Despite the many benefits of school holidays - having your gorgeous children hanging around the house day in, day out, can become tricky. This is especially true if your children are the type that find it hard to go off to their rooms to play quietly or you need to get on with housework or paid work whilst the children are at home. I am certainly not an expert in this, but here are some ideas I am trying out these holidays. Many of my suggestions are based on my location in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but there will be similar options wherever you live.
Apologies for the dodgy pic, it is Sunday night and I want to be authentic in what I share.
ANYHOO.....I have made a super-simple table where I have divided each day of the week into thee sections. In the far left column, I have three times listed. 8:00 a.m., 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Across the top of the table I have listed the days of the week.
The idea is to plan activities in two out of three sections each day. I have written in some things that I already have planned. A bike ride with friends, a visit with Nana, a trip to the park. At the top, my children have added in their own ideas of things they would like to do. These are things that we will do during the times we don't have pre-planned activities. For the one un-planned section of each day, I will be expecting my children to spend at least an hour entertaining themselves without my involvement or the use of electronic devices. I will also allow them to watch tv or a DVD during this section of time. In an ideal world, I would love my children to be tv free, but I get tired, they get tired, and the tv gives us all some welcome down time. (That's usually when I go and have my nana nap).
2) Plan some fun outings. Going somewhere with another family from school, church, playgroup etc is a great way to take the pressure off you. Going out with your childrens' friends gives them someone to talk to on the outing which means you aren't always having to answer questions. It may also be a wonderful opportunity to get to know another parent.
Here are some options I am thinking about for my children these holidays:
Melbourne Museum - 'Brickman Wonders of the World'
I love a day out at the Melbourne Museum. The Childrens' gallery has just been renovated and is well worth a visit. Entry is free for kids and people holding a Health Care or Concession card. Adults are $14 each. Entry into the Brickman exhibition is additional. I would advise purchasing tickets on-line and booking the 10 a.m. session as you will be the first ones into the exhibit and will get to look around without the crowds that inevitably grow throughout the morning.
As far as parking goes, I usually get a free parking spot on Barkly Street or Murchison Street. It may take an extra 10 minutes to find a spot but it saves some money and the walk through the Carlton Gardens in Autumn is quite 'refreshing'. (Especially at 9:45 a.m.) Take along a packed lunch and you can store you backpack in the cloak room whilst you wander around the museum. When it gets close to lunchtime, grab a take-away coffee from the cafe and eat your picnic lunch outside near the playground.
This idea is a little 'retro' but my kids love it! Our favourite roller skating destination is Bayswater Roller City. On first look, it would appear that nothing has changed since you went there for Youth Group in 1989. However, the skating surface is not the usual hard concrete, so the children don't smash their knees every time they fall over.
Their website has a voucher so that you can get two for one entry. When you pick up your skates, you can let the attendant know if your children are inexperienced skaters. They can tighten up the wheels on the roller skates so that they have a little more control over how fast the wheels turn. I love this feature. BUT, the real gem at Bayswater is the DJ! No longer do the kids spend 3 hours rolling around in circles, the roller skating session is punctuated by games, competitions and even roller-dancing, which gets all the kids involved and staying in the rink.
Check the website for changes to session times, but at the time of writing this blog, the holiday sessions were running from 12-4.
There are some parents out there who just LOVE cooking with their kids. I do enjoy the experience as long as I am in the right frame of mind. For this reason, I never let my children know that I am planning on a cooking session until we are just about to do it. I like to give myself the ability to back out at the last minute if I don't think the children are calm enough to enter into the experience safely. By that I mean, their over-the-top enthusiasm doesn't drive me to the brink of insanity resulting in me getting cranky with them for no real reason!
Some little tips that I find helpful.
1) Make sure you have a fair idea of the recipe steps and the techniques the children will need to use to make the food. Perhaps the children aren't ready to use the mini-blow torch on the meringues quite yet???? Also check that the recipe doesn't require things to stand overnight or marinate for 3 days - having to wait days to eat your cooking is a cruel form of torture.
2) Line up the required ingredients and equipment on the bench ready to go. Allow the children to do as much measuring, weighing and egg-cracking as possible. Having all the things you need will ensure that you never have to turn your back on what they are doing. All my kitchen disasters and arguments have occurred when I turn my back. However, if your little darling manages to crack an egg on the side of the bench and then drop it on the floor - don't worry! We all make mistakes and dropping, spilling and splashing stuff is something we have all done. Chill out and don't scare your kids out of the kitchen by getting angry with them for doing something due to their youth and inexperience.
Playspace and bike path hunt
With more and more apartment and townhouse dwellings being built, and the size of the average Aussie backyard shrinking, local councils are seeing the importance of creating places where families can go and enjoy the great outdoors. City councils provide a list of playgrounds and bike paths on their website, including information about the provision of accessible equipment, toilets, bbqs and in some cases, coffee shops. There are some amazing playgrounds hidden in some obscure places. There are also some woeful playgrounds that are not even worth stopping the car at. Pack some snacks and get ready for a drive around the neighbourhood finding playgrounds that will burn some energy and help develop your kids strength.
Here is the list for the City of Maroondah, my local area.
Holidays are an absolute joy if you are prepared. Yet they can also be a very long, tedious experience if you don't think ahead.
What ideas do you have for school holidays?