I'm always a bit mystified when people use the term 'planned like a military operation' as a form of criticism. A military operation is about moving people and resources from A to B to achieve the specified objective. As a dad with three kids, I plan every activity like a military operation. My mantra is Preparation and Planning Prevent Poor Parental Performance.
School holidays are no exception. It's not just about what to do with the kids during the easter break, it's about how to do it. Here's some straightforward tips from me.
Don't Overstretch your Unit
Don't commit the unit to too many missions as hyper scheduling will make life difficult - and exhausting - for all of you. It's not quantity of activity that counts, it's quality. The most engaging and entertaining things for troopers - even older ones - is your undivided attention. If you are stressed and concentrating on transporting troops from one activity to another, then they're not going to be able to benefit from time with you.
Plan your half term activities beforehand. If you're staying at home, check out the internet and local papers - you'll be amazed what's on nearby. If a big day out (theme park etc) is planned, then let the next day be a lazy one, spending time together in the house or garden. I always try and factor in time to relax together. Troopers are sponges and are learning all the time, whether you realise you're teaching them or not. It's important to show them how to relax, and just have fun together.
Transporting - and Entertaining - your Troops.
I know it sounds obvious, but once you've planned your means of transportation, you need to plan how you are going to entertain your troops. Know your enemy - and the enemy is boredom and frustration.
So, for example, if you're going to be on a long car journey don't pack the very noisy toy to entertain your trooper - unless it can be muted - as it will fray your nerves and shorten your flash to bang time.
Spotting games are brilliant and require no special equipment. A particularly good one is 'Mini Cheddar' where spotting a Mini is 10 points, a yellow car is five points and a yellow Mini (or Mini cheddar) is 25 points. The first one to 100 wins. Save the arguments by allowing one 'unconfirmed' sighting (i.e. one that only the spotter can see - normally a Mini cheddar by some strange coincidence). My troopers are now 10, nine and five and we are still playing this game.
Spotting games are also great for all forms of public transport, as are all the songs from our own childhood: The Wheels on the Bus, 10 Men went to Mow, 10 Green Bottles etc.
An Army Marches on its Stomach - a hungry trooper is an unhappy trooper.
Take packed lunches, or picnics, even if you are going somewhere where food is on sale. There are multiple reasons for this:
• The time spent making a packed lunch is much MUCH shorter than the time you will spend in the queue, waiting to be served food. I guarantee it.
• It puts you in control of what your troopers eat.
• It's more convenient when you're out as you can eat where and when is best for your family unit.
• It's cheaper. Don't get me wrong, if you have the money to spend, then please spend it as the economy needs it. But when you're out and about, food, and especially drinks, can work out to be very expensive (especially when you have a lot of troopers, like me).
Take snacks. It's a universally acknowledged fact that 10 minutes outside the safety of base camp, troopers will be hungry. Embrace this and plan accordingly. Pack snacks that are suitable for eating on the move. Great snacks include oatcakes, nuts (allergies permitting), carrot sticks and low fat crisps (as a treat). You could make your own trial mix: seeds, chopped dried fruit and nuts, and some chocolate chips mixed in. The best fruit for snacks is an apple - bananas and berries get mashed and oranges require you to find a bin to get rid of the peel, and something to wash sticky juice off hands and faces.
Make sure you have water, and plenty of it. Get the troopers water bottles that can be refilled. I usually fill them up with squash when we leave base camp, but all refills after that are water.
The main thing to remember when it comes to school holidays is that an ounce of preparation and planning beforehand is worth a ton of effort after the event. This will guarantee that your easter holiday will run like a successful military operation.