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Education

Summer holiday activities: how to entertain your child without breaking the bank

As the holidays approach, it’s time to start thinking about things your child can do over the next two months. As one Hong Kong parent says, activities in the city can be expensive. Here are tips for what to do from a former schoolteacher

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 7:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 8:31pm

I’m already dreading the long summer holiday, writes a Hong Kong parent. Keeping my Year 6 daughter entertained is difficult and expensive. She’s an only child, which doesn’t help, and I don’t want her on her phone or computer all day. Can you suggest some ideas?

As parents it’s tempting to try to over-organise our children. When we feel they are using their time productively, it may make us feel better; however, it has been shown that helicopter parenting is often counterproductive, and aggressively overscheduling children doesn’t give them the personal skills to organise themselves and their own time now or in the future.

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However, the summer break is long, so best to strike a balance. Consultation is always useful. Ask your daughter to think about how she’d like to spend her time. Try to listen without being judgemental, helping to ensure she gets opportunities to do what she really enjoys rather than what you would choose for her. Try to pick the right time to have this conversation, preferably when she’s feeling open and chatty.

It can be positive and refreshing for children to have a completely different focus during this extended holiday period with enough unstructured time away from their normal responsibilities to recharge their batteries.

They should get plenty of sleep and relaxation, and time for activities such as listening to music and practising a musical instrument. It is an ideal time for your daughter to take up an instrument if she doesn’t already play one. Many children teach themselves using YouTube clips in place of expensive lessons.

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It’s also a perfect time for recreational reading. Local libraries offer a different range of books than schools. Encouraging an older child to read to a younger cousin or family friend, for example, can help them develop confidence and expression.

At this stage, your daughter’s main focus is likely to be her friends. She’s at that tricky age where she’ll want to go on social outings but is not quite independent enough to go to certain places alone.

Together, work out how she can meet friends while at the same time giving her some responsibility for planning timings and transport. Discussing which attributes make a good friend will help you to understand her social circle so you can encourage her to spend time with positive and like-minded children.

It will be stimulating for your daughter to choose her own activities, depending on her personal interests. She has big changes ahead as she starts secondary school in autumn, and as she strides towards independence it is a good time to give her more responsibility.

There are cultural activities you can do together in the holiday such as visiting museums, theatre trips or sightseeing, particularly going to places you don’t normally have time to visit.

For example, you could take a ferry and visit an island you’ve never been to or sit on the top deck of a tram in an unfamiliar part of Hong Kong. These are cheap activities, and your daughter could take photos to use for a holiday project. Ideally arrange trips with a friend or another family.

Also encourage hands-on, creative activities such as research projects, holiday scrapbooks and practical art, craft or science projects. There are many online resources, some of them interactive, which are full of ideas. However, general time spent on phones and screens needs to be restricted.

Holiday clubs can be a great opportunity to socialise and make new friends as well as following interests such as sport or drama. Nevertheless, as you pointed out, they can be expensive and don’t suit all youngsters.

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Some studies show that children’s fitness levels dip during the summer holiday. Therefore, try to ensure that your daughter gets plenty of physical activity either through organised individual or team sport, or by being generally active. Use the time for outdoor swimming, and because of the hot weather she could try indoor sports she’s never done before.

Children and young people are more resourceful than we give them credit for, and it’s important for them to develop the natural resources to keep themselves entertained.

With opportunities to relax, socialise and have important bonding time with extended family, the summer holiday can be a positive experience.

Some parents fear that their children are going to regress academically over the long break, but this is rarely the case. Just like adults, youngsters need to have a proper break. Away from busy school life, homework and timetables, your daughter will have time and space to think, be imaginative and develop different skills and interests that will help to make her a more confident and rounded person.

Julie McGuire is a former Hong Kong primary school teacher