Only 37 days to go.

Keeping it clean.Pic: AFP

Never mind the countdown to Christmas. It’s the five weeks stretching out between now and the 2013 school year that’s got me feeling more ruffled than six geese a-laying.

As part of my eternal quest to divert Jack and Harry from Wii games, iPods and TV, I texted a heap of friends to ask how they get through the school holidays.

“Duct tape,” was the first reply.

“Drugs,” was another.

And one I actually took half seriously: “Giving them attention first thing in the morning so I can ignore them for the rest of the day.”

As a veteran campaigner heading into my fourth summer school holidays, I can honestly say the only way to maintain a sense of sanity with two parents working from home and twin boys is routine.

Or, in our case, routine structured around the Three Rs: Roster, Ration and Reward.

To mark the first day of the school holidays, a roster went up on the fridge on Monday, laying out a series of activities in half-hour periods until lunchtime.

No, I’m not making this up.

Activities include reading, writing a journal and jumping on the trampoline. Then there are the jobs: cleaning their rooms, emptying the dishwasher, and clearing the yard of dog poo (always a crowd pleaser).

If it all sounds a tad regimented, you might be surprised to know the boys came up with the idea themselves, and help to choose their own activities every year.

No, there’s no loud bell sounds between activities and no, they don’t get marched to the principal’s office if they’re naughty in class. Unless the dog poo isn’t cleared properly.

“Rationing” has nothing to do with Neon Nerds, Hubba Bubba or BubbleO’ Bills. (Although now I think of it, they are restricted – which I guess is another R.)

Rationing is simply about restricting their time in front of screens.

In my experience – from Ben 10 through to Angry Birds – nothing makes boys more irritable, anti-social and obsessive than too much screen time.

So for every half hour of TV or computer games, they have to spend at least an hour amusing themselves outside, whether that’s playing backyard cricket, riding their scooters or building secret hide-outs that blind Freddy could find.

And truth is, they enjoy their screen time twice as much for having had to earn it.

“Rewards” are the fun bits: cinema; the beach; the skate park; or the SA Museum.

If, like me, you’re sometimes bereft of new ideas, check out 100 things kids must do before they’re 10 on AdelaideNow.

You’ll find everything from riding Popeye on the Torrens, to ice-skating in Thebarton – a list of quintessentially South Australian activities that will take you right back to your own childhood. (I know of more than one clever grandparent who’s already printed it out.)

Friday week ago, as we said farewell to Year 3 and the boys’ teacher Mrs Costello, I asked her advice for keeping children amused over the holidays.

No drugs and duct tape – only moulding clay, paints and a tennis ball. The first two to keep their minds creative; the tennis ball so they can play handball, a simple, fun way to keep fit and active.
Her third suggestion was my favourite.

“Get the kids to draw six squares on a piece of paper. In each square they need to write or draw a fun thing they can do that doesn’t involve Mum or Dad. The special list goes on the fridge, and every time they tell you they’re bored, you point them to their list.”

I’m willing to bet Santa’s sleigh that one of those six fun things isn’t clearing the yard of dog poo.

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    • ramases says:

      05:48am | 23/12/12

      When I read things like this I always am glad that I was bought up in times where the almighty dollar didn’t rule the family. Things were tough to say the least but at least we had a parent at home 100% of the time to look after us.   
        Our parents didn’t have to farm us out to our grandparents as unpaid babysitters, or pay for expensive after school care as they realised that looking after their own children was a priority not owning the latest and greatest.
        We had a sense of right and wrong instilled in us by the occasional whack across the head for stepping out of line to be sure but all in all it was a better time. No X Boxes or Ipods or electronic games, just cricket in the spare neighbourhood block, bike riding around the area, fishing in the rivers or a train trip to the beach but always with the knowledge that when we were home a parent would be there to look after us.
        Its really a sad indictment of today’s society when parents don’t know what their own children are doing whilst they chase the dollars.

    • marley says:

      07:44am | 23/12/12

      Well, I grew up in the 50s - and both my parents worked, because my Dad didn’t make enough to pay all the bills.  Somehow, my sister and I survived having to stay with grandma part of the time, or coming home to an empty house when we were a bit older.  We learned responsibility and independence pretty early - chores were pretty much a part of our routine from the time we could walk.  So were times for play, times for homework, times for TV (once we finally got one) and times for spending time with family.

