Dear Stupid Parents,
With half-term just around the corner, it can be tempting to fret about what the hell to do with your offspring for seven whole days but worry not, I have the week mapped out for you in pain-free, totally acceptable fun for all the family. Nope, you won’t have to pay £5 for your pre-schooler to attend a music class so you can watch other people’s children clap, sing and look like they give a damn while yours is more determined to climb on top of the group leader and snot on her face. And don’t worry about having to repeat everything you say 12 times at increasing volumes to the old dears at the local library who run ‘Children’s Book Read, Analyse and Review Club’ or whatever the hell it’s called. And you certainly don’t have to force yourself to drink lukewarm coffee and eat stale custard creams at the church play group just for something to do and/or to stop your kids driving you so mad at home that they run the risk of being sat on the front step with a sign saying ‘Free to
Good Pretty Much Any Home.’
So here it is, friends, just for you, a tried and tested list of alternative activities to do with your small people that they’ll love* and you won’t hate.**
DAY 1: THE ZOO
No, don’t worry, not The zoo – ‘zoo’ is used here for the benefit of very young/quite stupid children. Where I say zoo, read ‘nearest pet shop.’ This is my husband’s favourite on a wet weekend when we’re hungover and a bit skint. The trick here, is to pick one that’s pretty big with a reasonably varied array of animals on show; even if this means having to trek a bit further, it’s worth it. It means the kids won’t get bored as quickly and it’s less likely that the staff will figure out what you’re doing and call security to have you removed. We can get a good couple of hours at our ‘zoo’ if we go well before nap time. You might also want to think about finding one with a coffee shop nearby so you can stock up on caffeine and snacks if anyone starts to wane.
DAY 2: THE ROUNDABOUT GAME
For this activity, you’ll need a car or a tandem bicycle and a roundabout – the bigger, the better to keep dizziness at bay but if a mini one is all you can find, give it a go anyway. Desperate times and all that. This activity is pretty convenient, you don’t need to check the weather nor should you worry about your kids pissing off the general public as you’ll all be contained in the car. (I should mention here that for this reason, it’s important you don’t forget snacks unless of course, you want to be home in less than 10 minutes. Forgetting the snack bag is for amateurs and you’re not an amateur, you’re better than that.) To play the game, all you need to do is drive around the roundabout over and over and over again, telling your kids to look for “the lorry!” “the trees!” “the dinosaur!” or whatever random shit they’re into. The random shit doesn’t even have to be spotable – this is the beauty of it, it’s the looking that makes it so good, not the finding. Word of warning; time your exit carefully, you want to get out of there before anyone pukes.
DAY 3: THE BUS STOP GAME
Similar to Day Two’s activities in many ways, this is a search and find game. Start by settling yourself and your littlies at a bus stop and ask them to find and point out whatever interesting ‘thing’ comes into your head – unlike the Roundabout Game, though, this one works best if the things you want them to spot do actually exist; that way it mitigates against the possibility of a hissy-fit which quite frankly, sucks the fun out of everything. If you have older children and can be arsed, you can even create a checklist. And if you’re feeling really excitable, you could give out prizes to whoever ticks everything off the list first. It doesn’t have to be played at a bus stop but quite often they provide shelter from bad weather and every now and again a bus will pass which most children get quite excited about. They’re odd like that.
DAY 4: TREASURE HUNT
Minimal effort, maximum fun. You don’t even need to leave the house for this one – all you need is some outdoor space. A garden is preferable, but a porch, front door step, even the tiny little spot where you keep the wheelie bins will do. In a nutshell, get some stuff – any stuff; wooden spoons, crayons, toy cars, whatever you have lying around the house, basically – and fling it all into the outdoor space and let it land wherever – then send your children off to find their ‘treasure.’ You can, of course play this game indoors but sending the kids outdoors gives you at least 60 seconds to read a book, watch something requiring absolutely zero mental engagement on TV or better yet, just lie down on the floor. Please note; snacks as treasure will prolong the game.
