With the winter school holidays looming, parents are encouraged to plan ahead in order to enjoy valuable family time and a hassle-free break. Caroline Guillemain-Brunne is the life assistant you never knew you needed, the founder of Organise.Curate.Design, a lifestyle management agency that helps people tackle their to-do lists and manage time more effectively.
"School holidays can be an extremely stressful time, especially for working parents," she says. "Winter school holidays, in particular can be tough as kids can be restricted to indoor activities depending on the weather. However, with a few simple steps you can be on track to have an enjoyable and stress-free weeks of valuable family time."
Create a calendar. Make sure you and your kids know what's planned ahead of time. "Before the school holidays begin, we sit down and fill out a calendar for the upcoming two weeks," says Caroline. "This helps the kids see what I have planned, and for them to suggest some fun things they want to do outside the home, like sports clinics. It also helps me work out what days we have free for play dates or days I need to work from home so need to organise a babysitter."
Know your budget. Set a budget for activities outside the home and stick to it. "While it can be fun to take the kids to the movies, play centres and sporting events, it can also get expensive," says Caroline. "I advise families to create a balance between these activities and down time at home, so you have one or two days filled with movies and play centres between activities at home and more affordable things like trips to the park."
Use activity cards. Create activity cards that children can use to plan out their day. "The hardest part about school holidays is needing to find activities to entertain your children each day. There is nothing worse than the dreaded 'I'm bored' two hours into the first day of holidays," says Caroline.
"At the start of the holidays, I sit down with my kids and write down a whole range of activities on cards and put them into a hat. When my children get to the 'I'm bored' stage, we pull out the hat and pick out cards that they can do by themselves or that we can do together. They can be as simple as playing board games, having a movie night at home or going to the zoo," she said.
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Have healthy snacks on hand. Fill the fridge and pantry with healthy snacks "Children are constantly hungry, so it is important to have healthy snacks on hand, both pre-packaged and fresh, so they aren't filling themselves with sugar. One of the activities we do is to cook together so my children can create their favourite treats and they know this is in the fridge when they need," Caroline says.
Call on your community. Ask for help! Arrange playdates or bring in a babysitter. "If possible, share the load with other working parents and schedule playdates or sleepovers," says Caroline. "At Organise.Curate.Design, we can help you find babysitters or facilitate school holidays programs and sporting programs which can help mix up having the kids at home all the time, especially if you do need to work from home."
Take time for yourself. School holidays are a huge change in your routine so find some time in the busy two weeks for yourself. "Having your children at home can be fantastic, but it can also be really draining so it is important to take care of yourself,' says Caroline. "Take the opportunity to have a lie in, snuggle with your kids but also book in a babysitter or schedule a sleepover for your kids with a friend or family so you can go have a coffee by yourself and run errands if need be."