The school holidays are here and it can send many parents into a complete panic at the thought of their children being off school for as long as 10 weeks. Many families head ‘home’ or go off on a trip or sign their children up for one of the many summer camps offered. But even so there are still a lot of days to fill.
I think the key to not only to focus on surviving the summer holidays, but trying to learn how to enjoy them! For some parents this requires school holidays to be seen from a new perspective. School holidays offer children ‘ultimate’ freedom to BE children. We can see this time as a gift for our children. This is very well summarized in the theme tune to the children’s cartoon ‘ Phineas And Ferb’.........
There's 104 days of summer vacation And school comes along just to end it So the annual problem for our generation Is finding a good way to spend it
Like maybe... Building a rocket, or fighting a mummy, or climbing up the Eiffel Tower, discovering something that doesn't exist, or giving a monkey a shower, surfing tidal waves, creating nanobots, or locating Frankenstein's brain . finding a dodo bird, painting a continent, or driving your sister insane.
Three key words to not only help you survive the school holidays but in fact enjoy them are: routine, projects and play. These words will help keep your children away from screens and learning new skills and getting in touch with their creative side.
When our children are at school they are in a routine. This helps them feels secure and ensures they are fed and watered on time and get enough sleep. It creates a predictable time where children know what is coming next. Many families abandon their well executed routines during the holidays and while this may seem like it is giving you and your children a certain amount of freedom, it can also be a very disruptive experience.
Children do better with regular meal and snack times as well as bedtimes. Their body gets into a rhythm of feeling hungry and tired when they eat and sleep at the same times. We all know how difficult most of us are when we are hungry and tired, so keeping a routine alive in your house during this summer break, whether you are staying at home or away on holiday will help things flow a lot more smoothly for everyone.
Projects : Project based learning
A great tip we can take from school is the concept of projects. Just like ‘Phineas and Ferb’ highlighted in the song above, children love to do projects and holidays are the perfect time for them. Holidays can provide not only the option of free choice for the project, but also the freedom to spend as much time as they want on it. Depending on the age of your children you can also help them set up a project that they can do completely independently or you can work with them one on one to help them produce something they can only do with support, in a way that teachers at school cannot provide. The trick here is to find a space where your children can set up a project and leave it for a few days. It is the time for us to turn a blind eye to the mess and see it as a creative masterpiece in action!
Another great idea is to create theme days. Space, pirates, dinosaurs, rock band....whatever it is that your child loves and then help them to create things to fit in with their theme for the day.
A space theme could have you locate all the space things you have and collecting them together for your child to add to a hut they make to look like a rocket. They can dress up like an astronaut (tin foil helps a lot with this) and then you can help them turn a box into a booster rocket (silver spray paint is great). They can watch You-Tube videos of rockets taking off, re-read some of their space books and even create a menu fit for an astronaut!
Productive Things To Do At Home
Some of my personal favorite project ideas for younger children are:
Junk modelling. Start saving all those boxes, tubes, plastic lids and pots. Buy a few rolls of masking tape and clear cello tape and encourage your child to be as creative as possible. They could make, an insect, a castle, a house, a camera....the options are endless.
Newspaper modelling. You can use masking tape and newspaper to create almost anything, from a person to a dog. You can also cut out faces, clothes and shoes from the newspaper and tape them onto your person or animal. It is also fun to make your own dress up clothes out of newspaper.
Waterplay. Fill the bath, kitchen sink or a paddling pool with bubbles, food colouring and lots of different sized bottles with lids, funnels, plastic animals and anything else that is interesting and let your children enjoy. Of course children must be supervised at all times when they are in or near water.
Cooking. There are a great variety of children’s cook books and recipes. This is a fantastic life skill and is a great way to teach your children to contribute to the household. For younger children making cookies and using cutters and then icing them is great fun, so is making playdough, as you can then play with it.
Huts. I’m sure you remember playing in huts as a child. The indoor ones were just as much fun as the outdoor ones. Using the free standing clothes horse and blankets your children can create their own special hideout. Give them a torch to take inside to really make it feel fun.
Sandbox: Fill a tray with sand and show your children how to create a mini world using their plastic lego figures, or plastic animals. They can add some of their junk modelling ideas and create a whole world.
Some favourites for older children are:
Create a holiday scrapbook: Fill it with tickets, brochures and photos of their holiday experiences. They can become interviewers and ask family members what they thought of an experience and record that and also document the families’ time away.
It is a special book to share with their new teacher and classmates next year and also keep the reading and writing going in a practical way during the holidays.
Research projects: Ask your child what topic interests them the most and work with them on a plan to research it and present the information. They may need to go on a ‘field trip’ to collect information, or go to the bookshop to choose books specific to the topic. A project can be presented as a movie, a power-point or a song or play, as well as the common book or poster.
Growing: Plant an indoor herb garden, or a planter box, or just plant a variety of beans and pulses and see what happens.
Kitchen science: There are many books and websites that teach children how to do science experiments using equipment that you have at home in the cupboard. The baking soda volcano is a classic.
Children need hours of self selected and self directed play no matter how old they are. They also need to experience active modes of learning, rather than passive ones. Several things that can rob children of this are: structured school and after school activities, TV and computer games.
Children can lose the feeling of free expression and creativity as they follow the teacher’s plan rather than their own. During holiday and weekend times, work with your child in the morning to create a play plan.
Ask them ‘What do they want to do today?’ and ‘What do you need to do it?’. Then help them set it up and leave them to it (with supervision of course!). Ten minutes on can buy you half an hour off.
Many times children only need our help to choose and set up an activity. After that the input they usually need is encouragement and at times limited assistance when they get stuck.
Help them to set up play areas for the holidays, such as an art and craft space or a project space, or a building space and give them the freedom to leave it set up for a few days.
Children do not need to be entertained by adults. If we allow our children to get bored then it encourages them to think of things to do themselves. We can easily get into the trap of entertaining our children, but this is not helping them learn the valuable life skills of planning and organising their own time.
Give your children a gift this holidays by of saying you are staying home all day, no other children will be coming around and then help them set up an involved project or two.