By JO ABI.
When I was a kid this is how mum kept us entertained during the school holidays – she opened up the back door and told us to go outside and play. We were allowed to come back in for food and to use the toilet but if the sun was up, we were outside. That’s what we did every day and let me tell you, my memories of my childhood are magical.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Universal Pictures. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in her own words.
I lived in a world of complete imagination. My sisters and I made up games, climbed trees, chased lizards, pretended our bikes were cars , we dug holes, played with mud, we told stories…these school holidays I want just a little of that for my kids.
The last school holidays were terrible. We were moving house, I’d just started a new job and my sister was working too. Each day was frantic and stressful and disorganised. On the days I had to go to work I had to get up early and get my children dressed, drop them off at my sister’s house and race to the bus stop.
Nights weren’t much better. On my days at home I had my kids, my sister’s kids and a couple of extras. I set up every piece of technology I could find. We had the TV, the desktop, my laptop, my iPhone, the X-Box, the Wii and the 3DS. This gave me time to unpack and get some work done. It was so unpleasant and I felt like the world’s worst mother. I swore I’d get organised for the next school holidays.
I was robbing my children (and my sister’s kids and the extras) of the gift of boredom, of the gift of using their imagination, of the gift of playing in the mud and making a mess and getting itchy legs from the grass and of following a trail of ants all the way to the nest.
I know, I sound stupidly idealistic and my plan may fail miserably but here it is – each week I will designate a day to one of these school holiday activities for kids.
I’ll sit them down and tell them the plan beforehand so they aren’t surprised and hopefully this will cancel out any complaints. Each Sunday is a ‘reward’ day when we indulge in a proper outing which – once you’ve paid for two adults and three children – can be considered a splurge.
We’ll start the week with arts and crafts. Head to your local discount store and buy everything – glue, paint, pencils, crayons, paddle pop sticks, coloured paper, glitter, stickers, everything. After breakfast put the tub in the middle of the lounge room and tell them to get stuck in. Ignore the mess til 4pm.
The older kids will grumble at first but just ignore them. TECHNOLOGY IS BANNED until 4pm when the TV can go on until dinner time. After dinner their dad will come home and they can show them what they’ve been working on.
They do so much of this at school but they never seem to do much at home. I remember the day I bought children’s scissors for them all and they spent the day cutting paper into all sorts of shapes and sizes (and one of them cut the lounge fabric – I still haven’t figure out who did it). Make sure everything is non-toxic and can be washed off with water. Dress them in old clothes and give them some ideas of what to make and draw.
This is the day we will attempt to spend every daylight hour outdoors. When I was little I lived on five acres so to keep the kids interested I may need to change locations a couple of times. We’ll start at home. We’ll explore our backyard. There are so many hidden spots and unfamiliar features. We have plants and flowers and rocks and a tree that is perfect for climbing.
Then, just before lunch we’ll head to a park and bring a picnic lunch. The picnic has to be packed at home so we don’t up spending money on lunch. We’ll play at the park and then eat lunch on a picnic rug with little plates and special cutlery. It’s so fun and is it just me or does food taste better when eaten outdoors?
That will take us to around 2pm. One more location change is allowed and a perfect location is one where they can ride bikes and scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, kick balls and don’t just sit and watch them. Get up and join in! There’s no better influence on a child than watching their parents get up and run around and have fun. You’ll have a blast.
This is the day we go to the shops and is the main grocery day. We’ll start at the shops with coffees and babycinos then do the grocery shopping for the week. They can all help choose the food. They get to choose one non-food treat from the grocery store and one food treat to eat later in the day.
My oldest son Philip is 9 and always complains about having to do the grocery shopping. I normally do it during his school hours but it’s good for him to be part of the process. His tastes in food always changes as well. One second he tells me he LOVES Corn Thins and the next he is sick of them. He can update me (don’t worry, Corn Thins always come back on the ‘favourites’ list). He sees foods he wants in his recess and lunch. We have huge debates about which biscuits to buy.
Giovanni is being taught about healthy foods and ‘sometimes’ foods at time moment. Apparently donuts are healthy and chocolate is a ‘sometimes’ food. I totally agree.
