School holidays - do you love them or loathe them? Actually, don't stress about answering that - it's really not worth pondering the extremes too hard. Chances are, you will feel both emotions strongly (and in veritable tsunamis) with your kids soon about your home 24/7.
If you have school-aged children and you live in Australia, one thing is dead-inevitable: they are about to descend on your prized space, so it's a case of like it or lump it.
Personally, I am a bit of a lover of the term break. I am a mum who is ever-so-slightly immature (massive understatement actually) and I enjoy hanging out with my brood of kids. We bake, we play, we watch DVDs, video game and pack-in as much as possible in the way of fun and happiness. I keep them close and enjoy them. For me, it's generally a great experience.
BUT, there are plenty of times when the kiddos stress me out and drive me bat-poop crazy. Let's not get the wrong impression here. It's not always fun for me, especially with six of them! The mess, noise and the fights when things go pear-shaped, are the opposite end of the spectrum entirely.
For me, the trick to handling the stress and needs of kids over the holiday period, lies in some careful planning just prior to the school break. This is especially important in the cooler months, when outside play becomes difficult due to the weather. Be as prepared as you can be in advance and make it a productive and enjoyable time for everyone, including yourself.
One of my own biggest mistakes I make as a parent, is via my forgetfulness. Sometimes I just plain forget how to make fun for my kids. Stupid I know, yet frequently I struggle to remember how to entertain them when things are on the slide downhill. It's so infuriating! It makes a huge difference to the status-quo to have some sort of structure to employ to keep things level. That said, here's some tips I personally like to employ. (When I can remember to apply them!)
Stock up on craft supplies: Crafting keeps kids of all ages happy, especially the younger ones. Take a visit to a newsagent and seek out some cheap colouring books, pencils, Textas or paints. Make sure you have a supply of paper handy and plenty of tapes. Likewise, in the weeks or days leading up to the break, wash and store a supply of recyclable packaging for your kids to get creative with. Egg cartons, chocolate boxes, yoghurt containers and toilet rolls are ideal for kids' imaginations, they're also free.
A good supply of crafting items will ensure endless kiddy contentment and keep young minds active in the best of ways.
Stock up on DVDs: It's an ideal time to buy a few DVDs to build up your supply in the weeks or days prior to the term break. Next time you are at the store, have a quick glance over what's available and what's on sale in the movies department. A few dollars spent will provide hours of fun indoors and give you a bit of a breather when the going gets awful. A visit to a DVD rentals store is always a good idea too, as is checking out the used discs for sale at these stores.
Another tip: get those scratched and damaged DVDs polished up at your local DVD store pronto, so that your movies play seamlessly when you're most in need. (Losing the kids' hard-won interest during a flick, to a glitch, has to be one of my biggest parenting no-no's.)
Stock up on food: I swear by food as a parent! Food keeps the kids running and healthy so ensure there are lots of healthy options from all the food groups in your cupboards during this busy time. Obviously kids expect fun foods over their break too, so relax your parenting a little and invest in some cereals and treats you would not normally buy and let them enjoy.
Golden rule - make your kids earn their treats over the break. That means, tidying their rooms, their toys, the lounge or whatever it is you need help with most on a regular basis.
Bake together: Kids love baking and they almost don't mind whatever the food they're cooking might become. This translates to dinner helpers people! Rope the kids in to make something interesting and fun like lasagna or cannelloni. Kids will usually jump at the chance to get involved in the chemistry of cooking and they may even be tempted to eat a meal if they were involved in its creation.
It barely needs to be mentioned, but kids will literally fight for the chance to bake sweet stuff like chocolate cake, brownies or cookies. (If you're after a good child-friendly recipe, just search on 'recipe' in the sidebar search box here for some more inspiration.)
Weekends away: If you are intending to have a minibreak and it involves accommodation, book this in advance as far ahead as possible. School holiday periods are premium priced and it can be difficult and expensive to obtain accommodation at the last minute. By planning ahead you will not only save dollars, but on stress too, which will have a trickle-down effect in so many ways on your kids' fun during the break.
Likewise, weekends away can be entirely free and just as much fun for your kids, by calling on some close family members for a visit or stay.
Park visits: Head to the park for some fun times when the kids have exhausted the options indoors. Check out some well known parks you have not yet visited, or places that have something unique and beautiful about them, such as your local botanic gardens or an elaborate children's playground that's just a bit more special than the standard.
Shopping: Term break is an ideal time to head out for a day trip to the stores. This gives the kids the opportunity to spend some of their savings on a few items they desire. It's also an ideal time to catch up on your essentials for your kids, like haircuts, new shoes and clothing. It's a win, win situation. (But don't tell them that.)
School holiday programs and camps: Generally, these will need to be booked well in advance but there is always something last-minute available. Check your local papers, library and the internet for information on what's available near you.
Visit local fun centres: You know all those times you've driven past special places to attend like fish farms, berry picking farms, zoos, indoor play centres, mazes and so on? Well now is the time to throw yourselves into something ultra-fun that you've been putting off. Start making a list and finding out more about a visit. Book ahead as much as possible during peak times and make some memorable fun together these school holidays.
What works for you? Do you plan ahead or go with the flow when the school holidays roll around?
What would you add to this survival guide?
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