The summer holidays can be the most daunting time of year for parents. Six weeks of keeping children entertained around the clock is enough to break even the very best of us. Potentially the worst element of it all is worrying that you’re disappointing your little ones who dream of this time all year long.
For working parents, this time of year can seem almost impossible. Before thinking of what activities you’ll put your children to, you first need to consider how you’ll cover all their free time without quitting your job.
This becomes a strict organisation exercise. With proper planning, the impossible is in fact possible. If you have the resource of grandparents to look after the kids over summer, utilise it. If they aren’t available to you, you should consider partnering up with other working parents to schedule play dates, you’ll halve the amount of time you need to cover and the amount of activity preparation you’ll have to put in.
Churches, schools, libraries and community centres often have summer holiday schemes which allow give you the opportunity to cart the kids of to a fun-filled day with tons of new friends – most of whom have parents who work too (these connections are vital, nurture them!).
Aside from ways to unload the kids onto others, you can attempt to structure your shifts around your partners to have the kids looked after at home by the two of you. If one you works a 9-5 job and the other works shifts, see if shifts can be arranged for weekends and evenings so there’s always someone home. However, this inherently reduces the amount of time you have left to spend all together as a family. If possible, try to both book a week or two off together, so you do manage to sneak in some quality family time.
If all else fails, you might be able to book off some unpaid parental leave, this might be more financially viable than forking out for childcare.
Once you’ve actually got a little time to spend with your little ones, you have to start planning things to keep them occupied. This is the fun part, potentially.
You can entertain the little ones relatively cheaply. Try ‘playing car wash’. I.e. get them to clean your car. Give them a bucket of water and a paint brush and have them ‘paint’ the outside of the house. Equip them with cheap water guns and a packet of water balloons, unleash utter carnage. Plus side? They’ll probably come inside cleaner than when they stepped out. Send them into the garden to forage for ‘potion ingredients’ (leaves, pebbles, daisies) and have them mix them up in a mixing bowl full of water. Add baking soda and vinegar. Sit back and watch the amazement.
However you manage to mind them and plan to entertain them, just try not to let the holidays become synonymous with utter terror. This time of year is special to them, and at some point you’ll regret spending the six weeks fretting instead of enjoying seeing them have the best summers of their lives.