DAY 5: TOY AISLE
When you get to that hellish point in the week where you absolutely HAVE TO go to the supermarket to stock up the cupboards, chances are you’ll have the kids in tow which makes this already horrendous task even more painful. This game will turn a god-awful chore into fun-time for all the family. Maybe. In order for this game to work, you absolutely must start in the toy aisle even if that means walking past everything on your shopping list first. Start by allowing your child/children to pick any toy they want – you should then spend a minimum of 3 minutes double checking that they’re definitely, completely, absolutely sure about their choice of toy because children are prone to changing their mind and that would mess up the game entirely. Once certain, embark upon doing ‘the big shop.’ The toy your child has chosen is there mostly to prevent them from getting bored and having a tantrum which, as I’ve mentioned before, is really bloody annoying – but you should try to prevent them getting too emotionally attached as under no circumstances should you actually purchase the toy – fun doesn’t have to cost money. Where you can, try to get them involved in the shop; talk to them, (sorry, I should have said; this game requires a bit more effort than the rest) point out things they might be interested in, sing loudly right into their face – ignoring the weird looks from passers-by – and just when you think boredom or frustration is about to kick in, refer back to the toy. When the shop is done and you’re in the queue for the check-out, choose something edible from the trolly, something you’d be buying anyway because fun doesn’t have to cost money, remember? Locate the desired item, (professional parenters will already have placed it strategically on the top of the trolley in preparation) open it and give it to your child. When they’re fully involved in the the eating of said snack – and this is where it gets tricky – remove the toy from their grasp and get rid of it. It doesn’t really matter where you put it; down the back of the magazine rack, in the next person’s basket, on the floor, whatever, just get rid of it and make sure your offspring don’t see. If you know you child like you should know them, the snack you’ve given them will have enough E numbers in it to be sufficiently distracting and will have erased any memory of the toy from your child’s mind in seconds. And if Barbara on till number 11 has any issue with the fact that you’ve opened the jelly babies before you’ve paid for them, blame the children.
DAY 6: AT-HOME SOFTPLAY
By this point of half- term, you might be tempted to head off to the actual softplay, but don’t be daft, those places are pure hell at the best of times let alone at the tail end of the school holidays. You’ll be looking for something not only to occupy your children but to wear them out – step up At-Home Softplay. Get your children (because in all circumstances in raising children, your input should be minimal) to collect all the duvets, pillows, cushions, throws, blankets, soft toys from around the house and place them on the floor around the sofa. This is now the soft-play area. Children should then be encouraged to jump off the sofa onto the soft play area. They will likely get considerably hyper during the playing is this game; they may push each other, kick one another, get each other into headlocks etc. this is fine, it just means it’s working. If it’s getting too much for you though, you might want to stop the game for a snack break but as long as they’re not climbing on you or screaming your name, the game can be considered successful so don’t attempt to end it until the point at which a limb gets broken.
DAY 7: THE LYING DOWN GAME
One that should be reserved for the toughest of tough days, which after a week of half term, day 7 will definitely be. This was a favourite of mine when I was newly pregnant with my second son and feeling like crap but still had a pretty rambunctious toddler to look after.
Step 1: Start by getting all the small toys from the toy box; farm animals, cars, dolls, etc. spread them across the floor
Step 2: get a cushion/pillow/rolled up scarf and place it on the floor amongst the toys
Step 3: lie down and rest your head on the cushion/pillow/rolled up scarf
Step 4: close your eyes and ignore absolutely everything your child(ren) is/are doing even – especially– if they climb over you. Deal with the mess and breakages later, right now, you just need to indulge in anything that resembles a nap
Step 5: continue until children start crying or lives are at risk
N.B. Resist the temptation to play this game whilst lying on the sofa; the floor is necessary in order to create the illusion of discomfort – if the small people sense you’re in any way comfortable, they’ll realise you’re not part of the game and insist you get up and do something physical, which is the absolute opposite of the objective of this game.
So Stupid Parents, there you have it, some fool-proof ways of surviving half term without having to make any small talk with strangers or spend a fortune. And remember, if any of these don’t work, don’t blame me – you’re probably just doing it wrong.