“So the holidays have arrived, the children are exhausted, and excited to the point they may just pop. The poor parents are filled with dread; 6 weeks of children. Eeeek … what to do!
My name is Kate Wheeler or Nanny Kate, I am a Norland Nanny with over 30 years experience with children of all ages, from newborn to teenagers. I want to take this opportunity to share my experience and knowledge on how to entertain the children and babies this summer, without breaking the bank and making sure all their needs are met.
The Adjustment Phase
Most children are exhausted after a busy school year. So, I would recommend that you let them have a quiet couple of days at home pottering around the house, sleeping in, having lazy breakfasts in their PJs and watching a bit of television. I try not to let them watch too much as it can make them wired and unmanageable. Even tablets should be used minimally. Boys especially can get unruly and wild if on the XBox or tablet is used for too long.
We do live in a world where it’s easier to ‘plonk’ them in front of the television, but unfortunately too much can affect their sleep patterns and behavior.
From the mouth of an 11 year old, “rushing from school into a holiday abroad is overwhelming”, so take your time even when you get to your holiday destination.
Embrace the Make Believe
We live life is in the fast lane, so let your children play with their toys, make dens inside the house or in the garden using sheets, sofas, chairs, blankets, cushions and torches. Children have huge imaginations and den building is a great way for them to have make believe play.
Encourage them to bring their teddies inside their dens for teddy bear picnics. Have a picnic lunch or tea inside. Doing the unusual is great fun for children and before long you will hear screams of delight and laughter as the den falls down or they have turned it into a pirate ship.
Older siblings could stay out overnight in a tent in the garden with an adult; a very exciting concept. Remember to always leave the back door open just in case they venture back inside.
Role Play Musings
‘The Great British Bake Off’ was popular last year with my charges aged 7+. They designed the recipes, went to the shop to buy the ingredients and then cooked.
One of my charges aged 10 said it gave her “great confidence to measure and cook her cake”. What a great activity to share in!
Live for the Now
Children and babies live in the moment so it’s good to let their imaginations run wild. Any age can join in, including you. Let them read, do arts and crafts, painting. Water painting is great on the paving stones out in the garden or on the house wall – no mess!
Let them play in the garden, explore the dirt and find creepy crawlies. I used to make wormeries out of old tumblers and dig up worms. The older children may want to make their own little gardens. Water play can just be a washing up bowl with bubbles and bath toys. Babies can sit in warm paddling pools, just make sure they are supervised by an adult at all times. Sprinklers or just the hose are great fun too. Enterprises are a huge favorite amongst many – garage sale or sell homemade cakes and lemonade, or sell old toys. The money that is raised could go towards a day trip somewhere.
Invite friends over, design your invite and post it to them. Children love opening a letter addressed to them. You could also organize an Olympic games with medals; a great activity for keeping fit and enjoying the good weather. Chalk drawings on paving slabs are also a way to engage young ones.
The Great Outdoors
If you live near a river or pond, feed the ducks birdseed, which can be bought cheaply. Parks are great places for picnics too; children love playing and treasure hunts, and even going for a walk in the fields. Babies can be carried. If you live near a beach, rock pooling, sand castles and playing in the shallow sea with an adult is simple and fun and can fill a whole day.
We think children expect to be entertained, but actually children want to be left to their own devices. A child cannot get ‘bored’ unless we have taught them in that way. Many a child don’t know what the word means. Let them potter and play with their siblings, a rare chance if the older one is in school.
Keep babies routines if possible, unless you are out for the whole day. I always try to keep one nap in their bed/cot so that they get a good rest, being on the go for a baby is exhausting. Be prepared if you are going out for the day with food, water, bottles and milk.
Take everything you need for every eventuality and a buggy too. Inevitably children and babies will have late nights in the holidays or when your abroad. Let them nap in the afternoon if you are eating out late, even older children can have quiet time in their rooms, emphasize that ‘everyone is having a rest’.
If you have a succession of late nights make sure your children have some early nights too, i.e. in bed my 7pm if a baby up to 6 years and a bit later for the older ones, i.e. 8 – 9pm depending on the age of the child.
A child or a baby who isn’t sleeping well or has late nights will get hyper, overtired and grumpy. Not a great combination. We expect children or babies to sleep in late if they go to bed late but this isn’t the case. Babies need to have their naps in the day to help them sleep at night.
