WORDS BY ERICA NEWTON, MYFIRSTGYM CO-FOUNDER
As the dust settles and the long second half of the school holidays stretches out into January, I find myself questioning whether I’m doing it all wrong. In the effort to keep up with the Jones’s and the idea of a perfect summer holiday, I often feel exhausted (and my credit card has been completely violated too). Have I deprived my kids because the latest smart watch, water bottle and a Furby were missing from underneath the tree on Christmas morning? Or because our passports have stayed firmly in the bottom drawer and the highest we’ve flown is off the side of the local pool? Am I negligent because I haven’t enrolled them in a STEM themed holiday program?
The pressure we put on ourselves to provide the perfect childhood is rooted in wanting them to be happy. Unsurprisingly, simply chasing the Jones’s (or their modern equivalent, the Kardashians) rarely provides that. Not only are we fatigued with a stressed-out credit card, but our kids aren’t necessarily better off either. How do we provide a summer holiday perfectly balanced with Christmas cheer, fun and development without stretching ourselves to breaking point?
What do kids need?
Reminding ourselves of what our children actually need is perhaps the best way to deal with Kardashian syndrome. Providing unconditional love in a predictable and safe home is at the heart of parenting: everything else on top (including those darned Furbys) is a bonus. Remind yourself of that before you sign your child up to an uber expensive bespoke horse-riding camp because the neighbour next door has.
Sometimes, NOT getting that smartwatch or new airpods is the best thing we can do for our kids. Gratitude and appreciation as a concept is hard to teach verbally: children need opportunities to experience circumstances that are different or less than their own. Our local school runs a Christmas hamper drive that the kids can help with, which gives some insight into what this time of year can be like for others. Secondly, gratitude also comes from sometimes NOT getting. When we must do without something, we appreciate it more when we actually do get it. It’s a hard lesson, but it’s one of the most important things we can teach our kids.
School holidays are meant to be boring.
Stand down: you don’t need to entertain your child every minute of the day. There are a thousand studies that show boredom helps develop our kids’ cognitive development (like problem-solving skills, flexibility, organisational skills and creativity) as well as benefiting their overall wellbeing (self-esteem and original thinking). Of course, this isn’t always practical when you’re working from home. Unsupervised homemade slime, injuries from ‘cool’ jumps off the couch and a sudden boxing match in the backyard over whose mud pie resembled an actual pie… I’ve experienced it all while living the ‘work from home’ dream. Pro tip for managing boredom during the holidays: brainstorm with your kids a list of things they can do at home at the beginning.
Examples for younger kids include:
- teddy bears picnic
- build a fort
- lego challenge
- sibling game competitions (chess, cards, scrabble, pass the pigs, life, monopoly..)
Examples for older kids include:
- create a podcast
- learn a TikTok
- perfect a sporting skill
- a drawing/ art project
- engage the neighbourhood kids in activities and swap houses
Playtime, Downtime, Me time and Family time.
The holidays can be problematic for parents regardless of whether you’re working or not, but grabbing hold of the opportunities to be together while the heavy schedules of school and extra-curricular activities are absent is golden. Aim for one of these each day; if you get more in or can combine them, that’s even better.
- Playtime is an opportunity to have fun together. It can be anything from a round of backyard cricket, a board game after dinner or a big ticket item like a theme park.
- Downtime is where the activity is built around recharging in the home. It should be easy to organise and give your wallet a break. We do movie nights on the couch, designated ‘home’ days (just us, at home) or when the weather is good, watching the stars and counting satellites.
- Me time. Parents need recharging too and no, closing the toilet door for a few seconds of peace is not ‘me time’. A yoga class, date night, coffee out without the kids… anything where you have a few thoughts in a row uninterrupted to yourself.
- Family time is all about connecting as a family. This means being together, just us. Not friends or sleepovers or the neighbour. Just us doing any of the above. Try a family Park Run– you might be amazed at your budding little runners! We were!
Find those amazing value for money activities.
A place where your children are developing crucial physical skills and confidence under the guidance of professional coaches in a setting built for families by families? One which understands parents are busy too and offers additional services like date-night babysitting, birthday parties and value-laden holiday camps? AND the kids come home with a bunch of that crazy kid energy burnt off? It’s all at MyFirstGym!
Dan and I built MyFirstGym based on the problems we faced with our three kids. We wanted our kids to be confident, healthy and resilient, and the fun classes at each of the MyFirstGym clubs develop exactly that. We also didn’t have a ton of time or money to spend on three different sets of clubs and sports, which is why MyFirstGym covers it all in one place.
Do yourself favour these holidays: look for your closest MyFirstGym and relieve some of that keeping up with Jones’ pressure!
For more School Holiday tips and ideas visit our Ultimate Budget Friendly Holiday Guide
Also check out our upcoming Holiday Camps