Your survival guide for the school holidays
Only 37 days to go.
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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