Tuesday, July 3, 2012

School Holiday ideas

It's that time of year again - the winter school holidays.  With active kids this can be a hard couple of weeks when it's too cold for many outdoor activities.  I think mothers have to have their wits about them in the winter holidays.  My kids like to "cave" for at least the first day.  Don't ask them to go anywhere or see anyone.  There's usually a bit of crankiness and tears and then they unwind and start to remember how to play make-believe and waste time effectively.

Waste time?  You can't be serious! Aren't they supposed to be filling their lives with meaningful opportunities for self-development?  

Maybe. But our school has a rather hyperactive schedule during the school term and we all need a few slow days to recharge. This morning we discovered that if you put a plastic drinking straw through a pencil sharpener, you can make a curly bit of plastic. There's a school holiday well spent right there. Great discoveries can only be made if you have enough time to be very bored.

However, we will eventually come out of our caves and require stimulation again.  If I don't plan some things, my children will develop a Lord of the Flies scenario in the back room.  So here's some of our ideas from this year and other years. Do share any of your good school holiday tips in the comments section - I'd love it if we got a really great list together!

Zoos & museums are great but you have to be prepared to deal with the big school holiday crowd.  With three kids to look after, I find those locations a bit daunting to do on my own when they are crowded.  And I usually come home rather tired and fussed.  But if your kids are a bit older or wiser than mine, you can spend a great day looking at stuff in an unhurried kind of way.

Trip to the op. shop (thrift shop).  This morning we spent up our pocket money at a local op. shop.  A load of junk treasure was brought home. But this made the younger folk very happy and their maths skills got a work out in the process of finding a "bargain".  Part of the afternoon will now be taken up in finding creative uses for the things that have come home with us.  If your kids don't get pocket money, try giving everyone $2 and letting them go for it.  You have to be prepared to have something awful come home with you (although I do use my power of veto quite often for things like candles or strange soft toys) but our kids make a real game of finding something they think is the very best use of their $$$.

Free activities!  Our local shopping centre always has stuff on.  I usually head to the websites of the three closest shopping centres and see what they have on.  But not always because I want to go - next week our closest centre has one of those horrific stage shows on with adults in large neon costumes miming to some loud merchandise-related music.  Save me!  I will not be at the shops at 11 am or 3 pm next week.

That said, this morning we rocked up for the petting zoo (or as my middle child likes to call it, the "patting farm").  The rabbits and guinea pigs stole the show.  We also lined up for the free kite making but my kids pulled out of the line when they realised the kites were already made up and had a printed black and white picture for colouring in.  My eldest said, "I don't really want one with a random picture".  Obviously, an insult to her artistic integrity!  I was quite happy not to hang around for 20 minutes more anyway so we all headed home.  We agree to make our own non-generic kites another day (how am I going to get out of that one?  A job for their dad maybe).

Other than shopping centres there are a range of places that have school holiday activities.  We are booked into a Bunnings craft activity - you can go to their website to book into your local store.  And we are also trying out an Officeworks craft session - you have to ring your local store to book in but it does say on their website that most stores are hosting them.

And last, but certainly not least, is the local library!  They always have some kind of school holiday thing going on so their website is a must-check.

The local library (again).  But this time just to check out books.  A trip to the library when tempers are getting short can reboot the morning or afternoon nicely.  As well as the kids checking out books, I try to find some audio books I can have up my sleeve if we all start to get on each other's nerves at a later point.

Invite friends over.  Share the pain of the second week with another mother.  Sure the kids will still fight and make a mess in the back room but you can pretend to be 80% oblivious while drinking tea and chatting in the kitchen.  Send food back every now and then and they should mostly leave you alone.

Then there are the usual range of rainy-day activities: board games, card games, making a fort with sheets and furniture, reading aloud, room tidying and cooking.

TV and computer.  Not all bad. A little bit of mindless watching is not the end of the world. Better than screaming madness especially if you get to choose what goes on. But don't let it be a substitute for periods of mind-numbing boredom. Kids need that too. If you don't like what's on offer on the TV, remember ABC's iview allows you to access a wide range of programs and watch them on the computer. We are fans of "Escape from Scorpion Island" which is like Survivor for kids.

I realize none of these are revolutionary!  But sometimes we forget from holiday to holiday what we used to do.  So do share - what do you do to keep the holidays flowing smoothly?


Karen said...

Remove some of the children....just kidding....although my two older ones are away for all of this week seeing their grandparents. Because they live in the city, they get to do cool stuff there like go on trains :)

Most of what we do on school holidays was covered on your list. We might also go next week for a walk to our lovely local lighthouse and sit in the sun looking for whales. We are fortunate to live in a lovely spot where we might see a few.

I love the library too. A visit in the morning usually guarantees us a quiet afternoon as the kids lose themselves in their books for the rest of the day.

We have also pulled out our hammock these holidays after not having used it for a while. The toddler uses it as a swing for the morning, and then I climb in while the little people are sleeping in the afternoon. Have just spent a blissed out hour in there sleeping and reading a good book.
If all the kids are home, I'm lucky to get anywhere near it so I'm enjoying getting to use it again!

Deb said...

Hammock? Oh that would be good! But we'd need the weather to go with it. It's nice to re-discover stuff you haven't used for a while in the school holidays. Next year, I think I'll hide the Lego between Term 1 and Term 2 holidays so that it seems all fresh and wonderful.

Deb said...

This afternoon we could add two more ideas to that list.

One child worked on a coded message to send via email to friends. We used the pig pen cypher from this site: http://www.snydersofhanover.com/PromoSpyKit/

Once my child understood how the code worked, we cut out the code explanation from the top and sticky taped it to a new page before writing our own secret message underneath. We scanned the page and emailed it to a few friends. He's hoping he'll get some coded messages emailed back to unscramble.

Another child made a family newspaper (one page). We started out on this site http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/elci/index.html?launch=true but we switched over to good old Microsoft Word because we couldn't put in our own picture.

We are not usually that creative or cooperative in our house so don't feel left out if all your tribe wanted to do was sprawl on the floor and whine. We did plenty of that too.

Tasmanian said...

I find a really good way to fill in at least an hour is to wait for your five year old to finish her piano practise.

Tasmanian said...

(It could be done in ten minutes.)