It's July now, and after a few weeks of school-sponsored day
camp, the `biggie' will be upon us. Vacation. Last year I
took the easy way out and had a baby, leaving the kids in my
husband's care during bein hazemanim while I enjoyed a
five star vacation in Beit Hachlama. This year, I decided to
plan ahead to try to make this time as enjoyable and
fulfilling as possible for everyone.
* Don't rush the mornings. Savor the pleasure of not having
to beat the van or bus while you're still brushing hair and
putting together sandwiches. The kids don't need to be
hustled into their clothing by 7:30 if they'd rather not. And
allow yourself the time and nachas to sit down and
daven with your children, perhaps grouping them for
collective davening for the small ones while the
bigger ones are davening on their own. Perhaps you
might want to set a specific time each day to begin, to give
some structure to the day, and take the phone off the
* Before vacation descends, make the rounds of stationery,
kindergarten supply and 2 shekel stores in your area. Pick up
any interesting activity books, stickers, projects, tapes
that strike your fancy. There are many things to work with in
all price ranges. The owner of the store may be able to
advise you and help you chose age-appropriate activities as
well as offer innovative ideas for family projects.
This relatively small investment is well worth it. In the
morning, after the basics of dressing, davening,
breakfast and cleanup, sit the kids down to a surprise
project from your secret bag. You'll feel calm knowing you
have something planned and they will be thrilled to
[One project/outing can be to your nearest industrial center,
perhaps a printing place, where you can pick up interesting
rejects and defects.]
After about an hour of activity (you've joined them at it)
plus cleanup, they'll be happy for unstructured play with
their toys and each other.
* Let the children help you plan and prepare lunch. You may
want to plan a week's menu in advance, with them, and post it
up. [How about pita-falafel from scratch!] They can do some
of the shopping. And washing up -- in hot weather -- can also
be an enjoyable activity.
* It's a good idea to institute nap time, for you especially,
at least for half an hour if not more. Close the shutters
with enough light for reading. Or put on a story tape.
* Don't expect the degree of cleanliness you enjoy when they
are at school. Just keep the mess to a reasonable level.
* Plan simple outings for the afternoon when it begins to
cool off. This can be a local park, a picnic supper in a
grassy area, a one-fare long bus ride. Invite little neighbor
friends for a swimming pool or sprinkler.
* Go on a bigger outing once a week. You can visit relatives
in another town, go to a park with boating, the zoo,
beach/swimming pool, or coordinate with some factory, bakery
etc. for a free guided tour. They will usually be happy to
accommodate groups of ten and up.
* Try to keep the little ones on a schedule that includes
normal bedtime. You may decide to send these small ones to
kiddie day camps run by teenagers for cheap. Your daughters
may want to run one themselves, but be prepared and
forewarned for whatever it entails. Compare notes with those
who have run them in previous years.
* Incorporate story time or drama time, letting pairs or
threes of children (perhaps with neighbors and friends)
prepare stories or enact them with home- made costumes
according to a theme.
* Make preparing for Shabbos a pleasant activity. Include
baking, decorating, shopping, washing floors -- which can be
lots of fun if you lay down some rules and provide tips and
* Make up some easy sewing projects, like a decorated
pillowcase for pajamas, a mitten for baking or something else
useful, and useful crafts like a decorated calendar of
birthdays for the family etc.
Finally, be thankful and joyful and try to transmit as much
positive energy to your children during this marvelous
bonding time. Plan ahead to make the most of this