Things to do over the holidays… that’s really a hot topic right now. Cape Town kids are on winter break and there are weeks of free time ahead of them and I cannot tell you how many parents have asked me for ideas of things to do over the break.


Can I just say, that when the holidays actually hit… then I alternate big days out with lazy days at home… if too much is crammed into every moment of everyday then everyone gets tired and cranky… they will remember the rush and not much else. The thing is how to fill all that time, still keep your home running smoothly and stay just a little sane….

Lazy Days At Home Ideas

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  1. Set up some Challenges:
  2. Unless you want your kids to be glued to a screen for the entire holidays you need to set up some challenges. Read a chapter of a book everyday, draw something everyday, colour something, build something, cook something, clean out a drawer a day… spend half an hour outdoors everyday, write a letter to a friend everyday… create a gift wrap station and decorate a new sheet of paper everyday. Have a hot chocolate break from whatever they are doing at the same time everyday. Brainstorm with your kids they may very well have a good idea of what they want to do over the holidays… sleep late every day, have a movie marathon, learn how to make pancakes. Let them know that there will be a couple of surprise days… and then surprise them… there is nothing worse than telling a teenager that they can sleep late everyday… especially in winter, when you might want to surprise them with a dawn hike… they will moan like crazy (don’t ask me how I know this)… and love you for it later when they have instagram photos for days. Not to mention the middle of winter is about as late as you will ever be able to sleep for a dawn hike (just saying).

  3. Choose a Family Read Aloud:
  4. If you have never read a book as a family before, then now is the time to try it. When we are rolling through the holidays we read a chapter at the end of each meal… Family reading is a skill and you will all get better at it. To start with choose a book that has independent chapter stories, like Pippi Longstocking. Don’t for a moment think your older kids don’t want to be read to, and they “should read for themselves”. Everyone loves being read to, for older kids choose a book they want to read but might not tackle on their own: The Hobbit, or a Classic… If for instance you have never read a book like Anne of Green Gables together, or The Swiss Family Robinson… then now is the time. Last Winter we read “My Side of the Mountain” and all my kids literally hung on every word.

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  5. Board Games:
  6. My kids get obsessive about boardgames. They like to play the same game over and over again… it’s like the Monopoly craze, or the Chess craze and right now we are playing Scrabble again and again and again… What I do is leave a game or two out on the table for a week and then I change it out… on the first day I play with them, so that they get an idea of how the game works and what is socially acceptable… it is not okay to toss the dice across the room, it is okay to not bother to count the word score in Scrabble and just finish all your pieces. So I play with them once or twice and then leave it out.

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  7. Little Surprises:
  8. I leave little surprises lying around… I’ll buy a wordsearch book and tear off the pages, and I will find a couple of kids will complete a word search in a sunny spot for a couple of days. Then I will change it out… and put a couple of sudoku pages out… My kids will pick these up and do them for fun. But it is very much a case of less is more… I don’t leave twenty puzzle books out… I leave a few puzzle pages out, and I leave the same sort of puzzle out for days on end. I have found if I change it out to quickly they lose interest. It is almost like they need to do more than a handful to get into it, before they tire of it and move on.

  9. Puzzles:
  10. Puzzles work for some folk and not for others… some of my kids love a massive 1000 piece puzzle challenge at the start of the holidays, though most of us are not natural puzzle people. Some of my kids will work on a puzzle while they are listening to an audible… some of my kids choose to just listen, that’s okay. It’s an idea that I leave open.

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  11. Reading Hour:
  12. I insist on reading time after lunch, and I call it the reading half hour… everyone reads their own books… including me. This half hour inevitably turns into an hour of peace and quiet… don’t be concerned about what they are reading… if they are paging through a recipe book looking for food they want to try and make, or reading a magazine packed with adventures they might like to go on… it doesn’t matter what they are reading, as long as they aren’t disrupting anyone. Frankly, if you want your kids to read they have to see you reading… don’t make them read while you do all the chores… read along side them… this is your time too.

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  13. Get Moving Every Day:
  14. It is a great idea to get moving everyday, challenge your kids to a workout everyday: Let them use a workout app like the se7en-minute workout everyday, we use the free version of the app… it is literally seven minutes long and then you are done… a couple of weeks of holidays and you will notice the difference. Otherwise, go for a walk everyday. Even if you don’t live somewhere exciting a walk around the block or even to the store to buy something for lunch everyday or create errands… we are lucky enough to live near the beach, but often it is pure laziness that means we don’t wander down… if I set a challenge to walk along the beach at a certain time everyday and I tell my kids… to be sure there will always be at least one that will remember that I said we would go for a walk… whatever the weather, and we always enjoy it once we are out there.

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  15. The Local Library:
  16. Head for the library and stock up on piles of fresh books. My kids totally choose the books they want to read, and since I have tons of review books to read I pick a theme with my card… I might take out the whole Asterix series and leave it on the coffee table, or a whole series of “How to… Books.” Don’t fall into the trap of getting books that you think they should be reading, or books above their reading level… to “help” them with their reading… rather get masses of books just below their reading level… I would prefer my kids to read a pile of easy readers again and again, than battle their way through one paragraph of a classical classic and then give up. Otherwise, our library has free movie afternoons and activities, and you can take out audio books, puzzles, magazines, board games… your local library has a lot to offer and it is free. A nice lazy day option that actually lasts for days… I know the day we go to the library there is absolute silence for the next 24 hours as folk read through their library pile.

So those are some ideas of how to survive the holidays, I am sure there are many more ways to keep kids busy… its just a matter of putting your thinking caps on. That being said, I have to say that a little boredom goes a long way… you can leave them to their own devices and they will eventually get busy when they realise that you are just the parent and not the entertainment!!!

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