Keeping kids occupied during School Holidays

Here in Australia our children are on school holidays at the moment. When they were younger, I used to have all sorts of challenges during the school holidays for my kids to keep up with their reading and math skills etc without them really realising what was happening.

Now that I have a teenager and a tween, school holidays look somewhat different. The last several years I have tended to compile a list of household activities that needed doing and we worked through them with one activity over several days eg re-organising the pantry or laundry cupboards, washing windows, etc. We would also sit down before the school holidays and compile a list of people we wanted to catch up with as a family and individuals and plan this in accordingly.

This current school holidays, our teenager (Princess just turned 15) has just landed herself a part time job at McDonalds, starting the week after school holidays. This first week she has been on Church Youth Camp. The second week she is doing 3 days at TAFE as an introduction to tertiary study.

A close friend of mine has a brilliant plan for keeping her teenagers occupied during school holidays whilst her and her hubby both work. Once the eldest became too old for the local holiday program, they employed a university student for a few hours each day to do fun things with them. They also had a list of chores that needed to be done of a morning before the university student came. Plus each school holidays they were given a project to complete.

My friend was amazing as each of these ‘projects’ dealt with various life skills that her children would learn at the same time. Her objective for each project was that the kids would learn several life skills and that it would require a decent amount of effort of several hours per day. They allocated 2 hours each day to this project. She realised that when she added the incentive of getting paid for the quality of work, they responded better.

Below is a list of some of those projects.

  1. Write articles for a family magazine that the mum would then publish. They needed to sort out who would write the travel feature, the cartoon strip, the news item, the entertainment report on a recent family movie watched, draw and write advertisements, write a fiction story, compose a word search and crossword, interview people, an ‘Agony Aunt’ column etc. The kids received an amount of money per article depending on the effort and quality and it was also an opportunity for the kids to earn extra money.
  2. Plan and budget a family holiday. This also included compiling a packing list and choosing where to go, what would be required, what they would do there, costs for transport, food etc. Also planning the menu and costing that out.
  3. New pet care schedule. One holiday they had recently acquired a new dog so the kids had to research the care, grooming and feeding of this pet and make up a schedule for care.
  4. Resume writing – this is for this school holidays as her eldest is coming up to her 15th birthday and can then start looking for an employed job. The younger one will also write his resume as it will be great practice and cause them both to look at what they have to ‘offer’ potential employers.
  5. Haiku challenge – this is a 3 line poem that must have a certain number of syllables. Every word they used in the first Haiku, they then had to make another Haiku out of that word as a title.
  6. Menu for the family. They had to research suitable quick, cheap and easy recipes that they could cook and then make up a set menu for the following few weeks, along with a shopping list.
  7. An advertising campaign where they had to research, strategise and carry the theme across several different media. They had to film a television ad and compose a print advertisement.
  8. A sports project to help kids in an underdeveloped country. They had to come up with an idea eg collecting sports equipment and develop letters & flyers to collect this equipment, along with researching costs of getting the equipment plus shipping the equipment to a 3rd world school/orphanage. This also involved looking at how to develop partnerships and relationships with people in Australia to get the supplies from and the people where the equipment would end up.
  9. Time management skills were taught and continually reinforced each school holidays by helping them to structure their day and also to compile lists of “want to”, “must do” “have to” activities.
  10. Mini Bible school. One parent spending time with them explaining an overview of the Bible and then helping them to get started on a daily reading and exploring the Bible for themselves.
  11. An art project.
  12. Interviewing one of the parent’s colleagues about a skill or area of interest and then writing that up and looking at how to apply something from the conversation to their own life.

The possibilities are endless. I would love to hear what you do with your teenagers and kids during the school holidays and how it works for you.

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