Get Parenting: Entertaining the Kids

Neal McKenna (Guest Writer) @ Lucid Living

It’s official! The South African Education Department has officially announced that the 2010 winter school vacation will be extended until after the FIFA World Cup. Wisely, they have opted to nip pupil and teacher truancy in the bud by allowing everyone to be absent. Good news on some levels, but as parents of children on extended holidays, it’s up to you to keep them occupied, entertained and out of trouble.

If a vacation “away” isn’t in the cards during school holidays, think of outings and activities you couldn’t normally fit into your school-day schedule and do them now. Visit all the places you don’t or can’t get to on weekends. Figure out what’s within reasonable driving distance from home and make a plan. Surf the Net or consult a map book, but get the whole family to look for interesting adventures located nearby. Schedule excursions to an arboretum, planetarium, museums – and factory tours are not only fun but educational too! Attractions such as these often have free-admission days during the week or offer off-season discounts, both of which, you can take advantage during school breaks.

If you can’t manage little get-aways such as these, start home-based projects you wouldn’t attempt during the regular school schedule. If you have younger kids, organise a camp-out in the back yard. Call it Wild West Day. Do some evening stargazing – with or without a telescope – on Cosmos Day, or embark on a backyard fossil safari on T-Rex Day. Little ones really love theme days.

Planned activity days are always good. A championship game of Scrabble makes for an interesting afternoon and prearranged play dates will take some of the pressure off you. Talk with the mothers of your children’s friends – and do it now! Offer to trade off the kids and give each other a break. However, don’t forget to schedule a few down days too. School break means just that – it’s a break from all the hubbub of education, clubs and sport activities.

And don’t forget to include your kids in the planning. “Kids need to feel useful. In fact, we all do,” says child psychologist, John Langston. “Give them small responsibilities. Encourage them by acknowledging their contributions. For example, if you are taking a trip, have your older children write lists of their packing requirements: 3 pairs of socks, 3 sets of underwear, 2 shorts and T-shirts, etc.
“Have them also create lists for what one might call “the common good.” That might involve checking to see if maps have been packed and the family’s camera has been remembered. Littler ones respond well to responsibility, too. The point I’m making is: kids need to contribute to the family. Simply entertaining children misses the point entirely. Entertainment detaches them from the family as opposed to being an integral part of it.”

Some ideas we’ve used in Jo’burg include:

  • The Jo’burg Zoo costs R300 for an annual membership and gives hours of entertainment.
  • The Montecasino bird park has daily shows that even small toddlers love, and is a beautiful area to walk through.
  • The new Simba playgrounds are great and safe – we’ve tried Delta Park and Zoo Lake.
  • On Hamilton Avenue in Craighall Park, your toddler can have a pony ride for R5!
  • Also in Craighall Park, at Valley Shopping Centre, SMUDGE offers a slightly expensive but well structured arts and crafts, and dress up venue. There are similar venues throughout Jo’burg.

For more idea, is a great resource.