After-School Activities for the Whole Family

Monday 15 May 2017, 04:20 PM

Michael Briers
Journalist , Freelance

School is (almost) out for the summer! But for parents, that can only mean one thing: over-energetic kids longing to stave off boredom by any means necessary. 

“We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down.” That’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, renown astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, with some timely words of wisdom when it comes to parenting — even if they are a little extreme. 

Nevertheless, regardless of age, the dialogue between parent (or guardian!) and child doesn’t always have to be a shouting match, and there is perhaps no other season in which that bond is put more to the test than the summer holidays. Providing your occupation doesn’t involve teaching or lecturing, you’re likely looking toward the end of the academic year with a mixture of worry and trepidation, as you begin to formulate ideas and activities to pacify the kids once that school bell rings one last time — until September, at least. 

It is, in essence, a complimentary piece to our recent revision guide, and one that will no doubt be of interest to those of you dreading the thought of overexcited kids with spare time on their titchy little hands. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

Volunteering 

Long before their inevitable transition into the world of work, it’s vital that children develop an understanding of giving a little back to the community that raised them, in a manner of speaking. Whether it’s compiling hampers for the homeless, spending time with the elderly, or simply volunteering for community service, going that extra mile beyond the school walls can nurture social skills and help the young’uns develop a sense of discipline. 

All it takes is a simple Google search to locate programs near you, and the best thing about volunteering is that often times these programs are always on the hunt for new recruits. Identifying which scheme best suits your children is something only you can decide, of course, but it’s no secret that those kids who participate in volunteering projects from a relatively early age are the same ones that go on to take point as team leader in university projects further down the line — no matter how hard they protest. And just think of how those skills of self-motivation and discipline will look on their CVs. 

Here's some links to volunteering sites: www.tcv.org.uk | do-it.org | www.gov.uk/government/get-involved/take-part/volunteer

Trips to the Museum and/or Library 

Mention the word ‘museum’ and/or ‘library’ to your nearest and dearest and you’ll likely be treated to a chorus of moans, groans and the odd, sarcastic yawn. But such sanctuaries of learning and knowledge needn’t be viewed in a negative light. Most, if not all of the UK’s museums tend to be located in major cities like London, but it’s all the more reason to plan a full-day trip for the entire family. 

Think of the British Museum or London’s Museum of Natural History — two of the UK’s top destinations for interactive exhibits designed to illustrate everything from art and design to some of humanity’s most historical moments. A museum is a place to foster a sense of curiosity and wonder in child and parent/guardian alike, and the same can be said about your local library. Which brings us to…

Start a Book Club 


This particular after-school activity will naturally appeal more to those parents and guardians looking after older children and teenagers, but the inherent value of a book club cannot be overstated. 

It doesn’t have to be anything too extravagant, either; simply draw up a family plan that encourages each member to indulge in a novel (fiction or non-fiction, take your pick!) over the course of 30 days, before everyone gets the chance to reconvene at the end of the month to share their thoughts, comments, and concerns regarding ‘Book X’. For the parent, it’s an opportunity to venture into a literary genre that they perhaps would’ve ignored in the past, while also allowing their child to develop an appetite for literature. And you know what they say about reading; it is to the mind what exercise is to the body. 

Host a Board Game Night 

On a budget? Get creative! Often times rallying together the troops for an impromptu board game night can produce a memorable night of family shenanigans. Granted, it’s not so much an after-school activity as it is a cheap night in, but gathering everyone together for a bright and breezy board game allows families to spend time as a unit. 

Selecting one with minimal rules is preferable, lest your table-based tomfoolery devolve into a competitive shouting match, and a family-friendly board game is a great and inexpensive way to entertain the kids that doesn’t involve them being glued to a nearby screen. From the modern and quirky board games like ‘Would I Lie to You?’, or a time-honoured classic in the vein of ‘Trivial Pursuit’, the possibilities are endless. 

Housekeeping 

If all else fails, find fun in the ordinary. And we do mean ordinary. Performing daily chores is a cross we all have to bear at some point — be it washing the dishes, cleaning up, hoovering or, worse, mowing the lawn. But it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom; nor does it have to fall on the shoulders of a single family member. 

Out advice? Pick up a whiteboard as a way to delegate responsibilities between the entire family and, ultimately, foster an environment in which everyone pulls their weight. Running a house ought to viewed as a team effort, one that allows kids big and small to pitch in and help, and perhaps even earn some pocket money while doing so. It all circles back to that core philosophy of teaching children that even beyond the school walls, hard work is rewarded. 
 



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