Shh! Some schools have broken up for summer, while others have a week remaining, only! While the duration of my school holiday may have seemed unendurable to my parents, it seemed to whisk by in a flash for me as a child, and again, when I taught.

Already, friends and family are asking, ‘But what can I do with them?’ There are play dates (play dates?), activity camps, a stay with relatives, a week away, possibly, and a Kids’ Club. But what to do? 

The trouble with school (sounding rather like Kes Gray’s beloved ‘Daisy’) is that children are organised. Their days are compartmentalised. Families continue this structure at the end of each school day, so homework, piano practice, swimming lesson, bath, bed, story, sleep, and it starts all over again. Then- Kaboom!- it’s school holiday time, and ‘What do we do?’

I am a firm advocate of play based learning, especially in younger years. It offers children a developmental opportunity to make decisions, experiment, fail and try again. It gives them the much needed time to choose. So do holidays. Children need to be able to be bored. As a society, we need people to be able to fill in their own time, to be bored.

Even now, as an aged adult, I love the blank canvas offered by holidays. I grew up in a golden era where I played out, played in, and was lost for many hours in my own inventions and friendships. It’s not so easy for children now, and nor is it as easy for their parents, many of whom are very concerned about their children’s progress and place in the world.

Time to choose, real free time is vital to children’s development. It may be that you choose to follow the advice of child psychologist Lyn Fry, who suggests that at the top of a school holiday, children make a list of all the things they’d like to do during their holiday. Then, when/ if/ should they declare they are bored, they have a list to which to refer for ideas and wishes.

Alongside a welterweight of wonderful reading titles, to which we will be adding throughout the summer, Bookwagon has a specific few that offer motivation should there be lulls or blank patches. It happens- long waits while travelling, periods with relatives, waiting at restaurants, wet days, illnesses… Also, sometimes, children just want something else to do. The books I have selected are open-ended, i.e., they offer opportunity for children to think, engage, enquire, create and/ or respond. We cannot endorse text books, drill books, fact books, or colouring books.

My family has always travelled armed, as with a bag of things to create or use. There were always cards, a ball and pen and paper. I recall a busy afternoon of tea and chat with six adult family members and one four-year old. The afternoon was very hot, there was a tiny garden, lots of loud reminiscing and no small company. Little Bella went to her mother’s bag to find the pens and paper and began to draw. She drew for hours, until I joined her effort and we played ‘The Shape Game‘ my go-to- amusement, and an essential tool for all families-

Another recommended ‘doing’ title, whether at the airport, in a tent, or with company, is ‘The Anti-Colouring Book‘. This title has not been out of print since its publication over 30 years ago:-

Even now, as an adult, alongside my books, I pack a sketchbook and small pencil case when holidaying. The redoubtable picture book maker Viviane Schwarz introduced me to watercolour brush pens.  I take a small pack to add colour to my sketches. They are easy to carry, attractive and last a long time.

I wonder if the inestimable Michael Foreman carries such art materials on his travels. Budding artists and readers of any age, would enjoy the opportunity to share his around the world experiences through his sketches and watercolours shared in ‘Travels with my Sketchbook‘   

Any time stuck on site- campsite, airport waiting lounge, tennis lessons or dentist- Bookwagon has just the tote bag title, in ‘Spot the Lot‘, a fascinating Lonely Planet Kids’ new release 

Bookwagon loves Andrea Beaty’s fabulous activity titles, released over the past three years:- ‘Iggy Peck, Architect‘, ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer‘ and ‘Ada Twist, Scientist‘- We are proud to introduce the first companion piece to these motivating books, in ‘Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers‘ This fits our requirement brilliantly, in that it is open ended and high order (so demands thinking), encouraging effort over achievement, and endorsing error as an opportunity to try again. Further examples from this series are promised over the summer.

Another favourite and best selling title on our shelves, ‘Shackleton’s Journey‘ by William Grill, has launched a companion piece, in ‘Shackleton’s Journey, the Activity Book Rather like a scouting leader, William Grill poses many questions for his readers that draw on their own observations, thoughts and opinions, and their response to his title. It is a compelling book, different from any other activity book  I have read.

Former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell’s ‘Travels with My Sketchbook‘ was released to acclaim last week. During his tenure as Laureate, Chris Riddell determined he would keep a picture diary detailing his engagements and activities every day. Many times I have suggested that reluctant child writers keep a visual diary, with drawings, and photographs they have taken, accompanied by ticket stubs and incidental anecdotes. Chris Riddell takes this to another level. I have been reading this book all week and am still only midway through 2015. It is a fascinating effort and experience! 

Bookwagon will shortly add a beautiful new title by zoologist picture book maker Nicola Davies,  illustrated by V & A 2016 illustrator of the year Laura Carlin. Ms Carlin won this title for ‘A World of Your Own‘ in which readers are asked to consider her questions and respond through collection, writing or illustration. The questions are wide, various and curious, and the book one to treasure-

Finally, the former educator, devoted godparent and citizen in the world in me combine to request that you limit device time for your child. Holidays, with a majority of sunny days, a redundant school alarm, good company and cheer, are meant to be enjoyed individually and socially, with exploring, inventing, trials and errors. Devices do not allow this. Neither do tutors- but that’s a story for another day.

So, we recommend days of playing, lots of reading, lots of listening and sharing, and a few activity reading books. And again, if you are lucky enough to be travelling, please make sure your children know their destination, its location and have a chance to discover a little about the culture and history. Maps, travelogues, guide books and brochures all add to the reading experience and opportunity for holiday makers, however young. So, does experience of quality atlases; we took ages to find one we liked, ‘Amazing World Atlas‘ that could be mulled over at any point by enquiring readers. 

Happy holiday wishes to you all, and as always, happy reading! Bronnie 


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