School summer holidays are approaching, so time then to plan for what can seem like a really long 2 months of children at home. Thankfully, throughout France there are loads of inexpensive (and well organised) things for kids to do – often run by sports collectives and local centres des loisirs – summer day clubs are very popular, as are subsidized week long camps away where the children can practise their favourite sport.
And if les peitits prefer, the traffic free square in Monpazier serves as a great base for playing with their friends and - language barriers quickly overcome - other visiting children. Meanwhile while the parents take a well deserved break with a coffee, intermittently broken by tending to grazed knees and dispensing ice creams.
There’s real pleasure of sitting in the sun, letting it all roll by and at the same time giving the children some independence - and not having to worry about their safety (too much!!). And encouraging them to go to the bakers on their own, letting them run ahead to the library or simply watching from a distance as they explore and play – it’s all just part of our daily life. Parents don't think twice about helping someone else’s child back on to their bike or brushing them off when they trip over for the 100th time – and in return you’ll get a wave and a thank you from their mum and dad as the child runs off to rejoin the game.
Our youngest attends the holiday club for 2 mornings a week with lunch – normally a 3 course picnic - eaten outside, all seated around long tables. Quite often a kind local donates the use of their pool for one or two days a week and the children walk hand in hand there to spend a few hours splashing, diving and getting seriously tanned.
On returning to the centre de loisirs, shoes are kicked off (occasionally into the undergrowth, never to be seen again) and the children spend their time working on crafts, playing outside, reading and of course playing the most popular game .... "babyfoot" (table football), at which every 5 year old is irritatingly good. Come early afternoon, the youngest members have a quiet time and the older children go off to the main hall to hang out. All the children are encouraged to choose an activity and once everyone’s up and about again, the supervisors pass from group to group helping and chatting. It’s a lovely way for the children to see their friends and keep in touch until the new term starts.
There are also plenty of swimming lakes or river beaches in our area where many an afternoon is spent, playing in the sand and swimming. Most have cafes and all are beautifully looked after, with barely a scrap of litter to be found. Take your blanket, find a shady tree and set up camp. And if you want to do it properly, take your fold away table, chairs and barbecue and have a proper French picnic, complete with all courses, three different wines and linen napkins. Unfortunately we haven't quite reached this level of sophistication - although I do have a yearning to buy all the stuff from Decathlon.
Cycling is a great way to enjoy the countryside – best to choose early morning before it’s too hot, make your way into town for your croissants and (as long as you ask first!) take them to the café to enjoy with your cappuccino. Summers are great but we are all glad when school restarts ... you can have too much of a good thing!