Dubai: Ever since schools closed and summer holidays began, my nine-year-old wakes up every morning with one question: “Mummy, are you going to office today?”
For working mums summer holidays come with the relief of not having to wake up early in the morning or stress about returning home after work to juggle homework and delayed bedtimes. But, they also mean that your child is at home for longer hours without anything to do. How do you keep them occupied?
Some parents opt for summer camps , which is a great option, but not for me. So, every time school closes I find myself making mental lists of activities to keep my son occupied. But, this year round, I planned in advance, and here are five things I did.
1. Physical playtime and screentime
No school and no parental supervision cannot result in extra screen time. So first things first, I made it clear that while there was an increase in screen time as compared to schooldays, it would not exceed two hours in a day. One hour before I leave for work and one hour after I return. Screens are locked away when my husband and I leave for work. An extra half an hour on his gaming console is complimentary on some days as a reward for good behavior.
Doctors have forever stressed how physical activity is very important for a child’s development. So, during summer holidays I encourage my child to go out and play with his friends for longer in the play area or get better at skateboarding. Luckily, I have a stay-at-home nanny who helps supervise my child’s safety.
2. Hobbies and activities
Before summer holidays started, I started stocking up on things like air-drying clay, paints, puzzles, drawing books and scraps of colour paper. Children need an outlet for those creative streaks that surface when they are bored. They turn to things that are available at hand. The result? I return home to sock puppets, cute comic strips with hilarious looking characters, newly learnt tunes on the keyboard, Lego sculptures and half-done puzzles, which I am forced to help with later.
I also went out and bought more books, because my son has the tendency to pick up a book and start reading when he is bored. I have placed children's books in all our rooms, so there are a few books close to him, no matter which room he is sitting in.
3. Spend time with my child and weekend trips
Child psychologists will tell you how spending time with your child is important. So, I factor that in, in our daily schedule. Family dinners at home is a time we avoid looking at phones and listen to everything our child has to say.
This time around, before summer vacations started, my husband and I decided that we will try and take our son out on weekends – either together or at least one of us. Both father and son also wait for Sundays, to head to the children’s swimming pool in our building, for two hours. This gives them something to talk about, when they return to school and the teacher asks them what he did this summer.
Some weekends my son helps dad buy groceries and clean them, which brings me to my next point…
4. Household chores
Summer vacations are a great time to help your child learn basic household chores. I get him to help put a load of washing on, do the dishes, place things around the house, clean the windows and sweep the floors. While he loves to do the dishes and the cleaning, some of the more difficult or boring chores earn him a few dirhams depending on how generous I am feeling that day (ha!).
I also had him clean his room by giving him timed challenges such as organising all his books in rainbow colours, and his toy box, by asking him to find toys for charity.
5. Involve rest of the family
What do you love when you think of your summer holidays as a child? For me, it was spending time with my grandparents. Every summer vacation, we would travel to meet our grandparents, whose only motive was to feed us, play with us and spoil us. Or, we would have cousins visiting.
This year, when my parents mentioned that they were planning a trip to Dubai, I quickly looked at the KHDA approved list of holidays. I requested my parents if they could plan their visit around my son’s vacation. And, now they are here! Yesterday, I returned home to an over-fed kid: “Naani (Hindi for maternal grandma) made yummy chicken curry for me.”
Almost every night now, my son reads a book to put my mum to sleep and ends up curled up in bed with her. And, when I called home this evening, grandpa and grandson have gone out for an evening walk.