Should school holidays be for recuperation or activities?

Do your kids have active or relaxing school breaks?
Do your kids have active or relaxing school breaks? Photo: Getty

When it comes to school holidays, parents are often in two schools of thought:

1. Relief, that for the next two weeks, there are no lunch boxes to pack, notes to sign, uniforms to iron or rushing around to chauffeur kids to various places.

2. Frustration that the kids are running amok in the house or are just plopped in front of the TV or their tablet.

Maybe it is for these reasons that some families consider enrolling their kids in school holiday activities ranging from residential camps to daytime courses for a few hours – but without the same time pressure as school days.

Then again, there are families that prefer the break from it all and sign up to do nothing.

We speak to two mothers with these differing opinions.

Activity Central

Tamara Ali* is a mother of four and organised holiday courses for her kids to allow everyone to have a “breather” at home.

“The motivation was to keep them busy and active, and not bored at home and getting on each others' nerves, or watching too much telly. Also, to allow me to have one-one time with the ones who were not doing something that day,” she says.

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Unlike a Tiger Mother, Ali didn’t pressure her kids into activities they weren’t interested in and tried to cater to their requests.

“They have been involved in a range of activities from swimming, tennis, gymnastics, netball, soccer to art and writing,” she says.

 “I found the holiday activities were a great way to give the kids a chance to play a sport they enjoyed for longer periods of time, and learn new skills, outside of the pressure-cooker of school days.”

Furthermore, she noticed that they seemed to be producing better results as a direct consequence, solidifying her view that holiday activities were worth the financial outlay.

Ali did find that the best balance was achieved when all the kids weren’t at training together and only for part of the day.

“I found that it gave a routine to the day, so they still had to get up and be ready in the morning, maybe not as early as school always, and have something to keep occupied with. Yes, they put their energy to good use, and often needed time to wind down in the evenings,” she says.

The thought that the family could have spent more time together as a whole if they weren’t at these courses did occur to her, but overall, she believes that involving her children in school holiday training wasn’t a negative experience.

To any parents subscribing to the thought of involving children in holiday activities, Ali offers the following words of advice:

“I would say to keep a balance of some days of activity and some days at home. And if you have a few kids, maybe to alter the days they go to the activity and if possible, to give special one-on-one time to the one at home. Then again, if two are good friends, or one needs '’looking after’ to send those two together so they have each other for company too.”

Chill Out Zone

We like to take it easy on school holidays,” says Jen**, mother of one eight-year-old boy. Sleep-ins, lazy mornings and ditching the routine are on the agenda during those two weeks, she says.

The idea of ‘chilling’ during the school holidays is stress-free and without time restraints and rules, Jen and her son enjoy the term breaks together at home, at the beach or just catching up with friends.

Although the opportunities for school holiday entertainment and courses are limited for Jen’s son as they live in a regional town, she feels he would not take them up even if they were on offer.

"He does Karate twice a week and an after school activity program once a week (provided by the school) [during term]. If an intensive workshop was offered [during school holidays] I'd love to send him but class is always cancelled during holidays. He also prefers the break during this time,” she says.

But instead of spending too much time engrossed in TV shows or other electronic devices, he occupies himself with bike riding, skateboarding, climbing trees and getting dirty, she says.

While Jen loves that her son is able to entertain himself by engaging in free play like this, societal pressures and expectations do weigh on her shoulder at times as she wonders if she is doing enough.

“I've often found myself feeling guilty for not doing more with him or having him involved in more,” she says.

“We usually do a one or two night family trip to Perth once during the school holidays to give him an end of term treat,” she adds.

Although her local daycare centre offers vacation care, including out of town excursions, Jen believes that enrolling in activities during holidays are not worth the financial investment.

"In the end, I feel that anything he could get from the daycare programs, we can offer him as his parents and that allows quality family time too. I'd rather put the $60 a day towards a family outing. As a work from home mum, I have the luxury to take time off during holidays, which I know is not the case for every family. "

 *Name changed

** Surname withheld

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