Munize M. Khasru
Summer is here with all its glory. As a child this was my much awaited season. Two months of running around wild -- no homework, no schedules, no school uniforms. But that was back in the days when the average family could afford to live in an individual house.
There was no prevalent apartment culture in Dhaka city then. We didn't necessarily have sprawling gardens, but at the least, we had access to a patch of land where we could explore, bike and generally rumble around in. When the clock struck 4, children from our neighbourhood would get together. Sometimes the boys went off to the local park or mosque yard and play football. Or the girls would gather at someone's garden and have a tea party with their dolls. Or we would all grab our bikes and roam the inner roads. Simple pleasures no doubt, but who would have thought that a generation later they would not exist for the average family?
My children, till date, have grown up in an apartment. The only green they see around them is through their bedroom window, five floors up. My son plays basketball in the living room. And my daughter has a "garden tea party" with her dolls in the verandah. We don't know who lives in the next apartment because we have never seen them. Childhood isn't as simple and natural as it used to be.
During school term one doesn't feel the void quite as much. But come summertime, when the schools close for two months or more, the void feels like a black hole! I've had friends calling to ask: "What are you doing with your children all day long?" The general consensus amongst mothers of children under six years old seemed to be one of resigned exhaustion.
Well, after a week of letting my 3-yr-old and 5-yr-old romp around the apartment, I realised it was a question of survival. I had to figure this out more for my sanity's sake than my children's sakes!
And so, with further ado, here is my "Survival Plan for Summer":
*Teach a sport: This is the time to get your children up and about. (and by default, exhausted by night time! Yay!) So find at about 'summer courses' in your local neighbourhood club. Even if you are not a member, clubs usually offer summer courses such as swimming and tennis for non-members too.
*Make list(s): We have a list of places we want to visit and learn more about. This includes the National Museum, the Children's Museum, Shahid Minar, Sriti Shoudho, Novo Theatre, etc. Our second list is of fun places my children just cannot get enough of, such as Wonderland, Fantasy Kingdom, Bashundhara's Toggi World, Nandan Waterpark. We plan to alternate between the two lists and visit one place per week but you should feel free to do as much as your energy and logistics permit.
*Have a playdate: Form a 'playgroup' (ideally no more than four children) with friends who have same aged children as you. Or call up your children's classmates' mothers and put together a group. Each mother chooses a day per week to have the children play at her home. Timings should be fixed and maintained strictly, such as 3-5 pm. Experience has proven that two to three hours is optimum before the children start squabbling or the assigned mother gets a headache from the noise!
*Visit relatives: I know this seems like a strange thing to put here. Honestly speaking though, we have relatives we would love to see more of but keep putting off visiting because of the traffic jams or distance. With no school in the morning or bedtimes to rush home to, summer holiday is the perfect time to spend a lazy day with your favourite aunt. Your children get doted upon and you get to spend quality time with a loved one.
*Cook up a monsoon: Hone in on your children's home skills. There's nothing quite as much fun as messing up a room and then getting to eat the results! Teach your children how to cook their favourite food. Make a whole production of it. Make them write the list of ingredients. Go to the market and buy anything you don't have at home. An older child can be given the fun math problem of calculating the cost per unit (piece/slice). Children love the challenge of following step-by-step instructions. But of course, the biggest thrill is eating whatever they made.
*The banker, the baker, the pottery-maker: Children are fascinated by 'the things grown-ups do'. "What happens in an office?" is a question I am asked often. So this summer, we're going to find out first-hand. If your children want to know more about firemen, policemen, bankers or bakers, now is the time to satisfy their curiosity. All you need to do is call the supervisor/in-charge manager and explain to them that you have a child who thinks their work is great fun and ask for an informal tour. So far, no one has denied us our humble request.
*Surf the Net: If you have access to an online computer and a printer, explore the internet for at-home children's activities. Use a search engine such as www.google.com and type in "free printable children home activities". You'll be amazed at how much there is to do!
*Walk in the park: This is the season to check out the nice parks. I don't mean just your neigbouring ones. Go to Ramna and have some peanuts with your children. Or the Gulshan-2 Park where you may even see people shooting a film. Or the fun-packed New DOHS one. The children will love the freedom of chasing each other without fear of breaking anything and you will enjoy the greenery. However use your judgement and go at a safe time. And if you are taking more than one child, take another adult with you to help keep an eye on them.
*Summer-clean: Help your children to "summer-clean" their room. This includes everything, from clothes, books to toys. Make three piles: 1) To keep 2) To donate 3) To trash. Once sorted, we pack the second pile nicely and take it to a local orphanage. We like to give out the items ourselves. More than any lecture, this activity has helped my children understand how blessed they are. Also, (I hope) this will inculcate the importance of charity in them from a young age.
*Chill out: When all else fails, pack them off to their grandparents for a day/morning/ afternoon/evening/anytime! The trick here though is to send the children off while you spend the time alone…unwinding.
Of course this is an evolving list. Not all the plans work out exactly as you wish. But it's a fun learning process. The children learn new things and you learn how to deal with them without tearing your hair out!
(Next week: At-home Activities you can do with your children)
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