"Holidays are awesome but school holidays are... problematic."

The school holidays are coming once again and where as you might picture long sunny beach days with the munchkins, I visualise endless hours of being asked, ‘but muuuum what can I do, NOW?’ 12 weeks holiday per year is what most school age children receive, yet compare that with the average four-week allowance for working parents and you can see where the problem arises.

Holidays are awesome but school holidays are problematic. Leftover from a bygone era when mums mostly didn’t work, there is a theory that school breaks are long because the kids were needed to help Papa on the farm.

Whatever the reason for their length, school holidays now are less about threshing crops and more about frantically organising grandparents, play dates and vacation care to manage the work/life juggle. iPads and days out at sweaty, overpriced trampoline parks also come into play.

Like many other mums I know, I work from home so it is my responsibility to care for, or organise care for my eldest son Toby during school holidays. While we want to spend time together, we also have one-year-old Leo at home and it is hard to find activities we can all tolerate around baby nap times. This means play dates or sporting camps are usually our best bet.

Laura Jackel & family.
Image: Supplied

Toby is now in year two at school and I have made many mistakes in my quest to discover what works for us and the household as a whole during school holidays. Here are my top seven tips for surviving the break with your family and sanity intact:

1. Collaborate and investigate the options

In my desperation to keep Toby entertained and my work schedule on track, I have randomly booked in poor Toby for all sorts of holiday camps he wasn’t that keen on. It worked for me, but seeing his sad little face at drop off broke my heart and I promised him - never again. We now discuss the activity options I think he might like and I talk to the parents of his friends to see if we can coordinate.

2. Get organised

Once you know what your child or children enjoy, book in early as possible as places on the good events, camps, daytrips and activities will fill up quickly. I was severely punished over Easter last year where I dragged my feet and Toby missed out on a ‘laser tag’ trip with a mate.

3. Plan something every day

Kids love a routine so on quiet days I try to replicate a school-style schedule around one main event, even if it is to just go for a scoot at the park for one hour at 11am. It is amazing how fast a day can go by with recess, lunch, afternoon tea and a bit of screen time thrown in for good measure.

Laura Jackel & family.
Rule #1: Keep them busy... Image: Supplied.

4. Craft time

I am 100% not a crafty type and I am also totally OCD about messy play indoors at home. If the weather is bad however and we are both going bonkers, a trip to the local craft shop to buy something easy to work on at home is a huge novelty and at least it gives us a quiet focus while Leo has his day nap.


5. Don’t let your partner slack off

I feel like I am stating the bleeding obvious but it is not solely the mum’s job to organise the kids holiday activities – it is a whole family issue. I have gone slightly crackers in the past and so now my husband pulls his weight with the planning and organising part. We also make sure he takes a few days off over the break so we can mix it up with fun family activities and he can look after the kids while I work.

6. Use friends and family where possible

The more school holidays you experience, the more you realise everyone around you is winging it too. With this in mind I am always willing to ask a friend if they can watch Toby one day and I will repay the favour with their kid the next.  Playdates with friends are also fun for everyone and if planned in the afternoon, a sneaky wine and cheese plate can be incorporated.

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7. Give yourself a break and just go with it.

Some days we literally slob around watching television and not doing an awful lot. This is the reality of school holidays and sometimes the kids just have to suck it up and be bored for a bit while you do the washing or send some emails. It is no big deal and if no one gets seriously injured or goes hungry you are winning! 

School holidays are one part precious to three parts headache, and while I’ll enjoy the break from emptying out stinky lunchboxes and yelling about homework, I cannot wait for that first school bell to ring again come 1st May.

Happy holidays everyone!   

What do you do during the holidays? Do you think they are too long?