The summer vacation – three words that evoke in parents a heady mix of fear, confusion and (occasionally) contentedness. Sure, in theory, two and half months enjoying some relaxed quality time with your beloved kids sounds awesome. But the reality sees a lot of parents pulling their hair out about how to keep the kids from climbing the walls… while counting the minutes until school’s in again.
We’ve got a few choice ways to stimulate the kids and enrich your downtime… without losing your sanity.
- Create a family tree- Kids love hearing stories about family history, from when they were babies to what life was like for you and your parents when you were young. Making a family tree gives them a connection to their own family, and helps them visualize how they came to be here. If you have a roll of art paper or even old wallpaper, encourage them to draw and decorate a huge tree with lots of intricate branches, leaves and blossom. Leave space for photos – they can either visit with relatives and take new photos or scan existing ones. Or you could even buy cute decals to stick on the wall and make your kid-created family tree a permanent fixture.
- Get weird with science- There’s a whole world out there to explore, and a little bit of creative input from you will help them to see our planet for the fascinating place it is. Bug hunts with a magnifying glass are more meaningful if they’ve got a list to check off their mini-beasts – if you’re artistic, you can make one yourself, otherwise there are some great bug-related books around. And if you can handle a messy kitchen for the day, why not let them go mad and make their own volcano? You’ll probably find you already have the stuff you need (flour, baking soda, vinegar, an empty drinks bottle…) and watching their faces when their homemade volcano erupts frothing, oozing lava is worth tidying up afterwards – but get them to do that bit too; it’s character-building.
- Visit a museum – then report back- If you still think museums are the musty ol’ caverns we had to be dragged round kicking and screaming, it’s time to wake up and smell the 21st century. Museums these days know which side their bread is buttered, and they know that if they can keep the kids entertained for the best part of a day, parents might consider coming back again – and what’s more, they’ll tell their friends. From Houston to Rochester, from Columbus, Oh, to Davie, Fl, you’ll find a museum that’ll thrill them, challenge them and keep them talking for days. While it’s fresh in their minds, get them to present a news piece while you film it or write their own online review to keep the experience alive.
- Combine travel and learning- Kids’ camps are a mainstay of the great American summer, and they get better by the year, with a range of specific focuses such as arts or sports. But did you know you can send your children to learn about different cultures during the vacation? From camps to learn Spanish in Granada or Madrid to action-packed study and activity breaks in the lush central region of England, summer camps give children the chance to immerse themselves in an unaccustomed way of life and pick up new skills, while socializing with kids from all over the world. Pastoral care is second to none, and organisers usually bend over backwards to ensure all kids are settled and happy, and that study and activities are pitched at an appropriate level.
- Put on a show- Whether your child’s a born performer or prefers to get handy putting together a backdrop, they’ll love the challenge of rehearsing and performing a show or short play with their friends. Get them to write the script or download one, rehearse, assemble a stage or scenery, design programmes, advertising and tickets, prepare snacks and drinks for an interval, and finally, perform the finished play to assembled friends, neighbors and of course, doting family members – yeah, that means you…!
Written by Alexandra James, a mother and wife living in Oxford, UK.