The long holidays are here! This is the most extended break for school children and it can be a long one for parents if they do not have effective plans on how to engage their children.
Below are eight inexhaustible ways to engage your children this holiday.
Summer camps are important because it gives children the opportunity to explore, and develop social and decision-making skills among others.
An education consultant and Chief Executive Officer, TechLead Nigeria, Caleb Akubo, describe summer camps as a step away from the structured school day setting to an unstructured one where children can enjoy, learn and interact with their peers.
There are coding, fitness, scouting, hiking, sports, and religious camps among others that are designed for children. In June, the American National Security Agency funded a tech summer camp to teach children about the cyber and virtual worlds.
Akubo adds that summer camps “introduce children to involvement in a particular kind of experience and provide them with the opportunity to learn other things they might not be able to learn on their own or in their school. These camps are specially designed to give the children the advantage of the experience in some fields that they do not otherwise have the opportunity to explore.”
Camps help children to widen their horizons and gain outside-of-classroom knowledge.
To be effective, Akubo emphasises that the choice of camps should be in line with the children’s interests.
During school periods, children spend approximately eight hours on school activities. It is important to give children the opportunity to hang out with friends and peers during this period.
The education consultant states that “play dates can be between the children and parents or with those you hold in high esteem. It helps to foster relationships with the parents and also gives the children the opportunity to relate with the kind of people that you want them to relate to.
“For example, someone who has a virtue you would like to see in your children, you can create time for a visit with the person or have a session with such a person. However, there is the need for cautiousness and security checks on the individuals and organisers.”
Visits to the airport, train stations, parks, cinema or zoo are profitable ways to engage children during the holiday. This gives children the opportunity to learn and unlearn outside the classroom and create memories and experiences in life.
For parents with long work hours, Akubo advises that, “These plans could be spread across the holidays and it is important that the children are involved in the planning. Those visits may be scheduled once a week and to certain places of interest that can spark the right conversations you will want to have with your children as well as teach them the things you expect of them.’’
Children enjoy having discussions and listening to interesting stories from their parents. During school days, children go to bed early so they can wake early. The holiday then offers the privilege to help extend their sleep and wake-up time.
Since not all parents will be on holiday during the time their children are, deliberate efforts and sacrifice are needed on the part of parents to ensure that these conversations hold.
The educationist adds, “You can extend their bedtime to have conversations with you. Let them feel that it is a special time and tell them ahead of it. This grows the bond between parents and fosters connection with the children.”
Learning a skill is important for children. However, children mustn’t be forced to learn skills but shown the importance and benefits of acquiring the skills.
Akubo states, “Don’t insist that the child attend a particular vocation that you want them to learn. Parents should factor in what the child would like to do. For example, don’t insist that your child attends a coding class whereas the child wants to attend a dance class. I understand that a child may not be able to make the best decision but for summer, indulge the child.”
He adds that parents should look out for other vocational skills that are in high demand and encourage the child to see reasons to learn such skills.
Introduce children to their roots
The holiday season is a perfect time to gradually introduce children to their heritage, family history, tradition and extended families. This helps to strengthen the family bonds and gives children a sense of belonging. Also, in times of emergencies, it would help children know who to trust and call on.
Having interactions will help parents know more about their children. During this time, asking the right questions in a friendly manner will help parents learn more about their children.
Akubo adds, “Learn to ask the right questions from your child. Questions like what is the name of your friend? How was your day today? Listen actively to what your child mentions as likes and dislikes. You can also take a survey to know your child. There are psychological test questions on the internet that parents can download and ask their children to get to know them more.”
However, asking questions should not be left to the children alone. Parents should also request that their children ask questions and they should seek creative ways to answer them.
Summer school can go a long way in strengthening a child’s academic muscle. It is also a time to focus on specific subjects that will direct the child to their passion and career prospects.
Akubo said, “Children in Nigeria are smart in my opinion. If they see a connection between what they are studying and their desired course, they will be able to focus on it and do better. Look for programmes that will help your child to be better at what they are good at already. This will boost the child’s confidence and make him/her better than his peers.”
Children can also intern at child-friendly centres. This would help them to learn valuable life skills as well as learn about the world around them. For example, they can volunteer for some hours as sales persons at the store of a relative or trusted person. This will help them understand the process of buying and selling and perhaps, earn some cash.