Well, that time of the year is here again! The summer holidays can be a stressful and financially draining time of year, however there is no reason why this time can't be jam packed with fun and happy times with your little ones! Here are some useful tips so you can keep your cool this summer and avoid stress:
There is lots of pressure to fill every day of the summer holidays with amazing trips out, however the kids usually just want to spend time with you doing the simplest of things.
The summer is a fabulous opportunity for picnics in the garden or the local park. Where can you walk to and explore? Perhaps download fact sheets from the internet about flowers and trees, bugs and butterflies and get the kids to find and identify as many different species as possible. Even if you don’t have a picnic blanket, take a couple of old towels.
Take the ball games from the garden with you and if there is a group of you, a good game of rounders is always fun.
Remember - you don't have to fill every minute for the children with something fun. It's okay for them to 'be bored' now and then, this is what can get their creative juices flowing and to develop their ability to be okay with their own company and be inventive.
Top Tip: Remember to keep the kids hydrated - make up their favourite flavoured cordial/squash and keep it in a jug in the fridge so its always cold. You can even make some into ice cubes or ice lollies.
Paddling pool fun – Kids love fun in the water. It can keep them amused for hours. Don't bother with expensive toys for the pool - raid the kitchen for your jugs, plastic cups etc and let them be inventive with their water play. Bring the bath toys in. Don’t have a paddling pool or the shops have sold out? Try a large washing up bowl or plastic toy box – perfect for water play.
Have you got a toddler in nappies? Why not whip off their nappy and let them enjoy some freedom! It might be a good time to try potty training!
Adult supervision required at all times with water play. Remember the sun block for the children (factor 30+) and a hat and t-shirt for those warm, sunny days.
Messy Play - Does messy play indoors raise your blood pressure? Try taking all of the paints, glitters and other craft items out into the garden where you can let the children play and create to their hearts content! Mess is easily cleaned up and you can always hose the kids down on a warm day too before you let them back in the house!
Join the National Trust or English Heritage – A one off payment can give you the freedom to explore your local area or even further afield. These membership cards are very handy as all you need to do is make a picnic up and jump in the car. From castles to country houses and gardens, there is so much to see and do and you never have to be at a loose end. There are hundreds of locations to visit where you and your children can enjoy a day trip. If you are going on holiday to another county, then you can take them with you and visit other places on the way or whilst you are at your holiday location. They are very much worth the money if you can afford the initial outlay.
Check local publications and council websites for ideas on days out…they don’t have to cost the earth.
Visit places that have a 'pay once, free all year round' ticket. That way you can go back as many times as you wish without paying a penny. In my local area, Leeds Castle provide this and it is amazing value for money and keeps the kids busy for hours.
Join in with the kids when you can and find your 'free inner child'! Run around the garden and play sports, kick a ball, get on the trampoline and sit in the paddling pool with them! Whatever makes them and you smile and laugh.
'Kick off your shoes and feel the grass' - notice the environment around you and the children will take your lead. Things like laying on the ground and looking up at the sky and seeing what cloud shapes you can see, teaching the kids to make daisy chains and caterpillars...all the things you enjoyed doing when you were a child.
Being with the kids is great, however you still need some adult interaction. So, to kill two birds with one stone, why not invite family or friends around for the afternoon now and then. This way the kids get to socialise too and possibly play with other children, and you can have a good catch up over a cuppa.
If you don't have a garden, you can arrange to meet up at the local park or anywhere you fancy.
Have you and your partner had a date night lately? Well, maybe its time to arrange one...so organise a babysitter!
Stick with your normal boundaries around discipline, however be aware that routine is more variable in the holidays so the kids behaviour can slip and dynamics change.
If you feel like you are going to lose your temper with the children, do try to take a few deep breaths to allow thinking time and a calm response to unfold. Even changing the room you are in can help. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the children will be generally.
Talk to someone. If you are worried about how you are feeling or that you are not coping so well, then share these thoughts and ask for help. You won't be the first parent to be at a loss to know what to do sometimes.
Childcare - Some parents have to work during the summer holidays which can be a worry as to who you can find to take care of your child/children over a six week period. You may have a pre-schooler already in nursery all year round, however for the kids off school, you need to plan ahead and book your annual leave early for the time you wish to take, just in case everyone else at work gets in first!
For the days you are at work, who is available to you that you trust and you know has a good relationship with your children? Grandparents? Aunts/Uncles? Neighbours or friends? If you are worried about being a burden on older grandparents, or anyone else for that matter, make up a packed lunch for your child and a bag of toys/books/games that they can take with them for the time you are at work. Perhaps the children can do some little jobs for Nan and Granddad - dusting, watering the plants - this will give you some bargaining power. Chances are, the grandparents and children will enjoy their time so much and will want to do it all again tomorrow!
There are also lots of summer holiday play schemes around that can provide a few hours childcare and fun and activities for the little ones!
Wind down the week before back to school - The kids have been used to late nights, wearing what they want, bbq’s in the garden and hopefully having a ball. It is time to introduce the routine gently so they are rested before school begins again in September.
Re-establish the bedtime routine and start talking about the friends in their class and familiarising them with school related conversations – always keeping things light hearted. Maybe talk about the teacher they are going to be having and ask what they are looking forward to doing or who they are looking forward to seeing when they get back to school.
This way, you are less likely to get negative behaviour from the kids that leaves your nerves frazzled. Remember though, that it is okay for your children to express their feelings about going back to school and it is okay for them to feel a bit sad - this is normal and will most likely fade as soon as they arrive at the school and see their mates. Talking about these things during play or at bath time can be a good distraction and a way for you to gauge how they are.
Homework or projects - Gently touch base with reading, writing and maths in short intervals throughout the holidays so you don’t get in a panic the day before the new term if your little one hasn't done their summer project or read their school book.
Suggest to the children to make a scrapbook of the summer holidays - they can stick photos, leaflets, draw pictures or write about something they enjoyed. This way, they have something to take back to school with them and will easily be able to write about their holidays if asked by the teacher.
Think about when you are going to go shopping for the school uniform and shoes. Can you order items online so you don't have to go to the shops? Don’t forget the PE kit, football kit and the dance clothes if required!
Warning! Apparently divorce rates and enquiries to RELATE increase in September! Please manage your expectations and don't pin extremely high hopes on achieving the perfect holiday...there is no such thing. As long as everyone on that holiday is catered for and that there is something for everyone to enjoy, then you are half way there!
Being away from work and normal routine thrust together as a family can be stressful and fraught if there are underlying issues in a relationship. Perhaps try to work through these before you go away and air any worries you have in an appropriate manner, particularly if you have children.
Try not to take your work with you! Have mobile phones for emergencies only and don't spend all of your time on social networking sites missing what is actually going on around you. Absorb your time and attention with the people you are with.
If you are going on holiday, do enjoy the time away from your normal environment. Remember, BACK TO SCHOOL will be upon us soon enough as will the normal routine...so have some fun and have a great summer.