It doesn't matter how firmly the sun has got its hat on, you can pretty much guarantee that the British weather will do it's darndest to blow it off – and as the summer holidays draw near that can create something of a headache for parents.
How DO you entertain your kids when it's pouring down outside?
Of course, the Lazy Parent's option is to let their kids sit in front of screens until their eyes turn square and their personalities zombify.
And, to be honest, there's nothing remotely wrong with allowing our kids limited time on their computers, iPads or video consoles.
Eventually, though, Lazy Parent Guilt overwhelms and it's time to get creative.
But how? Check out these ideas for indoor activities for when the weather's too bad to kick your kids outside!
Lego and Meccano have been the saviour of many a parent's sanity for generation, but even if you don't own a set, your kids can still let loose the mini-architect in them with anything they can get their hands on: lolly sticks, pieces of cardboard, even the cushions from the settee. Let their imaginations run wild and don't worry about the mess.
Also know as 'Bored games!'. They might seem old fashioned, but you'll be amazed how quickly children take to the games we grew up with when we were kids when you ban them from the computer for a couple of hours. Favourites in our house are Monopoly Empire, Operation, Guess Who?, Ludo and Frustration. And only last week, I taught the oldest two to play Chess – and they're pretty good at it (though not good enough to beat their Old Man!)
Spin some tunes, turn the volume up and get your kids dancing in the living room (warn the neighbours first) and then FREEZE! Turn the music off and watch with great amusement as your fidgety children attempt to stand on one leg, or pose as a leopard, or adopt the shape of a letter 'Y', for however long you're cruel enough to leave them until you crank up the track again.
Probably not the ideal game if you live in a flat with downstairs neighbours, but in a roomy house, this is a great way to keep the kids entertained for a while.
Set up your hopscotch game on any floor surface. Masking tape will do perfectly to form the nine connecting squares. Boxes 1-3 are placed in a single line, one on top of the other. The next two boxes (4, 5) are placed side-by-side, followed by a single box (6), two more boxes (7, 8) and the final half-circle 'home' base (9).
Next, choose a marker, such as a coin, stone or beanbag. The first player will throw the marker into square 1 without letting it bounce or touch the lines.
If successful, the player then hops - one foot on single squares and two feet on side-by-side squares - avoiding square 1. The player may rest on 'home' before hopping back.
On the way back, he or she picks up the marker on square 1 and, if successful (lands within the lines, hops or jumps with proper footing, doesn't fall), takes another turn and throws it into square 2. When the player is unsuccessful, the next player takes a turn.
Players resume their turns by throwing the marker on the last box played.
The winner is the first player to throw the marker home (9), and complete the whole course.
HIDE AND SEEK
If you're feeling particularly over-fraught with housework or distractions beyond playing with your kids (like your mum calling to see how you're getting on with the sprogs on this rainy day, for example) then it can be tempting to let this classic children's game go on for a tad too long – especially if you're 'it'.
Count to 10 while the children hide behind the curtains and under the bed, make yourself a cup of coffee, stare at your nails while you natter away. It sounds like bliss, doesn't it – until the kids emerge from their hideouts, tearful with abandonment issues.
Make this classic children's game interesting by hiding dad's keys before he goes to work and seeing if the kids can track them down. But if you're not feeling that mischievous, simply hide some treasure – a stash of cupcakes, a bag of sweets or their favourite DVD – then write your clues on some slips of paper. Next, place the first clue somewhere easy to find, like inside your child's snack or cereal bowl, and leave the rest of the clues around the house – as many as you like - making a trail to the final clue. Instead of a prize, the treasure hunt can lead to various coins around the house. This way the kids get to collect all the coins and put them in their piggy banks in the end.
A bit like pass the parcel, but without the need to buy a present (yay!). Get the kids to sit on the floor in a circle. Turn on some music and have the children pass the 'potato' (a bean bag or soft ball) around the circle as fast as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the potato leaves the circle. Keep going until only one player is left and wins the game.
THE LISTENING GAME
Literally minutes of endless fun, this one. Collect some random items together and show them to the kids. Now get said kids to close their eyes and 'play' each item to see if they can guess what it is. For example, run your fingers along a comb; tap a glass; rub some sandpaper; bang a pan with a spoon.
Turn some soap and a few straws into good clean fun for your kids. Place a few drops of liquid onto the centre of a plate. Pour a little water onto the plate and gently mix with the dish soap until some suds start to form. Have the kids place the straw in the suds and blow very gently. Watch as massive bubbles start to form. To make this competitive, see who blows the biggest, or longest-lasting, bubble.
Do yourself a huge favour and be 'Simon' for this game and for once you might actually get your kids to do what you tell them. Get the kids to gather around you and start with the phrase: 'Simon says'. For example: 'Simon says...touch your toes.' Or: 'Simon Says empty the dishwasher.' Or: 'Simon Says make the beds.' Or: 'Simon Says make me a cup of tea.' You get the idea. If a child touches his toes/makers the bed etc when Simon didn't say...he or she is out of the game. The last player left in the game wins and becomes the next Simon.