What to do with kids in the school holidays

Schools out!

Yipee! I get to spend loads of time with my kids! But for some of us, school holidays induce a state of panic: routine changes, children who need attention around the clock, extra expense, have I stocked up the cupboards with enough food? And after the second or third day we can’t wait for the kids to return to school!

So how can we make this whole experience a lot more fun for us and our children, still be able to get all the work and chores done and still be left with our sanity at the end of the week?

It’s a well known fact kids don’t really cope very well with routine change. My lovely offspring seem to turn into wild children, unable to cope with anything and unable to listen. This is strange because we have never been a family particularly strict on routines. So why do the holidays send them into a state of frenzy and how do I cope?

I’ve put together my coping guide for dealing with the school holidays and hopefully answer the question, “What can I do with my kids during the school holidays!?!”

1. Plan

I like to plan. I love lists. My husband always laughs when I get a pen and paper out. it’s become a bit of a family joke, but I write lists for everything: jobs lists, task lists, shopping lists, things to do lists, lists of lists. Okay that last one isn’t real, not entirely, but you get my point. Even if you are not into writing lists, it’s a good idea to have a vague plan for the week.

I always start by searching local groups for activities that are on over the holidays, and, you get it, I make a list of everything I find!

Next I write down a list of tasks I want or need to complete over the week, not forgetting to allocate some ‘me’ time.

Then I write a list of things the kids like to do. Involving them in this exercise can be a fun activity in itself.

My plan is starting to come together. As are the lists.

I’ve shared some of my ideas for activities with the kids here.

2.Get organised

Over the holidays there is going to be more for you to do and, regardless of whether you are a stay at home or working parent, you are going to have to squeeze more time into your week, because the kids are going to demand more of your time. So it’s important to get organised.

It won’t be long before one of the children is hungry and wanting snacks and it all too easy to grab the unhealthy pile of snacks rather than spend time preparing something better and healthier. I like to do some preparation, allocate some time at the start of the holidays to prepare snack packs. We save a lot of our plastic tubs (like the tubs that spread or houmous come in), which can be used to  pre-pack your weekly snack packs. So when it’s snack time you can just reach for a pre packed healthy snack pack. My kids love it. Want some ideas on what to put in them? Read my blog post here.

3.Allocate time

Think of this like a timetable. You don’t have to account for each minute, but a general idea of what you are doing each day can really help. It can ease the stress of waking up in the morning and having to try to find something to do, but before you know it lunchtime is here, it’s too late and the kids have gone crazy and started using the sofa as a climbing frame, and if you have to tell them one, more time to get off before someone gets hurt… Oh too late, siblings fighting, mess all over the house, all equates to stress.

You have your list of ideas, so now is a good time to allocate them out. It might be on Wednesday morning you need to work, but Wednesday afternoon, you can plan a fun activity together. Can you move any of your working time to complete later in the day? Work on the timetable together as a family, looking at the list and working out when you can do what, which activities you’d like to do and what the week will look like. The kids will be much more up for letting you have time to put the washing on or cook the dinner if they understand that after you have done that it’s time for a craft session.

4.This is a democracy

It can be very easy to get carried away and plan out the most fun week ever, and then the kids hate every minute of it. Most of the time, when I ask my children what they want to do, they just want to spend time with me, chasing them in the garden, or playing hide and seek in the park. You don’t need to spend £s taking them to the best and most fancy activities each day, because the most important time you can give them is time with Mummy or Daddy. If you are busy it doesn’t even need to be much, as just 10 minutes of one-on-one time with your kids each day can be enough.

In our family we run holidays as a democracy; everyone gets a say, so each of us gets to pick one fun thing to do over the holidays. This could be a day out, an activity together as a family. It’s okay to set limits and guide them too; if you have a set budget or time constraints in place, just mentions these before, say something like, “Ok, we’re going to plan out our holiday, we are each going to pick one fun thing to do. The rules are, it has to be a free activity and can’t last more than four hours.” That will stop the, “I choose to go for a week trip to Disneyland.” comments! Now the kids have had a chance to have a say in the holidays, which makes for a much better week, having all worked together to plan out what we were doing. There may be some stuff we might not like, but we are doing something that everyone wants, so ultimately everyone should be happy!

