School holidays

Family Health Diary

Keep calm and carry on – school holidays are here!

Depending where you sit on the age and with/without kids scale, school holidays will mean different things to you.

If you’re driving in Auckland as a commuter to work you’ll probably LOVE them, because there’s less cars on the road. If you’re a parent trying to juggle paid work with childcare, then that’s an exercise in trying to sort school holiday programs, grandparents filling gaps, play dates with mates and maybe the odd bit of leave. If you’re an at home parent, you’ll have company. And as I recall if you’ve got babies or preschoolers in the house, there goes any routine of sleeping with big kids roaring around the place and/or getting picked up or dropped off. Mind you I do remember crawling small people being very excited about forts made in the living room out of sheets and chairs (often set up for a few days), complete with ‘rooms’ to read a book in, and others to ‘sleep’ in (yeah right) – which was altogether far more exciting than when the big kids were at school all day.

If your kids are late secondary school age these school hols area the calm before the storm with external exams breathing down their necks. They are in fact ‘study’ time not holiday time, as the sharp end of education comes into focus.

If they’re at Uni, it just means you might have a kid sister or brother round the house to torment you as you get to grips with the semester two assignments that are all piling up and the exam prep that is omnipresent. Ah, yes that sounds like our household currently.

Whatever it means for you if you’re the parent in a school holidays household, I reckon having some sort of structure is useful, particularly when you have young children. When my kids were little we drew up a planner to sort the time available into a mix of days at home, days going out, days with mates over, days visiting others, etc. Now you can download one, so that’s even easier. It was flexible of course, but that way the nagging to do this or that dissipated as together we could figure out what we wanted to do and it became a collective thing we agreed to/could amend, etc. It also motivated me to liaise with other parents if there were things on to get booked in so one party didn’t miss out on something when their mates were going. It was also a good way to see the mix of paid and free activities… and stay sane!

Speaking free/not much money – here’s some suggestions I reckon have done the test of time and are worth a crack.

  • Museums and art galleries often have a school holiday focus, and are great places to explore. You don’t have to feel guilty about not seeing it all – make it fun, not a lecture, and just go with the bits they’re interested in.
  • Baking sorts morning tea, promotes maths with all the measuring needed, makes a child feel they’ve accomplished something concrete and provides some fun with icing/decoration.
  • Get crafty on it. Find one of those books you can make things from – be it little dresses, paper planes or whatever and make it your mission to do the projects with them (often they are aimed at kids but impossible without adult help).
  • Party in the park. Take a picnic (weather permitting!) and sit for a while at the park till the kids have had their fill. Swings, flying foxes, slides, are seesaws are good with a mate or three – and that way the adults might have some companionship too over a decent coffee.
  • Movie night at home. In a world where you can see anything, anytime on any screen, it’s perhaps the collective experience that makes the difference. Get the seating sorted, close the curtains, pop the popcorn, make the hot choccies. Have the kids provide some preshow entertainment- charades, a song, whatever. We had a preschooler spend ages one holiday making tickets for the intended audience and showing them to their seats. In fact, I’ve just found a cool wee idea to make your phone into a projector which could take up a day and an evening and impress your guests – go have a look here:

Whatever the time away from formal education brings to your household, if nothing else, enjoy the change in routine perhaps before term 4 kicks in, and the end of year countdown begins.


Written by Jude Dobson

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