The school summer holidays are nearly upon us and parents around the country are both leaping with joy at the prospect of not having to go through the stressy horror that is the ‘get them all out of the house in time for school malarkey’ but also sobbing in despair at the thought of 6 long whole weeks of arguments, bickers, tantrums and boredom.
Although some schools have already broken up for the summer (pity those parents!), my two have got just under two weeks left, so I’m clutching at every teeny, tiny last second I have left on my own before the inevitable madness ensues. It’s a crazy last minute rush to try and sort out childcare, get ahead with work whilst also fitting in all the end of year activities and events that parents are required to attend (I love it really!). And it’s obviously the same every year, yet still it creeps up on us and unless you’re prepared it can end up being a horrible time for all.
Last year I gave you my article ‘What To Do With Your Kids When They Drive You Nuts!‘, so by all means have a read of that to remind yourself of a few activities to do with the kids when they are truly driving you up the wall, but this year I wanted to approach it a bit differently. Like most other children, my two love their screens and I’m fairly certain that, my son in particular, has this vision that as soon as the summer holidays start he’s gonna shack up with his XBox and occasionally grunt at me for snacks (Ha! Dream on!) So, I’ve put my thinking cap on and come up with a few ideas to help drag the kids off their devices and get them outside and active, enjoying some of the things we would have enjoyed as kids, as well as helping to wear the pesky little critters out so that us parents can enjoy a bit of adult time come the evenings. Well…we can at least hope!
If You Can’t Beat Them…Join Them!
They’re fighting anyway right, so let’s throw in some water and join in. Yep I’m talking water fights and OK I can guess what you’re thinking…that this will end in tears? Well yeah, probably, but on a hot sunny day, when tempers are already frayed, the garden could do with a water, and you just need 20 minutes of outdoors fun, then there isn’t much better than a water fight to cheer things up a bit. If you haven’t heard of Buncho Balloons, go and Google them now, because they take water fights to another level! They’re basically loads of balloons attached by thin plastic tubes, which join together at the top to an attachment that fits onto a hose or tap. You fill them up with water and as they expand they slowly start to release and tie themselves (I’m still not entirely sure how the magic works) and et voila you’re equipped with a pile of water bombs.
Now, you deffo need to set some ground rules, otherwise those balloons are gonna be gone in seconds. We played at the weekend and basically had the balloons in a tub in the centre, with each of us situated at 4 different corners of the garden. On the shout of ‘Go’ we all got to run in, grab one balloon at a time and then it’s anybody’s game. I guess you could liken it to a H2O Hunger Games, but without the killing part…obvs! No throwing at faces, willies, lady parts or over into the neighbours gardens. Be prepared to get soaked, scream like a girl (well, maybe that’s just me) and possibly a few tears when the sun disappears behind a cloud and it suddenly gets freezing.
TOP TIP – Have plenty of towels to hand for afterwards and remember to pick up all the burst balloons after, in fact make a game of that and it’ll buy you another 5 minutes worth of entertainment 😉
Get Your Five A Day The Fun Way
We’re really fortunate where we live, as we have so much beautiful outdoor space right on our doorstep, one of which is Durleigh Marsh Pick Your Own Farm Shop. You can find out if you have a PYO farm near you by doing a quick search on Google, or just ask around the school mums, they usually know everything! To make sure your kids are properly active, you ideally want a PYO that’s big, spread across loads of fields, but so you can still see them. Durleigh is absolutely perfect for this; it’s set away from any roads, so you know the kids are safe, but it’s absolutely massive so if they’re really doing your head in you can go and hide away in the blueberry bushes without any worry. My suggestion is to give them a couple of punnets each, give them a shopping list and just let them go off by themselves. If you want you could even set them challenges, like for example who can find the strangest fruit, or who can get the most in 10 minutes (although this may work out rather expensive!). Oh and of course, whilst they’re running around in the fresh country air, getting back to nature and wearing themselves out, they’re obviously gonna have a bit of a nibble. So, let’s just think about this a sec…they get exercise, they’re outdoors, they try new food and their 5 a day suddenly becomes 10, 15, 20 a day! Yep, there’s a whole heap of benefits to visiting a PYO farm let me tell you.
You’re probably not supposed to sample the goods too much, but come on we all know everybody does it. Just make sure you take baby wipes to get rid of any munching evidence, and out of courtesy make sure you buy more than you scoff.
TOP TIP – Check ahead to see what crops are in season. Some farms may even have crop calendars on their website, or you could phone to ask. You don’t want to turn up expecting to pick strawberries, only to find the only things left are gooseberries.
Have you heard of the game Bananagrams? It’s basically a word game, made up of loads of Scrabble style letter tiles all contained in a Banana shaped bag (seriously other than the bag, and the occasional shouting out of a banana related word this game really has nothing to do with bananas). But did you know you can get it as a giant outdoor friendly version too? Yep, Jumbo Bananagrams really is a thing and it is the perfect solution to keeping your kids active and educated over the summer holidays.
