The final preschool or school bell at the end of June brings with it much excitement. Thoughts turn to lie-ins, lazy days and a general sense of freedom. Even traffic quietens down, making morning commutes so much easier. For parents, however, the summer break often brings a logistical challenge – childcare. For working parents, this means figuring how who will mind their children over the summer and for all parents, there’s the worry of how to fill their child’s free days. You still have 5 or 6 weeks to figure it out so here are a few pointers that might help:
- Summer camps: Love them or loathe them, summer camps have saved the sanity of many a parent over the holidays. They are also a great way for children to meet new friends and enjoy new experiences. If you choose a camp for your child, try to make sure it aligns with their interests and that they know at least one other person going there. For younger children in particular, prepare them for the fact that the structure is different to school – while camps are a lot more fun, the leaders/facilitators don’t know your child particularly well. Encourage your child to speak up when they need help or if they feel a little unsure of something. It’s about finding that delicate balance between doing new things and finding an appropriate comfort zone. You can support your child to find that balance by talking then through what to expect.
- ‘Care pooling’: Like what you do with a car but it involves little people! Now is the time to talk to friends and family, to see if you can arrange schedules that will be beneficial to all. You might have some time off one week and can take your friend’s child and he/she can do it the next week. That way, your childcare issue is solved and your child has a playmate. It’s a fairly cost neutral win-win.
- Treats: We all do it. Holidays are generally about relaxing the rules and throwing caution to the wind. When your child asks for an ice cream every day, bear in mind that the school holidays last for 8 weeks. That’s a whole lot of treats. Talk to your child about this in advance and set some boundaries. You could, for example, make homemade smoothie ice-pops for during the week and they can enjoy ice creams out at the weekend. Cinema trips are expensive so you could invite some of their friends over to watch a movie, while having a picnic on the floor. Anything different creates a sense of adventure for children so get creative with the treats. Your child’s health (and your bank balance) will thank you.
- Moderation: As parents we often fall into the trap of trying to be all singing, all dancing when it comes to keeping our children occupied. Just remember that they need down time too. A break from the preschool/school routine should give them plenty of time and space to just be, without always doing something. Children are at risk of being over-scheduled, even if it involves fun activities and outings. Again, it’s all about striking a balance.
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