How To Slow Down & Have A Great Staycation
There can be a lot of pressure to entertain the kids over the summer, especially if you don’t have the time or budget to go away somewhere, or if you and your partner are taking time off on different weeks. But spending time with your kids doesn’t have to be expensive, if you make the most of free resources, and take some tips from the notion of ‘Slow Parenting.’
Slow Parenting isn’t doing nothing; instead it encourages families to spend quality time together rather than rushing from one organised activity to another; making a conscious effort to notice what is around, and appreciate the small things in life. Slow Parenting asks you to relax and live in the moment; making meaningful connections with your children rather than simply trying to keep them from getting bored.
Maybe there are enough exciting adventures to keep everyone entertained; without having to pack a suitcase? All you need is some time, and making a conscious effort to slow down! Here are some key points to help you start plotting your ideas:
Discover Your Neighbourhood
With young children, it can be fun to go for a walk with no specific destination (or a very vague end-point,) picking at random, or letting them choose where they go one decision at a time.
To keep things fair, why not take a coin, and flip it for any decisions e.g Left or right? Into the park, or along the street? Into this place, or carry on? You can either set out from your front door, and see where it leads you; or head into your local town if you want a more urban adventure.
Since your focus isn’t on a destination, take the time to notice everything around you: What animals can you see? What are the buildings like (if you’re in town, look at what is above the shops)? What plants are there? What do you hear? When you think you’ve reached as far as you’ll go, and are going to turn back; look at where you are, and where you have been, on your phone or a map; and see how far you have travelled. Next time, maybe you could start in the opposite direction?
Make The Most Of Summer Deals
As well as the many attractions that allow free entry, there are some special offers on over the summer, to help make the holidays great, so keep an eye out for any special deals:
Any Child Leap Card (4-15 or 16-18) can be used to get free travel until Sunday 16th July anywhere Leap Cards are accepted; provided it has at least 1 cent Travel Credit. For more information go to leapcard.ie.
Children under 12 are allowed free entry into all the hundreds of OPW Heritage sights, including Glendalough Visitor Centre, Dublin Castle, Sligo Abbey, Roscrea Heritage Centre, and Donegal Castle. Go to heritageireland.ie for a full list of locations around the country.
Turn everyday tasks into activities
Not everything that entertains children has to be done just for them; and remember that they might love the novelty of things you have to do all the time: Get them to help with the washing up, and let them play with the bubbles; when buying something, encourage them to work out what money you need and count out the coins (if there isn’t a queue;) and give them things from the shopping list to pick out and put in the trolley.
To encourage their interest in food; why not allow them to pick out two vegetables each in the shop, or (if you have a local one) a local market. They can get really into the decision if they’re allowed to choose anything; then when you get home you can look up what they have, and figure out new ways to cook them. It can be a great way to get them to try new things.
Even when you’re doing pre-organised activities, there can often be down time while you’re waiting for a meal to arrive, or sitting on a train. So why not challenge your kids to be the official ‘family travel reporters’?
Get a notebook, pencils, and some tape; and challenge them to record what you get up to during the holidays. They can collect bus and museum tickets, stick in a leaf from a trip to the park, draw pictures of things they see, and write down what you get up to. Even smaller children can be tasked with collecting a keepsake (as long as they understand the difference between collecting a shell or flyers, and stealing from a gift shop!) Or they could be tasked with taking photos of 5 things at each destination; and you can choose the best photos to print afterwards.
This helps give them something to do during that inevitable downtime; and encourages them to notice details, rather than just rushing through everything.
Adventure is out there!
Whatever you might be up to, whether it is exciting or mundane, tell your children: “It’s an adventure!” And remember it yourself. Energy can be really infectious, and remembering this can set you up for a good day, and help to banish any stress or impatience you may feel. And as a parent, you can spin anything … even the mistakes, the detours, and the forgotten items; as just part of the adventure. As long as you have each other, and some snacks; go for it. Mishaps just make for better stories afterwards.