By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Magazine
The school holidays are here. So how are parents going to entertain their children in the long summer weeks ahead?
Show them what a crazy guy you are. It won't convince them.
1. The B-word is the great enemy of parents in the long holiday. So gather information early to repel boredom. Leaflets, brochures, websites, those grinning family adverts in local papers. You'll never read any of them, but it'll make everyone feel like it's going to be much less dull than last year... or the year before... or the year before that.
2. Museums are so popular that in the summer months they're more or less creches with display cases. Since entrance charges were scrapped, attendances have soared. And to their credit they lay on huge numbers of special child-friendly activities. Just watch out for the struggling actors pretending to be medieval people or whatever. Over-acting and stick-on boils terrify the children.
Bob promises to keep the grandkids quiet over the summer
3. Daytime television and a loop tape of DVDs? Come on, be honest. You might pretend that they've been on a summer camp with the Woodcraft Folk, but we know the truth. It's been wall-to-wall Nick Jr and Disney Playhouse. They didn't learn all the words to the CBeebies bedtime song from a woodland discovery trail.
4. Theme days can be a creative way of occupying the holiday hours. But you have to be canny about this. Pick something like pretending to be Victorians (they've all done it at primary school) and then get them living without electricity, doing chores, not speaking until they're spoken to. And everyone has to be in bed by 1901 or else they, er, turn into an Edwardian.
London Zoo penguin rejected by its parents and sensitively called Grotty
5. Summer schools have really taken off as a way of filling the gap for working parents. Acting, dancing, arts and crafts, football skills, languages, sailing... the list of courses is endless. Children get self-confidence and a certificate, you get a day off and the bill.
6. Long walks can be a surprise summer holiday success. Children these days are so lazy that they're more or less born with casters where their feet should be. So long walks have a number of benefits... they make children healthier, they fall asleep quicker, it costs nothing, and they might even like it.
7. Cardboard, scissors, boxes which can be turned into a Barbie dressing table... it's always a popular move when you get that Tony Hart vibe and start making things. This will consume industrial quantities of paint, paper and patience. The downside is that you'll have to throw away your whole house at the end (quicker and cheaper than trying to clear up), but it'll have kept them busy for the day.
"The Happiest Homecoming on Earth Parade." Enough said.
8. Spend it in queues. Otherwise known as the "amusement park". The odd thing is that children have a much higher tolerance threshold for queuing than adults.
9. Day trips are a holiday highlight. Castles, stately homes, safari parks, the seaside. But you might have to use your PR skills. Disguise a duty call to the relatives as a magical mystery tour, they won't rumble you until it's too late.
10. Hilarious? You betcha. How could they be bored with such a hilarious parent? So show them how funny you are with a top gag. Try this one when you're queuing up at the ice cream van.
You: We're lucky to still have ice cream vans round here after what happened.
Impressionable child: Why?
You: The last driver was found dead. His body was still in the van, covered in strawberry sauce and chocolate sprinkles.
Impressionable child: What happened?
You: Police think he must have topped himself.
My memories of school summer holidays was building dens in the woods, making rope swings, running through fields - playing hide and seek in the long grass, walking over moors to empty 'haunted' houses ... the list goes on. How sad that these days we wouldn't even consider allowing our children to do these things alone - I'm only in my early 30s so it's not that long ago - how times change.
Penny Pickering, Todmorden
My mum used to offer the hoovering, dusting, ironing, etc, if I said I was bored. I soon found alternative things to do...
Regain your youth, look at things through a child's eyes, feel the wonder of noticing things you don't normally have the time to. Give your child your greatest most precious asset, your time. And if all else fails, give them sugar and processed food then watch them bounce off the walls.
Ben Sheard, Milton Keynes
Why should people have to fill every moment of their children's time with things to do, preferably educational? It's a holiday, for crying out loud! Summer school? They've just finished "normal" school! A bit of boredom will do children good, that way they will find things to do themselves. It's good to be able to occupy yourself - something you need to do as an adult. Childrn nowadays are overstimulated, needing something to do all the time, because we fill all of their time for them! No wonder they're "bored" whenever they have a spare moment!
My mother's response to boredom was always (and still is) "Only boring people get bored". As an adult, soon to be a parent myself, I would like to take this opportunity to say that that is completely untrue, and I'm sure anyone else reading this who has had to sit through a dull meeting at work today when they would rather be in the sunshine will agree. I only hope that I won't be tempted to resort to these sayings myself in a few years! It did always keep us quiet for at least 10 minutes while we pondered exactly what she meant though!
Many libraries run summer reading schemes. Libraries are no longer boring places where everyone goes 'shush'!
Danielle Lloyd, Bristol
Camp outs in your own backyard are fun for the kids and their friends, vacation bible schools are also a hit with my pre-schooler. Need I say that summer carnivals/fairs, movies, beaches and miniature golf all make the rounds at our home but we still get the "B" word!!
Veronica Boyd, Westtown ,New York
Have I seen anything about borrowing books from the public library or buying some? How about reading? It is a taboo activity nowadays? Why do these children always have to be entertained? Leave them alone for a bit! Boredom is the root of imagination and creativity! Reading allows one to switch off and relax. And how about playing with other children? Their friends, neighbours? In the garden? What is going on in this society! Get off their backs for a bit, let them think and read and play like children!
Get on a plane, and make them play outside.
Our first sign of summer was the last-but-one day of school, when we put all our clothes onto our parents' bed for daddy to pack. Then mummy told us how many books we were allowed to choose for the first of our six weeks by the sea. We would pile into the car straight from school the next night, and drive for two hours, singing loudly (and probably off-key) until we turned a certain corner in Dorset and caught our first glimpse of heaven-on-earth, when we all sang "this is our island in the sun" for the next 30 minutes or so. We would then all pile out of the car, run wildly round checking who had already arrived, and spend the next two days or so greeting summer-friends, checking who had grown the most etc.
Oddly, we were the only family with a book limit. Also the only family who joined the local library, and the only family who gave daddy a list of books to bring next weekend. But they were six wonderful weeks of total freedom (and plenty of books!) each summer, from 6 weeks to 17 years old!
I used to spend my entire summer with my grandparents. My sister and I would (usually) get up early to walk to the shop with my grandfather to get a paper. Later in the day we'd usually go swimming. If we were lucky we'd have chips afterwards. Failing that my sister and I would occupy ourselves with playing games (of our own design)in the back garden.
James B, Sheffield, UK
If my parents ever tried a joke like that i would flee in fear...which would be good for my health.
A good old fashioned picnic always works for my three boys! Take a football, their bikes, plenty of of their favorite snacks and drinks, and they are happy to stay there all day.
Clare Hayman, Newbury
Oh dear, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 I despised. Know your child's interests! They aren't all the same you know, all I wanted was something interesting, preferably that didn't involve spending hours walking around every exhibit in a museum at the pace of a dead snail. Don't even get me started on sight seeing.
Steven Booth, Bristol, England
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