For most of us, we are almost approaching the half way point of the long School Summer Holiday break. Many of us would have packed our bags and had our Summer vacation as soon as the children break up from school, and the rest of us are either still waiting for the big holiday or trying to keep sane while saving the pennies for a holiday later in the year or beyond. Whatever your situation, as we get half way through there's always that burden of running out of ideas to keep the kids occupied, or finding the cost of taking time off work, childcare and keeping them entertained is starting to eat away at the funds and our rationality.
Here at Glowtopia, we have put together some fun, free and cost effective tips and tricks to get you through the second half of the holidays. We couldn't help to add a glowing twist to some of the ideas, because.... well that's just what we do.... and we figured that if you are working in the day, it will give you some ideas of things to do when it starts to get dark.
Top Tip 1. Plan it all!!
I strongly recommend you print out a planner for the holidays and stick it to the fridge or pin it on the notice board for all the family to see. It takes so much pressure off the holidays if everyone can see what days things are planned and what days are "pyjama days", "chill days" or "home days". If the kids are in holiday clubs or you have to work, put those dates on there too, as well as the fun stuff. It helps everyone to adjust to the lack of routine and it will give focus for counting down to all the days out you do have planned.
That said, you can take it a little further.... Whether you are taking the kids and the dog for a walk, or you're packing up for a week's camping, take a little time out to plan ways to make it a bit special. Obviously, if its a holiday, the level of planning is going to resemble a military operation, but if you're just taking the kids to the park, put it on the planner and discuss with them before you go on ways to make it more of an adventure. Can you meet up with friends? Can you bring things with you? Maybe organise a couple of activities such as a bug hunt, treasure hunt, or simple family games like "What's the time, Mr Wolf". You'll be amazed at how much fun you can have if everyone contributes to the ideas and builds a little anticipation for fun, family bonding before you go. It also actually helps to teach children some important life skills such as prioritising, making arrangments, time-keeping and if you're planning as part of a group, it also teaches them how to compromise!
Top Tip 2. Embrace the Boredom!
Yep - I am serious!
Aside from the fact that teaching the little people that the bank of mum and dad isn't an infinite pot of money and there is a limit to the days out and expenses that one can afford over the Summer, it is actually quite good for small people in other ways too. If managed well, when children get bored it can open the mind to opportunities to fill that empty time with something creative and imaginative. So first up, make your family a boredom jar - it really couldn't be any easier.
All you need is an empty jar, any jar or container will do, and sit down with the family to make a list of some jobs and activities. I used lolly sticks from a craft store when I made my first boredom jar as it was easier for little hands to pull out a stick, but now we write our tasks on a piece of paper, fold them and pop them inside the jar. Our boredom busters include activities for indoors and outdoors - from lego challenges, story writing and singing.... but also chores and jobs like cleaning their room, sweeping the floor and feeding the fish. If you click on the pictures below, you'll find links to our favourite templates on Pinterest!
And whilst I fully sympathise with the parental pains that accompanies those endless cries of "I'm bored!" there is plenty of evidence that being bored has its benefits for children (check out this article). Being bored will actively trigger the imagination to try and fill that empty space in time. So even though it may sound as though the siblings are going to argue for an eternity, or the tantrums and whining may feel like it's spiraling to a new level, their creativity and imagination will (eventually) kick in and will teach them a bit about resourcefulness and how to entertain themselves - a really important ability for growing minds and for fostering a healthy attitude to different situations.
Top Tip 3. Build a Den
All kids love building dens, and with so many possibilities, its such a versatile activity for all the family.
You can plan a trip to the woods, many of which like the National Trust Parks run den building sessions, or you can search online for den building tips before you go. If there's an abundance of large sticks and branches you can build a den that you can get in yourself, but if you can only find little sticks and twigs, build a hedgehog house instead.
If you're stuck indoors on a rainy day you can create a den in a bedroom or even on the sofa using blankets, sheets and pillows. Give your den a theme such as a reading den, games den or movie den, or if you're feeling really adventurous, make it a sleepover den and bring a friend. It's a great family bonding activity for afternoons and evenings if you have had to work during the day and want to spend some quality time with the kids.
