Today is my first time experiencing ‘school holidays’ with a school kid. Last year it did have an effect on us based on our eldest attending preschool – so in theory, I’ve kind of got my head wrapped round the whole thing. I’m more prepared. From what I’ve gathered we’ve all got very different views on how we see the school holidays. Some attack it head on with super plans, scheduled time off work and slot right in. Others tend to take it day by day and have to juggle other comitments in the midst of it.
I have friends in very different professions – some able to take the time off and embrace it as a ‘holiday’ and others are having to work round it – accommodating a holiday that isn’t on their watch. That’s us. Public holidays and school holidays will never be ‘ours’ as a family. Our time off is ALL around June – so nothing prior to this and I include Christmas Day in that too. The schools are basically going to LOVE us; “Just to let you guys know we’ll be taking around a months holiday PRIOR to YOUR summer holiday.” Wish us luck with that one!
Often it can seem frustrating, especially with younger kids and siblings – when the routine of preschool/big school gets cut at a point where every aspect of your life doesn’t fit the mould. Too often I’ve felt like we’ve just got our shit together and BOOM, ‘sorry love’ – that catch up on sleep an’t happening this week! For us, moving all the time means taking a little while to get a nice routine in place. Something that allows us to have time together but also, healthy time apart. It’s absolutely essential for us to find childcare and support networks because we have no family circle close by to break the days up. When we originally started out as a new family I struggled to ask for the help and I often remind myself of the consequences that brought. Asking for help and looking for it, instead of waiting for it – is GOOD. Often I have to accept on a fresh house move, for a good few months there may not be much parenting relief, if any. Oh and a hell of a lot of loneliness and awkward ‘Hey, I’m Heather’ conversations attempting to make friends when one is on the bones of ones arse. (That topic deserves a whole blog to itself!)
When the days merge into weeks and the frustration sets in because as much as you WANT to enjoy every waking minute with your littles – the exhaustion often doesn’t allow you to. As parents, we NEED our refuelling points. We NEED moments in our weeks where we can stop, gather ourselves together and refocus. Even in the holidays. Otherwise how on earth can our senses act normal? Well, they don’t. During the holidays – depending on your personal setup, the fueling up stops may not be an option. I remember February’s break well and oh man, I was truly distraught that we weren’t in a good place to be breaking our little routines. It hit us like a tonne of bricks and holidays go from something exciting to something we fear. I’ve been there, often. The guilt sets in for not inviting the change and we’re left overthinking how we should be treating these moments.
The truth is, there’s no right or wrong way to be embracing half term or any other holiday out there. There’s only yours and it’s important to remember that. You have to do what’s best for you and not be sucked into any sort of comparison. The array of children’s activities and grand days out is difficult to ignore BUT you’re in no way obligated to slot in. Your kids are NOT missing out because they won’t be making a shiny unicorn glitter pumpkin and riding hay barrels perched on bright red tractors. These holidays are HOW you make them and for the most part, we’re in control of what our kids expectations are. For us – our girls are as happy dancing in the sun’s light through a tree as they are under a disco ball. In fact, they’re WAY happier.
This holiday seems different. Maybe its because the last 6 weeks has had me away from my eldest for the longest I’ve ever been since she started ‘big’ school in September. My mental health is good and my social confidence has grown dramatically. Where before, I wasn’t inviting the holidays to come – now I am happy they are here. I have missed her. Her sister has missed her. So whilst I KNOW I will be wrestling these two apart on more occasions than I dare to count, my hoover will see a damn sight more Playmobil than usual and my parental office (the toilet seat) will have plenty more visits – I’m totally up for it and I’m excited to share some tips on how I make sure for the most part, we enjoy it without falling into the guilt trap.
There’s three main factors surrounding the ideas listed below: Simple, low on stress and affordable options. Whilst I don’t like too much ‘planning’ I have to say, when the routine drops off the face of the earth – it’s good to have ideas and little go to’s when shit hits the fan. So, this is a low down of how I attack those moments when my eye starts to twitch, when my tired shoulders couldn’t face another ‘half term’ extravaganza and my anxiety just wants low-key loveliness.
The Half Term Back Up Plan
1. A Fairy Hunt
There’s two main things you need to consider when doing this – the time and the setting! When the sun is shining, if you get out early enough or just before dinner you’ll be able to enjoy the simple pleasures that come with the sky. Whether it’s at a local park with trees, a forrest, a beach or a nature trail. Find somewhere that your kids can let their imaginations run wild. Little cracks in the trees make for great fairy doors, funny shaped leaves could be a fairy’s umbrella left behind! Include binoculars and see if you can find some of the birds the fairies often ride on – even bring a bird book to work out what they are. If you catch the light ‘just right’ you might even be able to see real fairies take flight. Why not take the fairy hunt home? Collect twigs and other little treasures and build a ‘den’ for the fairies to visit in a pot, in the kids bedroom or in your garden. In the morning there may even be a little note and a few crumbs left over?
