Vacation time is here again. Can you say that you feel the
same joy and relief that filled your hearts as
schoolchildren at this time?
Teachers don't need to seek this joy; it bursts forth
spontaneously just as it does with their students. But you
mothers have the age-old problem of keeping the children
occupied for two long months without a real framework. Day
camps solve part of the problem, but there remains the Bein
Hazemanim afterwards when everyone is home with loads of
time on their hands. How can we fill this time positively so
as to leave a good taste and pleasant memories for both
children and parents?
Miriam, an experienced parenting expert and guidance
counsellor, suggests that we include the entire family in
planning the vacation. "To be sure, it is the parents who
have the final word, and everything must have their seal of
approval, still, it is important that the children hear what
will take place in the home in the near future. This,
incidentally, is a good idea for the rest of the year, as
well. It is very good for a child to know that in the coming
week, these things will be bought and in the following week,
others. On this day we will be going here and another day,
doing something else. This includes visits to the dentist,
family bar mitzvas etc., purchase of school supplies or a
visit to family or the supermarket. This way, a child
experiences everything in a deeper, more meaningful way and
is more of a partner or active participant.
"I have often asked a group of women what vacation means to
them. Their spontaneous reactions expressed an attitude of
something threatening, exhausting, difficult. Few mothers
considered it a challenge." Miriam offers ideas following
one definite pattern: to utilize this time for the enjoyment
and benefit of all.
THE TOGETHERNESS FACTOR
"One good hour with the family," she says, "is a time when
everyone is seated around the table, even the two-year-old.
He won't be contributing any ideas, but he will definitely
be included in the feeling of togetherness. This is how to
begin planning what you'd like to do with your vacation.
Throw ideas around, brainstorm, with each member making
their suggestions and the parents examining them seriously,
and then deciding. Make a list of the reasonable
possibilities in order of preference. Parents can learn a
lot about what preoccupies a child's imagination. Such a
"round table discussion" requires effort but it is a golden
chance to deepen our relationships with our children."
Parents should come prepared with ideas of their own. A
lackadaisical approach or slim choice of possibilities will
create an atmosphere of boredom of `really, there is nothing
worthwhile doing.' And even if the ideas only originate from
the parents, give the children the options of choosing and
feeling they are part of the decision making.
Arranging family albums according to certain topics. You can
choose "The Developing Family," which begins with Abba and
Ima as children, passing on to their wedding etc. With lots
of pictures to work from, you can create different kinds of
"How about choosing certain chapters from neviim to
tell?" suggests Miriam. This requires preparation, but there
are many reference works to be had. You can also have a
Story Hour focusing on various gedolim of our people,
in turn. Recommended for the participation of fathers, as
There are always table games or large (500-2000 piece)
jigsaw puzzles that can be done on a table and covered
over with cardboard or polygal during mealtimes (or
laid under a matress on a wooden bed etc.). When parents
join in a table game, it is that much more fun, even for the
"I know of a father who wanted to learn with his seven-year-
old son, but the boy was never in the mood. He naturally
preferred to ride his bike. The father asked his son what he
would like them to do together and he said: `Play tag around
the living room table.' So be it. They pushed the furniture
aside and began chasing one another. The father had a hard
time catching the slippery tyke but every once in a while,
the boy gave in and let himself be caught. After two days of
this, the boy said, `After we play tag for a while, let's
sit down and learn.' What had happened? The father had met
his son at a point that was important to him and the boy was
then able to relate to the father at his junction."
Vacation is just such a time where parents and children can
meet halfway at points that are mutually important.
Vacation is the time to invest in a new game! But don't go
to a store to shop around! First discuss the purchase with
the children. They can ask their friends what's worthwhile
and experiment with them at their homes. In general, an
important rule is not to work around the problems but around
their solutions. Not: I'm bored/ I have nothing to do/ Yanky
is bothering me, but around the solutions. Where shall
we go. What shall we do. What shall we buy. To be sure, each
outing, especially to stores, requires a debriefing before
to avoid the frustrations of children with "big eyes."
