At the start of the school holidays we discussed in our family meeting what activities the children would like to do. The three older children came up with 2-3 things that they would like to do. There was some duplication but together we worked out a top 5 of desired activities for the 07/08 summer holidays. Now that the mad Christmas/New Year rush has finished I am starting to plan out the activities across the remaining weeks so that we have a relatively even level of stay at home / getting out and about ratio. (Once I have finished our holiday activity plan I will post details of some of the activities that I think might interest other families with children in the under 10 age group in Melbourne.)
One thing I have realised with children is that it is so easy to get caught in the run around trap. Whilst trying to fit everything in that we think as parents they need (and looking around at what other children are doing), we can actually end up overstimulating and exhausting our children. We can then also set up expectations that they must be entertained and occupied all the time. Children need time to rest, potter and investigate in their own environment. They also need to get BORED. It is only when they get bored will they seek out new interests, design new games of their own and maybe even participate in the household activities that mum and dad are doing.
Often when both parents attention is focused on something else, it is then that children decide that they “don’t have anything to do”. This happened to us recently when we were working in the back yard. We were tackling the unpleasant job of weeding the garden. After explaining to our dear son (DS) that he was welcome to help us, he grumped and went and sat in another area of the yard. It wasn’t long however before he asked could he have the fork that I was using and have a go. He then went on to finish the area that I had been working on, and he had an immense look of satisfaction on his face when he showed me his clean patch. I acknowledged how hard he had worked and then showed him how I then had started another area myself, so we were able to get much more done with his help. The eldest DS then decided he would like to help as well and the four of us then spent another half an hour together talking as we worked in the garden.
Allowing the children to have some time where they “don’t have anything to do” can lead to really positive results. (Although children who have no parental attention and who are never occupied will most likely find negative ways to expend their energy.) We need not continually fill this vacuum with trips to play centres, parental led activities, watching TV or playing video games. Children need time to be restful and time to think for themselves about how they can occupy their time.