I was in the supermarket checkout queue behind a group of young mothers this morning; they had just dropped their children off at school they were bemoaning the approach of the long school holidays. I was quite surprised to hear that they were all dreading having their children at home for 5 or 6 weeks and couldn't think how they were going to get through the long days.
I resisted the urge to tell them that their children would be grown and flown before long and they ought to enjoy this precious time with them. I avoided pointing out that we live in an area of outstanding natural beauty, surrounded by beaches and countryside (FREE); that the village has playing fields and a park (FREE)and that the library runs story time and craft sessions throughout the holidays (FREE). And, by the way, hadn't they realised when they had babies that they would grow into children? Not a word did I say on the subject but I've been turning it over in my head all day.
Perhaps I'm being unfair? This generation of parents grew up with television as their main source of entertainment and so perhaps they really don't know what to do with their children. I was fortunate when mine were small, we lived in Southsea, Hampshire, with the beach, the common, a fairground and the canoe lake all within a very short walking distance. We also had a large, rambling house with lots of space for the children and their friends to play in when the weather kept them indoors. We didn't have television and not a lot of money so all our entertainment was simple and homemade and, I must admit, I never minded a mess!
I'll be more constructive and offer a few suggestions for things to do at home, costing very little. Here are some of the books I used in my early days of teaching and had to come up with ideas for craft lessons or wet playtimes. I am sure there are lots of new ones around but these can probably be found in charity shops and second-hand book shops for a few pennies.
This Penguin book of Children's Parties by Helen Thomas is in three sections: What to do; What to eat; What to play. It is full of ideas for action parties and seasonal parties but the recipes and games can be adapted for small family activities. You don't have to have all the neighbourhood children in the garden but that can be fun!
From this book:
Matchbox filling - give each child a matchbox and send them out into the garden or around the beach or park for a set time and give a prize to the child who has the greatest number of objects in their box. (I collect matchboxes all year to play this game on the summer camp. It never fails to keep the children busy and the record is 83 !)
I like some of the recipes in this book: cookies for the children to make on a wet day, or for me to cook beforehand and the children to decorate outdoors on a fine day. Top favourite - make your own knickerbocker glory.
The Play Away Party Book by Brian Cant is full of old favourites like Sardines, Musical Islands and Up Jenkins. It has sections devoted to ice-breakers, up and about games, sitting about games, performing time, forfeits and many more.
Wet days call for lots of paper and paints or felt tip pens. Having no artistic talent, I relied on books like the Copycat series to help me produce visual aids for my lessons and then I discovered that those children who won't draw because they feel they can't, love to use these books to copy or trace.
I know from years of running summer camps, that most children would rather do things than sit around watching television. Busy children are happy children and the holidays will fly by. I have collected hundreds of ideas for games and activities and would be happy to share them.