Whether it’s learning to cook a barbecue dinner from scratch or building a cave with friends, fun activities can help children thrive.
During the pandemic, families have struggled with everything from finances and food to schooling and staying active, with the school holidays posing a particular challenge.
But the Government-funded Holiday Food and Activity (HAF) program is an important lifeline, providing opportunities for children – especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds – and helping them access to healthy food and rich activities during the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays.
HAF is available to children eligible for free school meals, and to other vulnerable children that the Local Government believes would benefit from this support.
The program is part of a range of resources available to help achieve education and keep children healthy and happy as we all deal with the effects of the coronavirus.
Angela Gilmartin, one of the program heads at Grimes Dyke Primary School in Leeds, says HAF has been successful for hundreds of students – and the benefits can be long-lasting.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities,” she said. The skills they have developed and the experiences they have gained – our children will cherish and carry these with them for the rest of their lives.”
Angela reveals 5 great ways parents can help their children grow and learn during the festive season
It’s the best time of year… to learn new skills
- Try to spend time with the kids when you can. Join and play with them. It helps the whole family grow together.
- Prepare meals together and manage a food budget. Get everyone involved in the cooking. It involves social skills, math, communication – and it’s fun.
- Continue to dialogue with your child to help their lives. Talk to them without a screen or phone in hand. Eat together. Ask them what they enjoyed during their day.
- Do something different as a family, even if it’s just playing a board game. We all have a fear of the unknown, but this helps build trust in both adults and children.
- Use outdoor areas. It’s free and helps you talk and learn – whether it’s bug hunting, walking, or bird watching. Let the kids get muddy!
Some parents have had to battle unemployment and financial hardship during the pandemic, while others face challenges working alongside learning from home.
Angela says it has affected their community “socially, emotionally and spiritually” – with the crisis leaving some children feeling isolated and inactive. However, thanks to HAF funding from the Government, a lot of great activities have been made available on campus, off site and online, for up to 120 eligible children at a time.
“It was absolutely amazing,” explains Angela. During the summer holidays we have a variety of activities including swimming lessons, playing cricket, swimming in the pond and bird watching. We brought in outside organizations to do things like team building sessions. ”
Mary Lock says HAF has been a “lifesaver” for her children – Maisie, 9, a student at Grimes Dyke, and Emily, 6.
“The last 18 months have taken them a long time, so it’s been great – allowing the kids to socialize with other people during the holidays. They did everything from dodgeball to swimming.
“It pushed them out of their comfort zone, boosted their confidence and allowed them to develop new skills.
“Maisie learned to cook things like chicken curries and it helped develop her knowledge of eating habits – and now we’re cooking those together at home.”
Mary, who works in accounts, said she and her self-employed partner Craig found placement work while taking care of challenging kids on holiday.
But she added: “The Food and Holiday Activity program has really taken the stress out of families like me. Having that has been a real boon and I urge all parents to take advantage of the opportunity.”
How can you catch up?
CHILDREN’S education has been impacted by the pandemic, but there are many opportunities where children of all ages can get the help they need to catch up and thrive.
The National Tutoring Program provides tailored learning support – including one-on-one or small group sessions – to those whose learning has been impacted the most. To learn more and see what opportunities may be available to your child, talk to their school or visit nationaltutoring.org.uk.
There is also Oak National Academy resources, which you can use to supplement your child’s learning.
For more information on resources and programs available to help your child catch up, visit Educationcatchup.campaign.gov.uk.
During the upcoming holiday season, Grimes Dyke is using HAF funding to pay for a visit to a farm with activities like shooting, archery and rock climbing. Additionally, families will be provided with a Christmas dinner ingredient pack and step-by-step online instructions to help them cook at home.
Angela adds: “Everything is structured and parents use a booking system for activities.
“The kids’ communication skills have really improved and they’re just happy to have a bit of normalcy in an environment where they feel safe with their friends.
“Parents have told me how important it is. We had a kid at school who learned how to make pizza and then went home to teach his mother. They have now said they will never go back to buy a takeout pizza again! ”
In addition to providing nutritious food and advice to families, HAF funding has allowed the school to improve its allocation, with new foods being grown for children to try.
Now Angela is calling on all parents to ask about opportunities in their local area and the extra support their child may qualify for. “A lot of people feel alone and they need support,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to give something back to the kids.”
Contact your local council or search the “Holiday Food and Activity Program” online to learn about the support and opportunities available to you in your area. Find out how your child can keep up with their learning at Educationcatchup.campaign.gov.uk
https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/16856169/fun-ways-your-kids-can-keep-learning-in-the-christmas-holidays/ Fun ways your kids can keep learning over the Christmas holidays – The Sun