Top tips for surviving the summer holidays
Summer holidays can often be a challenge for parents and carers so we asked Coventry parents and foster carers what helped them manage the long summer break. Here they share their top tips and ideas…
Plan, plan, and plan some more!
Being clear on who is working outside of the home when, what other commitments or holidays need to be considered and who else is about during the holidays is a great start in planning time and budgets.
Make sure that holiday clubs are scoped and sorted in advance as they get booked up very quickly. Try and look for holiday clubs that fit with the child’s interests - places like Xcel and Centre AT7 have ‘day camps’ with themes such as breakdancing or crafts for instance.
Sit down with all the family before, or at the start of the holiday and plan a few special events together so everyone feels involved in the decision-making and can be ready.
Talking about budgets and planning the transport can all be important learning for children and young people. Don’t be afraid to boundary costs or journey time. Simple, local events can be just as special! Planning for days out can involve children in shopping for picnic food and snacks too, thus turning a ‘boring’ shopping trip into a more engaging activity.
Having a visible timetable at home so all the family know what is happening can be particularly helpful for children who find the lack of normal routine difficult. “The kids know what's coming up so there are no nasty surprises. We also build in early nights twice a week so we don't have tired tempers.” says Pauline, Coventry Foster Carer.
As Mo, Coventry Foster Carer also gives some great advice: “Make a 6-week calendar on the back of a piece of wallpaper, then fill in what things or activities the kids would normally do like cubs, or brownies. Include any other appointments they have, then put in any holidays, or days out, family visits or events that are planned. You could put in an afternoon at the park, free trip to the transport car museum or the Herbert Art Gallery (they both have activities on throughout school holidays). Also, why not meet up with other foster carers or parents for coffee at a garden centre or soft play area? You'll be amazed at what the 6 week calendar will look like AND the kids will know what's coming up and have things to look forward to.”
For trips with the potential for ‘pester power’ around the gift shop consider asking children to help with some age appropriate jobs in advance to earn some extra pocket money to be spent, can save money and disputes. It teaches them valuable life skills and work ethics and also gives them something to do on less active days (and if you are really lucky the jobs won’t have to be redone!).
If you’re going on a holiday away from home, think about how the children can be involved in planning the trip. Can they research online what there is to do? Find out how far away it is and how you will be getting there. Can they start to think about holiday spending money? Rachel, Coventry mum of two says: “when we were children, my brother and I were given the opportunity to do jobs to earn extra money alongside our pocket money. Whatever we saved in our jam jars for our holiday our parents would ‘double’ for us. The trouble was, I always had a full jar and my brother had always spent all of his before we went!”
The summer holidays doesn’t have to be about expensive days out. Check out local libraries, museums and galleries to see if there are free or cheap activities for young people. Explore local parks - take a ball or two, a bug hunting kit or just some crafts that can be done outside, and a picnic or snacks. Look up Geocaching, which is really popular at the moment.
Use your social network
Ask family and friends if they can help with child minding, especially if you have to work outside the home too. If appropriate consider whether your children can come into your work for a short time. This can help children to understand ‘your world’ more and for some children this can help with any anxiety over where you are when you aren’t with them.
Why not arrange play days with your children’s friends, and take turns to mind each other’s children? This way, children have a great time and adults can get to work or get other jobs done. Having your children’s friends around also gives you an opportunity to get to know your child’s friends better and see how they manage different social situations. You may also make better connections with other parents or carers and find you increase your opportunities to help each other out in the future.
Emma adds: “Have friends’ holiday dates on your calendar so you know who is around, therefore planning a couple of catch-ups that your children can look forward to.”
Consider which family or friends might appreciate some time spent with the children. Being available in the daytime may mean that visiting people you find it difficult to catch up with might be easier. If you have a number of relatives or friends you would like to catch up with consider inviting them to a ‘bring and share’ lunch, dinner or BBQ where everyone coming brings along a dish of food to share, thus alleviating some of the stress and cost of preparing food for everyone.
Let them be creative
Think about some activities that can happen in or around the home but are likely to keep the children entertained. Lots of kids enjoy building a den in the garden and ‘camping out’ with a picnic or tea party. Often it’s the simpler things we remember from childhood when we feel we were ‘unsupervised’. You know the old adage about children preferring the box that toys come in to the actual toy! When we asked people last year about their favourite childhood memories for our fostering campaign ‘den building’ inside or out was our top mentioned activity!
Look online for scientific experiments, music games, card tricks, or whatever takes their fancy. Creating a show or play to show you later may well keep younger children entertained for some time. Visit local charity shops for reading books, colouring books, jigsaws etc. There’s loads you can find for very little cost.
