A mom’s thoughts on the extended December school holiday

Hi, I am Lauren, a partner at the OT Link.


I’m am also the mom of two awesome primary school children……who have now been on holiday for 7 weeks with COVID restrictions (and 3 weeks still to go before we are set to return to school!) We were very blessed to have a lovely break over Christmas and we have had fun doing holiday things (as much as COVID allowed). All things considered my children have been stars….. BUT the last week has been a struggle. My children are bored, they are fighting with each other more, they are wanting playdates and lots of my time, which I cannot now give as work has started again.

I was quick to say: Why can they not entertain themselves? They have so many toys/puzzles/games! Why do that want to spend so much time on electronic devices?

Then I stopped. As an Occupational Therapist we always look at our client’s activity profile – how do they spend their day? What activities do they do? How long do they spend on these activities? Then we compare that to what would be normal for their age. We call this activities health. I did that for my kids quickly – They should be spending 5-6 hours at SCHOOL! That’s not in their profile at the moment…. They are holidayed out! They have done all that is developmentally appropriate for their age in a holiday – They are activities UNHEALTHY!

School is such an important activity for school going children – its when they are academically challenged to learn new things, to be become masters of new content and skills, to develop competence and a sense of pride and self-esteem. They get feedback from their peers and teachers. They get to socialise with their friends at break. And I am sure there are more benefits….
They come home tired.
It has been a busy morning.
It has been challenging.
It has been meaningful (they may not realise it, but it has).
Then there is homework and extra murals and there a FEW hours left in the day for play or leisure activities. Not the 7 or 8 hours they currently have. School also forces us all into a routine – Set wake up times, bedtimes, lunch times etc. Ours have been a bit fluid in this time…. After 7 weeks that also needs to change…

So, I decided that my children are going to have more structure to their day and they are going to be learning a new skill. Activities that can try and mimic some of the things school would have given them. A challenge, where they can experience success, or perhaps failure and then need to persevere to achieve success, something to make them mentally and/or physically tired! Even if it is just 1 or 2 hours of their day. Each child is at a different developmental stage and has different interests, so there is unfortunately no prescription on what activity to choose.

We have got both kids doing specific sport activities every week, they each have a new skill to start learning (We got courses off Udemy) and I’m still thinking what else we can add. We will be getting into a more set routine again. Let’s see how it goes….

I have realised that our children may seem to be happy about the extended holiday, but really it is not good for them mentally, emotionally, physically or socially. This is not normal and the behaviour we are seeing is not only because they cannot entertain themselves (and they have been so restricted socially due to COVID), but it’s also because the normal main activity of their day is not there. The children are missing it, even if some of them would never admit it to us as their parents! And I am MISSING SCHOOL!