Stuck for childcare ideas for the December holidays after a year of lockdowns and no leave left?

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"My favourite memories as a kid are of being together with all my cousins during the holidays"
"My favourite memories as a kid are of being together with all my cousins during the holidays"

That time of year has finally come around, when it's time for parents with kids to finally take the summer family vacation.

Unfortunately between lockdowns and Covid positive results, exposure and self isolation at home, the pandemic has decimated our leave and we have had to rethink our holidays to match our remaining time away from work.

As full time working parents with two school-going kids and no childcare for the six weeks of Christmas holidays coming up, we have come up with a couple of ideas and ways to manage this, which I'm sharing here in case it helps you think of something that wasn't obvious to you already.

Here is how my family is tackling this tricky time this year: 

Schools in, grab the extra care hours while you can

For the first time ever, we're sending the kids to aftercare at their school. Just getting to the end of the year is proving problematic, with everyone we normally rely on already unavailable, so we've leaned into one of the safest places they have: aftercare at their school.

Our youngest doesn't actually enjoy it, so we can bring him home and let him play on his own with his toys, which he enjoys after school and can do without much active supervision, just an ear out and eye on from time to time.

The two little munchkins, together, requires a lot more active supervision, so this is a split which helps us get some more work done during the day.

They also enjoy their time together more when they come back together later in the day.

Schools out, but we're still not

This year we've also discovered that thankfully many schools, including ours, have holiday clubs. Our oldest loves aftercare and the extra time with her bestie, so she is delighted to spend that extra time at school this holiday, but unfortunately our youngest doesn't have the same inclination. 

Luckily the two of them will be together for the holiday club and our youngest will now be with his bestie too: his big sister.

Split holidays for the parents

It's not perfect, but gets us twice as much coverage with the little leave we have. I'm taking the first 'shift' and we're planning on getting out the house as much as we can, with beach trips, forest walks and camping in the garden.

Not to leave her out completely, we'll have Mama around for her lunch breaks and some special time together for everyone.

Then when I go back to the office, she's on duty for a week or two and will relish her one-on-one time with the children. 

Split working hours

When we can't take leave, we have tried to negotiate flexibility with work.

One parent works the mornings and the evenings after kiddies bedtime and the other works afternoons and evenings after kiddie bedtime, which gets us a full day of child care and a full day of work.

Assuming your work allows it, there's quite a bit of flexibility in how you do this, but it is quite tiring, so use it sparingly!

A benefit of this is that the kids get to spend a lot of time with us, and they really enjoy that. 

Play dates

An old favourite and works well if you have people you trust and your kids want to be with.

In our experience, having a good friend over for a playdate feels like having fewer kids, not more, around, as they play together and don't want to be bothered by adults. 

Remember to return the favour, their parents are probably in the same position with leave after this past year!

Activity parks and a laptop

Getting your kids out to a play park where they have some safe supervision and you just having an eye on them works well too, as you take out your laptop, grab a coffee and knock some work out. 

A coffee shop with a playground could work too, even a wine farm or similar safe space they can explore while you catch up on emails. 

Family family family

My favourite memories as a kid are of being together with all my cousins during the holidays. A pack of 6+ kids will get up to a lot of mischief, but usually self manage quite well if there are a few older kids around.

And, with many kids, there are many parents, so one parent can keep an eye on the group, while the rest get their work done.

With my parents who are getting a bit older, going to their house for a play date works quite well. My mom is happy to play with them and look after them, but I'm around to facilitate their harder feelings or demands, while getting some work done on the side.

I'm always happy to say "'n boer maak 'n plan" and work out our way forwards in a truly South African way, and we are looking forward to this holiday break, even adjusted as it is, to spend time with the kids and have some fun. 

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