Here are 10 top tips for parents from author of ‘I’m Going To Nursery’, parent and teacher Stacey Turner www.mytinybook.com
From one parent to another…here are some invaluable pearls of wisdom to help you enjoy (and survive) the summer holidays that are just around the corner!
1) Don’t put pressure on yourself to entertain the kids at all times. The summer holidays are for slowing down and spending time together. Take in the blue skies, the warmth of the sun, take pleasure in a slow walk and visit to the park. It’s important to strike a balance between structured activities – whether that be in the home or on days out – and free play. Children are actively learning from the world around them, so it’s OK to keep it simple.
2) As a family, create a summer holiday wish list and from that create a summer holiday calendar, so the whole family feel involved and every child is feeling considered and validated. Unless you’re on holiday, try to leave a day of downtime between each day out. This is also a perfect opportunity to talk about compromise, what it means and the importance of it within the family unit. You could turn this into a creative activity where each child colours or creates a summer holiday picture to bring the summer calendar together as a visual master piece.
Having the calendar reinforces the knowledge of activities and settles any anxieties, as the information is right there as a reminder and together you can plan your days out getting the kids involved. A lovely idea is to give each child a special job, something they can be responsible for. Summer holidays are great fun for most children, but there are those who will miss the structure and familiarity of the school or nursery routine.
3) Get the kids cooking! Sick of sandwiches? Ask the kids to help you put together a summer holiday menu and get them involved. Think finger foods and picnic style such as mini quiches, slices, patties, balls, mini breads and loaf. All of which are quick and easy to grab and take in the car or pack for your picnic. You could try making sushi! Savoury is just as much fun as sweet, so don’t just stick to cupcakes. Dare the kids to try something new every couple of days, offer a reward for their experimentation! Making your own ice lollies from fruit/fruit juice is a real treat too.
Snacking can be a huge issue during holiday periods. It can be caused by boredom, but mostly because kids know that being with you, there is a strong chance of getting hold of some food! One way to combat this is to allocate each child a snack jar. I use glass paint to write the girls’ names on and in goes their daily allocation of snacks. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, but fruit and veg are always on offer! You can easily use this on the road too.
Remember, unless you want to, you don’t need to drag the kids through the supermarket! Get your ingredients delivered by doing online shopping.
4) Create a breakfast area in a low cupboard in your kitchen. Store cups, bowls, spoons, chosen cereals and breads/pastries/mini pancakes in an airtight container. The kids will LOVE being responsible for getting their own breakfast and then cleaning up afterwards; putting bits back in the breakfast cupboard. Maybe they can whisk the eggs or pancake batter? Then, they can start getting creative while you do your bit over the hot stove.
5) Let’s get creative! Look back at your calendar and draw on what you have planned to inspire you. Off to the farm? Draw/create pictures of animals they might see on the farm. How about creating a shoebox farm where you all make little animals from recycled items? A pop-up world on a piece of cardboard is another lovely idea. Simply collecting leaves, pebbles and shells to make ornaments and pictures with can be a lot of fun. Save any recycling for junk modelling. I have a spare box where it all gets tossed into, from which the girls turn various bits of recycling into amazing creations. Emily created a horse recently! A fail-safe idea is paint and play dough – here is my never-fail play dough recipe:
Never Fail Play Dough
You will need:
- 2 cups plain flour (you can even use gluten free) 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
- Up to 1-1.5 cups boiling water (adding in small amounts) food colouring
*Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl.
*It is best to add the food colouring to the boiling water and stir continuously until it becomes sticky and combined.
*Once cool, knead the dough on some baking paper (to prevent staining and easy cleaning) on the kitchen bench with a tiny bit more flour (if required) until the consistency is smooth and soft.
*You can even add glitter and scented essence for sensory!
Don’t forget an activity bag filled with various stimulus for travel or when eating out to engage children in activity. Don’t just think colouring, include plasticine, nuts and bolts, paper clips, highlighters. The ideas are endless!
6) Leave time for gardening! The girls and I created a herb garden recently and we love integrating it into our cooking and discussing what we like and don’t like. You could arrange to visit gardens to roam and admire such as English Heritage and National Trust sites.
7) Think of ways to reduce the work load around the house such as the breakfast cupboard and encouraging your children to help you around the house; that’s spending time together too! You could give the children age-appropriate daily chores such as pulling covers up over beds and sorting washing into colours.
8) Keep talking. Don’t hide emotions. Lead by example and don’t be afraid to say how you’re feeling. For example, “I am feeling frustrated” and then explain the reason or “I did not like the way you did or said that, it made me feel…” “It would be nicer or kinder to…”.
If your child is on emotional meltdown, don’t be afraid to get close to them and say, “It’s ok, I am sorry you feel this way, how can I help you?” or “What would you like me to do?” or “Do you feel there is a better way of doing this”. This overwhelming feeling is hard enough for adults let alone a young child who has no idea why they’re feeling this way. It could be hunger, being over tired, over stimulated or just feeling overwhelmed.
9) Challenging behaviour. While the summer holidays are lots of fun, let’s be honest…they can be a trying time too! Set out clear boundaries right from the beginning and explain what the consequences will be should these boundaries be challenged. You could discuss this while creating your summer calendar and write a summer holiday list of rules to be displayed beside the calendar. Be very specific about what is acceptable and unacceptable. Ask the children to provide you with the list of rules and you can encourage them to expand. Keep coming back to this list of rules as and when you need to throughout the holidays.
Try to catch your child being good and offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement. For example, “Well done you, that was amazing” and “I really liked the way you did that, wonderful”!
Don’t forget a 5-minute warning before changing activities to help avoid meltdowns.
You could create a small, calm area with cushions, books, fairy lights, music and sensory objects where your child can go to should they feel the need for some down time away from siblings or what’s going on in the household.
It is all about putting in strategies to support and cope with emotional and challenging behaviour. The calendar is a strategy in itself.
10) Be kind to yourself. Try and take time out, keep up your exercise and healthy eating. Drink plenty of water and try to socialise as much as possible. Be happy, enjoy the summer holidays and try not to over commit yourself.