Even if your child enjoys himself at daycare, he needs a bit of a break from it from time to time.
Even if your child enjoys himself at daycare, he needs a bit of a break from it from time to time. This doesn’t mean you have to take a long vacation or put a dent in your budget.
The benefits of daycare on child development are many and well documented. However, the noise, group dynamics and strict schedule are demanding and stressful for toddlers. “Daycares are organized for the group, and that’s perfectly normal,” says François Couture, early childhood education techniques professor at Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. “Children have to follow instructions, eat and sleep at set times, and share space with others even when they would prefer staying in their own bubble.”
“Learning to wait your turn, sharing, asking, listening are all just as exhausting,” adds family coach Nancy Doyon. That’s in addition to the fact that the days at daycare often last up to 10 hours or more. This is why it’s a good idea to occasionally have your child take a break from daycare and the rush often associated with it.
Guylaine, mother to 2-year-old Rémi, sees that her son sometimes needs a little break. “Rémi goes full-time to a family daycare. He enjoys it,” she says, “but everything he does and experiences there is about learning. It’s his job.”
“When children haven’t been on vacation for a long time, they’re less interested in activities, less attentive and more irritable,” notes Marie-Klaude Beauregard, educator at the CPE Au Petit Carrousel in Montreal. “You can see that they’re tired. Some even have stomach aches and others no longer want to come in the morning.”
A few days off can do some good, says the educator, who has 25 years of experience. “The children come back rested and happier. They’re more focused. It’s like they’re starting over!” Holidays allow your child to release tension and function at his own pace.
“A break from an organized schedule does so much good,” says Valérie, mother to 4-year-old Gaël, whose vacation is a happy mix of local outings, relaxing days at home and a week at a family vacation resort.
Taking a few days off as a family allows your child to rest and also brings you closer together.
Even better, family vacations nurture your relationship with your child. “When you spend some days off with your child, you’re less in the doing and more in the feeling,” says Nancy Doyon. “You have time to get closer to him and appreciate him.” Jean-Marc, father to 5-year-old William and 2-year-old Zackary, agrees. Each summer, he spends one week’s vacation alone with his sons. Games in the sandbox and the pool, bike rides, visits to grandma—the three boys make the most of their time together! “My kids are happy to spend time with me,” says their dad. “I feel like it strengthens the bond between us.” His partner, Catherine, who works that week, agrees: “They develop a real camaraderie.”
Long holidays aren’t for everyone
11% of workers don’t take any summer holidays
24% take one week or less
28% take two weeks
Twice as many women as men don’t have summer holidays.
(Source: Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, 2014)
This time spent with your toddler also helps you get to know him better. “Observing my son Rémi play and react lets me see his progress and how his tastes and personality are evolving,” says Guylaine. For Daniel, Gaël’s dad, the holidays are an opportunity to watch his son grow up. “I’m going to take the training wheels off his bike this summer. I love experiencing these special moments with him.”
Keep it simple
While taking a break is good for your child, that doesn’t mean you need to take him to the sea or rent a cottage. Your child will be just as happy in the sandbox as at the beach! “Going away is something adults wish for,” notes psychologist Nathalie Parent. “For a child, what’s important is spending quality time with his parents.”
To do that, you don’t need to organize a million activities or expensive outings, either. In fact, it’s even recommended not to over-plan your days off, or you’ll be just as rushed as usual. The secret when on vacation is to slow down! Like Jean-Marc, who likes to stay in his pyjamas late into the morning with his sons, and Daniel, who likes to watch documentaries with his. Leaving room for spontaneity and forgetting about routine are other winning attitudes. “Children get enjoyment from the simplest things. For example, splashing around at the water park with their clothes on, helping to fold the washing, or eating dessert before the main meal,” says François Couture.
And, even if it’s good to play with your child, you don’t have to entertain him all day long. “When they’re left to play by themselves, children develop their creativity, autonomy and sense of initiative,” says Nathalie Parent. The best is to alternate the activities done together with the times your child plays alone.
Ideas to enjoy the summer at home:
Even if you have little or no vacation time, no money to spend on outings, or you need time off to decorate, you can still add a taste of vacation to your summer.
The most important thing is to have fun with your child. “To take a break from the daily grind and relax, you just need to get into a vacation frame of mind,” says creativity coach Manon Lavoie. All you need to do is take your time and also just let your child breathe. Here are a few ideas to make your child’s holidays special:
Eat breakfast outside.
Go to daycare on foot, by bike, or take a different route.
Send your child to spend a day or two with his grandparents, an aunt, an uncle or another close relative or friend instead of daycare.
Stop at the park, the pool or the library at the end of the day.
Have a picnic supper at the park (or in the living room).
Discover a new park each week.
Go outside dressed in pyjamas after supper.
Lie down on the grass with your child to look at the clouds or the stars.
Let your child miss his bath on some evenings and replace the bath with a swim, or, have him take his bath in his bathing suit.
Camp out in the living room one night, or sleep in a tent in the yard with your child.
Reorganize your work schedule to occasionally start 30 minutes later or finish 30 minutes earlier.