School holidays can be a mixed experience for parents. Maybe you feel relieved that you don’t have the rush in the mornings to get the children to school. But maybe you are also dreading how you will fill the days while they are off. Perhaps you are anticipating arguments, tantrums, cries of boredom and the dread of spending money as you try to keep them entertained. School holidays can feel like another job and, at times, can be as stressful as being at work. If this is how you feel here are my thoughts and top tips.
Firstly, be mindful. No matter what they are doing take a minute and soak it in, whether they are playing, laughing, crying, throwing a tantrum, take a moment to observe it, notice it, register it. Too many times we run from one job or activity to the next and don’t take in the moments. These moments are precious. Before you can blink, they will have grown up and flown the nest. It is then that you will be glad for the moments you cherished.
Being mindful with them in play will help to ground you in the present, and it has benefits for you and your children. Spending time with your children is the biggest reward they can have, it sends the message that you are interested in them and that you value their ideas. During play, children develop not only their imagination but also lots of other skills they need such as physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills. But that’s not all, joining in play is good for you too! Research shows that playfulness in adults is good for psychological well-being (Proyer & Ruch, 2011). So have fun!
My second tip is to give children space every day to play freely, don’t feel the need to schedule them up with activities. Children need free time to play; to choose and direct their own play. This is important to build their confidence and allow them to play at a level that is appropriate for them, their interests and their development. Free play can be more effective, not with toys and computers, but with everyday items. Try letting them choose boxes, spoons, tins, pans, sticks, stones and any other ordinary items. Give them opportunities to play freely outdoors without intervention or direction from an adult (observe them to keep them safe, but let them be free to run around and play). This type of play is important for their attention span, problem-solving, imagination, social interactions, learning how to manage their emotions, improving their mood and physical health, as well as improving their sleep. Don’t worry about the weather, let them play out and have some good old-fashioned fun! (Burdette & Whittaker, 2005)
My final tip is to pick your battles. Not every behaviour is warrant of a battle. If you stand your ground on every little thing, you will quickly become exhausted and your little one learns that a quick way to get your attention is through negative behaviour. Notice and give attention when they are playing nicely and behaving the way you want. This will help them to learn that positive behaviours are the best way to get your attention.
Burdette, H.D., Whitaker, R.C., (2005) ‘Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect’ American Medical Association; Vol.159(1), pp.46-50.
Proyer, R.T., & Ruch, W, (2011) ‘The virtuousness of adult playfulness: the relation of playfulness with strengths of character’ Psychological Well-Being, Vol. 1 (4)