Why Free Time on School Holidays Matters and what to do to keep kids busy
Keren ben Ezra, founder of Ofsted Outstanding Chain, Keren’s Nursery in Holland Park, Belsize Park and Hampstead Garden Suburb shares with us today the importance of free time during the school holidays.
Over to Keren…
As teachers we often see more than most perhaps, that children need their down-time by the time summer arrives. Time off to kick back and avoid the usual rush of nursery and school life. Time to just be.
As a parent myself, I understand the stress level of working parents and also non-working parents from our expected “shift”. Having the children at home for extended weeks can be challenging if you don’t prepare yourself emotionally for it. Our natural reaction is that we cannot think of anything better than spending precious time with our little ones, and at times, some find the lack of a school or nursery structure somewhat more of a challenge.
We’ve put together some hints and tips to help you and your little ones make the most of the long summer holidays. If you’re someone who craves structure, try and plan your time as much as possible. Summer in the UK offers many festivals and activities for families, but you can also keep it simple with some of the following ideas:
Nurture Free Play
What better summer than this one to get outdoors! With our spectacular heatwave looking set to stay, slather your children in Factor 50, secure their sun hats and let them play under a parasol or canopy till their heart’s content. Spending time outside unleashes children’s creativity; they will often invent games and take more notice of their surroundings…listen carefully and you will hear them laugh more.
Keep a shatterproof jug or set of jugs to hand at child’s level and keep the cold drinks flowing. Encourage your little ones to try pouring drinks themselves. They’ll love the independence. There are water dispensers you can purchase in all supermarkets. We love to do this at our nurseries too.
If last winter’s sand box is full of unmentionables, empty out the sand into a strong refuse bag and store it. If you sieve it (makes for another great activity) you can keep it for next year. Once your sand box is empty, use it for water play instead. Fill the box with different empty containers and some kitchen tools, children love to transfer water from one container to another.
At www.kerensnursery.com we get our children outside daily, whatever the weather. One of the favourite activities is gardening – watering, growing, and best of all, watching mini beasts.
Instead of emptying out up your recycling bin, save the dry recyclables for junk art projects. Collecting “real life objects” like bags, wallets and shoes for dressing up and role play, and use kitchenware, empty boxes, egg cartons, for the Little Picassos to enhance their imagination and stop them asking for endless screen time.
When my kids were little, I used to set up an art corner that the children could dip in and out of. Keeping it available to children ensures continuity and access. You’ll need basic materials like glue, sellotape, scissors, different colour paper, old magazines for collages, old pieces of jigsaws, crayons, stickers, and a range of more complex options to choose from according to age. Perhaps, buying a pack of different sized paintbrushes and letting children “paint” with water on hot fences, patios or windows – good science and great fun
This has got to be the summer of picnics. Encourage your children to help prepare and sort healthy snacks into reusable containers, as well as preparing activities to take with ball games, scooter and so on.
If the heat gets too much…
Get into the kitchen. Make an adventure out of cooking and preparing chilled and frozen snacks this summer. Lolly moulds filled with diluted fruit juice and fruit segments, ice fruit slushies in your blender, or get daring with chilled soups.
Mums Keep Out! (Dads too)
Resist the temptation to interfere when kids get into conflicts. When spending more time with our children, that tends to occur much more often. Research has shown that children benefit in later life with improved interpersonal skills such as dispute resolution and sustained relationships if their parents let them figure out minor disputes without getting involved.
Most importantly, don’t overload! Don’t feel that you need to entertain the children 24/7! Being “bored” is not a disease. Children will learn to invent games and keep themselves busy. That is a great skill to develop. Remember to also find time for yourself as well, so you can re-gain energy.
Good luck and enjoy the summer.