• Ideas for during school holidays? 09 July 2014 | View comments


    Bonnets, Bungee, Bicycles, and Yarn-Bombing - Happy Holidays!

    July has already started, and with high summer comes the proverbial bonnets cast asunder as the school holidays commence.

    Many parents feel an ever-changing mix of emotions, between missing the school run, and the mild adrenalin-fuelled sense of panic with the weeks stretching out in front, September's far horizon being a good way off.

    We all love spending quality time with our children, but parental burn-out can hit after only a few weeks of summer holiday. A little inspiration can be a welcome resource when the repertoire of ideas is all but used up.

    Everyone's children are different, in terms of temperament and moods, and children differ in their abilities to entertain themselves, or concentrate for longer periods on projects or tasks. Some children can immerse themselves in intricate drawing or colouring for an hour or more, whereas others barely wish to sit, no matter the weather.

    Thus, it is a good idea to plan ahead and have plan B's, along with C's and D's in place before the holidays actually begin. And, in today's fiscal climes, we unfortunately must keep a weather-eye on the purse strings, too.

    So..... What to do for those six-ish weeks? Well, for a start, parents have differing views on whether they should be "occupying" their children at all; some consider that from boredom springs creativity and self-sufficiency, while others scurry to fill every moment of their child's imaginary "diary", without prior consultation. And, circumstances vary widely, from having acres to spare, to city dwellers with but a balcony ledge. No matter, as on days of sunny skies, parks and gardens are free and sometimes offer fairs, bazaars and festivals, too.

    Make the most of long days by packing drinks, snacks, and a picnic, using shade and remembering hats and sunscreen for the zenith of the day. Some playground areas even offer water play, where swimming gear and towels are de rigeur, and keeping cool thus effected. Don't forget to hone park and yard gaming skills - take along frisbees, jump rope, and chalk for hopscotch.

    If wheels are the thing, don't forget roller skates/blades, skateboards, and scooters - unicycles for the more adventurous! Stilts and Pogos aren't in vogue, particularly, but may offer a modicum of amusement. Once bored of swings and slides, there are museums, galleries and libraries to discover, and many of those have free entry, unless you want to see something specific.

    With time on your side, you may wish to go further afield and walk the countryside highways and byways, even taking in a child-friendly B&B. Your children may enjoy such things as working historical farms, stately homes and their surrounding gardens, or larger monuments like Stonehenge or Hadrian's Wall? Beaches are not only for sunbathing. You can hunt for fossils, collect shells, stones, and bits of fascinating flotsam.

    While you are out and about, don't forget your camera, and pencils, pens, and paper. Outdoor sketching is great fun, and can provide a springboard for later artistic creations. When the storm clouds roll in and the heavens open, one needs to be prepared. Paper and scissors can provide simple fun, just by folding and cutting concertina-ed people and animals for decoration, and for older children there are specialised paper cutting kits for purchase online. Coloured paper can be folded, sculpted, and decorated.

    Why not prepare a box of fabric remnants cut to size in small squares for the budding little mosaicist. Bright colours and patterned or shiny pieces can be further decorated with foil wrappers, old buttons, glitter and sequins. Plenty of colouring pencils and fibre pens are a must, along with sharpeners, rulers, rubbers.

    If a metaphorical hand up is needed there are now beautiful colouring books for children; Dover and Buster are two that come to mind. If your darlings can play nicely together, there are plenty of board games that offer hours of fun, and there is always an opportunity to teach Chess or Draughts, or have a family Monopoly or Scrabble tournament. Then, there's the likes of Twister or Wii.

    Picnics and Camps can always be relocated to the veranda or front room, guaranteed to foment frivolity and giggles. Something for parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles is the imparting of traditional skills such as knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, or more obscure crafts such as macramé.

    Tapestries are absorbing, and available in simpler designs for beginners. If you have the facilities, pottery is exciting - why not visit your local potter or glass blower? Movies are a great diversion, and often seal memories of association. If the cinema isn't possible, make popcorn in a pan and bring the cinema atmosphere to your lounge! Movie Sleepovers muster major excitement, whispering, and glee into the small hours. If your gang need a gentle bit of encouragement to be bookish, libraries have their annual Reading Challenges that are often themed, and come with prizes, certificates, and the pomp and excitement of ceremony in September. Stack the shelves with chapter books, but also comics, magazines, and anything else that might snatch their attention - all reading is good.

    Where there's space and time aplenty, why not build a tree house, or turn your loft, basement, or spare room into a model railway extravaganza. And if you don't, there's always bounding out with rock climbing and outdoor specialist camps. If abseiling and canoeing isn't their bag, other summer school offerings abound; there's everything from musicals and dance schools, to languages, BMX tricks, art and craft, parkour, and a myriad choices waiting to be discovered.

    Past Summer holidays are evocative and halcyon, indeed. I have fond memories of my grandparent's cottage with marigold bedecked borders, a heady sunny greenhouse filled with the intoxicating aroma of tomatoes, and the sound of buzzing aphids, rainy afternoons with a Spirograph and a button box, jelly and icecream and cheese spread on toast for supper, and laying in bed watching the town lights twinkling far off to the sound of drop forges in the distance. Grans, aunts, and uncles are often keen to have time with their smaller relatives, and parents can do well to accept offers and use the time to recharge batteries.

    Children often love time away testing their independence; they delight in the similarities and differences of others' homes, and enjoy expanding and enriching their parameters of experience.

    If forging experience is a goal, why not foster political and citizen awareness with active engagement or protest - put newly acquired craftiness to good use with a spot of yarn-bombing, or just get on the march!

    Find a cause and campaign for it. Share the load with play dates and stopovers, and return favours; a good network is crucial. Remember to relax and have a good time - holidays are for recuperation and kicking back (and not just for the kids, hopefully....) Whatever's your bag, be it bivouacing, bicycling, or bungeeing - Happy Holidays!



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