5.Get them involved in the chores

I remember seeing a post from a mother once that said, “I can’t think of anything to do tomorrow, help!” The truth is, I don’t think it should be all about fun for the whole holiday. The kids need to know that stuff still needs to get done around the house, and it’s not fair to leave it all to Mummy or Daddy, and everyone should help out. My kids actually love getting involved in the chores, as we make it fun. Use this as an opportunity to teach with your kids, rather than demanding they go and take the rubbish out or do the washing up. Use it as an opportunity to show them new skills: “Okay, today we are going to learn how to ‘weed the garden’.” It could be something as simple as folding your bed clothes when you get up in the morning. This gives you the chance to get your chores done with the added bonus of getting some help at the same time. And once they have learnt a skill it could become part of their responsibilities longer term. So make sure you allocate time to getting the things you need or want to get done during the holidays and add this onto your timetable. I have written a list of holiday chores, that are fun to do, and easy to get everyone involved in.

6.Treats

I always like to have at least one treat, either a treat day out, a movie night, a meal out, sweets, a takeaway. This is particularly good if we have all worked hard together over the holidays. We all deserve a treat, even Mummy and Daddy. You can pick the treat or they can. The first time I suggested letting the kids pick the treats my husband took a deep inhalation of breath, but we were both pleasantly surprised when the first treat they picked was a magazine. Considering I said they could have anything (anything) they wanted! Now they are older I may have to put certain conditions on it, or the other option is to get them to write a list of wishes or treats and you will pick one of them from the list (I told you I love lists!).

7. Budget

Holidays can be expensive. The food alone seems to cost more during holidays, let alone adding any activities or treats on top. So set a budget and stick to it. You can even issue spending money out to the kids. For example, you my decide they get £10 spending money over the holidays, meaning that any gift shops, treats, extra food, will need to be brought out of their own spending money, and once it’s gone it’s gone.

It also doesn’t matter if your budget is nil, there are lots of free things you can do with the kids, and as I said before, most of the time my kids just want to run around outside. Have a look at my list of free things to do with the kids during the school holidays.

8. It doesn’t all have to be perfect

Someone, if not everyone, is probably going to have a meltdown at some point; the weather might not go to plan, you may end up with a household of chicken pox for the whole holiday period, something might not all go to plan… But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Nothing ever is. If it all goes horribly wrong, take a moment, reset and replan and remember tomorrow is another day, where you can try again. It can be overwhelming thinking you have to spend all day every day with your darlings, but you don’t. Use your timetable to schedule in some time where they may play together, or go on a playdate, as long as you are clear with them, “While you are watching a film here, I will be doing the dinner, then after dinner, we are all going to go and play in the garden”.

9. Keep to the routine.

I think a basic routine is still important over the holidays. Kids like to have boundaries and when we become more lax, and let the bedtime, or dinner time routine change too much, it sends kids into an emotional meltdown. Sure, you can have the odd late night, or extend bedtime a bit, but overall I like to keep to routine, as much as possible. Iit just helps make everything easier and more ordered, and clear for the children. It’s also important to make sure you get your Mummy or Daddy time, to do the things you need or want to do. I often find this is best done once the kids have gone to bed!

10. Enjoy it

This is time to spend with your kids, enjoy it. They grow up so fast. Set your frame of mind into a place where you love the holidays, make it fun for everyone, get into your child’s play state, forget that you are the parent and be the child. I used to hate going to the park, endlessly pushing, or watching or worrying someone would fall, or not take turns, until one day I started enjoying the park, as if I was a child myself. Now I go on the swings, play on the slide, climb up the pole, and the kids love me playing with them too. It’s made going to the park a lot more fun. Being present with your kids when you are with them makes it more fun for everyone!

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