Let older children occupy the young ones. Tell the
older child to prepare an activity. Involve him, challenge
him to make it an interesting responsibility.
Make a break in the daily schedule. Get up early to
see the sunrise from a nice site near the house. Prepare the
children with an explanation of the tefilla: Yotzer
ohr... Hameir lo'oretz..., perhaps with a small
demonstration of a ball revolving on an axis around a
beachball-sun. Use a flashlight for a day-night effect. Talk
about shadows. The need for nighttime.
Enjoy the fresh feeling of morning when there are no people
or traffic around. Coordinate the actual sunrise with your
prayers. Go to the Kosel or lehavdil, the beach or a
mountaintop, or a desert scene near your house. Or anywhere
between buildings where you can spot the horizon. Sunset is
almost as nice. After davening, create a mood by soft
talking, then relax with a roll and chocolate milk picnic
In general, says Miriam, whenever you plan to go somewhere,
talk about it beforehand. Create the mood, anticipate it,
sing about it, perhaps a homemade song. Feel it through and
You can't escape the fact that you are home most of the
time. How about preparing a quiz? In rhyme, with hints, not
too hard, not too simple.
Tell a story in installments over a few days time.
The children can write a story, too, with one or two
beginning, another child taking over, and so on, and on. Buy
a long roll of paper and have the children draw on it,
either simultaneously, or in sequence, with one taking over
from another, including Ima. It can tell a story, with or
without captions, about the family or can be imaginary. Give
them free rein.
Don't forget to give each child a bit of individual
attention. How? When the whole family is busy at some
project, take one child aside for fifteen minutes of
undivided attention. Talk to him, play with him, listen.
Then take another child. Don't feel you have to make the
entire rounds in one day.
THE DAILY SCHEDULE
Rivka, a mother and teacher, insists on a weekly schedule
which she draws on a large sheet of paper and posts on the
frig. Broken up to hours, it includes rising,
davening, breakfast, morning activity, lunch etc.
She also likes to create interesting breakfasts, buffet
style, with different kinds of spreads, cheeses, vegetables
attractively cut up, eggs in various ways (mushroom
omelettes), all temptingly laid out, like a hotel. You may
introduce new foods and spices, like cheese and dill etc.,
use colored disposables. "After all the trips and visits, it
was the breakfasts that the kids remembered most from last
Nechama took her children to an industrial area where they
picked up all kinds of scraps and saw production in action.
Her girls then supervised art projects like sunglasses,
purses, etc. A Jerusalemite, she visits the natural spring
at Lifta (for free), hikes to Motza or the Castel and so
Not to be forgotten is the marvelous guide put out by the
"Vaada Lemaan Hashabbos" listing Shomrei Shabbos pools,
museums, attractions, zoos, hotels, eateries, van services,
gas stations. Call 03-5791053 for your copy.
Rachel suggests you buy all kinds of paint materials and let
the children have a ball. Spread newspapers and put on
aprons/old shirts/large garbage bags cut down the back for
safety with holes for arms and head (supervise). Buy lots of
coloring books (you can zerox the pages). Paint old toys and
How about scavenger hunts with clues. Planned beforehand,
with prizes. Or a peanut hunt -- that's great fun!
Make a neighborhood newspaper, for a few families, your
building. Include stories, drawings, quizzes and puzzlers.
You can even sell them for a minimal price to cover
Put your tape recorder to use and tape stories with sound
effects or make a play for your friends, home made puppet
shows, a concert.
Buy simple musical instruments like a melodica or harmonica
and learn to play by ear.
There are many do-it-yourself craft books, simple cookbooks
etc. worth investing in; these can be bought second hand.
Rabbi Monk from Bnei Brak put out a booklet on how to keep
busy during vacation. He suggests visiting factories, like a
shofar factory, a tzitzis workshop, a Shaatnez
laboratory, a Moshav that keeps Shemita.
Create playgroups, even for schoolgirls, and have each
mother do her specialty, be it baking, crafts, visiting an
interesting place, gymnastics, dance, or supervising them at
There is no end to ideas. We've just tapped the barrel.
Enjoy, and to your good health!