To many parents, the prospect of 7 weeks of school holidays causes mixed and conflicting emotions. For working parents, on one hand there is an opportunity to spend more time with the children than the two day weekends usually allow, assuming, that is, you can book some leave. On the other hand, most working parents get less than 30 days annual leave a year, so the school holidays present a logistical childcare challenge.
You are torn between wanting to be delighted that the children are not at school, but actually feeling fairly gutted that the children are not at school.
This is also because the working parents amongst us don't get nearly as much childcare practise. We are just not used to entertaining the children, or indeed pointing them in the right direction of the garden/playroom/bedroom (delete as appropriate) so that they can entertain themselves. We spend our time getting very good at filling school bags with the right letters, prepping lunchboxes, prepping and distributing breakfasts and evening meals, bathing, stories and bed time. That bulk of time in the middle of the day that needs filling with other stuff? Well that's something of an enigma to us.
In my case, though we get 10 days together as a family, the rest of the holiday period will consist of my hubby and I taking leave to look after the children. We'll have to take it in turns, and utilise the holiday kids club, to provide enough childcare to leave us with some annual leave to take over Christmas.
I'm not complaining. I choose to work. So we do what we must, and we do it with a smile; or at least we try to, past the playdo trodden into the carpet, the paint smudges on the walls and the blackcurrent squash spilled all over the floor.
Those parents that don't also work will also find the holidays a challenge. A break from the norm. Again, you get used to the time in the day to shop, clean, do chores, get your hair done etc etc. All of a sudden the children are there 24/7.
So back to the point of this post; how to survive?
- Stock up on wipes, whatever their age. I guarntee you'll need them.
- Basic craft supplies are a must. Tape, glue stick, paper, scissors that work. You'd be surprised how many pairs of scissors we still have in the house that can't even cut tissue paper. Safety first?
- Dig out the old school games, cards, dominoes, scrabble, monopoly. Even in the heat, it's good to have something to do sat in the shade whilst the sun beats down at midday.
- Extra shopping supplies. If you are used to school hot dinners you will be in for a food shock. Extra bread, milk and more additional snack food than you think, (fruit mainly, obviously!). You'll be surprised how much they eat. And don't forget to dish out plenty of water.
- Extra sun cream. I know it's more shopping, and I know the you have probably had to slather it on every morning for a while now in the UK thanks to this great summer we are having, but at home they probably spend more time outside than they do in school, so you are going to need to reapply. Sorry.
- Google search..for things to do with children in your area. Libraries do plenty of holiday activities, many free, so you can feel smug that you are encouraging their literary side.
- Dig out some of the old classics for 'cinema time'. Draw the curtains (whatever the time), prepare popcorn and juice, and snuggle up on the sofa with blankets to watch a family film together. Great classic options include Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Pete's Dragon. Retro 80s classics include Labyrinth, The Goonies and The Never-ending story. Just don't forget to check the parental age guidance. We often remember old classics with fondness and forget we didn't watch them until we were 11. You don't want nightmares to deal with over the holidays. (You might want to fast forward the scene with horse in the swamp in The Never-ending story if the children are under 8, for example.)
- Bicycle rides, trips to the park, walks through the countryside, are all free options. Especially if you also take a picnic. A great way to get out in the fresh air.
- When you are stocking up on food and crafts don't forget some treats for you. The holidays are the time to treat yourself to your favourite chocolates when the children are in bed. You could get a few old films together to watch with your partner in the evenings; or a pack of cards to play out on the patio just like you might on holiday abroad.
- Relax! It doesn't have to mean entertaining the children all day. They might have the best fun making dens in the back garden with hardly any input from you. That's great. You get to read a magazine and chill out too.