Are you looking forward to the school holidays or dreading their impending arrival?
This time around I’m actually looking forward to them because we kind of missed the Easter school holidays as we were in the US for 4 weeks, with the holidays in the two weeks in the middle. When I think about, the last time we had school holidays at home was in January.
It hasn’t always been this way though.
In fact, frankly, I’ve had times when I’ve dreaded them, particularly when the kids were younger and the activities we did during the week (playgroup, music, kinder) broke up the long days at home.
Fast forward to now when the never-ending onslaught of lunch boxes, paperwork and extra curricular activities sees me looking forward to the holidays even more than the kids.
Who knew it was possible?
There is plenty I enjoy about the holidays now the kids are older. We catch up with friends, go to the movies and Mr SnS often takes time off so we can go away or have day trips.
Despite this, some holiday periods are better than others and others are just plain hard going.
I hope that the upcoming holidays are happy ones for you and your peeps. But just in case, I’ve put together ten tips to help YOU stay sane during the holidays. As mums, we are (often) the fun time co-ordinators and if we’re not having fun, chances are this will have a flow on effect. After all, happy mum, happy kids. I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below too.
1. Do the mother of all grocery shops before the end of term
I’m talking enough food to see you through a nuclear strike.
No, not really, but enough food to minimise the number of trips to the supermarket you’ll need to do with the troops during the holidays. My kids literally eat me out of house and home during the holidays – we have friends over, head out to the park for morning/afternoon tea and BYO snacks for outings. Generally, my kids seem to eat more at home than when they are at school.
Regular trips to the fruit shop can’t be avoided but there is nothing quite as excruciating as taking whinging kids to the supermarket. Even my nearly four year old has declared to me, “I hate the supermarket.” Really? I had no idea.
2. Organise enough but not too much
Work out what pace suits your family.
Generally, I find that one activity a day (usually mid morning) works best for us. Then we come home in the early afternoon for lunch and the boys all have some downtime in their rooms.
Master 3 occasionally has a day sleep during this time while the older boys play Lego quietly/hopefully, play a boardgame or read a book in their rooms for an hour. I get the living room to myself to do some work or just some chores in peace and quiet. After this, the day is almost done.
If it’s fine outside, I send the kids outside to play. Or, if they are exhausted and ratty, which is more often that not, I’ll put a DVD or an audio book on for the three of them and then it’s pretty much dinner time.
When I had a baby/toddler, we’d usually head out earlier (say 9.30ish) so we could be home around midday for him to have his lunchtime sleep. We have more flexibility now and can start our days a bit later which is a welcome change from our regular 8.30am starts at kinder during term time.
Now the kids are older, we’ve also found that a late afternoon play that morphs into an easy dinner/take away can be a fun option as well. We’ve usually left the house briefly in the morning though to break things up (e.g. a quick trip to the hairdresser or dentist).
Other families love pyjama days and don’t like to organise much. Man, I wish we could do this. Unfortunately, this does not work for us, as much as I might like it to. I am hoping the older (and more tired) my children become from school, the more likely it will be that we can hang at home happily and peacefully all day.
I’ve found I need to stick with what works for us and resist the urge to over schedule.
3. Create lots of space and time for hanging out
This goes hand in hand with the above and can be tricky if your kids have different temperaments. I have an introvert and and two extroverts so finding the balance can be a delicate exercise.
One of my boys would be happy to potter, play Lego and jump on the trampoline with his brothers all day long. However, my other two boys both start the day with the question, “Who are we seeing and what are we doing today?” They all need rest and down time, but they all have different thresholds and I’ve learned the hard way not to push my introvert (see here for details of the Pinocchio Incident).
If one of your children needs more stimulation or activity than her/his siblings, it might be worth adding in an extra play date or two or a longer activity for that child. A day at a holiday programme or sports camp might be worth considering too.
4. Try to avoid early starts
On the first day of one of our school holidays, I organised 9am haircuts. I think I initially had lofty plans of following this with a visit to the dentist (a ticking boxes morning), but this never materialised. We didn’t have any other plans for the day but we were rushing to get there at 9am. What was I thinking?!
Now, I try to avoid making plans before 10am. No rushing thanks!
5. Organise a night out with the girls for dinner mid way during the holidays
This is effectively for mental health, a gasbag and debrief and is also an opportunity to make plans.
It’s also a good chance to hear about what other people have been doing and what they might recommend or lemon alerts. I often find out about great activities, the best movie on offer or places to avoid from swapping intel with the girls.
It’s an opportunity to organise a playdate or a group outing to the park too.
6. Organise a child swap
There are a couple of ways to do this.
If you have a friend with children the same ages for example, you can swap so one of you has the two older ones while the other has the younger ones.
Another option is to have more (all) kids one day and less or none the next.
7. If you have access to grandparents/babysitters, make use of them and book them in now
Our school age kids don’t see nearly as much of their grandparents as they did before they started school. In the holidays, we try and arrange for each of our kids to have some one on one time at their grandparents. They usually go one at a time, so while I don’t get an actual break, I do find that the dynamics at home shift enough with one gone to make for a more peaceful, less intense vibe.
Grandparents/friends/babysitter can also be useful when it comes to taking the kids to age appropriate activities. For example, when he was younger, I’ve arranged for our youngest to have an afternoon at Grandma’s while we take the older children to a movie or when we go to Bounce which is designed for older children.
If you have access to/can afford a babysitter, don’t hesitate to give yourself some respite and book in a couple of hours or as long as you can. I’ve already booked ours for a morning in each week of the holidays to give me time to work/do a quick shop/have a break.
School holidays can be trying and sometimes, all it takes is a break to refresh you and help with the patience levels.
8. Check the weather first and make plans accordingly
The June/July school holidays are definitely the most challenging. Despite the cold, if it’s not raining, the park can still be an option provided you rug up, go in the middle of the day and take some kind of activity (bikes/scooters/footy/balls) to keep everyone moving. For us Mums, it’s worth picking up a hot coffee en route. If the troops behave, finishing with a hot chocolate nearby is a fun thing to do too.
The other school holidays – Easter/Summer/September – generally have the best weather. I try to make the most of the fine, sunny days and save the inside activities for wet/cold days if possible.
Once you can see the forecast, you can start to try and make the best of the weather and make plans accordingly.
If I make plans well in advance with friends, I try to make plans to catch up at the park, with someone’s house as a back up. This gives the kids a decent run around and also means we don’t spend the days with the best weather inside. I find if my kids have a good run around outside, they are much happier to do low key, home based activities in the afternoon.
9. Book online before hand where possible
I love booking online wherever possible. It can be hard enough wrangling the kids in public let alone adding queues to the mix.
Thankfully, you can book pretty much everything online now and this saves many tears (mine).
10. Space out the “paid” or expensive outings with lots of freebies
Holidays can be expensive.
Already these holidays I’ve committed to taking the kids to the movies and Mister Maker. Other holidays, we’ve visited Crafternoon, visited a zoo, the museum and gone to a local pantomine. It all adds up. Most of our other activities will be freebies such as going to the park, the library, friend’s place or having friends over.
This post was originally published in April 2014 but has been edited and updated.
How do you stay sane in the school holidays? Can you share any tips or traps?