Have a staycation this holiday
How to keep the kids busy when you're strapped for cash.

I just spent a week at home with four kids on their winter school holidays. We have little (no) money to spare, so surviving the week meant pulling some inventive ideas out of my parenting hat. With two weeks of the holidays remaining, here are some tips for fellow weary and cash-strapped parents on how to survive a staycation with four kids ranging in age from 9 to 15:

1. Be prepared

Ensure the cupboards are stacked full of 2 minute noodles, fruit, crackers, bread, cheese, and the makings of sweet or healthy treats at any given time. Bored kids are hungry kids.

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2. Be inclusive

Occupying a small space with four kids is a messy affair. I got all of them involved in daily chores: washing dishes, sweeping, hanging and taking down the washing, packing clothes away, making beds... You get the picture. Not the most thrilling part of the staycation for them, but it meant I didn’t spend the week cleaning up after four people.

3. Be strong

If I’d let them, all four kids would have spent the entire week on their phones or other electronic devices. They’d wake up and two minutes later, on would go the screen. I decreed that screen time, which meant anything from playing an online game to watching a YouTube video, was limited to a few hours a day. Limiting screen time required resolve on my part to be creative, which leads me to point 4:

4. Be resourceful

Lists of “things to do in Cape Town” mostly involve spending money. I ditched those lists and found our own entertainment. Without spending a cent, we:

  • spent a few hours on the beach creating art with things we found on the sand and having a picnic;
  • went to the Library and got a pile of books to keep the kids busy for a day or two;
  • baked muffins together (and then devoured them in two days);
  • cooked huge meals together (and then devoured them in 3 minutes flat)
  • weeded the garden (okay, I admit: this one involved monetary rewards);
  • did a daily exercise routine, thanks to an app. on my niece’s phone;
  • hauled out the trusty Lego and built entire cities;
  • spent an hour or two a day outside, where games were invented out of thin air;
  • played video games.

5. Be firm

Bedtime, especially during the holidays, can be a fluid concept. This means you can have kids around you from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you stumble, glassy-eyed and worn out, to bed at night. Another decree: Bedtime at our house was set at 8.30pm. Before you laugh out loud at this concept, hear me out: An 8.30 bedtime didn’t mean lights out: they could read, chat, play a game – anything, as long as it involved being in their rooms and not underfoot.

6. Be relieved

It’s not easy not to blow your entire budget on a staycation, but trust me: if you’re willing to persevere and use your imagination, you have busy and occupied kids and an intact budget to show for it at the end of your holiday.

How are you keeping your kids entertained this holiday?

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