      The world moves a lot faster now, there are more distractions, but I don’t see that Lainie’s kids are having a childhood much different from mine over 50 years ago.

      And “greed” has nothing to do with two parents working, nor does it stop kids from having good childhoods and developing into responsible, well-adjusted adults.

    • ramases says:

      11:09am | 23/12/12

      Some of the points you make are valid but it still boils down to parental control. Grandparents are not unpaid babysitters as some would have us think as they do have their own lives now that they have got their own children off their hands. To expect Grandparents to baby-sit another generation is reprehensible as the parents are the primary care givers and if they cannot spare the time then they shouldn’t breed.   
        Chores are a thing of the past, when you and I grew up chores were a daily routine that we lived with where today even getting a child to do the simplest task requires either a bribe or just doing it yourself as they are so self absorbed.
        Take all technology away would be a good start and let their imaginations run wild for a time except that their imaginations are now so sterile and programmed that they would probably be catatonic in a hour.
        As you may guess I haven’t much time for parents who don’t provide all the necessities of life for their children and one of the most important necessities is personal time instead of things.

    • marley says:

      12:24pm | 23/12/12

      @ramases - you’re having a go at Lainie when she’s providing exactly what you demand:  she’s making kids do chores and taking them away from their electronic stuff to play outside and use their imaginations. 

      Whether you raise your kids as self-absorbed, lazy little brats or as well adjusted, responsible, healthy kids has nothing to do with whether you’re double income or stay at home. 

      And whether the grandparents provide babysitting or not is up to the family, not to you or I to judge.  After all, grandparents have been babysitting the grandkids for generations:  remember, it’s a relatively recent development that the whole family is not living under the same roof.

      I just don’t see that two-income families automatically equates to bad parenting.

    • ramases says:

      01:39pm | 23/12/12

      Marley, is she going to be there all the time or just a part time parent. Working from home i suppose has a few things going for it but your children are much more important than work at any time. Juggle if you can but one or the other or both will suffer. I don’t equate two working parents as bad parenting because it is. If you cant be there for your kids then whats the use of having them. Just because you can provide them with everything their little hearts desires because you both work means nothing in the long run if your not there doing what is primarily a parents job and that’s to parent.
        As for Grandparents,why should they have to raise another family when research shows that over 13 hours a week of extra childcare of ones siblings siblings is more than most can take but parents today have this thinking that its okay to burden their parents with the kids because most wont say no even if they really don’t mean to.
        It got to the stage now where the Grandparents are the primary care givers and the parents the occasional care providers. Another thing, how many parents pay their parent to be baby sitters , not many as they have come to expect the grandparent to do it free.
        I’m sorry but I personally think that parents should think seriously about having children when they seem to be so time poor that others have to do the raising for them. Taking responsibility for ones own actions starts with actually taking responsibility, not farming it off to others.

    • marley says:

      02:44pm | 23/12/12

      @ramases - I don’t know what your childhood was like, but once I was out of diapers, I did not want my mother hanging around me full time.  I was perfectly happy being left to my own resources, and those of my pals, for most of the day.  Exploring the local creek, playing with my friends, reading on my own, riding my bike, simply sitting in a tree day-dreaming, these were the things I wanted to do. Parents would just have gotten in the way.  Sure, it’s nice to have them around when you’re in the house, but then as a kid I wasn’t in the house much.  Most kids weren’t.

      And you don’t have to be there full-time to parent.  You have to be there for the important things, but no kid over the age of 5 wants Mom watching every move he makes.  If your kid needs you to be at his beck and call every hour of the day, you’re not teaching him the importance of being self-sufficient and independent.  Y

      You give the kids values, discipline and love - and I know a lot of stay at home parents who can’t manage that, and plenty of two income families that can.  It has very little to do with the amount of time you spend with your kids, but with the quality of that time. 

      As for grandparents, that’s up to the grandparents.  If they want to babysit, fine;  if they don’t, they say no.

    • Fed Up says:

      05:50am | 23/12/12

      Record low interest rates have not benefited all Australians.

      Self-funded retirees and pensioners who rely on interest payments from savings accounts were the worst hit, the latest rate cut of 0.25 percentage points eating into their incomes.

      A seniors lobby group, National Seniors, said that the more than 1 million people who rely on savings and term deposits as income could be losing an amount equivalent to 25 per cent of a person’s wages following the series of rate cuts since November last year.

