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How to survive the summer holidays with kids, by Stacey Turner

1. Don’t put pressure on yourself to entertain the kids at all times. The summer holidays are for slowing down and spending time together. It’s important to strike a balance between structured activities - whether that be in the home or on days out - and free play. Children are actively learning from the world around them, so it’s OK to keep it simple.

2. Get the kids cooking! Sick of sandwiches? Ask the kids to help you put together a summer holiday menu and get them involved. Savoury is just as much fun as sweet, so don’t just stick to cupcakes, and try not to freak out about the mess. Dare the kids to try something new every couple of days. Making your own fresh fruit ice lollies is a real treat too.

3. Snacking can be a huge issue during holiday periods. It can be caused by boredom, but mostly because kids know that being with you, there is a strong chance of getting hold of some food! One way to combat this is to allocate each child a snack jar. I use glass paint to write the girls’ names on each jar and in goes their daily allocation of snacks. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, but fruit and veg are always on offer.

4. Create a breakfast area in a low cupboard in your kitchen. Store cups, bowls, spoons, chosen cereals and breads/pastries in an airtight container. The kids will love being responsible for getting their own breakfast and, if they’re old enough to do this unsupervised, you might get a lie-in/time to do other jobs.

4. Get creative. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an art school graduate, just get stuck in, and then leave it to their own imagination. Off to the farm? Draw pictures of animals they might see on the farm. Send them on missions to collect leaves, pebbles and shells to turn into collages or to learn how to do flat-lay photography. Save any recycling for junk modelling. I have a spare box where it all gets tossed into, from which the girls turn various bits of junk into amazing creations. Emily made a horse recently! Get them down to a museum or gallery too, if there's one which is convenient. If you know how to look at art with kids, even a simple free exhibition can be good fun for everyone.

5. Another fail-safe idea is playdough - here is my never-fail glittery playdough recipe. If you let the kids help you make it as well as play with it, that’s twice the fun.

6. Leave time for gardening! The girls and I created a herb garden recently and we love integrating it into our cooking and discussing what we like and don’t like. No garden? A window box or indoor plant collection will do. Here’s how you make a cool plant from an avocado stone...

7. Reduce the workload around the house by encouraging your kids to help you; that’s spending time together too! Blast out the music and get dancing while you mop. You could give the children age-appropriate daily chores such as pulling covers up over beds and sorting washing into colours.

8. Avoid summer holiday meltdowns by keeping on talking. If it's all getting too much for you, don’t hide your emotions. Lead by example and don’t be afraid to say how you're feeling. For example, ‘I am feeling frustrated..’ and then explain the reason or ‘I did not like the way you did or said that, it made me feel…’ and ‘It would be nicer or kinder to…’.

9. If your child is on emotional meltdown, don’t be afraid to get close to them and say, ‘It’s ok, I am sorry you feel this way, how can I help you?’ or ‘What would you like me to do?’ or ‘Do you feel there is a better way of doing this’. This overwhelming feeling is hard enough for adults let alone a young child who has no idea why they’re feeling this way. It could be hunger, being over-tired or over-stimulated.

10. Be kind to yourself. Try to take time out, keep up your exercise and healthy eating if you can. Drink plenty of water and try to socialise as much as possible, with and without the kids. Be happy, enjoy the summer holidays and try not to over-commit yourself. 

:: Stacey Turner is the author of I’m Going to Nursery, a parents’ guide to nursery-age separation anxiety.