How to Minimize Sugar Intake
I make fruit smoothies and fruit kebabs; the children help too. Offer water to drink, milk or homemade milkshakes made with fresh strawberries, milk and a blender. Sugary fizzy drinks are empty energy for children.
Try to make everything fresh and minimize pre-prepared sauces and jars, which are packed full of sugar and sweeteners.
Homemade pizzas are fun to make and on the Internet there are many alternative substitutes for sugar i.e. honey, Algarve and maple syrup if you’re making. Children love to cook and this encourages them to eat different foods and encourages variety too.
Flight Survival Tips
Make a list, check that your children or babies don’t need to have vaccinations depending on which country you are visiting. Pack the baby’s essentials into a back pack which is easier to carry and that leaves your hands free to hold the hand of the toddler. I would suggest putting reins on toddlers in case they try to escape.
Invest in a fold up buggy. Most airlines will take them in the hold or they can be carried on with you as hand luggage. If you’re taking a tiny baby, a good sling is a must, especially if the buggy gets left behind or lost, plus it frees up your hands.
Be organised and pack nappies, wet wipes, baby milk powder (measured out if possible) and sterilized bottles plus baby powder food in case the liquid food gets removed. Take supplies of infant paracetamol – Calpol sachets are easier.
I would advise taking 2 changes of clothes, in case the baby is sick! Pack for 2 days, just in case your cases get lost. Also take adequate books and toys to keep your little ones amused. Pack sheets and blankets that your baby recognizes; familiarity is really important to some children and makes the settling in process easier. As I have said previously, stick to the baby routine as much as possible.
Older children can have their own little rucksacks with a special toy, books, games and colouring to keep them entertained on the flight. Also on their person, write out your flight number, name and mobile number just in case they get lost.
Packets of soft chew sweets are good to suck on during take off. Offer your baby a bottle of milk or water, on take off if allowed to minimize popping of ears, it helps distress and a distraction.
Check with the cabin crew that you can take your baby or child for a walk up the aisle, as most children won’t sit still for long. Be firm but fair; children always want to know what is happening. I would brief them on the flight in advance. Children and toddlers feel happier, safer and secure if you explain to them what is happening.
Most people have flown with children and unfortunately they do cry. Try not to worry and concentrate on reassuring your baby or child. Distraction is the key and being one step ahead of a child makes travelling easier.
If travelling with two parents, one parent should be in charge of tickets and passports so the other concentrate on the children. Try to communicate well with your travelling companion. Fortunately most flights are ‘short-ish’ and before you know it you will be safely on your way to your holiday destination. Car seats can be taken on board with large protective bags that can be bought cheaply online. You may wish to check with the country you are visiting what the laws are on car seats.
How to Sleep in the Heat
I would keep the window open and the blind half way down to let a breeze in. For babies and toddlers, I would let them sleep in their nappy and a cellular blanket or sheet if the room temp is higher than 25 degrees. You don’t want to run the risk of overheating. Check on your baby when you go to bed in case it needs another blanket or one removing.
There are some sleeping bags that have a low tog, depending you can put your baby in one with either just its nappy or a vest bodysuit. If you think your baby is too hot do strip it off and check that it hasn’t got a temperature. I wouldn’t use a fan in a baby’s room as it can make the baby too cold, but remember all babies are different.
Back to School Prep!
I consulted one of my charges for this research and she said (aged 11) “try to not make the last week of the holidays slow, because when you go back to school it’s a big shock as it’s so full on.”
I suggest you buy school shoes, book bags and uniform in the last 2 weeks before school allowing for growth, and giving you time to sew in the name labels and not find the most hideous and only pair of shoes left in the shoe shop that your child really dislikes.
Catch up on reading and establish a sleep routine, so that the early mornings and early nights aren’t too much of a shock. Also, your child will be well rested and ready for the new academic year. Children like routine and boundaries to help them feel safe, happy and secure. I would invite friends over for play dates or if your child is new to the school invite a new friend from their class over to play to make transition on their first day a little easier.
Keep safe and enjoy the summer! If you need help with routine, sleep or even behavior I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation. Simply complete the form on my website here – http://www.nannykate.co.uk/contact-kate/online-consultation-form.html