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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 0 comments

1. Get prepared in advance

Do your research now, while the little blighters are still at school! Look up local attractions and events calendars (try your local newspaper's website, local parks, libraries, cinemas etc...) so that you can plan a schedule of things to do in advance! Use a paper diary/calendar, use your calendar on your smartphone, or create one in Microsoft Publisher. Put together a calendar of events for your family, even if it's only a loose schedule. It gives you things to look forward to and to plan around.

Also, consider putting together a 'Ready To Go' bag! See the blog I wrote on this last summer.

2. Set a routine, and stick to it... sometimes at least

The temptation may be to let things slide. Lay-ins in the morning, late nights, mooching around and skipping chores are a wonderful prospect when you and the kids are exhausted getting towards the end of the school semester, but in my experience, too many unstructured days are a recipe for disaster. Try to have a flexible routine. Perhaps a later start in the morning, but still an expectation to be up, dressed and ready for action by a certain time! You could set aside certain times of the day for specific activities... for example, outdoor activities in the morning before it gets too hot, and then maybe, quiet time activities for an hour after lunch. Also, have set days of the week for certain activities, e.g. Monday is library day, Tuesday is for baking (you can incorporate a trip to the grocery store before hand and get the kids to help with the shopping for ingredients), Wednesday is for playdates, Thursday is Movie Day, etc...! Kids and adults benefit from structure and without it, the 100 days of summer hols become a haze!

3. Home school

Yes. You did read that right! Two and a half months off will undo a lot of the progress your child will have made academically if they don't utilise their little brains. Set aside a 30 minute chunk of the day (maybe at a regular time slot ... see point 2 above) to do some school work. It doesn't have to be dull as dishwater and can be fun! Try educational puzzles and games, video games, online resources and activity packs. Just a little bit of educational activity a day (especially if it revises stuff they have been doing at school) and it will keep their brains limber ready for the start of the new academic year. Just make sure you start as you mean to go on. If it's part of a daily routine established at the start of the school holiday there will be fewer complaints!

Check out these great workbooks and video games.

4. Play dates and reciprocal babysitting

Before the last day of school, exchange contact details with some of your child's classmates' parents. Take the initiative and organise a park play date for the first week off school with a few families and then organise a schedule with the other parents for the weeks ahead! You could even take the play date thing one step further. If you have friends with children a similar age you could set up a weekly play date swap. This enables each parent to have some well-deserved child-free time to run errands or just relax. For example, you could arrange for your children to go to a friend's house for a few hours on a Tuesday and then return the favour looking after their kids on a Thursday. The kids have friend's to play with (and so pester you less) and you get a few hours to yourself each week. Everyone's a winner!

5. Themes & projects

You could set a weekly theme and base all your activities around that theme. For example, you could have a farm theme... visit a farm park with another family, plant some vegetable seeds, bake a carrot cake, do some garden themed literacy/numeracy/art activities and etc... You could get each child to keep a summer holiday scrapbook, keeping photos, mementos and artwork from each week together.

6. Bribery

When all else fails and the kids are driving you crazy, don't feel bad about resorting to bribery! Just be sensible about it. Try using charts where the kids have to work towards getting a reward. Set out your expectations clearly first and agree the reward in advance. Think outside the box when it comes to a reward. You could treat the kids to a frozen yoghurt after a trip to the park on a Friday afternoon for good behaviour throughout the week rather than a monetary amount, candy or material object. Stick to your guns though, and only reward the behaviour that has been asked for! For more ideas check out my earlier post which includes a printable LEGO reward chart I created.

7. Camps

Summer camps can be really expensive, especially if you have more than one child. However, they can be a good option, especially for older kids with specific interests.

8. Low-cost options

If you have more than one child, summer camps can become cumulatively and prohibitively expensive. Short of picking your favourite child and only allowing that one to attend a camp, you could limit them to one week each, or just avoid them completely and come up with your own low-cost activities. This can be especially fun if you join up with other families. Suggestions:

- Use your local library - and not just for borrowing books. Many have free story times and activity classes you can sign up for.

- Local businesses sometimes have free kids' activities: Lowes DIY stores have a free build-and-grow scheme where kids can do building projects, Barnes & Noble hold free story times and etc...

- Parks - are a brilliant option. Many have play equipment, even splash pads, suitable for a wide range of ages. They also often have restrooms and picnic facilities... great for a change of scenery when the kids are driving you crazy, and even better when you meet friends for a play date!

- Museums and galleries sometimes have free days. Do your research ahead of time (see point one)!

- Cinemas often run a summer program of matinees for low cost. They won't be new releases, but you can see family favourites for just a few bucks! Treat the kids to some popcorn to make it a special (low-cost) occasion!

- Visit the dollar store and select some art supplies for a project.

- Get an annual pass to a favourite local attraction. For example, you can buy a family pass a local zoo for about $80 and visit as many times as you like throughout the holidays!

- Create a den or pitch a tent in the backyard (or in the house if the weather is bad)!

- Visit the beach, local nature reserve, woodland or river and get closer to nature!

- Try geo-caching to make walks and bike rides more exciting!

- Volunteer - find a local food bank, nursing home, or animal shelter and spend some of your summer holiday doing something worthwhile with your kids!

9. Remember... it's a holiday!

After a full-on academic year, you and the kids will need some time to relax. Don't try to fill every moment with activities or you will end up exhausted and needing to go back to school for a break. It's okay to have days with nothing planned. Let (insist) the kids play on their own sometimes... it's important that children learn to use their own imaginations and initiative. Trot out that really annoying line that your own parents used: "Only boring people get bored"! It's not true of course, but sometimes a little boredom is unavoidable and you should not feel obliged to entertain the troops continually!

10. Drink...

After a particularly stressful day with the kids... treat yourself to a glass of wine once they've gone to bed and remember the holidays won't last forever!

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Mama Max

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