While many children count the days until their long summer break, the six-week holiday can be a testing time for carers whose job it is to take care of them. Entertaining restless youngsters through the heat of summer is a job unto itself, and can quickly turn your well-organised life into a bit of a juggling act.
Of course, that’s not to say the summer holidays can’t be fun for everyone. With some planning, patience and creative ideas, you can keep your foster children happy while enjoying a little of your own fun in the sun – and surely that’s what summer’s all about?
From our experience of working with dedicated foster carers across the country, we know that caring for children over the summer holidays can be tough. So, to help you get through the season with your sanity intact, here we offer a summer holiday survival guide for foster carers – full of practical tips for keeping the family happy, healthy and entertained throughout the summer and beyond.
- Keeping the Children Happy and Healthy
- Budget-Friendly Boredom Beaters
- Are We There Yet? Essential Tips for Long Car Journeys
Keeping the Children Happy and Healthy
Without the daily distraction of school, it’s up to you to make sure children stay happy and healthy throughout the summer. From making sure they get plenty of exercise to avoiding excessive screen-time, here we share essential tips on maintaining your foster child’s health and happiness over the six-week break.
- Let Them Play Outdoors
A lot of parents and carers worry about letting their children play outside, and while caution and care are certainly needed, why not encourage them to play out in the garden whenever possible? Outdoor play will help them get plenty of exercise, keep them social and will burn off plenty of energy, increasing the chance of restful evenings while minimising how many hours a day they spend glued to screens.
Tip – with more outdoor play than usual; it’s important youngsters wear enough sunscreen. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit to hand, and encourage them to wash their hands after coming indoors. A one-a-day allergy tablet will help keep hay fever sniffles away, too.
- Find a Way to Resolve Children’s Squabbles Quickly
With more time spent together, children often have disagreements and arguments. Over a long holiday, feuds between family members can really start to get tiresome, so it helps if you can resolve squabbles quickly.
One of the most effective ways to defuse an argument is to separate the children, giving them quiet time away from each other to simmer down and collect their thoughts. Make sure you distract them with an activity or game, so they can stay focused and quickly forego their anger and stress. Generally, the more bored children are, the more likely they are to fight, so keep them stimulated with fun activities to enjoy a peaceful household this summer.
- Watch Their Diet
We get that you’ll want to treat the children in the holidays, especially when you’re on family days out. But to keep things healthy, try limiting treat meals to a maximum of three per week, and put a lock on the snacks cupboard. If your foster child has favourite healthy term-time meals, stick to these during the holidays.
Budget-Friendly Boredom Beaters
“I’m bored!” is something most parents and carers have heard at one time or another, and especially during the long summer holiday. It can be challenging to keep children stimulated and entertained week after week, so here we offer 10 budget-friendly ideas that will help you bust summer boredom in your fostering household.
1. Make an effort to eat outside – A simple enough idea to start, but one can keep children happy. There’s something really great about getting together as a family to eat outside, and many foster children will like it even more if you light the BBQ. On a slight aside, barbecuing is a great trick to get children trying new, healthier foods such as grilled fish and veggies.
2. Camp out – Many children love camping, so if you’ve got an old tent in the attic, why not dust it off and let them sleep outside? Nothing is more guaranteed to rouse their excitement than a family camping slumber party.
3. Get them gardening – Encouraging children to get into gardening could be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a foster carer in the summer months. Whether you choose to grow fruits and vegetables or a full flowerbed, it’s a great way to spend time together without breaking the bank.
4. Make your own pizza – Rather than relying on greasy and expensive takeaways to silence your children’s appetite for treats, get them interested by hosting a make your own pizza night. Combining two of the great joys of childhood (pizza and faffing), this is sure to be a hit.
5. Dig out your old board games – Although board games are becoming less favourable than smartphones and computer games in the eyes of many children, they’ll still capture their imagination. If you need a peaceful afternoon to yourself, handing a stack of games to the children will keep them content for hours.
6. Make use of your local park – Whether they’re big, small or have a play area, many children love parks, so be sure to make the most of them. There’s no cheaper day out, and yet a visit to the park usually delivers.
7. Picnic regularly – When you take children on day trips and outings, there’s often an expectation to take them for expensive meals out, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of searching for a restaurant, pack a picnic wherever you go. Many children will love eating their favourite foods and snacks in the great outdoors, and you’ll save a shedload if you make it out of things you already had in the fridge.
8. Search for free museums and days out – Whether it’s museums or galleries, there are lots of free attractions out there for families on a budget. Head to Google and search for free museums or days out, and it’ll automatically bring up free-access attractions in your local area.
9. Hit the beach – For many kids, there’s really nothing better than a trip to the beach in the summer, and here in the UK, we’re all lucky to live pretty close to the nearest stretch of coast. A day at the beach is totally free – made cheaper if you pack a picnic – and can keep the whole family happy.
10. Host a family movie night – Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a night-in, so even if you’ve been trying to keep the children away from screens, a family movie night is a great way to get everyone together and keep little ones entertained.
Are We There Yet? Essential Tips for Long Car Journeys
Whether you’re heading to a British beach or trekking to the airport for a week in the sun, chances are you’ll be taking a long car journey with children at some point over the summer. Hours spent in the car can be difficult for you and the children, but there are a few things you can do to make the journey go more smoothly.
- Pack Snacks
Few things distract children quite like snacks, so make sure you have some to hand during long car journeys. Fruit is the obvious choice here, but if that doesn’t go down well aim for savoury alternatives that won’t make them hyperactive. We’re not saying letting the children eat snacks in the car won’t be messy, but a few crumbs are a small price to pay for a few minutes of quiet time.
- Make Frequent Stops
Don’t expect to get from point A to point B without making any stops. Many children need to move around and let their energy out, so you can avoid restlessness by stopping every 1-2 hours. With a bit of careful planning, you can turn these rest stops into miniature days out and sightseeing opportunities, which can keep your children’s interest piqued.
- Rely on Old School Travel Games
From I Spy to Twenty Questions, traditional travel games can still bring some light relief to a carful of road-weary children.
- Be Aware of Travel Sickness
If you’ve never shared a long car journey with your foster child, be aware of the signs of travel sickness, as they may not feel confident enough to tell you how they’re feeling until it’s too late. Children show symptoms such as paleness, dizziness and headaches when they’re unwell in the car, so at the first sign you should pull over and let them get some fresh air.
- Make a Road Trip Singalong Playlist
While the idea of driving for hours listening to children’s music may be enough to put some people off going on holiday, it is a good way to keep them happy and entertained over long journeys. The right playlist can actually help children to relax and overcome symptoms of travel sickness, so it’s something to look into before you travel.
At the NFA, we offer expert support to our foster families day and night throughout the year, helping them through the ups and downs of all four seasons. For more information on becoming a foster carer with us, visit the homepage or call us now on 0330 022 9135.