The school summer holiday is upon us and we have six weeks of trying to keep the kids entertained, active, educated and happy, whilst hopefully making memories to last a lifetime (and online photos to rival the very best). GIVE ME STRENGTH!
Well, I think all of that sounds like way too much pressure, and the burden of all of the fun-filled life experiences I am expected to provide my children seems too much, and a bit unnecessary. I’m already struggling with end-of-term-itis and if I have to attend another open afternoon or activity day I think I may implode! Yet I know when I browse social media feeds next week I will see hundreds of pictures of extravagant days out, educational road trips, baking afternoons, back garden waterpark constructions complete with fruit carved like animals and watermelon smoothies!
Our children now live in a world where entertainment is at their finger tips and attention spans are waning. Too often we try to compete with others in attempt to counteract all of this, and we can end up spending hundreds of pounds on the latest activities. But summer memories don’t always require emptying out your bank account. This summer I’m choosing to kick those complicated pinterest activities and expensive days out to the curb, in favour of a 1990s summer for my kids.
What’s a 1990s summer I hear you ask? Well, all you have to do is think back to being a child and those long, unstructured summer days spent entertaining yourself and having fun. There’s no exact recipe here I’m afraid, but there is one guarantee – they will have good, old-fashioned, home-grown fun and make amazing memories. The only proviso is that you may have to let loose a little yourself, be prepared to hear the words “I’m bored” and try not to get caught up in what everyone else is doing.
Here are 10 tips to an ‘old-skool’ summer
1. The great outdoors: Get them out in the garden all day. Get the hose out, get the sprinklers on, let them build dens, or make their own slip and slide with lino and fairy liquid. Let them fall out, argue, problem solve, take risks and graze their knees a bit. To mix it up, head to your local woods. Throw sticks into streams, paddle, get dirty and eat picnics with grass stained hands. Go on a bike ride, go to the park, make an obstacle course and pretend they’re at the olympics.
2. . The power of friendships: Encourage your children to interact and play with others. For older kids, let them meet up with friends and play together in the park and explore. Maybe you can drop them to the local cinema for the afternoon. We used to spend entire days there when I was young and some of my fondest memories are the hours I spent exploring the shops, grabbing some food and watching a film before being collected by one of our parents.
3. Get square eyes: We are so wary of screens now and we are constantly being told that we should pull our kids away from them. Back in the 90s, snuggling up and watching films on a rainy day was one of the best things we ever did. Those days, no one had smartphones of course, so watching TV was actually a sociable experience and we bonded with our friends over our favourite characters and our impressions of the songs we heard. Our choice was also limited, which meant we often had to watch the same films over and over. I find that if I put on films from my childhood (think Mrs Doubtfire, Back to the Future, Matilda or Honey I Shrunk the Kids), my kids really enjoy them and it also takes away the agonising decision making now that they have thousands of films on offer at the click of a button.
4. Let them eat whatever they fancy: We spend all year trying to stuff the required five a day into our kids faces, along with the latest wholegrain, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, taste-free recipe. This summer, relax that a little. I’m not saying you should allow your kids to live off chocolate and McDonald’s (at least not everyday), but lowering the bar a little for a few weeks isn’t going to cause too much trouble. It will, however, make you feel far less pressured and that walk to the sweetshop to choose a treat is one of the best parts of childhood.
5. Making stuff: forget the picture perfect pinterest crafts that are impossible to attain. This is more about getting creative with what you have available to you and allowing children to come up with their own ideas. A cardboard box, some scissors, parcel tape and some marker pens can bring hours of fun, whilst a pavements and some chalk can allow their inner banksy to flourish. How about experiments with gloopy soap, flour and goodness know what else? Yes it will mess up your sink, but its much cheaper and far less hassle than a trip to the science museum.
6. Showtime! Sending your kids off to the garden or their bedrooms to create their own production can keep them busy for a whole day. They can create their characters, storyline and songs, then make costumes and organise their stage and set. When they perform it to rapturous applause from you, they get an immense sense of achievement. Growing up, my lovely friend’s parents would make us trophies and award them to us at the end of our shows.
7. Camp out: These days it’s not so easy to send our kids off camping like generations before us would’ve done, but we can let them try it out in the safety of the back garden. Let them set up a tent and maybe invite a friend or two round to stay. With some supervision they could have a small camp fire, marshmallows and tell stories – all of that lovely old-fashioned stuff that never gets old. Then, you can tuck them all up and let them sleep out there (perhaps with a backdoor key, or leaving it unlocked if you feel you can). If they get too cold, uncomfortable or frightened then they can simply come back inside.It’s all about introducing them to adventure in a low risk way.
8. Computer games: Games consoles seem to be the source of so many arguments during term time, so why not let them get the gaming out of their system in the holidays. If it’s a rainy day, let them chill out and play for a bit. You can even encourage them to invite a few friends round to play and make it a little more sociable. We spent hours playing our Gameboys and Sega Mega Drives in the 90s and it didn’t do us much harm. it’s all about balance. In fact, if you have any of your old consoles in the loft, why not set them up and show your kids the games you used to play.
9. Build a fort: Much like putting on a show, getting your kids to build a fort can take up a whole day and it really gets them thinking. Set them the challenge and give them some materials to work with (old sheets, pegs, washing line props, boxes, chairs, tables, garden furniture), then let their creativity flow.
10. Finding fun in anything: getting a group of kids together, preferable of mixed ages, with no real plan and no activity schedule will encourage the most valuable skill of all. Finding fun in the ordinary. Yes they may fight, they may annoy the neighbours or make a big mess, but they will have the best time doing it and those are the days that will set in their memory forever. It also means that next time they’re bored, they’ll know exactly what to do to make some fun.
What did you get up to in your summer holidays growing up? What are your best memories? Get in touch and give us your version so we can add to the list.