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Join forces, pool your resources, club together and use these great ideas to share the load of holiday care.

Find some like-minded moms or dads and club together to make holiday care easier, especially during the long summer holidays. For parents who have to work, fit in Christmas shopping or run errands, holidays can be tricky, but if you join forces it will make caring for and entertaining children a much pleasanter and easier task.

Club together: the basics

  • A group of parents decide to share holiday care.
  • Each day, or once every few days, one or two of the parents take care of all the children.
  • Each parent organises activities, outings or games for their allocated day.

Practical and fun ideas

We’ve compiled a few ideas to get you started.

You can also find some great ideas for activities here and here.

Art and craft days

Come up with a few age-appropriate craft projects, such as building cardboard robots for younger boys or making beaded wristbands for older girls. Then gather enough of all the necessary supplies, from paint and paper to glue, string and scissors. Set up your art space, possibly outside or in the garage, somewhere you don’t mind a bit of mess, and let the children get creative.

Other ideas include painting a giant mural on an old sheet, making Christmas decorations, getting blank mounted canvasses to create handprint pictures, and making cardboard box birdfeeders.

Baker’s day

You’ll first need to decide whether or not each child is making their own dish, in which case they’ll need their own ingredients and equipment, or if they’re all helping you. Then find some easy recipes for children, such as butter biscuits or easy pizza dough. Find a work space that’s big enough for everyone and where children can stand or sit, then get cooking.

Another option is to make cookie dough beforehand for children to roll and cut out their own biscuits. Children can decorate pre-made cupcakes or design ready-made pizza bases. Older children may like to try a cook-off, where they each get the same ingredients and have to make something with them. If children are using sharp knives or the stove, make sure they’re supervised.

Kite flying

Children can make their own kites, using materials from around the house or bought from a hardware store. You’ll need a few straight sticks, some newspaper, wood glue, string and colourful material for the tail. Once children have built and decorated their kites, fly them in the garden or in a nearby park. Read easy steps to make a kite.

Out and about

Keep children interested to learn new things by planning an outing to a science centre, aquarium or natural history museum. Turn the outing into a competition by creating a scavenger hunt of things they need to see, such as a poisonous frog or a dinosaur fossil, or create a fun quiz they need to answer. You can also visit a water park, nature reserve or playground, where children can work off a bit of steam. Older children may be keen to do their own thing, so agree on a meeting point and time before they disappear. Keep younger children in sight.

Princess (or pirate) for a day

Girls will love spending the day getting dressed up, and Mom can do their hair and make-up. Set up a high tea for lunch, with finger snacks, cakes and mini tarts. If you’re looking after boys, let them dress up as pirates. Add scars or tattoos to liven things up, then send them out on a treasure hunt to look for their hidden lunch.

Set a record

Use the Guinness World Records, or get the playing cards, to show children some records that have been set, and then get them to attempt to make and break their own. Find out who can do the most jumping jacks or the longest handstand, or who can blow the biggest bubble or build the tallest marshmallow tower. Award the children prizes or certificates for their records.

Sports days

If you belong to a sports club that has a range of facilities, book some time. Children can play tennis or squash, swim or try their hand at lawn bowls. Set up a friendly game or mini soccer tournament. The club may also have a braai or entertainment area you can use for lunch.

Other activities could include going to a local bike park, or visiting a playground where younger children can ride on push bikes. If you’d prefer to stay home, set up an obstacle course or bike track in your garden, or even create a mini Olympics in the backyard.

Water play

Perfect for hot summer days, playing with water can be tailored to suit most ages. Just be mindful of using water sparingly. Playing in the pool is fun for older children or in a paddle pool for younger ones. You could also set up a slip-and-slide with a long sheet of plastic and a hose pipe. Get some water balloons, split children into teams and see who can get the wettest. Or hoist up plastic piping with holes cut into it and a hose pipe at one end, to create a walk-through sprinkler.

If children are playing in or around water, make sure they are supervised. If you’re throwing a pool party, ensure all the children know how to swim and be clear about pool rules, such as no running or diving.

Read more about setting up a treasure hunt to keep them entertained and burn off energy.

Making it work

Consider the children’s ages and capabilities when choosing activities. Also consider whether or not you’ll need to cater for different age groups. Think about the number of children you’re looking after. If you’re staying at home you may be able to cater for more children. But if you’re travelling somewhere, especially to a public place such as a water park, fewer children will be easier to manage. If you’re driving, find out if you need car seats and inform the other parents before you drive their children anywhere.

Other things to ensure success include:

  • Decide upfront how much money each parent should spend on their day, or if everyone will pay for each day’s activity.
  • Discuss what form of discipline is acceptable and what set of rules children should follow. Ensure your children understand that each parent is in charge for that day.
  • Find out about food allergies and stock up on food, especially if children will be busy outside.
  • It helps if the children like spending time together and can play well together for long periods of time, especially if they’re of different ages.
  • Have a back-up plan. Children won’t always want to do the planned activity or it might rain on the day you want to go to the park.

Tamlyn Vincent