How to keep children occupied in school holidays

It happens every summer holiday. Younger children are faced with a seemingly never-ending period of time in which to do whatever the want, without the worry of school. It is something we all look back on fondly, remembering the days spent playing outside with friends and getting in to trouble, with the dreaded first day back at school creeping up on you as every day goes by. So no wonder it frustrates you to find your own children rolling out of bed, and straight onto the sofa to watch television all day, knowing the fun they could be having. This is the fail-safe guide to keeping your children off the sofa and out of doors from the end of June to the beginning of term.

There are two main approaches to curing your childrens’ television addiction. Firstly, plan a long-term project. Something that your children can focus on for the majority of the summer. The excitement of building a den, a base or a fort can never be forgotten. Help them find a suitable location, and then leave them to it, hours and hours will pass by without hearing a single sound from them. Send them off with a picnic lunch, and you really will have the day (and house) to yourself. There are obvious safety concerns, so make sure you tell them strictly not to stray too far from where you know they will be, and make sure you also tell them a time to be back by, with long light summer evenings, they might otherwise be gone till dusk! Your children will return proudly day after day to their new den, continually upgrading and extending. I remember clearly the endless wait for rain to test our brand new roof and guttering system.

Alternatively a more short-term option is to take your children to a sports shop, or outdoor shop, and let them pick an outdoor game. By letting them chose their own game, there can be no complaints that they do not like it, and therefore no excuses not to play. Whether it is Badminton or Boules, Swing ball or Sack Races, their competitive edge will keep them focused. Construct a simple league with a prize for the winner at the end of the summer. You will find yourself adding your name to the bottom of the league determined to beat your new Badminton prodigies.

* Country Life Summer Subscriptions Sale – Save £55 a year!

Surprise them. Tell your children you are all going on an adventure on a set date. The excitement of counting down the days and guessing what you are all going to be doing will keep them occupied. The adventure could range from a trip to the beach, to a trip to your nearest national trust property. With many places geared up for younger visitors during the holidays, you will find endless opportunities for them to dress up, meet ‘real’ Tudor children, or hold a Roman sword. However your adventure does not need to be expensive, a walk with a stop for a picnic and an ice cream will be more than enough entertainment for one day!

If the weather is not on your side, then you have a bit more of a challenge. Teach them to play a classic board game, or a card game. Perhaps buy them a 1000 piece puzzle and give them a challenge to finish it in 3 days, with a treat if they manage it. Or another old favourite, cook with them. Baking is always a popular choice, be it bread, biscuits or buns. The wait to see the finished article is sometimes too much to handle, staring at the timer as it slowly counts down.

Finally, banning the television altogether will just cause arguments and upset. Instead limit it, tell your children the television will not be turned on until 4pm, and then you will not seem like the enemy! Stopping your children from watching the television is an easy task, as long as you are prepared to help. Giving up a few days for an adventure, and the odd trip to a hardware shop to buy some planks for their den is a small price to pay to see you children happily running around outside rather than glued to the screen!

* Follow Country Life Magazine on Twitter

* Image from Country Life Picture Library