Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
Today is the last day of school. Starting from tomorrow, our children won’t have school for a full two months here in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). After a couple of these summer vacations, I’ve learned a few things that I know I will be keeping in mind, and that I want to share with you as well. They might be useful at some point.
I struggle with structure as it is, so when the summer holidays roll around with their laid-back rhythm of getting up whenever you want and we’ll eat when we’re hungry, things can quickly fall into chaos. We have a couple of kids, though, who really need predictability and some sense of structure, so I try to set up some kind of structure throughout the summer, even if it changes from time to time. One of the easiest ways to do this is by setting specific waking and sleeping times and steady meal times, but it can also be by planning similar activities at similar times: some outside time in the morning, reading time from 1-2, etc. You get the idea.
2. Plan playdates
When it’s just my two kids for a longer time (2 days and more), they will start annoying each other. I know there are families where siblings play together nicely most of the time, but I know more families where they don’t. Planning ahead so they can play with classmates, neighbourhood kids or cousins can be a great way to keep them entertained (and you off referee-duty).
For many parents who work during the summer time, day camps or playground entertainment are great options to let your kids play with others, and have a great time while at the same time being in the care of responsible adults or older kids.
3. Plan daytrips
Go to the zoo, to the beach, to a museum, to the forest, to a playground, to a new city, to an amusement park, to a festival, on a hike, on a bike ride, …
There are so many options for things to do with kids during the summer. I like to ask them, near the beginning of summer, where they would like to go to, so we can plan it in. To do that, you can…
4. Use a calendar
You can print of an overview of just the days of the vacation, or use a calendar you already own, to plan with the kids what you will do when. That makes it easy for them to keep track and helps them feel secure in knowing what will be happening when. I usually let the kids decorate the calendar, too, with markers or stickers. Just make sure you can still read what goes on when, and watch out for the following:
5. Plan downtime
It’s happened more than once that my kids have complained at the end of a holiday of not having enough time ‘just being at home’. Our kids need quiet time to unwind, so after a day trip or a few intense activities, we need to plan time for unstructured play andpeace and quiet. Making a puzzle together or playing a board game, drawing or reading a book, all make for great relaxers during busy days and weeks.
Downtime is usually also the time when my son will release any pent-up energy he has been holding in. It may result in some kind of melt-down, but those also need a place to exist in. That energy needs to come out one way or another.
6. Manage your expectations
I make the same mistake again every single summer: I think to myself ‘Oh, two months of no scheduled time, this means I’ll get a ton done!’ The thing is, taking care of children and a household in which those kids are always home is pretty much a full-time job. My partner and I will have about one week in which we don’t have any kids with us, and that week will be used for training and travelling.
If I get anything at all done this summer, organisation, renovation, work or study wise, it will be a bonus! Knowing that means I can enter this vacation time in a much more relaxed way than I usually would.
7. Say yes to all the help you can get
For parents who are at home with their kids during the summer (teachers, for example), two months can be a long time. Both parents and kids can get on each other’s nerves. So, if a classmate invites your kid over for a playdate, your parents offer to take your son to the store with them or your sister wants to take your daughter to the zoo: say yes! It’s okay to need a break from time to time. It can get really intense.
I hope these tips are of some use to you, or perhaps you know someone who’s torn between excitement and apprehension at the start of these summer holidays? Perhaps this article may help them out as well.
During the summertime, and most likely afterwards as well, I will only publish a new post once a week, either on Saturday or on Sunday. This is because I’ll be starting a Dutch blog for our business Show Yourself as well in due time. I’ll keep you posted!
For now, I wish you all a wonderful summer!