SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER! How to plan productive things to do during the school break?
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
By Shaheen Hosany: We are mid-way through July and school’s nearly out. Quite clearly, this marks the end of a long and arduous academic year for primary and secondary students. Obviously, it is also accompanied by 6 to 7 weeks of holidays. The longest break from school is almost upon us! Yeah for the kids, but not a reaction which is necessarily mirrored by parents, especially those of primary school kids. Six to seven weeks poses a long stretch for carers of younger kids - children have to be cared for round clock, whilst also having to get along with other daily commitments.
This pressure is even more for working parents. What are the obvious solutions for childcare in a modern, developed country? Other than summer, school children in England are also entitled to about 2 to 3 weeks over Christmas, 2 to 3 weeks over Easter, in addition, a full week in the middle of each term. Overall, school children are entitled to between 13 to 16 weeks of holidays per year. Evidently, workplace annual leaves do not accommodate so many days off. Caring for, and keeping kids busy over holidays, therefore, represent a significant challenge. Non-working parents face similar dilemmas. As much as they have time on their hands, a majority of such parents still do not know how to keep their kids busy from dawn to dusk, and may, on other hand, face financial hardship.
In the midst of such challenges, technology becomes quite handy. Youtube videos on tablets or television, online games, kids’ channels, and popular movies, are viewed as welcome sources of practically ‘free’ entertainment for parents, who may be juggling finances, work commitments and/or childcare. However, to what extent do these forms of ‘free entertainment’ provide a valuable experience for children? What do parents do and how do they draw the line between their several and other equally important commitments? Certainly, school holidays have always existed. Nevertheless, the phenomena of ‘free’ or ‘screen’ entertainment are recent. How did parents cope previously? How do they feel when they have to use such media to balance off obligations, or simply to have some peace and quiet?
As a previous full-time working mum at a major FMCG organisation, in a foreign country, I propose some options which have helped me and may come handy to readers of this blog. After a brief sabbatical, I now make my first steps towards an academic career. Shaped by life’s challenges, I now research family decision-making and consumption, with the aim of helping others navigate the tumultuous hurdles of parenting.
Plan, Plan, Plan…
As a former planner, I cannot stress the importance of having a clear plan of what is going to happen during the holidays. Have a clear schedule of who is going to look after the children on a daily basis, what activities they are going to engage in, their food, etc. Parents can never plan too much. Work it out with relevant others, definitely both parents or carers, and employers. Make use of flexible work arrangements, such as work from home. In this sense, technology is handy and enables access to work materials from physically remote locations. 🌞⛹️♂️😊🌼🤸♀️🎨
Invest in Holiday Clubs
There are some pretty cool holiday clubs out there, who do more than arts and crafts. These will expose kids to a variety of skills such as cooking, forestry, sports or even science. More importantly, they will keep your children safe and busy, whilst you are able to concentrate on that all-important report or attend long due, or emergency meetings. In addition, they ensure that kids do not adopt sedentary lifestyles and associated consequences such as obesity. Due to a large number of working parents, holiday clubs do fill up quite quickly, so once more, plan carefully.
Make Time Together as a Family
I cannot reinforce how important it is to take some time together as a family. These do not need to be extravagant. Make the most of the long days – an outing to the park or library, an afternoon picnic, a trip to the splash pool, all of which can be easily and affordably accommodated outside of working hours will make a difference. Day trips to local theme parks, museums or nearby beaches are other fantastic ways of spending weekends. Once more, they help to move children and adults away from screens and bring a sense of togetherness in the family.
Self-Regulate into Non-Screen Activities
I propose that learning to self-regulate ourselves as parents, and our children is crucial if families want to move away from the technology loaded world. Un-focus on technology. Instead sign up to reading challenges, poetry competitions, horse riding or nature classes. Lets’ lead by example by keeping our smartphones for emergencies, as they were designed to be, and have been in the not so recent past. Lets’ try and learn new skills together with our kids. Arrange play dates with their favourite friends. Make the most of the non-pressured time to catch up on those basics you wished you had more time for during the school term.
Delegate Responsibilities to Kids
I don’t want to be mean. But, surely kids can help with simple activities such as washing vegetables, taking the washing out of the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher, taking the shopping out the car, or simply tidying up their bedrooms. Whether these chores go in exchange for some pocket money is completely up to you. However, these will certainly teach kids responsibility, for which they will thank you for, once they are off to university. Once more such simple activities serve to keep them away from screens and all the associated consequences.
As parents, we have to realise that technology isn’t that bad after all – excessive and uncontrolled use makes it bad. The internet, youtube and kids’ channels provide many learning opportunities. Such facilities should definitely be used within a mediated environment. In fact, they are best used as a reward for the hard work kids have put in. At the same time, they also provide parents with a much-needed break.
Finally, …. the summer holidays were not designed with any bad intentions. They are meant to recharge ours’ and our kids’ minds and bodies, ready for the next set of challenges. Once more, what we make out of it as parents is what counts. With the appropriate controls and activities, children and parents will achieve outstanding experiences and build lasting family memories, unsubstantiated solely by technology.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank to Shaheen, who wrote this lovely post. Even with her busy routine as mum and a PhD Student, she was willing to write for our blog. My sincere thanks.
I hope you ENJOY this post! If so, please feel to share with your friends and other parents!
Also have a look at my post "Screen free Summer: 15 ideas to make your children unplug from digital technology" 🌞⛹️♂️😊🌼🤸♀️🎨
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