It’s that time of the year again when mothers of all varieties—stay-at-home, working-from-home, working part-time or full time—anxiously look for ways to keep their children engaged during the long hot summer vacation. And there are a whole lot of options available nowadays with summer camps catering to every creative activity ranging from art and craft, reading and writing and science and math projects to sports and swimming camps. In fact, a friend complained that there was so much choice that she and her daughter were finding it difficult to choose! However, I believe, that it’s better to have too many options than none at all which was the case when my son was growing up in tier II towns of north Karnataka. Though I heartily cursed the lack of opportunities at the time, it all worked out for the best as this spurred me to think of ways to keep my son engaged and indoors during the hottest part of the day—some parts of Karnataka experience temperatures of 44-48 degrees in May.
Here is a list of the things I tried:
Reading: Introducing my son to books formed a big part of keeping him engaged. We generally visited Bangalore during the Dasara vacation and the visit compulsorily included a trip to Mecca Stores and The Select Book Shop to pick up books. I generally bought several story books by a number of authors (Roald Dahl, Hardy Boys, Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton), abridged versions of some classics, the horrible series (Horrible Histories, Horrible Science etc) and a single volume of Tell Me Why/What/When/How—more than one was unwelcome as then holidays would ‘seem like school’. As he grew older, I tried including a couple of history books and one on study skills, both of which proved extremely unpopular!
Writing: Simple writing tasks based on what the child has read can be a lot of fun, especially if done with a peer. This can be difficult as children are never willing to write at the best of times. I varied this by coaxing my son to write to his grand-parents in Bangalore—the experience included a trip to the post office to buy stamps and drop the letter in the post box as well as an explanation of how his letter reached his granddad in Bangalore. They really appreciated his missives and replied by return of post! If you try this, request your parents/in-laws to address the letter to the child—children feel very excited and thrilled to see a letter addressed to them in the letter box, so much so that my son eagerly awaited the postman when he knew a letter was due.