Kids have boundless energy and no matter how we adore them, that animation can be a daunting thing when school holidays loom.
Parents, grandparents and others who care for these little dynamos for full days (and sometimes nights) are tasked with the job of keeping them entertained while ensuring their safety and still dealing with daily jobs that have to be done.
It can cause headaches and stress for everyone.
I had a trick for dealing with my energetic sons when their raucous play threatened safety and serenity.
I used to look forward to holidays – loved the extra time with my kids and also the break from chauffeur duties as their sporting and music classes stopped during school breaks.
School day afternoons were hectic with three boys all learning to play at least one instrument and each participating in at least one team sports activity.
While I welcomed the break from getting them to and from their various activities, it meant keeping them busy and out of trouble was all on me.
No matter how busy I kept them during the day, by the afternoon they seemed to have even more pent up energy and it often resulted in bumps, bruises and breakages.
AVOID SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES TRICK
When the play became too raucous and my requests for peace were ignored, I used to pile them into the car and drive to the nearest oval and have them run around that big, big oval three times. That was my trick.
It might sound a bit mean, but it worked. They were outside and exercising. It sure beats yelling at them and threatening punishments likely to be more inconvenient for me than annoying for them.
I used to think that kind of energy was a boy thing, but as ‘Grandy’ to four granddaughters (the Goddesses) who I regularly babysit, I’ve discovered girls can be just as excitable, energetic and demanding.
In my role as grandmother, finding ways to avoid school holiday headaches is as important as ever.
Here are some of my favourite tips for avoiding school holiday headaches.
HAVE A PLAN TO AVOID SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES
I can’t stress the importance of planning if you want school holiday care time to be school holiday fun time. Instead of hell.
I don’t mean structuring every moment. That is not practical and flexibility is a must when you are dealing with children.
However, having a loose outline of how the day could go can make all the difference.
Whether it be a special outing, some fun games or my favourite, creativity, a little planning goes a long way. It means you can budget for and book that special outing or ensure weather doesn’t disrupt your plans. It means you can have the materials ready for the games and creative projects.
Planning ahead means you can take advantage of the fun and free resources within the community. Often the local library or neighbourhood centre will offer some fun activities.
I used to have my sons write a list of the five top things they’d like to do during the holidays. I explained we could probably not do all of them but we could discuss the best options and plan to do some of them.
They loved having the input into how their days would be spent.
FUN THINGS TO PLAN
ARTS AND CRAFTS
It’s no surprise this would top my list as an arts and crafts teacher. The Goddesses love to go into my workshop and create. Obviously, I have no shortage of supplies which means they can randomly create projects from their imagination, which is fantastic.
However, I still have a general plan for projects, as this sometimes helps them come up with their own ideas.
Unless you have a workshop full of creating goodies, it’s important to plan your projects to ensure you have on hand what you will need.
Having said that, there are so many things that can be made with recyclables, saving you money, reducing rubbish and helping teach kids to think outside the box.
What little (or big) kid doesn’t love a treasure hunt? It doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on gifts. You can pick up some cheap finds at an op shop or better yet, make the treasures yourself.
At my last fairy party (I hold these every year for the Goddesses and the grandkids of close friends) I had the children create treasure rocks. When they were dry, I hid them in the garden for them to search for.
Another favourite with kids and it gets them outside. They could search for particular leaves, certain kinds of rocks, sticks, bark, pods – whatever.
When my sons were young, we used to search for bird feathers on the ground. We brought them home and created a feather book with a description and picture of the bird we thought the feather was from. This was such a fun and educational exercise which ignited their interest in nature. NOTE: If you plan on doing this you should sterilize the feathers as birds carry many parasites, including mites and lice. Soaking them in a mild detergent overnight and allowing to dry naturally works well. You can also freeze the feathers overnight.
Why not let the kids help you do some of the jobs around the home to keep them busy?
Our sons helped us pave areas and paint outside fences. We usually offered them an incentive, such as extra pocket money.
SET BOUNDARIES TO AVOID SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES
This one seems to be tougher for me as a grandparent than it was as a mother, but I am fast learning the importance of setting boundaries to avoid school holiday headaches.
Whether it be how much money you are prepared to spend, how much mess you’re prepared to clean or how much noise you can tolerate before your head starts pounding, setting boundaries is a must.
The Goddesses love shopping expeditions and the beauty of these is that their purchases keep them busy long after the outing is done.
They can break the bank if you let them. I give the Goddesses a small amount of money and tell them there will be no more so they’ll have to choose with care. This is a great exercise for their numbers skills and learning about making choices and sacrifices. There are times they only need one or two dollars extra to get all that they want but I stick to the plan regardless because I understand what an important learning opportunity this is for them.
A fun option is to take kids to an op shop and see what treasure they can find there.
Boundaries become increasingly important as children get older and are able to do more. They get to a point where they feel invincible and it’s up to us to keep them safe.
Often little kids will express their wish for independence by refusing to hold your hand while out. The Goddesses know, if they try this with me, we go straight home and forget about outings.
School kids get to a certain age and skill level when the teacher will grant them a ‘pen license’. I give the Goddesses a ‘marker license’ that is quickly revoked when they forget to put the lids back on. Or use them while sitting on my sofa.
I also have boundaries in place for where they can eat to minimise the mess and avoid school holiday headaches.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME TO AVOID SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES
This is a necessary evil for most kids and the school holiday headaches come when we haven’t set good boundaries with respect to how much time is set aside for screen time.
I have a simple rule as Grandy. No screen time for the Goddesses on my phone or computer, but we do watch television shows. Often we turn those shows into an excuse for a creative adventure.
I appreciate this is more difficult for parents and I think what works for one family may be different for another.
The important thing is to set the rules and stick by them as too much screen time is really harmful to kids.
BOREDOM DOES NOT ALWAYS CAUSE SCHOOL HOLIDAY HEADACHES
Sometimes, a little boredom is a good thing. It teaches kids how to think for and entertain themselves. They are forced to use their imaginations for a creative solution to their boredom.
If you have a few kids to care for and boredom seems to result in behaviour sure to cause school holiday headaches, try separating them to other rooms and allowing them to come up with their own boredom busters.
Wishing you headache-free holidays and a gleeful week, Tamuria.