School Holidays – creating lasting memories with fun family challenges

School holidays are upon us yet again and as a parent you may either dread or love the thought of having your children at home for 2 weeks. Holidays are a chance for children to relax, kick back, families to connect and make memories. Over the years I have created a special family tradition in the school holidays, which creates memories, fun and laughter, bonding and learning. They are holiday challenges. We use the word challenge with our children as all four of us have a keen competitive spirit, however you might wish to soften the experience with other words. And best of all it has cost us nothing… well except 30-60 minutes each day, oh and an ice cream!

Here are some of my favourites:

The no technology challenge: 3 days – yes three whole days with no technology – no phones,Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.56.33 PM no computers, no TV! I’m such a mean mum – according to my children, however they secretly love it. Out come the board games, the make and do, their bikes, books etc and best of all they develop the very important life skill of creativity. While children are hooked into screens, the creativity muscle of the brain does not get a workout as images and ideas are supplied. Having nothing to do and being bored is an ideal time for the brain to think, create and imagine. Create a space for this – warn your children which days it will be, keep to your word and leave them to their own resources. Resist filling in the time for them, unless you are playing with them. You can do this challenge every holidays!
Note: Give them a few days notice of this event, as then it is easier to remove the phones, remotes and chargers while they are asleep. Then they wake up fresh, with no access to technology. Let the fun begin!

Holiday challenges: Each holiday I work on a special family challenge – some have been very simple and others a bit more complex. These have included:

The Knuckle Bones (Jacks) Challenge: I didn’t really play knuckle bones as a Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.26.03 PMchild so we were all starting off on a fairly even playing field – or so I thought. Each night after dinner, the four of us, Mum, Dad and 2 kids, sat on the floor and learned the game. We googled the rules and levels and off we went. Competition started getting fierce when we all realised that Dad (who have never played in his life before) had bigger hands and could catch all 5 knuckle bones on the back of his hand and therefore skipping up the levels very quickly. The children would ‘secretly’ practice during the day in a bid to beat their Dad. The last day of the holidays was the crowning of the Champion of Champions – we played until there was a clear winner.

The Gratitude Challenge: This was rather simple, yet caused a great deal of conversation and thinking over the 2 weeks. I stuck a huge piece of blank chart paper to the wall in our kitchen. Each day, usually after dinner, each of us would write 3 things we were grateful for that day. Every person who visited us during that 2 week period also added their ideas and gratitudes to the chart. After 2 weeks we simply talked about how grateful we are as a family and the impact on this in our lives.

The Bucket List Challenge: one of our most in depth tasks was to create a book of notes and a poster of our bucket list. Inspired by Travis Bell, the Bucket List Guy, we went though a process of each day looking at one aspect of our future and what we would like to be, do or have. The categories were:

B = Buy that something special  bucketList
U = Ultimate Challenge
C = Conquer a fear
K = Kind Acts of Others
E = Express Yourself – we also talked about the words we wanted to define us eg: inspiring, passionate
T = Travel Adventures 10648441_10152689413213503_1229039634893412475_o

L = Leave a legacy
I = Idiotic Stuff
S = Satisfy a Curiosity
T = Take Lessons

M = Meet a personal hero

We brainstormed these in a random order each night and at the end created a poster with photos, pictures and words. These are still displayed in our kitchen today. For step by step ideas, please see my blog Our Family Bucket Lists.

Other family challenges (still to come) include; the board game challenge, the ukelele challenge and the step challenge! I’m making them up as I go along!

The clean your room challenge: This one I love – each holidays (and occasionally mid term) I offer the ice cream challenge – clean your room, to my standard in less than an hour and I’ll buy you an ice cream! Simple, fun and the rooms actually get tidy – including dusting, vacuuming and clearing out the clutter. While they sometimes moan and complain throughout , they put on their favourite music (loud) and I constantly give the countdown – “40 minutes to go”, 20 minutes to go”, “5 minutes to go.” It is fun and effective and of course one child does not want to miss out on the ice cream, so they both participate fully.

In what ways might you engage your children in the form of challenges over the next holiday break?

For a free list of great ideas in the school holidays -please email


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Published on Monday, July 4th, 2016, under Family, Parenting

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

2 Responses to “School Holidays – creating lasting memories with fun family challenges”

  1. Vanessa says:

    These are fantastic ideas Karen! Love them all. Will see how I can use a couple of these for my little ones (5 & 2)

  2. Meg says:

    Your whanau traditions are so special and build a life time of memories for your children, they are so lucky. Thanks for sharing Karen, truly appreciated.

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