I’m all for kids having a break from lessons and stuff, but 6 weeks is a long time, so if you can sneak a teensy bit in without them realising, then that’s a bonus, right? You can play this game in the garden or you could take them with you to the park or perhaps a campsite if you’re camping this summer. Just be warned the bag is fairly heavy, so you won’t want to lug them about all day! It works best with teams, but you can easily play this with just one child, they may just need some help and encouragement to stay motivated. Decide on a word, but don’t tell the kids, then get them to close their eyes whilst you hide the letters of that word. You can tell them how many letters the word has and tell them the boundaries of where they should be looking, this is to avoid them getting completely lost (hey as much as they’re driving you nuts, you do love them after all!) Make sure you pick words that are age appropriate, and increase the difficulty with each round. It’s absolutely perfect for keeping their spelling up to scratch, helps teach them about working together as a team and even better allows you to sit on your backside soaking up the sun and feeling smug that you’ve got this parenting thing down!
TOP TIP – The longer the word, the more peace you’ll have. I find ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ works an absolute treat 😉
Keep On Running
I’m a big advocate of getting kids into running and if you’ve read my post ‘Could Your Child Be The Ideal Running Partner?‘ you’ll know just how beneficial it can be. Getting your kids involved with the type of exercise that you do is always a good idea, because not only does it allow you to carry on exercising, albeit at a lower intensity, throughout the holidays, but it also teaches them the importance of keeping fit and healthy. After all they look up to you as their role model and so it is your responsibility to show them that being active is fun.
Running has obviously been around for, well since legs were invented, but over the last couple of years it has become quite the ‘in’ thing to do. There are loads of opportunities for kids to take up running and this isn’t just restricted to term time. Park Run organises free, weekly, 5km timed runs and are open to absolutely everyone. They are usually held on weekend mornings, but it’s worth checking out the Park Run UK website to find out times and venues of your nearest run.
There may also be some local running groups who run special kids run groups over the school holidays. My run group, the Runnyhoneys, hold weekly kids running sessions with a 1 mile or 2 mile option depending on the age and ability of the child. And the emphasis is very much on fun, with each session starting with warm up games including ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ and the much loved ‘Toilet Tag’.
And of course you could always take them out with you on your own. Just make sure to take plenty of water, be prepared for a truckload of moaning and to be gentle…but not too gentle on them. You might even find, they’re faster and fitter than you!
TOP TIP – Make it fun, especially if you’re taking them out on your own. Play silly games like who can run the funniest, who can spot certain things, and who can get up the hill before mum/dad.
Bounce It Out
We’ve recently had an in ground trampoline put into the garden and it has been the best thing for entertaining our two. We’d always had a standard trampoline prior to this one, but it had got a bit grotty – pigeons had pooped on it, it had the tell tale signs of mildew and the edging was all ripped from use and us basically not looking after it properly. And to be honest the kids had kind of got a bit bored of it, plus me and the hubby were fed up with it blocking out the rest of the garden. So we bit the bullet, paid a man to dig a socking great hole and put in this fab one from Plum Play UK.
The kids have literally gone mad over it!
All of a sudden it’s become the best thing ever and both of them go on it before school and before bed (why do kids pick the most rushed of times?!), so I’ve got huge hopes for this during the hols.
You can play all kinds of different games on a trampoline, so if you’ve got one in your garden have a look at this for a bit of bouncespiration:
- Balls – You’ll need a trampoline with a net for this one. Remember all those plastic balls you used to have knocking around when your kids were babies? You know, the kind you get in ball pits? Chances are you’ve still got them stashed away in your shed somewhere, well if you’re clutterbugs like us you certainly will. Now’s the time to dig them out! Throw all the balls onto the trampoline and the challenge is for the child on the trampoline to get them all out before the child on the ground can throw them all back in again. The more balls the better!
- Traffic Lights – Basically choose a traffic light colour and relate it to an action – Red = stop, Amber = sit down, Green = go. Kids run around the trampoline while you, or if you can get away with not being involved another child, shouts out the colours. As they get better at it you can start to add more colours just to confuse things, so it ends up being Rainbow lights. We’ve had things like – Purple = star jump, Blue = hop etc.
- Talent Show – This ones all about showing off. How high can you bounce? What’s your best trick? Can you do a front flip? You get the gist. You’ll need to monitor this one a little bit as things can quickly get out of hand, especially if there are a mixture of younger and older children.
TOP TIP – Make sure you only have 1 or 2 kids bouncing at one time and decide whether you’re a shoes on or shoes off family.
I hope this will help you out a bit, and OK I realise it’s not enough to keep you going for the whole 6 weeks, but my answer to that…childcare and wine! Trust me, it’s the only things that will get you through it.