      Thanks to Labors mismanagement of the economy the Reserve bank has had to continually cut rates to bolster a failing retail/ manufacturing sector.

      So for all the middle class welfare bluggers out there usurping welfare dollars which should be going to fixed/low income earners…....p~

    • AzA J says:

      08:15am | 23/12/12

      First off topic reply of the day Fed Up.
      And here’s hoping its the only one.
      Thanks for your input, now go away

    • iansand says:

      09:33am | 23/12/12

      Hanging out for a “How to entertain the pensioners” article, are we?

    • Fed Up says:

      10:33am | 23/12/12

      Off Topic?
      Just following Ju-liar’s foot steps in Question Time.

    • Geronimo says:

      05:55am | 23/12/12

      Why not adopt the popular absurdity of Seasonal Liberalism and absorb yourself by ‘doing some very important things’?


      06:10am | 23/12/12

      Hi Lainie,

      I have always thought that school holidays were all about having fun until now!  Most certainly most children and teenagers do look forward to holidays because holidays can mean so much freedom to do what ever they choose to, right?  Well may be for some!  When we were growing we didn’t necessarily have lists of things to do at all. For me personally having holidays meant for more quality time spent with our families especially more so for working parents, because of the usual time restraints.

      And that is no exception to the parents working from home even though it may put some kind of pressure on the each member of the family wanting to do something different.  I am only guessing that those days are gone forever, when most children could play out doors with their friends all day and create something from a piece of paper only using their imagination.  I must say that the third suggestion was one of my favorite picks as well. Because all children need to be creative using their special talents and skills for activities such as painting, drawing, singing and dancing. 

      This also gives parents and children to discover what they are actually good at as well. Of course these activities should be done very independently without any distractions from all the grown ups in the family including their parents. I have two nephews who are basically hooked on iPhones, video games and other electronic gadgets to pass the time and holidays can usually mean more time for activities such as going to the cinema, visiting the local food court and the actual shopping in experience at the local mall.  If you have noticed these are all activities pretty much based on external and commercial influences as well as the level of our spending power. 

      However in conclusion I have to say that there is one thing we can’t really put a price tag on which happens to be “time”.  Dedicating more time family outings which don’t cost anything and the quality time spent with our loved ones are two things which happen to be “priceless” anyway, anytime and any day!  Kind regards.

    • Gregg says:

      07:02am | 23/12/12

      What you need is a longer term project, something that could include design, construction and then much fun and why not a billycart, some real smart looking models about too.
      They could get some good use from a screen for starters:
      Our steering with a wheel used to be via a rope wound around an attached broomstick real tight so it worked like a capstan, the rope going down through a couple of pulleys screwed on to the centre board and then out to the steering board but the off centre links would be much more positive.

      So the kids can spend a few hours developing a design and it will likely involve Dad for imparting some good hand skills and male bonding time so maybe he has to build one too but you Lainie or other mums need not be isolated for you could become the gopher - that’s the goer to Bunnings to get this and that and everything else needed, the local tip too or car wreckers to get some steering wheels and the wreckers could be an adventure in itself for the lads.

      So the kids get used to using a few tools and at Bunnings they might even have some DIY classes, maybe even for kids but if not suggest it and you never know and they may even develop a series especially for billy cart makers.

      There’s always Billy Cart derbies and maybe the goal is to become a national champion, if not this year, then sometime and you never know they might just find something better than screens to become addicted to.
      Becoming a champion will obviously have to be reflected in the design.

      Depending on just what they might want to build, the design and construction could take from a couple of weeks to the whole school holidays but maybe best to have them start with something simple so as they can use it quick enough and then they might want to develop from there in the quest for showmanship and speed.

      Egg them on a bit and tell them that with a really good one they might even be able to sell it on to make some money and then go on to build an even better one!
      Your backyard might have room enough for a new shed to allow the Jack Brabam and Harry (the fox )Firth Billy Cart Enterprises to be developed and if so you’ll likely never ever have to be pondering again what there needs to be for the next school holidays.

    • acotrel says:

      07:55am | 23/12/12

      I will be busy fitting a dufferent selector drum to the 6 speed gearbox in my Seeley Commando 850 historic road racing motorcycle.  Does that count as ‘doing some very important things’ ?

