Toward the end of October, at a winding-up party for a contractual job I’ve been on since June, I was making small talk with my boss for the contract period. Nice guy, father of eight. EIGHT! I kid you not! Aged between 17 and one, all from the same mother.
“Big plans for the holidays?” I asked him
He could barely hide his excitement at the prospect of going back to his family in Slovakia after so much time away.
Not too much,” he replied. “Just spending time with the family what about you?”
Though I would be out of work, I had been looking forward to the end of the contract. I was yearning for some flexibility. For late mornings and later nights. For a return to running and for time with the kids who were already home for the long December holidays.
“Husband and kids will keep you busy,” he said, interrupting my daydream of what I would do with so much time on my hands.
“Yep,” I smiled, sipping out of my wine glass. The first in nearly two years.
Now that the initial excitement of my new found “freedom” is over, sleep has been caught up on, kids are tired of watching TV and the end of this holiday is nowhere in sight, I’ve had to get creative. Find ways to have fun that don’t involve spending any money. Activities that cost as little as I can get away with where cost must be incurred. I’m out of a job remember? Here’s what I’ve come up with.
People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children, in particular, will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. It teaches responsibility and develops their self-confidence when they see their work come to fruition while observing the cycle of life firsthand.
For a first attempt, try growing herbs like rosemary, thyme, lemongrass and mint that will eventually end up on their dinner plate. This way, they also learn the nutritional benefits of food they consume.
Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. Gardening doesn’t require a perfectly level, large or sunny backyard. In fact, all you need are a few flower pots or troughs.
The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? Soon you will be talking about soil composition, photosynthesis and more!
Bike riding at Karura
If you haven’t been to Karura forest, you really must go this holiday. I feel all manner of awesome whenever I visit this forest reserve. Whether I’m jogging the 10km trail, sitting idly on the wooden bench by Lilly lake, hiking to the waterfall or bike riding along the tree-lined cycling trails, I’m filled with awe at the beauty of this place. It is without a doubt one of my favourite places. I understand why Prof. Wangari Maathai fought so hard to preserve it.
Ksh. 100 gate charge gives you access to the reserve. You Can hire a sturdy multi-speed trail bike to use on designated forest trails at only 500/- for two hours. For 600/- per child, you can ride your way through the forest and settle down for a picnic at the various designated picnic sites.
Check out your local library
If you haven’t managed to create a bookworm, then this could be the Perfect time to start. With a branch network of over 35 branches across different counties, The Kenya National Library service is the perfect place to nurture young readers at almost no cost.
Access is free for Primary school children. A borrowing fee of only ksh. 5 is charged per book. The library also organises reading and writing competitions, storytelling sessions and educative video shows. Children can also interact and learn through fun indoor games like junior scrabble, building blocks and computer games. The icing on the cake though is the baby/parent book club. Check out the KNLS website http://www.knls.ac.ke/ and let the holiday fun begin.
Teach them to knit and crochet
Knitting? Why knitting? I can almost hear you protest. OK, so this one’s probably for the girls, although some boys might be interested. I came across some information that suggests that not only is it fun and creative but it also benefits children in a variety of ways such as developing their fine motor coordination, reading, comprehension, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Knitting and crochet are also valuable tools for “teaching life lessons” such as persistence, personal hygiene (dirty hands = dirty yarn) and ability to focus and follow through. Never done it yourself? Not to worry, there are lots of resources including video tutorials available online to get both you and your child started.
Enjoy the long school break and let me know how you are keeping your kids engaged this holiday.