How to make the most of the upcoming holidays

Parenty's resident OT, Anneke de Jager, gives us some ideas on what to do when school holidays roll around in a few weeks.

We all work very hard throughout the year – most of us only have 15 – 20 days annual leave. So December holiday is very special to most of us – it’s the festive time when families come together, people go on holiday, and for those who stay at home, at least work is not as busy or stressful. Our children are off from school for more than a month, and we get to spend more time with them.

December is generally the only time for most when we get round to doing things we don’t get done during the rest of the year. So let’s make sure that it is a memorable time!

Here are a few ideas to make the holidays count for our children:

Idea #1: Keep electronics and screens to a minimum

So let me challenge you: try and hide the electronics and screens as much as possible. Of course, there should be the odd times when your kids watch a movie or story or play some games, but this should not be the main activity for the holidays. Screen time is often very time consuming, and addictive. Unfortunately, the after-effect is often also a grumpy child/ adult. Not to mention the negative social implications of screen time. Use this holiday to really reconnect with your family as a whole. You will be surprised how much you didn’t know about one another!

Idea #2: Be a role model

Use this time to work out, go for walks, read a book and be available to your children. Children model what they see in their parents. If their parents can’t switch off, they won’t learn to do so either.

Idea #3: Play card and board games

Board games are fun and social. It facilitates interaction and teaches children to take turns, count, work as a team or problem-solve in order to win. It also enhances a child’s processing speed, concentration and teaches them about cause and effect. There are so many games available on the market that promote skills such as creativity, numeracy, literacy and general knowledge. Current favourite family games include Piou Piou, Jenga, 5 Second Rule South Africa, Speak Out, Bananagrams, Don’t be a Donkey, Pictionary and Pictionary Junior and cooperative games such as Race to the Treasure and Hoot Hoot Owl. The list does not end here. It’s best to have a look at online stores or go to a toy shop and see what would be best suited for the whole family to enjoy. There are a lot of options out there!

With cooperative games, children as young as 2½ years of age can join in. Games such as Snakes and Ladders or Snap can be played from 3 years of age – although the child may need some assistance.

Idea #4: Play social games

Whether you have money or not to buy new board games or card games, there are many free and fun social games that can be played. There are lots of ideas that can be found on the internet. Here are some ideas:

  • Act/ describe: Each person writes a thing/ name or action on a piece of paper. This is folded and placed in a box. One person starts by taking one piece of paper, and immediately describes or acts the word out. The first person to guess it correctly gets the paper and it is the next person’s turn. In the end, the person with the most correct guesses wins.
  • Find the missing object: Place about 15 objects on the table (e.g. fruit, fork, toy, book etc.) Everyone at the table then looks at it for one minute, trying to remember all the objects. A box is then placed over the items. The person in charge removes two objects (without anyone knowing what it is). The rest of the objects are placed on the table again. Everyone must guess what is missing – the first person to identify the missing objects wins and is then in charge. This can also be upgraded by adding more objects, or removing more objects at a time, and can be played in teams.  

Other social games include sports and outdoor play: ball games such as soccer, hockey, cricket, tennis, swing ball, table tennis and rugby. You could also enjoy playing tag/ touchers, catch, stingers (for the older children), freeze dance and the famous Marco Polo in the swimming pool.

Idea #5: Constructive and creative play

Building and construction type of activities (such as building a puzzle, playing with Lego and PlayStix) or craft and drawing activities can be turned into great fun. Do these with your children in a fun and stress-free environment. Make mistakes, laugh, make a mess and have fun together! This allows children to be creative, come up with new ideas, use their imaginations and bond with their parents.

Idea #6: Baking and cooking

How often do you see a recipe that looks delicious, but you never have time to try it out? Why not use the holidays and have the kids join in. Baking and cooking together is not only a fun activity to do together as a family, but it also teaches children about measurements, properties of different ingredients and how to use kitchen utensils.

Idea #7: Gardening

This is a fun and great activity for the families that are staying home for the holidays. Children love being outdoors and spending time with their parents. And what better time to start a flower or vegetable garden than in summer?

So with all these activity ideas available, your child will have a well-balanced and more memorable holiday. Every member of the family will be happier and learn to utilize precious time more effectively without constantly relying on electronics to keep them entertained.   

Anneke de Jager

Anneke is a paediatric occupational therapist with special interest in sensory integration. She has been in private practice since 2011 and loves each moment spent with children. She has extensive experience working alongside a variety of schools, parents, teachers and therapists. Being a mother of two boys herself, she also has first-hand experience of being a parent. Anneke is also involved in providing training and workshops to caregivers that work with children with disabilities. 

Based in Johannesburg, Anneke works with children that may have learning difficulties, sensory defensiveness, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays, scholastic difficulties, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy or any other diagnoses. She also has special interest in and is currently furthering her studies in dyslexia.

When asked about her work, Anneke would say: “I love what I do and believe that each child has a lot of potential that can be unlocked”.

Our website address is: and my Facebook page is:

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