By Kate Halim

Many parents are at a loss about how to keep their children busy during the long holiday period. Children are easily bored while on holidays and not knowing how to keep them entertained can frustrate parents.

Yemi Dabiri, a counsellor and Child Protection Advocate told Saturday Sun that there is danger when children are not engaged during school holiday because they can fall into the wrong hands or follow bad company.

Dabiri noted that to avoid these potential dangers, parents should arrange fun and enjoyable activities to keep their children busy until they get back to school. She added that parents should also participate in these activities because they can turn out to be teaching moments for their children no matter their age bracket.

She said: “For it to be a success, children should be engaged in arranging these activities and be given an opportunity to give their opinion.”

Dabiri said that some parents use the holiday period to engage their children in another series of academic activities by hiring home tutors for them but she noted that while this may not be entirely bad, experts have advised parents and guardians to use holidays to engage their children in other activities apart from academics.

She stated that keeping children busy with entertaining exercises will create balance in the children’s minds and will also make them look forward to another holiday. Dabiri listed some activities that children should be engaged in that will keep them busy and entertained at the same time.

Educate them about your family history

According to Dabiri, the holiday season is when parents can teach their children all they need to know about where they come from. She said it is the perfect opportunity to inform and educate them about their parents’ culture, local food, dance, eulogies and family tree. She added that the children will obviously find it interesting and look up to learning more new things. She said that research indicate that people who know their family history tend to have high self esteem too.

Teach them to give back to society

Dabiri said that volunteering as a family is an effective way to teach children empathy, an essential skill that helps us relate well with other people, build healthy and happy relationships with family and friends, and collaborate with others at work or school.

“When you do volunteer work as a family, you are setting a good example for your children by showing them what it means to be charitable and compassionate to the less privileged and they will learn from you how to relate with other people.”

Take them to watch movies and stage plays

The counsellor noted that over the years, movies have played a crucial role in influencing and inspiring children. She said that movies and plays are a form of entertainment and at the same time a fun-filled method that impact the psychological development of children positively.

“Key life lessons are the concluding morals of typical children movies. This is the reason parents should carefully select the movies that their children should watch. The icing on the cake is to just sit beside them with some popcorn and ice cream and enjoy the movies together.,” she noted.

Get them involved in the kitchen

You want your child to feel responsible? Try involving them in the kitchen and their response and interest will surprise you, revealed Dabiri . She said that the entire idea of preparing their meal will excite them and they will start taking and following instructions joyfully because they know they are involved in making their food. The joy they will exude while serving and appreciating the food they have prepared together is always a memory to cherish.

Visit the museum or zoo

Dabiri said: “A trip to a museum or zoo will make your children more knowledgeable and will leave them inspired too. Visiting tourism centres such as museums and zoo can be fun for the children and it can also be an educational moment for them to learn new things.”

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Let them participate in outdoor activities

Dabiri said that if you leave children for a long time, you will find them engrossed with watching television, playing computer games and fiddling with their gadgets for hours without walking around.

“This is not healthy because they are not moving around but outdoor activities will help them stay fit by burning calories during the day. Outdoor activities such as cycling, skipping rope, hide and seek and picnicking can help children be more physically active and create relaxing moments. It’s in such moments that children can open up to their parents,” she stated.

Also during these activities children get to interact with other people and learning social skills. Parents can also take the children to enjoy themselves bouncing castle, face painting and doing train rides.

Vocational training

Dabiri said that parents should devote time during the long holidays to engage their children with skill acquisition and vocational trainings. She stated that it is important for children to start early to learn skills and vocations which will enable them gain specialised skills.

“Trainings in various fields such as cooking, crafts and art like tailoring, hair making, web design and programming, coding etc will stimulate children’s minds and keep them busy.  Parents can also engage them in learning self-defence skills, listening to podcasts about money management, communication and critical thinking skills.

Mary Ohagwasi is an educator and social advocate based in Lagos. She said that the long vacation is a period of longer break between the end of a school year and the beginning of another school year and it is important to note that young children and their teachers need some time to unwind, rest and enjoy favourable activities they could not before now due to academic workload.

Ohagwasi stated that there are lots of activities that these young ones can be engaged with beyond playing with their gadgets and watching television.

Said she: “The long vacation is a good period to allow children explore other areas of their interest such as art and crafts, visiting new places, playing outdoor games, playing with other children, general reading, and coding.”

She added that children can also use the opportunity to learn how to cook, how to bake cake and other confectioneries, learn graphics design, visit summer camps and equally enrolling in their school summer classes if they promises to go beyond academics.

In summary, Ohagwasi said that the long vacation is a very important season for parents to bond with their children, have leisure and equally learn outside the classroom.

A teacher, Mr. Chubuike Nnaji listed some ways children can be kept busy during the long holidays and also keep them looking forward to more entertaining exercises.

Host a holiday-themed movie party/sleepover

He said that parents can have a few of the children’s friends over for a fun afternoon or night if they want to make it a sleepover of watching holiday movies. He added that parents can provide a few snacks or have them help in making a home made pizza.

Give your children a dramatic performance at home

Nnaji said that parents can write a script, sew costumes and act home dramas. He said that it would be more fun if the rules are simple such as putting one child in charge who gets to direct the play. “The others must go along with it. You will need to have a day like this for each child. The one in charge gets to direct, assign roles and costumes. You get to watch the finished project.”

Play board games with your children

Nnaji said that parents can put their children to the test with different board game challenge. He added that for this activity to be appealing to children, parents can set up a championship and the children will spend all day competing for prizes. He said that this will encourage the children to do better at board games and other games since they know they win a prize.