July 18th, 2012
As the schools empty and our homes fill with tired children, many parents are relishing the opportunity of a break from the school routine, and yet we’re also looking at the weather forecasts and wondering how on earth we’re going to fill the next 1,000 hours or so until term starts again!
The joy of doing nothing
At the beginning of the holidays, it can be a relief for children to have some time to do the things that matter to them, and even simply to be able to choose what they do after weeks of being told what, where, how and when. Of course, it’s a universal parenting truth that most of the things that they want to do involve noise and mess, but it’s in playing that children learn and discover so much about themselves and the world. After the constant stimulation and organisation of the school term, it’s no bad thing to find yourself with nothing to do, and no ideas either. It’s in moments of solitude and idleness that we often discover what truly interests us, and who we really are. As far as possible, let them play.
The joy of doing something
On the other hand, with so little practice of finding their own amusement, it probably won’t be long before they’re asking “I’m bored, what can I do?”. When we’re busy (somehow school holidays don’t seem to make much difference to the amount of things parents have to do) and it’s raining again, it’s so tempting to give in to the easy option of screens. This summer there will be some inspiring and fascinating TV opportunities with the Olympic coverage. (At the last Olympics we had the TV on pretty much all day every day and saw an amazing range of sports and memorably courageous wins and losses.). There are also some valuable websites which encourage creativity (FIND SOME EXAMPLES LIKE STICK MAN or learn to type).
And what else is there? According to a recent survey by npower, 87% of children can’t repair a puncture, 83% can’t tie a reef knot, 81% can’t read a map and 78% can’t build a camp fire or put up a tent. (They can pretty much all work a DVD players, log onto the internet, use a games console and work sky plus!). How about taking some time during the holidays to put this right? If it can’t be done outdoors, there’s plenty to be done inside the home – it may sound strange, but most children love the challenge of learning to make a cup of tea, iron a shirt, cook an omelette…..
There are also many things children can do indoors with relatively little equipment or supervision – although they will love any of these activities all the more if you’re involved. As the holidays start, set some time aside to sit down together and come up with a list of all the things they would like to do – think of all those things they keep asking and you keep saying no, not now, later, another time….. (Making a den and not having to clear it away is always top of the list in our home!) No idea is too whacky, too silly, too dull, too anything. All ideas get recorded and then you can move on to deciding what to do when. As far as possible, let the children lead this process. It’s fine to put some parameters in place – about what might work when and where and with whom – but try to let them have ownership of their own time and enjoyment.
And just in case it’s not so easy to get started with this list, here is TPP’s Top Tips for a Rainy Summer…..
Make an indoor camp – snuggle up with duvets and books
Make a treasure trail – using hand or foot prints, or clues
Hopscotch – use numbers or shapes or colours
Movie night – get in character, costume, themed food
Rain sticks – use paper towel tubes, and decorate and fill with pebbles, pasta or rice and make the rain go away!
Hide and seek and sardines
Dance party – invite friends for a dance-off
Charades – songs, films, books
Indoor obstacle course – finish before they’re too tired to help clear up
Toy safari – hide toy animals around the house and seek them out
Fashion show – choose outfits and music and do the cat-walk
Sink or swim – find out what sinks or swims
Make a movie – write a script, make costumes and create scenery
Photography project – choose a theme, and make an album
Book club – everyone chooses their favourite book and reads out their best bits
Robot Mummy or Daddy – they get to order you around (for a short while!)
Grow seeds – mustard and cress on loo roll, sunflowers or even tomatoes or strawberries in pots
Family Band – just have to decide who is the conductor!
Listen to songs in foreign languages (opera is great for this) and make up alternative words – we had Pavarotti extolling the virtues of squashed tomatoes and kids in convulsions
Take photos at strange angles around the house – and guess where they are
Indoor picnics – under the table, behind the sofa, in the den….
Paper airplanes – all sorts of designs to see which one flies furthest
Make a rock family – paint faces and create characters that you can then make up stories with
Edible necklaces – from pasta or cheerios or sweets
Paper bag piñata – fill with little surprises (doesn’t have to be edible)
Make ice-cubes – you can colour them with food colouring, or add little flowers (or worse) to them
Hand puppets – from old socks (finally a use for the orphan socks!) with silly faces and voices
Magic cups – three cups, one marble, put it under one of the cups and move the cups around and guess where it’s gone
Make a mobile – with a stretched out wire hanger, and decorate it
What’s missing – lay out items, memorise them, then take one away….
Family Tree – make a family tree and discover some stories about their ancestors (the funnier the better!)