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The Formula To The Perfect Family Day Out

July 15, 2016

With the school holidays on the horizon, families are set for six weeks of summer activities, attractions and fun days out together – but how do you craft the perfect day out?

Working with respected child psychologist Sarah Minder, North London shopping centre Brent Cross has compiled the ultimate guide for parents planning their family days out and activities. Should a good family day out be cheap or expensive? Should the kids be involved in the planning? Should it be things to do or just one thing to do?

By grouping certain principles together, Brent Cross have created a formula that could help your family day out be something memorable, rather than a stress-filled outing.

Family Days Out – The Essentials

When planning a family day out with kids, a number of different methods and factors can be taken into account.

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I for Involvement – It might seem like an idea designed to create a parental nightmare, but getting your kids involved in the planning stages is the first step to creating a great family day out. Spending some time together brainstorming ideas is the first step, being sure to include turn taking and taking everyone’s needs into account as a great way of teaching compromise from the off.

This planning stage can help overcome differences in gender and age too. By working together as a family unit, you can choose an activity that works for all kids – boys and girls, toddlers to teens. This early planning helpfully leads into another key factor…

TA for Time Allocation – Even if it’s just one child and one parent, time allocation is essential to ensure everyone has a good family day out. If the activity is all about the kids, a parent can feel drained. In a multi-child family, if everything is geared towards one age bracket or one gender, the other party can feel alienated and their enjoyment could turn to despondence. This counts for parents too – make sure that it’s not a ‘Kids Day Out’, make sure you take steps to make it a family day out. For example, pick a good restaurant for adults that also serve food for kids…rather than the other way around!

TU for Teaming Up – Closely related to time allocation, teaming up is a great way of making the most of your family day out. Pair mother and son, daughter and dad and other variations to ensure everyone can have time together and, if necessary, time apart from each other too. This is especially important for older children who are striving for extra independence and responsibility and parents too. If the kids are of appropriate age, options for sibling together time – allowing the parents some respite – should never be actively discouraged. Equally if dealing with children that need a lot of supervision, parents can work together to create some solo time, ensuring that parents aren’t just parenting outside – it’s a proper family day out.

Cr for creativity – It’s important not to be too rigid when you are on your family day out. A family day out is meant to be fun and occasionally some parents fall into a trap of turning things to do and activities into a ‘mission’, rather than leisure. Break up travelling time with fun games such as ‘I spy’, 20 questions and alike is a great way of keeping enthusiasm levels high in natural lulls that may occur on a family day out. Creativity can also involve diverting from the plan. You may have listed out your things to do beforehand, but if something unplanned suddenly appears – don’t be afraid to redesign your family day out just because it was not on the schedule.

T for Tech (negative) – As everybody knows, kids with tech can lead to kids not talking…and it’s true of parents too! Whether playing Angry Birds or checking work emails, engaging with tech likely means you’re not engaging on your family day out. One of the best ways of managing this is to ensure that all members of the family agree a ‘pact’ to limit tech use on the day. That said, there can be tech benefits, as the next factor indicates…

C for capture – Don’t hold back on photographs and films to capture your family day out. Not only do they create good memories, they add a sense of occasion to your activities, rather than feeling like ‘just another day out.’ Capturing images and video to document the day adds fun…and kids always make great content and enjoy being part of the production.

E for expense – Whether it’s a free day out for the family, or some paid for things to do, the expense can add an unnecessary burden to proceedings. Overspend and parents could find themselves exerting pressure on kids to enjoy themselves and if the kids aren’t enjoying every minute, resentment can build on both sides. Equally, being overly stringent could lead to the day feeling restricted, or being viewed as a standard day out, rather than a fun family day out. The key here is a balance, planning and setting expectations. Budget well, funny doesn’t have to mean money and communicate, especially with older kids, to outline what is and is not in the budget for the day to prevent disappointment or frivolity.

