Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
A New Year has arrived, and whilst we look to 2022 with optimism, once again we do not have the start to the year that many of us anticipated. Schools are closed physically, with very few offering online teaching. Working from home is strongly encouraged and is becoming the norm.
For some parents, this extended holiday period will be a joy and a pleasure and, for others, a real struggle to juggle work, childcare and finding activities that will not break the bank and keep all ages amused.
Promisingly, with the booster vaccines on schedule in Portugal and the reassurances of the Prime Minister, schools are expected to reopen in the second week of January.
So, what should your children be doing in this extended holiday period? Many parents will be concerned about whether to help their children with additional learning led by themselves or enjoy the time how they wish.
If that means non-stop screen time and overindulgence of the left-over Christmas chocolates, then perhaps this week should and could be used in a much more constructive way for your children and yourself.
Children enjoy and respond to structure. Now is the time to encourage your children to get up at normal school time, get dressed out of their pyjamas, have breakfast together and talk about plans for the day.
New Year’s Resolutions traditionally focus on being healthier and more active, especially after the Christmas slump. We are in the beautiful Algarve. Encourage your children to be outside as much as possible. There are so many activities to engage in that won’t break the bank:
▪ You can go for long family beach walks together. There are some beautiful beaches to explore – Armação de Pêra, Galé, Praia Grande, to name but a few.
▪ Explore the area around you. Make it fun and interesting by looking for different types of wildlife/species of flowers, etc.
▪ You can design and make a herb/vegetable garden and, as a family, take part in its construction.
▪ Or simply encourage the creation of outdoor dens and bivouacs using natural materials and sticks.
▪ Now is the time to involve your children in the Christmas recycling by developing lifelong habits of carefully separating the recycling, walking to the recycling station, and doing this together.
▪ Going on a family bike ride. The weather is particularly good at the moment and the roads are quiet.
▪ Outdoor picnics are lots of fun, easy, and quick to organise.
For those of us who are working from home, these activities will have to be saved for out of office hours. Nevertheless, there is so much your children can be doing at home:
▪ Set them a project around the home – for instance, younger children can use their Lego to create a famous landmark, older ones can investigate the legacies of Ancient Greece, find out about a famous writer, sports star or person that interests them like Greta Thunberg.
▪ Set a reading challenge involving the books you already have at home.
▪ They can also create their own New Year’s Resolutions, and detail how they are going to carry them out and, importantly, keep them.
▪ There are also numerous websites easily found on Google that present a range of interactive educational activities, like virtual museum tours offering the opportunity for children to explore museums all over the world.
The best way is to see this time as one that we should all embrace wholeheartedly, no matter how difficult it is to juggle our own online work or commitments and acknowledge the importance of this additional family time together. Make time for quality interactive time spent with your children, when both children and parents are fully engaged in an activity.
Switch off Netflix, put down all mobile devices including phones and get out the playing cards, play a family game of Monopoly or hold a quiz night, because quality time together strengthens the familial bond and makes children feel secure and loved.
‘Family time is the most import time in the world’
– Princess Diana