Older children may benefit from walking the dog, or a neighbour’s dog, as it will get them out and about and some fresh air. Linking this to either additional spending money- or an ‘unlocking’ of their phone/WiFi/games charger may nudge them to participate! For older children understanding that certain jobs need to be undertaken to allow for other activities to occur is a good learning point. Sharing out the jobs means that the ‘fun’ stuff can sometimes happen more quickly. If there are holiday projects to be completed encourage them to timetable this in, either in short chunks or ‘get them over with’ earlier in the holidays so that they are not a ‘rush job’ the day before school reopens. (We’ve all been there.)
Give young people a scrapbook or diary to fill over the holidays so they can’t say they did ‘nothing!’ This will remind them of the fun times they had and will jog their memories for when they have to write about it in September!
Don’t try to be a superhero
You don’t have to try to fill every minute of every day. Everyone needs time to relax and wind down over the summer holidays. As Sally, business owner and mum of two says: “Don’t beat yourself up if you have days where you stay home and the kids end up watching telly or similar and you're not doing a stimulating activity every single day. Most people are trying to keep 50 plates in the air at any one time so if you do have the odd day like that don't feel bad about it.”
Sarah, a working mum also agrees. “I prefer a mix of home days and days out. Mine like to rest too. My in-laws usually have them for a day a week, which helps. I try to remember to tell them each evening what we are doing the next day. If we are in the City Centre for Herbert Museum or whatever, I try not to add on visits to shops etc, as mine get fed up and tired if we are out for too long. Children's Information Service (see website below) provide lots of info about what is going on in around the City.”
Remember that ‘lazy days’ with movies, popcorn and more mundane activities actually help children’s development - letting them become bored sometimes teaches them how to entertain themselves at home and for all children, but particularly children and young people who have experienced difficult situations, these type of days also assist in regulating and calming emotions and increasing their sense of security, belonging and attachment.
Most parents or carers find aspects of the summer holidays quite challenging – everyone is out of the normal routine and managing different priorities. As Ann-Marie says: “We actually do a lot at home out of necessity really because it has to work around a lot of days where my husband or I have to do some work even when at home… Luckily we have lots of indoor and outdoor space to play with. So slippy slides on the grass, hide and seek, play doh and a not too infrequent DVDs! But I find summer holidays really hard with both of us trying to juggle work.”
Don’t be afraid to use tactics that you know work! Trust your skills and knowledge to judge what is going to be more successful. Stick to routines if this gives them stability and reassurance. As Jon, a Coventry dad of two states: “Sometimes we just have to split them up, one parent with each! It’s not a perfect family solution, but it can be a good idea when they spend a lot of time with each other. Also they are so used to school that we find that structure helps - spontaneity is great sometimes, but planning the days works for us too!”
Young people value the quality of the time you spend together and not just the cost.
As Elaine says: “Get them to plan meals or baking, a short trip to shop for ingredients (plus any other shopping that’s needed!) then you can cook and eat together which we find creates a lovely feeling.” Sorting out cupboards can not only provide more storage space but gives you a chance to talk about family memories and moments, rediscovering old toys and games.
Older children and teenagers may not always want to spend family time together. Allow them time to be with friends whilst giving them appropriate boundaries and back up plans. As Julie discovered, technology can be very helpful here. “My son is very clear now that when I say a time to be back he needs to adhere to it, and ignoring my text messages (which he can pick up without his friends knowing he is ‘checking in’ with me) will lead to me phoning, or even worse turning up at the skate park to call him home. This happening once was enough for the lesson to be learnt!”
Look after yourself too! Although the holidays provide lots of opportunities for later bedtimes, this needs to be balanced. You need to relax and reboot your energy for the next day too. Tired children and tired parents or carers is not a great combination! Get a couple of good books or DVDs to read or watch over the summer and try and have some child- free social time. Whether you go out or stay at home, it’s nice to have some uninterrupted conversations and conversations that don’t revolve around the latest Disney film or Minecraft update!
Finally, our last piece of advice:
It’s only 6 weeks; you will survive!
Have fun and enjoy your summer holidays.
- Find free activities in the community
- Use your support network
- Make friends with other parents
- Make a den, camp out and picnic
- Make plans in advance
- Enjoy a duvet day at home, chill out, relax
Remember, it’s only 6 weeks!
To find out more about fostering for Coventry City Council give the team a call on 024 7683 2828 or complete our short enquiry form here
We need more foster carers to help us care for Coventry children and are holding a number of events across the City
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