So with these factors outlined, Brent Cross have worked out the perfect formula for the perfect family day out;

PFDO = (I + TA) x (TU + CR) – (T/C)

While this is a good formula to follow in general, how does it apply to kids of all ages? We now show which bits of the equation you want to dial up and dial down depending on ages.

Babies – 0-18 months

It goes without saying that babies require less involvement in the planning stages, but there are some other aspects of the equation you should dial up and dial down – most notably time allocation and teaming up. A child of this age will spend most of their time in a buggy or pram, so will always need to be supervised…and time may need to be allocated for a nap too. This could provide parents with a chance to enjoy more adult time, both by going solo (one parent with the buggy of course!) and together.

At this tender age, the family day out doesn’t necessarily need to take into account concepts such as tech, creativity and expense. Put simply, the kids are too young to care!

Dial Up: Time Allowance (TA) and Teaming Up (TU).

Dial Down: Involvement (I), Creativity (Cr), Tech (T) and Expense (E).

Neutral: Capture (C).

Toddlers – 18 months – 5 years

Arguably the trickiest age to deal with, but the same lessons apply. The general equation should be followed, but with more emphasis on a few key elements.

At this age, creativity is key as the kids will get bored more easily than both younger and older groups. Time allowance is very important to this age group – spend too long doing one activity, especially if it’s weighted towards a particular gender, you may find yourself dealing with a public tantrum.

As with the previous group, maturity – or lack thereof – will restrict the need to address costs, tech and pre-planning involvement.

Dial Up: Time Allowance (TA), Teaming Up (TU) and Creativity (Cr).
Dial Down: Involvement (I), Tech (T) and Expense (E)
Neutral: Capture (C)

Tweens – 6-11 years

This age group represents the sweet spot for the equation, as each element can be applied with ease. When it comes to nailing things to do, kids at this age can be consulted on the activity and will appreciate being part of it. Similarly, they are also responsive to image capture…but more likely to be distracted by phones and tablets, so the need to guard against negative tech usage increases. Many alterations can be made as you go up and down the age scale and gender variations should also be considered.

Dial Up/Dial Down/Neutral: As you were equation, as you were!

Teens (12-16)

At this age, there is a lot more dialling up than dialling down! More involvement is essential and shows a level of respect and accountability this age group will yearn for.

Time Allocation can be dialled down as the need for strict military planning can be lessened with this age group. More emphasis can be placed on Teaming Up, as siblings of similar ages can spend time together, but apart from parents. Despite these liberations, when family time is announced – the need to manage tech with this group heightens. It’s not a family day out if half the family have their heads buried in a phone or tablet.

However, some tech leeway can be given in relation to capture. This age group live for sharable content…and they know how to use it! Making a teen ‘official photographer’ for the day is a great way of keeping them engaged, whilst also contributing to a great family day out.

Finally, the expense can be dialled up. Kids of this age will know when too much or too little has been spent, but can also be placated with a separate budget. ‘Pocket money’, a pre-agreed amount paired with responsibility on how it’s spent, is a great way of navigating this element.

Dial Up: Involvement (I), Teaming Up (TU), Tech (T), Capture (C), Expense (E)
Dial Down: Time Allocation (TA), Creativity (Cr)

Things to do in North London / Brent Cross this summer holiday

So with the equation for the perfect family day out secured, where to go? Brent Cross has the following to offer this summer holiday:

  • The Beach at Brent Cross, London’s largest urban beach will be open from 1st July until the 4th September. Tickets cost £3 or free with the PLUS app.
  • There are a range of rides and slides at The Beach at Brent Cross the whole family can enjoy; from the daring Thriller Coaster to the feel good Merry Go Round. For the first time, the Beach at Brent Cross will also be screening this years’ sports highlights for sporting enthusiasts; from Wimbledon to all the Olympic action from Rio.

There will be a range of exciting performers visiting the beach; with Brazilian dancers, stilt walkers and fire artists. 

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