2. Go Digging for Treasure in the Garden
Buy a bag of marbles, use old toys etc – plant them in the garden and then set the kids to work! Once they’re all found have a little surprise in place. If you don’t have a garden why not treat it a bit like an indoor hunt? Pretty much ‘Easter feels’ but all year round! You could even use bits of cards or stickers that could all be collected and made into a collage afterwards. There’s also an app called GeoCaching which is insanely good for treasure hunting if you don’t want to organise it yourself!
3. Play ‘Hide And Seek Pebbles’
I know a lot of areas are starting to jump on board this ‘paint a pebble’ trend but if your area hasn’t yet started, why not be the first ones? Grab a little basket for the kids to carry round and go on a hunt for painted pebbles. We go lots of walks and find many on our travels. What we tend to do is find them over the weeks and then re-hide them all on one of our ‘Hide And Seek’ pebble games. Once we’ve hidden all our painted ones we stock up on plain ones, (which is a fun activity picking them in itself) and we go home and spend time painting new ones! I’ve listed a few Facebook pages below but usually you can find pages near you – simply by searching for the location followed by ‘rocks or pebbles.’
If you don’t like the mess of paint and varnish, there’s options to use ‘Sharpies,’ ‘Posca Pens‘ and cheaper versions such as these. You can also do ‘story stones’ on a rainy day and make up little stories with each other with all the pebbles you’ve found and made.
4. A Day Of Public Transport
I don’t drive but I’m also spoiled with the fact I usually will wait until my husband is free to do anything that involves going far. I’m at the stage where people are baffled by ‘what I do’ without a car and two kids but in a lot of ways, I feel I’ve gained and not missed out because I’ve had to think out the box for ideas! Because of this, getting on a bus or a train with the kids is an absolute novelty for them! Why not check out your local bus timetable and go somewhere you’ve not been before? We’re considering a little trip to our local garden centre to potter round the Christmas section and maybe purchase a little hedgehog house for our Herbie! With any outing over the holidays when I am alone with the kids, I try and think of places that won’t be much busier than usual.
5. Make A Cinema
This is one of our all time favorites. I literally shout “It’s time for a Cinema room!” now and the girls know the drill. When I see them flailing, I know the best thing to do is to get them to stop – by making the thought of stopping FUN. The kids will run to the windows and close the curtains and shut the doors. Our two year old grabs her little stool and reaches up to switch the lights off and both girls will inevitably fight over ‘the cosy corner.’ DAMN that f*cking corner sofa. Once I’ve worked out the cosy corner dilemma, it’s time for microwave popcorn (adds to the excitement) and their blankets. We’ve got the films pretty much sussed now, so we know which ones will keep them on their butts. Here’s some of our favourites below that we know the kids watch right through!
Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron, Trolls, Coco, Balto, Moanna, Boss Baby, Sing, Monsters inc, Peter Pan, Gnomeo & Juliet, Homeward Bound & Frozen.
6. OH CRAP Crafting
We’ve all seen the devastation crafting creates to our work surfaces and surrounding areas BUT we’ve also got to give it the respect it deserves for the hours and hours of down time it can provide. From playdoh making to making full blown oversized collages – google is literally FULL of blogs dedicated to craft ideas. You can go super easy and grab crafting packs like THIS or why not collect stuff when you’re out on walks and let things dry over the radiator? I really do love filling our house with Autumn finds and I’ve now got a dedicated Art wall for the kids. If you’re anything like me, I prefer to make things with the kids that I know are actually going to stick around in the memory box for a while and not just get thrown in the bin a week later. So I prefer to take our time and pick crafts with really cute results!
7. Do Some Cleaning and Tidying
Maybe you’ll think I’m bonkers? Keeping in mind my kids are young (2&4). I often take time to tidy their room with them and make it into something really exciting. I let them pick what teddies they want in their beds and give them each dusters and water to play with. My eldest sees it as a ‘big girl’ thing to be allowed to use the hoover and my youngest is happy being told she’s allowed to wipe every wall in our house! Cleaning the car on a sunny day or sweeping the leaves up in the garden. Sort the recycling and FLING them into the right bags. Fill a sink with bubbly water and throw some plastic plates in. Sorting the toy room is a good one because we end up finding toys the girls haven’t played with in ages – which usually leads to an hour or so of playing something we’d not anticipated playing. Often I’ll tell the girls if we have family coming to visit or when their dad has been away, that it would be nice to make everything super ‘cosy’ and lovely for them coming to see us. I mean the house isn’t going to be ‘hinched’ as such but it’ll be on it’s way! If there’s one talent I have to say I’ve mastered as a Mum, it’s making the most ordinary of tasks become something extraordinary! It’s probably my most favourite part of parenthood – it brought back an imagination and patience I’d lost in the midst of teens and early twenties.