    • Gregg says:

      10:16am | 23/12/12

      It is obviously important to you acotrel and you might even be able to get some grandkids entertained by doing some monos when it is all together but I do not know that I mentioned anything has to be a very important thing and you still want to remember that Christmas and holidays for kids and even bigger and much older kids of about seventy is all about excitment, enjoyment, fun and entertainment without Julia jokes.

      Maybe we need a anagramatical new word of an eefe time.

    • Barefoot Wordy says:

      07:41am | 23/12/12

      Having made the decision to get into homeschooling last year one of our saving graces was the introduction of a daily plan. Our 5 yr old loves it!

      It keeps him focused and with the short ‘blocks of time’ removes boredom. An added bonus? He cleans his room and personal mess in the house without having to ask so he can get his iPad time…

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:41am | 23/12/12

      Bat + ball + outside. Problem solved.

      That’s what I did in my childhood. We only had 3 TV stations and there were no video games back in those days. Somehow we coped. Occasionally we went to a friend’s place and played outside with a bat and ball.

      All this whining about how you’re going to cope and keep your kids entertained really baffles me. It shouldn’t even be a concern. Kids entertain themselves. Any whining deserved a clip over the ear-‘ole.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:43am | 23/12/12

      ‘Kids entertain themselves.’ Yes they certainly do. And one of their favourite pastimes is getting bored and seeing how much they can annoy you before you explode. ‘Ha ha, see daddy crying in a corner, all curled up with a beer. Funny daddy!’

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:34am | 23/12/12

      That’s what backhanders and smacking is for

      Kids learn there are consequences to their action pretty quickly if they step out of line and get a thundering good walloping and sent to their room with no toys for the rest of the day. Any more whining or back talk and its another walloping and in their room for the rest of the week

      Children soon learn how to behave appropriately when you don’t mollycoddle them

    • LJ Dots says:

      02:02pm | 23/12/12

      Lainie, not sure if I agree with the whole Von Trapp regimented deal, so, I’ll go along with the Tubey idea here. There were 5 of us young Dots growing up. When morning came, we left the house, when the sun set, we returned and ate.

      There were embarrassing faceplants while riding down the playground slide on the BMX (thank god there were not cameras recording our failures) ramps, jumps and dumps, billycart racing with almost every kid from primary school swarming into the biggest backyard for the days races, piggyback fights, cricket and trying to catch anything from yabbies and taddies’ to butterflies while training a stray mutt to fetch and sit (johnno finally adopted him in the end, lucky dude). There was also time to read books, paint portraits or figurines and essentially create something out of nothing using just our imagination.

      Putting my nostalgic Huckleberry Finn moment aside for now. I guess what I’m trying to say is to let the kids find and create their own interests and entertainment, so don’t ration or regulate them too much.

      I did like the reward idea, so I’ll pass on one from my parents. Once per week we could each decide what the evening meal would be, so the meal chosen was of course, always a personal favourite. The catch was, if we wanted it, we had to collect the groceries in our own basket and do the slicing, dicing, cooking, serving and cleaning (under supervision the first few times). Tip: Fairy Bread is not considered a meal, but it did scrape through as a dessert - who knew?

      For a 10 year old, it was hard work just to get tacos or lasagna and garlic bread, but damn -  it was worth it.

    • Mr.Tiny says:

      10:59am | 23/12/12

      I’m all set, Though this year I will have a problem on the extra hot days. my house get really hot. Other years we had a deal with the my elderly neighbour with the air conditioning. I mow her lawn once a month and when the temperature reaches 35 her takes us into her nice cool house. She was a nice old lady but she died a few months ago and the people living in her house now are a little mean.

      I do have a deal with another lady a few kilometers away with a pool. I clean it for her and she lets me and the kids jump in it sometimes, but who wants to walk anywhere when it that hot.

      As for entertaining the kids, I just take them with me when I have a job to do. They love a bit of manual labour, especially when it involves smashing up concrete or digging a big hole. Since most of the people I do work for a older ladies they are always getting lollies and stuff given to them.

    • Philosopher says:

      12:11pm | 23/12/12

      I hope your kids have a white card? smile

      water-filled spray bottle, no shirt, and a fan. Great combo!

    • Jean LeDouche says:

      11:05am | 23/12/12

      Easy, give every kid a gun. The only way to stop a bad kid with a gun is to gave a good kid with a gun.


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