Don’t fret about how to fill the remainder of the school holidays as there are things to do — and also it’s good for children to experience a bit of boredom now and again, writes Kate O’Reilly.
AS the long days of summer draw to a close, parents hope their children will go back to school with happy memories of the holidays.
There’s a wide choice of places to see, things to do, and summer camps that cover every age and interest but filling eight or nine weeks with activities can begin to feel like a struggle, especially when back-to-school costs loom large, leaving parents wondering what next, when their children ask the inevitable, ‘well, what are we doing today?’
In her book Cotton Wool Kids, psychotherapist Stella O’Malley writes about the relentless pressure on parents today to create a ‘perfect’ childhood and how a more relaxed attitude can lead to happier and healthier families.
“Parents often feel that we are not doing enough for our children, but we have to remember that we are children’s parents and not children’s entertainers,” she says.
“There’s a lot of talk now about creating a memory — but memories happen by accident and when parents relax.”
Spending those family days together is important but it’s also essential to sit back sometimes and let them get on with it and to have days where there isn’t anything planned and children are responsible for filling their time themselves.
A parent’s role includes setting limits on screen-time and providing opportunities to meet other children, but “if they are bored it’s really not your call, it’s up to them to do something about it,” O’Malley says.
“Children should be experiencing the world in a childlike way and with other children and we need to slow the pace right down.
"There is a huge amount of research that children need downtime, and the summer is an opportunity to take a step back from that frantic life of term time.
“It’s good for them to know boredom, that is part of what being a child is about - to have nothing to do and all day to do it — that slow pace is part of the joy of childhood.
"And it’s only when they’ve spent time just ticking along doing nothing that they will start to tap into their inner creativity and then, they will think up that great game —and they need that.”
However, because children’s lives are so structured it’s not fair to just turn off the screens and say ‘off you go’, she advises.
So here are some suggestions for the last days of summer:
1. Get them to pick something from ‘50 Things To Do Before You are 11 ¾’, a list compiled by the UK’s National Trust to encourage children to get close to nature www.50things.org.uk
2. Beat the boredom by offering a prize and sending them on a scavenger hunt outdoors or indoors. If you are short on inspiration, you will find plenty of ideas and checklists online.
3. Families are welcome to bring a picnic to St Peter’s in Cork’s North Main Street. The former church is opening its gates free of charge to the public for a range of exhibitions and cultural events.
It’s also The Centre of Commemoration for Cork 1916 and you can learn about life in Cork 100 years ago at the CSO Exhibition until August 25; www.stpeterscork.ie
4. Pack a picnic and explore the limestone landscape of the Burren or Killarney National Park where you can take a boat trip to Innisfallen Island www.killarneynationalpark.ie
5. On a rainy day, the woods provide shelter as you search for the little fairy houses in Derrynane or Parknasilla Co Kerry www.irishfairytrails.com
6. We love cinema! The latest Disney release, a reimagining of family favourite Pete’s Dragon, opens today.
7. With a new Harry Potter book, and Roald’s Dahl’s BFG in cinemas, there’s lots of inspiration for summer reading too. While away a few hours in the library, where children can get a stamp for every book read during the Summer Stars programme www.librariesireland.ie
8. Go for a treetop adventure on the ziplines in Farran Wood, Co Cork. There are five circuits suitable from ages 7+, with prices from €15 www.zipit.ie
9. Ireland’s Ancient East stretches from Carlingford, Co Louth to Cork City with nine story themes to explore like Ancient Ireland and the Vikings.
Check out the summer-long programme of events in Waterford, (www.summerval.ie) or spend the day at the beach in Clonea or Tramore www.irelandsancienteast.com
10. The Star Wars locations provide just one more reason to take a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way which stretches 2,500km from Kinsale, Co Cork to Inishowen, Co Donegal. Pick up the new Wild Atlantic Way Passport, €10 in post offices, and record your family’s journey www.wildatlanticway.com
11. Explore Ennis Friary on a family treasure hunt on August 21 and be in with a chance to win an OPW Family Heritage Card.
This gives a year of unlimited admission to sites managed by the Office of Public Works, including this year’s most visited site Kilmainham Gaol ( www.kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie ). Popular destinations include Muckross House, Charles Fort and the Rock of Cashel www.heritageireland.ie
12. To celebrate the completion of the wattle and daub house at the Hunt Museum in Limerick, there will be a day of family friendly activities on August 27 www.huntmuseum.com
That’s just one of many free events to celebrate next week’s National Heritage Week.
13. At Mooghaun Hillfort and Woods in Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare — one of Tripadvisor’s Top 10 Destinations in Ireland for 2016 — there will be a treasure hunt and wildlife walk on August 28.
On the same day it’s free to take a stroll through Medieval Tralee at Kerry County Museum — complete with sounds and smells from the year 1450.
14. Meanwhile in Cork city, families are invited to join Cork Nature Network for a picnic in Beaumont Quarry, Ballintemple, with butterfly/bug hunts, a foraging walk and live music.
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