is that creativity is born out of ‘boredom’.
If you let your children know that a part of the day is going to be set aside for independent play and quiet time then you are setting up the expectation that they can do it without getting themselves into trouble, or coming to you whinging about being bored.
Allotting the time, and letting them know what it is for, does two things:
- It stops children from thinking this is a ‘nothing to do’ time and that just because nothing has been organised for them, they must be bored.
- It puts some responsibility back on to them to entertain themselves. Children actually thrive on a bit of responsibility. You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.
This is the time where they can organise their own activities, invent games, play in the sandpit / toy room, draw pictures, play with the dog, read, think and dream.
When you’re together, be together.
When you make your plan, it becomes obvious to everyone how much time you spend together, involved in activities. It’s really good for children to be able to see this, as they often take for granted the times that you are spending with them, but they sure notice if you are doing your own thing and they can certainly let you know that this is not to their liking! This is not because children are selfish; they just need things pointed out to them sometimes because they just don’t know any better.
Don’t let them ‘guilt’ you into giving up all your time to play with them. Using your daily plan, you can now say to them, ‘When you have finished your play time, then it is time for us to play a game/ do some cooking’. Remember, if they pester you, the ‘together time’ can always be reduced. Alternatively, if you can see they are making a big effort to ‘stick to the plan’ the together time can be made to seem more exciting and special.
The main points:
- Plan your days, it helps you stay on track with the things you have to do as well as the things you want to do.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to entertain your children all day, especially with expensive trips. Encourage resourcefulness.
- Do try to allow time for physical activity each day. Taming children with excess stored energy can be stressful!
- Break up quiet activities and active activities so that your children do not get over or under-stimulated.
- Don’t feel as though you have to stick to the structure and the allotted times rigidly, think of the plan as something that is there as support, if you need it.