“I decraited a joolrai box with my mummy today. It was lovlai doing stuf with her.”
-Nia, aged 6.
My heart melted a little when I read this in my daughters ‘school holiday’ journal. She’d written so many pages in her neatest handwriting, noting down the fun things she’d been up to over the first week of the holidays. But this one thing – decorating a jewellery box with me – was the only thing she’d expressed some proper sentiment about. Everything else was just fact.
“I wached Cinddrilla, I played with my lego figers, I went to dancing class for the furst time.”
Of course, she’s only six. I didn’t expect an outpouring of how fantastic it is to now have Lego kits aimed specifically at girls or a detailed account of how nervous or excited she felt entering the dance studio for her first ever proper class. But I felt warm and fuzzy that she’d chosen to elaborate on that craft activity we’d done together in the twenty minutes that it took for our cottage pie to warm in the oven.
It made me rethink our plans for the rest of the holidays too. I had already been forming a list of Science Centre, Museum and Farm park visits. Perhaps a trip to the kids’ morning movie at the cinema, and surely a lunch or dinner out as a treat. So instead, I set upon having very little in the way of activities in the plan, and decided we’d all benefit from a week with no real rush to be somewhere or doing something. I’d let the kids shape the week with their choices and we’d simply spend time doing things together.
Monday morning came, and the weather wasn’t lending itself very well to a trip to the local park. So, out came the pop up tent, much to the delight of the little ones. We cosied it up with fleecy blankets, pillows, favourite teddies, a string of fairy lights and a torch, and huddled inside for an indoor camp-out book fest.
“We had a camp out in the livin room in the pop up tent. We sngulled and read storees. Mummys feet stuck out of the tent door. It was so funny.”
With bookcases bursting at the seams, we’re not short on reading materials in this family, and if there’s nothing taking our fancy, we’ve always got our library cards where we can borrow for free to our hearts content. Reading features in our bedtime routines every evening, and its one my favourite parts of the day. There’s a very simple pleasure to be had in bringing the words to life whist the little ones look on wide eyed at the pictures. Of course, reading builds confidence in word recognition for smaller children and helps stimulate imaginative thought, so there are educational benefits too. As my eldest has become more competent with reading, she likes to take a turn at reading to the rest of us. Such a simple, easy to do activity and there are always old favourites that I’m discovering too!
Tuesday and an outing to the park was back on the cards thanks to the sun making a rare appearance. We still needed hat and gloves, but the real warmth came from the big smiles on all our faces as we scaled the dizzy heights of the spider web climbing frame.
“My litl bruther didn’t climb as high as me and Mummy. Mummy sais I am so brave. I got higher than she did.”
There’s so much joy to be had in encouraging a child to master something new – for us, the gigantic climbing frame – and seeing and sharing their delight when they succeed. I looked around the park and there were lots of parents there with their children, but not with them. Sitting on benches, engrossed in phones, or chatting with friends, whilst their kids raced around them burning off energy. This, I have to say, is usually me. But there was something liberating about climbing that frame with them. Rather than calling out directions and instructions, I got hands on and supported them, encouraged them when they felt apprehensive about going up another a level. And the kids saw me in a different light, not just mummy who helps with homework, makes dinner or washes our clothes, but mummy who knows how to have great fun and who is actually quite good at climbing!
With more chocolate Easter eggs gracing our kitchen worktops than were on the supermarket shelves by Good Friday, it seemed like a great idea to use the excessive chocolate and have a bake off on Wednesday. Chocolate Crispy cakes are as far as my baking talents stretch, but the kids don’t have any higher expectations than that anyway. Good job.
“We made choklit crispy cakes and I lickt the spoon. Mummy let me decrait them with pink choklit drops so they looked all spoty.”
Involving the kids in something like baking, no matter how basic, is a great way of helping them learn some skills, perhaps develop new experiences, learn about safety, but also see (and taste) the fruits of their labours. There’s also something exciting for them about doing an activity which they would usually see as your domain. There was much clambering to be the first one who showed Daddy their plate of cakes as soon as he walked in the door, but with that a real sense of pride and achievement in having made something from start to finish that everyone could enjoy.
Thursday was Lego day! Now I’ve had my fair share of trodding on rogue blocks – or worse kneeling on a piece, so I’m not the biggest fan. But after a day of sitting round the table, building a city cafe, a tree house, a pet centre, a star wars ship and a digger and truck, I was a convert.
“Mummy let us do all our Lego at one time. Elias used his digger to pretend he was building the cafe.”
We often fall into the trap of assuming that we have to take the children out in order to be having fun. Our weekends can often be packed with visits here and there. Having a day at home, and allowing the kids to play with their toys was a winner. Whilst building their creations, we talked about the importance of looking after our toys, keeping the boxes for storing them in, putting one toy away before getting out another and storing everything tidily when we’ve finished, and it worked, with no nagging!
On Friday, I got a lie in as Daddy was off.
“Daddy was back from his work corse today so we got to do a games afternoon wit him. We plaid Kerplunk, Pop Up Pierit and Disney scrabble. I got the golden marbul in kerplunk so I won. Daddy and Elias said aaaaahhhh they wanted to win.”
I wasn’t a participant in games afternoon, as everyone was so pleased to have Daddy around for the day, but whilst pottering about and dipping in and out of the room, I saw how playing simple games really helps learn the importance of sharing, taking turns and not always being the winner. There was also a whoop of joy from our 6 year old when she triumphed over Daddy at scrabble. Playing games is great for boosting kids confidence, helping them understand rules and teaching them the importance of taking turns.
So, that was the extent of our week. No rushing here, getting faces washed and hair tied back to go there, no putting on best shoes or our good jackets to out. Just plain old fashioned quality time together. Frankly, I’m gutted it’s time to go back to school…and I’ve never said that before!