8. Throw A ‘For No Reason’ Party
Yep, a ‘For No Reason’ party is definitely THE best of parties! Raid the snack cupboards, look out the old paper plates and party decorations – just because. Invite little friends round or even just focus on the party starting when the whole ‘clan’ is back home in the evening from work. Spend the day making decorations, building indoor obstacle courses, little hide outs and allow the kids to put bunting up – frustratingly squint. We often hit up BBC Good Food and attempt some easy baking recipes. These Whoopie Pies are our FAV.
9. A Day Dedicated to Pet Pampering
I don’t have a pet I hear you cry! Ok, it really doesn’t matter. It can be a teddy, a local bird or an insect. I LOVE getting the kids involved with animals – in fact I’d say it’s our favourite past time. I suppose you can guess – given our long list of pets. We’ve got our two labradors Alfie and Ronnie, our rabbit called Surf and 3 goldfish named Daisy, Bella and Bobbie. THEN, we have an array of wild animals who happen to visit us every single day. We’ve spent months feeding and watering them, to the point they now call our garden home! We have Nutty the squirrel, who has only just recently brought his two friends over to play in the bucket of nuts we have! There’s Herbie the hedgehog who we previously mentioned, he now waits once the kids are in bed to get a bowl of soggy dog biscuits. Then there’s the family of mice who decided to set up camp in what WAS our log store. There’s Grandad Weir the robin (you may be up-to-date with our little miracle stories regarding this) and a bunch of his feathered friends. Lastly, there’s the stables where all the girl’s furry horsey friends stay. Every day and more so on the days where we have no plans, we go about making treats and homes for our furry friends. The kids LOVE it and they’ve become SO accustomed to caring for animals and respecting them. Something I strongly believe is an essential part of them growing up.
10. A Role Play Day
The kids LOVE to dress up! Our oldest, now she’s started school has began playing ‘teachers’ with her little sister. We read books, we build classrooms and make little work sheets up. The girls like to have their nails painted and wear their little princess dresses and often, they’ve been known to be Peter Pan and Captain Hook jumping on the sofas to avoid crocodiles. I’ve not done it yet but I’m intending on letting the kids dress up in my clothes next week for a giggle and obviously with halloween just round the corner – there’s a high chance we’ll be making up some costumes!
I think the most important elements for me around the school holidays is first and foremost accepting that there will be moments of chaos. Probably a lot. It’s not going to be all butterflies and fairies. That part is just part and parcel of a routine being obliterated. Siblings forgetting how to live on each others toes 24 hours of the day and parents that have only just become accustomed to organised days.
There’s a way to make this time, invited or not – fun and enjoyable but the biggest key is recognizing that YOUR fun may be a whole lot different to another. We’re a massively ‘outdoorsy’ family who has been known to trick the kids into believing ‘soft play’ is the crates and piles of logs in a garden centre. We joined National Trust which definitely opened up our adventures as a family and admittedly I do tend to avoid a lot of the BIG and BUSY events over the holidays unless my husband is there to weigh out the toddler to adult ratio and reassure me that I will survive. The girls get on way better outdoors and my sanity seems to stay intact if I make sure I’ve gotten out the house at some point.
This week I do plan to have relatively slow mornings and enjoy that we don’t have to rush but my one solid plan is making sure we step outside for a walk with the girls before their midmorning snack time. It means if we do nothing else that day, I know my entertainment guilt will be hopefully non-existant.
Really, It’s what works for YOU.
If you’re a family similar to our own, I know you’ll love the above but if you’re not and crafting the shit out of life and getting dirty really isn’t your style – that’s totally OK too. There is SO much on offer locally to us and further afield. I think thats where the lines get a little blurry. It’s amazing that we’ve got all these wonderful school holiday activities to pick from but it doesn’t mean you have to do them all. I find compromise is everything. We’ve got our little ‘play dates’ organised, a few options on the cards for Dad’s day off and a visit from Grandparents to look forward to. On the quieter moments – I’ll be whipping out my ‘Half Term Back Up Plan’ out and I’d love to hear from you if you decide to do the same!
As always, keep in touch on here or over on my Instagram.
*Images from today’s Blog feature our wonderful collaboration with FatFace – links to their beautiful Autumn collection are in captions!