What to do when the kids are home from school

Before I had kids of my own, my friend Jane already had two. I’ll never forget when she said, “Pam. School is the best invention.”

 empty classroom

With school vacation underway, a lot of parents I talk to say they feel overwhelmed having their kids home for 2-3 weeks. Some feel pressure to entertain their child at all times. Others worry that their kids will fight with each other nonstop. We all fear that the stress of constant togetherness will lead to yelling, screaming, and fighting. So, what can we do to make school vacation a time of rest, relaxation, and fun?



This may seem like the antithesis of vacation, but structure is important for everyone…little ones, teenagers, and adults alike. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it helps give us a sense of security. Structure during vacation doesn’t need to be overly rigid, but a little bit helps keep family drama at bay.


There are many schools, camps, and other venues that offer Winter camps during school vacations. If you can afford it, even for a few days, this is a great option for giving your kids structure during the break. They provide activity, entertainment, and socialization.


If Winter camp isn’t a possibility in your area or not in the budget, try to structure your days at home, and stick to routines regarding mealtimes and sleep. Plan some activities by stocking up on arts and crafts supplies at Michaels. Make a schedule of events for the break and try to follow it, but allow for some flexibility. Go over each day’s events with your child ahead of time so she understands your expectations and give her some choices, too, so she’s involved in the planning.


Things like grocery shopping and other errands (you still have to get things done, after all) can be included in your schedule. Make them fun and educational. Your kids can help by putting food in the grocery cart, putting mail in the mailbox, or cooking with you. Yes, it’s easier to do these things alone, but letting them help (and not freaking out when things don’t go exactly the way you want them to) helps them learn new skills, gives them a sense of achievement, and allows them to contribute to the family. However, you need to know your child’s limitations (and your own). We all get cranky when we’re hungry and tired, so plan accordingly. When you’re out and about, bring snacks and activities such as books, crayons, or toys and keep your eye on the clock.


Quiet time.

When you’re creating your schedule, don’t forget to plan downtime. I’m all for togetherness, but too much can sometimes feel suffocating and lead to conflict. Quiet time can include a nap (my favorite!) or some other calm activity such as reading, coloring, playing with stuffed animals, or even watching (limited, educational, commercial-free, non-violent) TV. With little ones who may be resistant to the idea of quiet time, you can set a timer for 30 minutes and let them know that when the timer goes off, quiet time is over. There are timers out there like this one that allow your child to see how much time is left on the timer, so they don’t keep calling, “Mommy! Is it time yet?”



Find another parent from your child’s class and see if you can have a playdate. If your child is old enough to stay at a friend’s by himself, offer to have a playdate at your house one day and at theirs another. Tip: Discuss potential conflicts with your child ahead of time. For example, what toys are ok to share with his friend? Which toys does he want to put away? Let him know that when you arrive at his friend’s house to pick him up and say it’s time to go, you expect him to leave without complaining, whining, or arguing. Decide ahead of time and let him know what the consequences (both positive and negative) will be for sticking to the plan.


Let them be bored.

“I’m bored” is a classic gauntlet. Don’t pick it up! Resist the urge to say, “How can you possibly be bored with all those presents you just got?” Refrain from offering choices. Simply say something like, “Hmm, that’s a bummer. I can’t stand it when I’m bored. What are you going to do?” Let them get creative and solve their own dilemma. When they realize you’re not going to get reactive and pick up the gauntlet, they’ll most likely figure something out.


Get help.

Like I said, sometimes too much togetherness is just…too much. If you can hire a babysitter or ask a friend or relative to watch the kids for a few hours one day, you can use that time to take care of yourself by getting things done, taking a rest (or a shower!), or whatever makes you feel rejuvenated so you can be the best parent you can be.


Give them your undivided attention.

Embrace the fact that you have all this time with your child and enjoy it. Put down the cell phone, step away from the computer, and really engage with your kids. Play with them, snuggle, laugh, be silly. Before you know it, vacation with be over and it’ll be time to go back to school.


How are you and your kids spending Winter break? Do you have any other great tips to share for what to do when the kids are home from school? Please help get the discussion going by leaving a comment below.


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Showing 3 comments
  • Kathleen

    Timely! School holidays are coming up soon. I really like the response to I’m bored. Will use it.

    I currently say, how can you be bored with all these toys or why don’t you do x, y, or z.

    No more boredom busting suggestions. Yay!

  • Kristy

    Pam, I love the variety and practical nature of your suggestions.

    I agree that kids thrive off schedules and routines, but also benefit from quiet time and opportunities to explore and play. So important for their development.

    I also agree that many parents today feel under pressure to constantly entertain kids. Boredom is great and necessary for children. I believe it can be a catalyst for their creativity.

  • Helen Butler

    We’re on eight weeks holiday at the moment Pam (summer holidays for us) and I always find the first few weeks building up to Christmas go really slowly, and then in the New Year it all goes too quickly! It’s like there’s a change in energy in that time.

    Our Mr 8 goes to Vacation Care two or three days a week. He’s old enough now to pick the days he wants to go. We also have fun time together when he’s home – one of our favourite days is PJ day where we spend the whole day in our PJs, watch movies, play board games, hang out together. It’s a little ritual of ours and we love it!

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