Finally, the much anticipated Summer holidays are here. However, the initial excitement may be followed by worries about how to keep your children meaningfully occupied over the long break without huge cost. With several weeks to fill, days out can quickly add up to become eye-wateringly expensive.
The good news is that little children really don't need pricey entertainment to have fun or to keep learning a thing or two!
Fun and often whacky activities can create the happiest memories for both children and parents. I still treasure the memory of creating kitchen mayhem aged seven, when baking rainbow bread with my dad. And it is an activity my own small children still love to do nowadays with me.
Here are some ideas to try together:
1. Foil Sculptures Buy a roll of the cheapest silver foil for each child and invite them to make their own 'sculptures' for an exhibition. Have a cleared spot ready to display the models in categories such as 'Animals', 'Household Items', 'Most Daring Design' or 'Biggest Model'. A neighbour or family friend can also be invited over to comment on the designs and give out certificates. This will enable children of whatever age to have a go with confidence.
2. Karaoke Time Make a play list of songs that your children love and print out the lyrics. Each child or parent may take alternate lines or verses or allocate parts. Enthusiasm rather than musicality is what counts here! Songs from musicals or films work particularly well, especially from Disney films such as 'Lion King' or 'Tangled'. This is also a good playdate activity when it may be too rainy to play outside.
3. Wildlife Safari Even in the most urban environments, wildlife can be spotted. Head off around armed with note books and pencils and you may be surprised by what you may see. Children can write down what they spot or draw a simple sketch in their note pads and keep a tally of how many animals they have seen. There will also be lots of opportunities to talk about the importance of caring for wildlife and the environment.
4. Junk Modelling Stash away any old cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes or soft-edged packaging and have sticky tape, glue and scissors to hands. An afternoon turning boxes into robot costumes, designing space rockets or castles can be a lot of fun.
5. Baking Rainbow Bread Cooking of whatever kind is always a popular pastime with children. Add anything which also includes mess, hands-on squishiness and colour will be a hit. Rainbow bread ticks every one of these boxes. Take a simple recipe for sweet bread, divide the dough into four strands, add different colouring to each and twist (it looks like modelling dough at this stage), glaze with a beaten egg and bake. Serve warm, sliced with butter or jam. Once baked, sifted icing sugar mixed with lemon juice forms a good base to hold some sprinkles in place.
6. Evening Flower Walks After dinner, when energy levels may be high and the sun is still warm, take a short walk looking for interesting blooms or plants and let your children take photos of them. The next morning, look up the flowers together online to learn the names. When you have exhausted all local shrubbery, gnome spotting too can be fun.
7. Bubble Bath 'Drinks' Factory Under your careful supervision and with clear rules about no tasting, your child will love making various 'drinks' concoctions to 'serve' to you. Before you begin, you will want to hide any expensive bath products and put on a plastic apron. Run a warm bath for your child and provide plastic cups, bowls and spoons. Dig around in your bathroom cupboard for any remnants of shampoos, shower gel, bubble bath and baby oil (if you dare) for them to mix up. A cheap canister of bubble foam is also very important too for 'frothing' the tops of any 'drinks' they make.
8. Indoor Camping If you don't mind your house being turned upside down for an afternoon, den-building is always popular. Allow your children to collect pillows, cushions, blankets and duvets from around the house to make their own indoor camp. String lights and battery- operated candles purchased cheaply can add a magical touch.
9. Thank you Wall
Consciously promote kindness and harmony in your home over the holidays by creating a gratitude wall. All you need to provide are pencils and a pile of sticky notes. Each family member could be encouraged to write the names of those who have made them feel happy during that day and why. For younger children or those less confident writing, they can draw a simple picture of that person. This can be really heart-warming when you share the nominations together with each other at bedtime.