Are you a parent who longs for the summer school holidays to start so that you can spend some quality time with your kids? Or do you have an impending sense of dread knowing that your usual routine is about to be turned on its head?
I’m probably somewhere between the two.
I loved summer holidays when I was a kid. It meant playing out in the street with my friends, eating ice pops, cooling off in paddling pools after long rounds of adrenaline filled ackee 123 and holidaying in self catering cottages, in the middle of nowhere.
I have absolutely no idea if my mum enjoyed the school holidays or was simply surviving them.
As a working mum of four, including one with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder), the summer holidays have posed quite a challenge over the years.
Here’s my tips both for managing child care on working days and for surviving the days when you are with your children.
Tips for arranging childcare for school aged children in the holidays.
- The summer holidays will happen whether you like it or not! Get planning.
- If you work part-time but on different days to a friend who also works part-time could you do some child care swaps? Obviously this works best if all the kids get on with each other! I’ve done this most years and have ended up spending some days in a state of complete outnumbered chaos.
- If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents around then farming your kids off to them for a few days can work well for everyone. We often sent our kids (only in ones or twos as four always seemed too many) to visit grandparents – it meant spending my free days driving up and down the country depositing and collecting various combinations of children but I kept my job!
- If your employer can offer flexible working arrangements then ask them about it. I work as part of a team who are able to cover my role in my absence, which enabled my manager to permit me to work annualised hours. This means I work slightly more hours than I’m contracted to work during term time and take more time off in school holidays.
- Lots of school aged children go to holiday clubs during the holidays when their parents work. This has not been a viable option for us partly due to the cost of childcare for four children but also due to the fact that Edward would have struggled at a club where the days involved predominantly social group activities.
Tips for spending summer days with your kids
Get out of the house if you can!
- Going anywhere crowded on my own with four children was never going to work so our days out usually involved picnics, blankets, walking boots and a car ride to a quiet wide open space. These places of calm where there was no one around to pull a judgy face if my children became fractious were where we had the best times. Our favourite places include: Bolton Abbey, Ilkley Moor, Otley Chevin, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Brimham Rocks (although a bit stressful if you don’t like the combination of children and heights!), Malham Cove and Goredale Scar. View of Cow and Calf – Ilkley
- If the thought of a full day out on your own with kids leaves you trembling a short trip out to the local park to have a change of scene and allow the kids to let off some steam is worth a punt.
- Think about how much screen time you want to allow. When Edward was at primary school I did limit screen time as he would simply have been on-screen all day every day except for when he went to the toilet. I used to allow two hours a day. As a teenager I have to admit this has slipped and he now spends A LOT more time on his computer. He will come on trips out with the rest of us but only if I explain exactly what we will be doing and when we will be returning. I then have to stick to these plans precisely as deviations are bad for all of us.
- If you have another adult around who can help keep an eye on a couple of your children this can reduce the sense of being hopelessly outnumbered and can make trips to museums or busier places possible. These were our favourite places to visit when the kids were younger: Leeds City Museum, The Royal Armories, Abbey House Museum, Temple Newsam Farm and Tropical World. We also managed to traumatise all our children with a visit to The Thackery Medical Museum a few years ago which has ever since been referred to as “The place of the Unmentionable”. (If you have a child who likes gore and historical horror by all means take them along!)
- Form some holiday rituals that everyone looks forward to. We are a family of book lovers so In the first week of most holidays we have a family trip to Waterstones. We end up spending about 90 minutes browsing and generally loping around until everyone has chosen their holiday read. This ritual only started when the twins turned 9 years old – before then I’d have had some seriously grouchy kids on my hands if I’d tried to pull this one. Another ritual which we’ve done for years is the annual day trip to Whitby which has to happen in the first week of the school summer holidays (ideally on the very first day) where we do exactly the same thing as we’ve always done; Picnic on the beach, swim in the sea, a browse in the well stocked Whitby bookshop and to end the day an obligatory fish and chips supper on the sea front whilst dodging the increasingly menacing sea gulls. Perfect!
Whitby Beach Huts
- Don’t feel under pressure to schedule in non stop activities for your kids even if they tell you they’re bored. I’m a great believer in allowing kids to switch off from the bombardment of the outside world when the holidays come round. I don’t mind giving my kids the space and time to daydream and pursue their own thoughts and occupations. I do slightly mind the fact that the bottom of my garden was transformed by the kids into a mini shanty town last summer complete with fire pit and seating area (but not in an award-winning kind of way). I’m waiting to see if this ramshackle part of our garden will be “revitalised” this year!
I hope you manage to form some good memories with your kids this summer.
Don’t forget that for every smiling photo on social media of a “perfect” family having the “perfect” holiday there are plenty more undocumented and never to be shared “helliday” moments taking place up and down the country!
When you experience those “helliday” moments this summer just hold on to the fact that they will pass – September will come as surely as day follows night.