The recent Easter holiday break was a valuable chance to spend quality time as a family, catching up and checking in with our kids as they race through their early years and making happy memories together. But as precious as having that time together will always be, equally there is a pressure to make it special by planning lots of trips and memorable events to enjoy- a typical family summer activity. That pressure will have caused many parents to think ahead of the upcoming summer term break with a mix of excitement and slight trepidation – how exactly are you going to make sure your family is kept happy and occupied for all that time? The secret lies in a mix of planning ahead and going with the flow. With a few key activities planned to look forward to, you can be sure that your children will have a great break. Equally, don’t try to schedule something for every single day. Sometimes we can go too far with planning things when actually, kids are tired from their academic load and appreciate having some downtime. Plan ahead now to get the best deals on your must-do family activities, and then kick back and enjoy the rest of your time together…
Downtime IS Important
You may not ever have thought of a little boredom as a gift you give your child – but actually, it can really be something they need. Nowadays, we adults are competitively busy, and we extend that approach to our offspring too. We cram in swimming, music lessons, tennis camp, days out to the countryside, theme parks and more… And live in dread of hearing the words ‘I’m bored!’ echoing from the back seat. But we shouldn’t be so afraid! Giving our children the chance to get a little bored is giving them the chance to be creative and use their imaginations – after all, necessity is the mother of invention! Summer is supposed to mean freedom, and that means freedom from routine and schedule. It means being able to go on bike rides, build forts in the back garden, design and create their own comic book, and explore their personal interests at their own impulse. It also encourages self-reliance and self-awareness as kids learn how to be alone with their own thoughts and feelings. Balance that with managing to limit your kids screen time, a handful of days out and more structured, well-chosen activities, and you have the recipe for a great summer of learning and play.
Make Friends With Nature
Kids and adults alike spend term time cooped up inside, so make it a priority to spend time outdoors with the kids during the summer holidays. It’s a great idea to take kids to a local pick your own farm where they can see first hand how summer fruits like strawberries, peaches or raspberries are grown, enjoying picking their own, and even using them to make something with you back home – a simple peach cobbler recipe or an Eton Mess with their own hand-picked berries will go down a treat. If it sparks their agricultural interest, you can even build on it by having them plant and grow a fruit bush of their own in the back garden or even a window box. Use your activity to have a discussion about the plants and animals that fascinate them. There are nature cams set up all over the planet by organisations like Africam, Explore.org and HDonTap which offer virtual live feeds from all over the globe, from the African plains to the forests of Canada and tropical coral reefs. So if the weather doesn’t play one day, take a virtual safari together and spot everything from humpbacked whales to wildebeest together. Virtually or otherwise, it doesn’t have to be about going far from home, either. Try doing a back garden camping experience to give kids a taste of the outdoors in a safe environment. Toast some marshmallows, sing songs and swap stories – all while knowing you can sprint back into the house should the heavens open. See what wildlife you can spot in your own garden – from planning a mini-beast adventure to spotting bats and birds, if you bring the excitement you can make it a very special experience.
School holidays are made for a good craft project, so stock up on used clean food containers, old sheets, rolls of paper, glitter, crayons and marker pens and PVA glue and see where their imaginations lead. If you have an old bed sheet, or can source one from a charity shop, it can become a fantastic canvas for a work of art. Projects combining nature and art, like helping your kids to craft an easy to make bird feeder, can also be simple but great fun. If the weather turns hot like it did over the Easter break, you could also let the kids have a go at making their own sprinkler by poking holes into an empty milk carton or two litre drinks bottle and taping it to your garden hosepipe, and dangling it from a tree branch. Pick up some tinfoil and have your kids use it to make a river in the garden – you can then use the sprinkler on top and race little boats. Best of all, when you are finished with the tin foil it can be used to paint on or with for different textures and finishes to an art project, and then simply recycled. Set your kids a craft challenge, like making a robot out of whatever recycled food containers and other materials they can find as – it’s all about getting their imaginations and design skills fired up.
A break from school is also all about helping your child realise that they are still part of a family and a wider community outside of the school gates. Ask them to consider some volunteering work they might like to do with you – a litter pick along the local canal, a sponsored walk, visiting an elderly neighbour for tea, or even just sorting through old toys to take to the local charity shop. All of these things will help them to develop a sense of individuality, agency and self-worth outside of their usual environment, especially if you involve them in choosing what to do. Have fun and enjoy your holidays together!