As noted in my post late last year I was thrilled by the volume of questions people were leaving for me in the annual survey and I will be answering some of the more common questions through out 2105. This question below seemed particularly timely as in Australia we are in the middle of our long summer school holiday break.
What sort of free time activities do your kids do on the school holidays and how do you set up activities for them?
I do actually love school holidays, especially the summer ones. The kids stay up a little later, they sleep in a little longer, I don’t have to make lunch boxes and the running around to extra curricular activities stops.
My overall aim for the kids in school holidays is to get more rest, have fun and to spend more time with me. Once they are all in school you just don’t get as much time with the kids and I find school holidays a great time to deepen connections and to enjoy each others’ company.
In our house however it isn’t always harmonious. The kids will drive each other crazy, which in turn will drive me crazy. There will be mess, there will be tears and tantrums. But amongst that there are lots of laughs and lots of love.
To ensure we veer on the more laughter and love side of the equation, I have a general approach for the days we are at home and have nothing planned.
- I rise early, exercise and then do as much work as I can until the kids wake up.
- Do household tasks as the kids make their breakfasts like the laundry, wiping down the bathroom etc.
- Once the kids are dressed and ready to take on the day, I will run our 20 minutes blocks of time. This is where each child can have 20 minutes with me doing an activity of their choice. It is up to each child if they allow other children to play. A recent morning looked like 20 minutes of a ball game on the trampoline, followed up by another 20 minutes of the ball game on the trampoline, then colouring in and finished off playing black jack. I will generally break it up a little for example to hang out a load of washing, have morning tea or unstack the dishwasher, but by starting the day off this way, it sets a really positive tone. The kids have also felt they have had my undivided attention so are much more able to amuse themselves from that point on.
- One of the kids will be responsible for making morning tea and they all need to tidy up after they have finished.
- As our youngest is now 5, the kids can play independently quite well most of the time. If any of them are at a loose end I will direct them to a couple of lists we have of activities they can do or I will make a suggestion if I think of something instantly that will occupy them. I have listed some activities in the section below.
- On days when it seems like no one can get a long I will try steering particular children into particular activities that I think will improve the harmony of the house. Often this might be putting on an audio book in one room for a child that they can quietly sit and listen too. For another it might be starting them up on the dining table on a 300 piece puzzle.
- When it looks like they want to play together but are a bit lost as to what to play, I will give them ideas like building a cubby so they can have lunch in it, building a fort outside, juicing fruit and making icy poles for dessert or lemonade for afternoon tea. (See activity list below for more ideas.)
- During the school holidays the younger three are allowed 1.5 hours of technology (the older kids will have more again in the evening). That means they can watch TV, play on the iPad/iPods or Playstation. During this time I will work.
- If at pre-dinner time it is looking like things could get a little crazy, I either send the older kids out to take the dog for a walk around the block or take the younger kids with me and we will walk the dog around the block. It doesn’t necessarily matter the combination, but it is important at these times to change the dynamics of the house.
- In the summer holidays we tend to eat dinner a little later than usual which means their dad can join us. I keep my menu plans over this time pretty simple and filled with family favourites so meal time isn’t a fuss. Both their dad and I will encourage conversation and we will all stay seated long after the meal has finished chatting about all sorts of topical and mundane issues.
- Then it is the standard bath, story and bed time routine for the younger three, albeit a little bit later than usual.
Independent school holiday activities
The table below is a list of the most common activities my kids will undertake independently during school holidays. If an activity appears in green then you can click on it to find out more information.
|LEGO||Playing in the cubby outside||Water painting|
|Reading||Playing on trampoline||Dress ups|
|Colouring in (click here for Ninjago colouring pages and here for links to mandalas)||Playing in sandpit||Get out the slip 'n' slide|
|Card games (like war or 21)||Playing on the swing||Look at the photo albums|
|Marble run||Scootering up and down the street||Play with the dog|
|Ball games outside||Climbing the trees and fences||Scrapbook|
|Sorting card collections||Cars - some ideas on ramps etc here||Catch bugs and try and keep them as pets|
|Drawing||Ball games inside||Making a fort outside|
|Board games||Pavement chalk drawing||Rest in the hammock|
|Audio books||Wrestling||Playing 40-40 or hide and seek|
For audio books, if you are in Australia and a member of a local library, I can highly recommend installing Borrow Box on your smart device. This allows you to borrow audio books online from your library account and have them on your device. It is available in both the app store and Google play.
You can reserve audio books (and e-books) you want if they are not currently available and they are automatically removed after the three week period, so no late fees and no lost discs! You are limited to how much you can borrow at any point so make sure there is a mix for all ages! I also love that it keeps your spot where you were listening to even when you close the app etc.
School holiday activities that I will set up / encourage
The activities listed below are generally ones that I will initiate or if the kids’ initiate, they will need my help setting it up. Some they might be capable of doing themselves, but might not think about doing it. Again if the writing is green you can click on the link to find out more.
|Create an obstacle course outside||Make a pillow/mattress pit||Make paper planes|
|Balloon games inside||Construction with glue gun||Flower arranging|
|Make our own playdough||300 piece puzzles||Paper weaving|
|Set up a cafe for lunch - kids to choose food and write up menu and help cook/serve||Making fruit juice ice blocks||Print out maze sheets|
|Create indoor or outdoor hopscotch||Musical statues||Create maths quiz sheets|
|If super hot, creating a cubby inside||Setting up the tent to sleep outside||Simple sewing (eg heat packs)|
|Making a picnic lunch||Set up a treasure hunt||Make your own memory card game|
|Cooking with the kids||Create word searches and print them out||Cotton ball soccer|
|Have a theme day||Make chatterboxes||Set up a tea party|
How do you approach days at home with the kids over the school holidays?