Unlike previous years, we have decided not to join the mass exodus of expats for the Summer while the sprogs are on holidays. This presents some interesting challenges as normally, back in Australia and New Zealand the kids and I are so rushed off our feet with commitments to family and friends and fun the time flies and the holidays flow quickly.
Seven looooong weeks … what to do? What to do? The weather here is hot and sticky … and you never know if it is going to suddenly rain or not due to a maritime airstream or typhoon. Being outdoors can be a challenge which means we have had to find some diverse indoor activities to keep the kids occupied.
Staying in Hong Kong for me requires a different approach to keep the kids engaged and stimulated. My approach is two-fold. Firstly, I want the kids to keep up with some of their core skills – reading, writing, math and art – so we have activity time every day. Secondly I want them to get out and explore beyond our apartment complex. This breaks up the time spent at home and gives them various things to look forward to outside their normal routine extra-curricula activities… and provides motivation to do things they feel they shouldn’t have to over summer such as their Mandarin class. I am not above ‘bribing’ my kids with the reward of doing something fun.
There are a bucket-load of movies coming out in Hong Kong over the summer. As movies tend to only stay on the big screen for a couple of weeks here, I can virtually schedule a new movie for each week. Epic, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Turbo, Planes, Smurfs 2 … the list seems to go on. I asked the kids which movies they wanted to see the most and we have made a list so we can spread them over the summer as they come out … IF the kids are good. To mix things up we’re also going to different cinemas taking us all over Hong Kong and Kowloon exploring different parts of the city including areas the kids and I haven’t been before.
Wednesdays in Hong Kong most museums offer free entry, so the kids have chosen a few museums we can explore on Wednesdays over the Summer break. Exploring not only happens in the actual museum itself, but also in the challenge of how to get there; do we take a train, bus, tram, ferry? We make an adventure out of the day, we read maps, we talk about what we are seeing around us. The next day I ask them to write and draw about their adventure. They are happy to recount what the did and actually LEARN stuff from these trips – who’d’ve thought!
There are indoor playgrounds, and of course my kids are never ones to turn down the chance for lunch out. Trips to places like Funzone in Kennedytown and Jumping Gym (all over Hong Kong) are a great exercise burner in air-conditioned bliss. When my kids were smaller we used to go to the free government run indoor playgrounds (the one in Happy Valley used to be the best) but sadly they have outgrown them now.
There are plenty of fun things to do at home too! I try to limit my kids TV and console time during the holidays. If I let them watch TV or play on the Wii they will do so all day and I don’t think that is particularly healthy for them. My restrictions are generally that TV or Wii is afternoon/evening only or morning only – not all day. A little TV isn’t a bad thing, especially since my children do like watching shows like “The Zoo” and documentaries … go on – ask Mitchell how a 747-8 or A380 is constructed, I DARE ya! By limiting the TV I find my kids want to PLAY more. I’m a huge advocate of play as it fuels imagination, creativity and learning in its own right. Of course it also means there are times when I find my lounge, hallway and Mitchell’s room have been turned into one mega-sized airport and I have to tip toe through the terminal of commercial airliners he has set up – but that’s OK.
Most mornings I give the kids a simple project or set of tasks to complete, normally involving art and craft (the fun stuff) so they don’t realise they are doing ‘school-work’. For example – painting – I supply only the 3 primary colours of red, blue and yellow (and white and black). They have to create any other colours they want by combining colours. It’s an easy task, but one that makes them think about consequences. Once they’ve created their painting I ask them to write a paragraph describing what their painting is about. Obviously a paragraph from a 6 year old is vastly different than a paragraph from an 8 year old but I’m not looking for right or wrong here. I am looking to make the kids think about what they painted, why they painted it and how to express that in words beyond the art itself.
I do the crafts with them. My philosophy is I don’t get them to do anything I wouldn’t do; I believe if I participate they get to see what I create and learn to extend their own creativity. Maybe I’m being naive, but I figure it can’t hurt AND I get to have fun too. We laugh together and sometimes I do something silly on purpose which leads to some interesting conversations and observations from the kids, but again the lesson I am aiming for here is being creative doesn’t always need to ‘conform’ to what is expected. Thinking outside the box can and is a good thing for my children to develop as it is something they will have to be able to do in the real world when they get older.
Some days we cook. In my opinion the kitchen is a fabulous place to learn to create, follow instruction and most importantly apply maths in a practical setting. Measurement, addition and subtraction, estimation, weight … all are critical to cooking successfully; all are fun to learn while you are cooking and baking. As the sprogs have gotten older I do less of the work as they also seek to use their independence to make the recipes by themselves (or together – TEAMWORK!) as much as possible. The added bonus for them is the reward of eating what they make and the satisfaction of sharing it with others.
Yeah – having the kids home over summer is a lot of work but who wants their kids bored, disinterested in using their brains and gnawing at your heels for 7 or 8 weeks?
Not I! Not I!
A little preparation and commitment means my kids are stimulated, eager, learning and ENJOYING their break while stuck at home.
No, I’m not a teacher – just a mum – a mum who wants to instil the joy of learning into her kids outside of school as much as in.