Your kids have been looking forward to the long holiday for months. But now the holidays are fast approaching and you have no idea how you’re going to keep them entertained. Sound familiar? With a reported 106 ‘I’m bored’ complaints from an average child over the summer holidays, we spoke to the experts running summer activities specifically for kids to discover why and how you should be encouraging them to get active and carry on learning (without facing a backlash).
First of all, there are the obvious reasons for keeping them busy – so you don’t have to hear about how bored they are and deal with the mess they will inevitably create when confined to the house. ‘If the kids are happy the parents are happy,’ laughs Donna Idle, Day Visitor Manager at Ripley Castle, ‘The best thing to do is to have activities planned. They can have fun and do educational activities at the same time – it’s about creating memories and giving them enjoyment, enriching their lives and their family’s lives too.’
As well as keeping them entertained and out of trouble, there’s a whole host of other benefits to summer activities. Any group activity, from sport to crafts, will undoubtedly help your child develop social skills and increase their confidence. ‘There are massive social benefits,’ says Lisa Power, Event Officer at the Royal Armouries museum, ‘A lot of the educational activities or family activities available over school holidays have a big social element to them. The child will have the chance to interact with other children and team members which gives them the confidence to talk to people and ask questions, so in that way it’s a brilliant time of year for a child to socially develop.’
When thinking about what types of activity you should encourage your child to do, it’s important to consider their own interests as well as the curriculum. ‘It’s about finding things they are interested in that they didn’t know about before,’ says Sharon Healy, Assistant Education Officer at the National Coal Mining Museum. Helena Fox, Education Officer from North Yorkshire Moors Railway agrees, ‘It’s really important in terms of what else they can learn outside the school curriculum,’ she says. ‘The school holidays are always an opportunity for children to have some control over deciding what they want to learn about.’
If you’re lucky, your child may even come across an interest that will fuel their future career. ‘Stephen Hawking has spoken about how he went to the Science Museum as a child and how it engendered the love of science that became his life’s work,’ says Sharon, ‘They could go into an art museum, see a picture and think, “I can do that.” It’s about empowering them to have a go and experience things they perhaps wouldn’t have done otherwise.’
The amount of time children should spend on educational activities over the summer isn’t an exact science, and as long as they are out and about engaging with things, they will be gaining knowledge. ‘Children are always learning so all the activities they are spending time on are going to help them in different ways,’ says Francis Bennett, Education Officer from Jorvik. ‘They can be outdoors playing, they can be engaging with nature, and when they come to heritage settings like the Viking Centre they are getting a chance to explore things creatively and have fun.’ Lisa agrees, ‘If you can manage it, one day out a week would be great, and a museum like us is free to visit so it’s an achievable thing to do. But even a day out at the beach, walking along the sea shore, getting to know the wildlife and going into rock pools is all educational – but it’s a different form of learning.’
It seems the one thing all our experts agree on is that learning over the summer should be fun. Their top tip when it comes to teaching children is to make sure they don’t actually realise they are learning (they’re adamant it works). ‘It’s about allowing them to have time to engage with different things,’ says Fran. ‘A lot of the children who come to the museum buy books from the shop and want to explore different areas of their learning, but it’s not seen as a task to them, it’s not seen like going to school. They aren’t aware that they are learning because they’re having such a good time that it’s just a really fun day out for them.’
So if you want your child to be knowledgable, confident, have one of the most memorable summers of their lives and even become inspired to make something of themselves, we suggest you start planning their summer activities now.
Our Education Panel
Donna Idle – Ripley Castle, Harrogate www.ripleycastle.co.uk 01423 770152
Sharon Healy – National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield www.ncm.org.uk 01924 848806
Helena Fox – North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Pickering www.nymr.co.uk 01751 472508
Lisa Power – Royal Armouries, Leeds www.royalarmouries.org 0113 2201999
Francis Bennett – Jorvik, York www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk 01904 615505