Once groceries are done, I like to throw in another activity into the day. The kids are dressed and are out of the house and I may as well make the most of the opportunity while we’re out and about. Because they’re pretty close in age, they generally all like the same movie and these school holidays it’s an easy choice – Despicable Me 2. The kids watch the first movie constantly at home and apparently in this movie Gru is no longer a baddie. He has his adopted children and is a new man. It’s meant to be hilarious. I actually enjoyed the first movie so I don’t mind seeing this one too. I can’t say that about all of the movies my children drag me to.
We use Thursdays to visit friends and family. I have lunch with my parents at their house every Thursday and my dad really looks forward to seeing the kids. They have an amazing backyard with a dog, chickens, every kind of fruit and vegetable you can think of and my dad is always working on a special project like building an elaborate enclosure so the birds eat the fruit on the trees.
I love seeing the kids pull a mandarin off the tree and eat it in the back yard. They fight to check the chicken pen for eggs. In winter my dad builds a little fire and we actually roast marshmallows on sticks. It’s so fun and delicious.
My dad was a total marshmallow novice last winter and burned the first one so badly it caught on fire. The kids still tell that story. Now he gets the perfect amount of heat on them until they bubble slightly and are lightly browned. He even ate one last time. Delicious.
The afternoon will be for seeing more family and friends. They kids will be happy and exhausted. They normally fall asleep in the car on the way home.
This is technology day. We spend the day at home each Friday. I normally clean the house, do all the laundry and do some cooking for the days ahead, as well as a bit of work. They kids can play with whatever is in the house. You watch…they’ll start the day all excited on computers and iPads and then by about lunch time they’ll start to get bored and wander into the backyard.
We just bought a cat and the kids love her. Milly is pretty savvy when it comes to any children – she’s happy to receive affection but as soon as their little brains turn to dressing her up, painting her or putting her in the wheelbarrow and taking her for rides she reads their minds and races off for some peace and quiet.
I love spending at day at home doing not much at all. By around 2pm I usually feel like baking and all three of them love to ‘help’. We normally bake a couple of things because Philip loves vanilla cake only, Giovanni loves chocolate cake only and Caterina and I are happy to eat both. Cupcakes and brownies it is!
My husband is home so it’s family day. Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time at Bicentennial Park in Sydney. My husband and the boys take off on their bikes like rockets. I prefer to power walk next to Caterina on her little tricycle and we usually end up at the café drinking coffee waiting for the boys who are often riding for hours.
It doesn’t matter that it’s winter. Rug them all up and then once they start riding they’ll warm up very quickly.
On the way home we pick up takeaway for dinner which for me is just bliss. After a day of riding they fall asleep so easily at night which is when my husband and I put on a movie we’ve been saving to watch together and dig out the gourmet ice cream from behind the frozen vegetables (the kids never look there).
This is the day where we spend a bit of money on something. We head out for lunch as a family and after lunch we’ll go bowling or if the weather is nice we might go bike riding again. I’d also like to find a community farm to visit during the second week of the school holidays. There are heaps and some are only an hour or two from capital cities. You can find them online. Many are run by families and offer brilliant farming experiences for children. You can do everything from milking your own cow to seeing where flour comes from. They let you ride on tractors and take fresh produce home with you.
Some even offer B & B accommodation. You can drive down on Saturday afternoon, spend the night and then have an amazing Sunday before heading home. That’s a great one for the last Sunday before school goes back because it reduces the time during which the kids can say things like, “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow” or “school is boring” or “why can’t the school holidays be longer” or “I HATE school”.
Look on the bright side – if their school holidays sucked they’d WANT to go back to school. I take it as a compliment.
Thanks to Universal Pictures, you can win 1 of 10 Family passes to watch Despicable Me 2. Click here to enter the competition and tell us about your favourite school holiday activity in 50 words or less.
Despicable Me 2 sees an all-new comedy adventure featuring the return of former super-villain Gru (STEVE CARELL of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!), his adorable girls, the unpredictably hilarious Minions…and a host of new and outrageously funny characters.
In cinemas now, you can buy tickets here.
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What are some of your best school holiday activities for kids? What do you and your kids have planned for the coming school holidays?