If you have the supplies, you can always make a den in the garden. A tent would work well, but don't let it stop you if you don't have one. You can use tarpaulin, blankets (if you don't mind them getting damp overnight), play tents or really get to grips with the DIY and build one from scratch like this tutorial from the Eden Project.
And if we're talking dens, well the best time to get the most out of your garden or indoor den is when it starts to get dark... and the best thing for dens in the dark has got to be some glowing stuff! It doesn't matter what stuff, but as long it glows you will keep the kids occupied for hours.
Our ultimate favourite den must have has got to be our Interactive Glow Pillows - if any home accessory was made for camping, dens and sleepovers it has to be this!! All dens need a comfy pillow, but with a dual purpose, glowing aspect that you can create your own games and designs on, you won't regret treating the kids. Play tic tac toe, draw pictures and write secret messages that will glow and fade so you can start again.
If you have any glow sticks floating around, you can use these to make an ambient light source that you can hang inside the den. If you're using a tent, tie some to the guide lines so they can be easily seen. You can also stake a few sticks around the outside so it can be easily seen. They are lovely when you pop one in an empty jar to make a decoration for the den. You can use LED string lights to drape around the outside and hang inside the tent to add some gorgeous illuminated decorations too! We also love colour changing LED lamps - they also release a beautiful, calming ambient light which changes colour automatically. They make perfect night lights so they are ideal for sleepovers in a den, but if you wanted to it to feel a bit more traditional and old fashioned, you could use LED candles instead, they do look beautiful!
Top Tip 4. Go Outside
We all know the British weather has its ups and downs, but one of the best things to do with the kids is go to outside. Whether it will be sitting in the garden, taking a stroll, or getting to the beach, it really is important. Check out your local on What's On Guide, local newspaper and those little family magazines that usually turn up on your doorstep or in your child's school bag near the end of term.
There are generally lots of free activities you can join in with in your local community. There may be local fun days, council funded events such as firework displays and Summer sports for all events. You can find volunteer groups that will go on conservation activities such as litter picking or park and pond care, which is an excellent opportunity for educating children in a community spirited and fun way. If you search the internet you'll certainly find free, downloadable bug hunt packs, bird watching tick sheets, foraging and exploring ideas and outdoor crafts, but if getting about is a problem, there are garden activities you can do together, whether that be adapting the park ideas on a smaller scale, playing games, having a picnic, creating a vegetable patch or even some messy play and a paddling pool. The main thing is getting outdoors in the fresh air and giving the little people a break from TV screens and devices. It's good for the health and the mind, and you'll be thankful when the kids go back to school that you spent that time with them. We love Glow in the Dark games and there's lots of ideas where you can adapt your favourite games and add a glowing spin such as Glow in the Dark Hoopla (using glow stick), Light Up Tennis (using LED balls), Glow Ker-Plunk, Glow Bowling and many more! (Check out Pinterest for inspiration)
Top Tip 5. Make Memories that will last a lifetime!
We never forget our best holidays, and the Summer Holidays are so long there's always so much excitement, but when we get back to the normal school routines those memories can quickly fade. So this Summer, make a conscious effort to talk about the holidays and things you have done. Ask the children to keep a diary and to write about the best things they have done and why. Not only will this give them something to look back on and makes a special keepsake in their childhood memory boxes, but its also a good, practical way to keep their minds active and continue the writing practices that they do at school so they can hit the new school year running. Take lots of photos and collect lots of little keepsakes and treasures from your adventures, and then on those rainy days you can print the pictures and make family collages and a photo montage of the holiday, and make a memory box to store all the little valuables.
So whether you are going abroad, having a staycation, or enjoying the comfort of your home surroundings this Summer, fill it with as much fun and family time as you can, and make those special memories that you will always look back on in years to come with a smile.
Happy Holidays to you all, from all of us here at Glowtopia!