Keeping kids entertained for the long summer holidays can feel like a full time job. Especially when money is tight and the weather is unpredictable. But fear not, whilst it may seem that the holidays will never end and the children may be getting restless, we have some great ideas to keep them occupied, even on the gloomiest days.
Have a painting day
A really good, cost effective way of getting paper for children to paint on, is to use lining paper – the paper sold by DIY shops for lining your walls before painting. It comes in long rolls and you can cut a length and either attach it to a door (might be worth putting a couple of old towels down to protect the floor!) or you can take it outdoors lay it on the ground and let the children run riot with the paint. Encourage them to try painting on a big scale and to try new techniques, not just using a paint brush, encourage them to use their hands and their feet as a brush.
To make it an even cheaper event, you could try making your own paint as well.
How to make paint
- 750 mls water
- 65 grams cornflour (cornstarch)
- food colouring
- Mix 250mls water with the cornflour. Start by adding a small amount at a time to build up a smooth paste
- Add 500mls more
- Put into the microwave and zap on high for 8-9 minutes, or till thickened. It’s important to keep stirring every minute or so throughout the cooking process.
- Divide the mixture between 6 small bowls.
- Add 3 drops of (different) food colouring to each bowl.
Word of warning – food colouring may stain hands so your children might need a good bath afterwards!
Go camping in the garden
You don’t need to travel miles and spend a small fortune to go camping. Children will have fun wherever they are and will have just as much fun camping in their own back garden as they would at an expensive campsite.
You can even build a camp fire (adult supervision at all times!) and have a great evening sitting round the fire singing songs, telling stories and even eating smoors. For those Brits that have never heard of S’mores, they are a traditional campfire treat popular in the United States and Canada. They consist of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate, sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker. We don’t have graham crackers in the UK, but apparently the nearest thing we have is a digestive biscuit.
Go to the Beach
The weather in summer may be pretty hit and miss in the UK, but that shouldn’t stop you having a day out at the beach. If you set off expecting it to be wet, it can only get better. Just accept it’s going to be wet, and grab some waterproofs and a picnic and head on down to your nearest beach for some fun and games.
You can even have a wet weather picnic if you go prepared. You could always take a pop up tent to shelter in if the weather is really bad, but most days the weather holds out long enough to have some games on the beach.
You don’t need the sweltering sun to build sand castles, go rock pooling, or make beach art with driftwood and seaweed. Children will have fun whatever the weather.
When preparing a wet weather picnic, think about taking some warm food. Sausages and baked beans can be kept warm in wide mouth flasks and homemade soup with chunky bread always goes down well. And of course don’t forget the trusty flask of hot chocolate.
Make a fuzzy head
You will need
- Some old knee high pop socks or cut off panty hose,
- grass seed,
- a mixture of soil and sawdust
- 2 small elastic bands
- decorations – paint, googly eyes (purchased from a haberdashery store), paper, pipe cleaners, bits of felt, some old wool for hair etc.
- Have the children put 2 teaspoons of grass seed in the bottom of the toe of the panty hose.
- Add 1-2 handfuls of the soil mixture. It is important to help the children with this stage as you need to ensure that the seeds stay in the top of the head, otherwise you’ll have hair sprouting from under the eyes.
- Use the small elastic band to pinch off a nose about half way up the head.
- Use the second elastic band to tie off the bottom, or you could just tie a firm knot in the stocking.
- The children can decorate by pasting on eyes, mouth, ears, or what ever else inspires them.
- When you’ve completed your Fuzzy Head, you can either rest it on a saucer or put it in a small plastic pot, such as a left over hummus pot with water in the bottom. It is important to keep it well watered over the next few days.The ‘hair’ should sprout in less than a week. Kids can style the hair with elastic bands, clips and scissors.
Make an egghead!
In a similar vein to the fuzzy heads you could also make cress heads
For this you will need
- Egg shells
- Mustard and cress seeds
- Cook boiled eggs to eat and carefully slice off the top of the egg. Eat the egg gently so as not to break the shell.
- Fill the shell 2/3 full with soil and then sprinkle some seeds on the top and put into an egg cup.
- Use the marker to very gently draw a face on the shell. Encourage the kids to get as creative as they want and give their egg heads character.
- Water your Egg Head every day and it should start sprouting hair in 2-3 days.
Organise an old fashioned tea party.
Children love a party, even if it’s only for 3 or 4 people. Organising it can keep them happy for days.
Get the children to design and make their own invitations to give to their friends.
They can organise the food – keep it simple, but keep it small. Go for a miniature food theme, the children will love it. Try miniature fairy cakes, mini sausages, mini pizzas, mini tomatoes, mini sandwiches and even mini fairy bread. An Australian friend introduced me to the delights of fairy bread and my children loved her for it. Butter some slices of white bread and sprinkle liberally with hundreds and thousands then using cookie cutters, cut the bread into shapes. Not a particularly healthy choice, but fun as a real holiday treat.
Make a den
Dens are great fun whatever your age. There’s something magical about sitting with your friends in your secret den. The great thing about making a den is that it isn’t dependent on the weather. Dens can be made inside and out and are equally fun.
Organise an old fashioned sports day for your children and their friends
Children may have all the latest Playstation and computer games, but they still love these old fashioned events. You don’t need a garden to run one, you can simply go to your local park and organise one there.
Include events such as
- Egg and spoon race
- Sack race (using old pillow cases)
- Wheelbarrow races
- Dressing up race
- Skipping race
Make your own playdough
Children of all ages love playdough, and it’s even more fun when they can make it for themselves. This recipe makes a really great version of playdough that lasts for ages.
How to make one-minute playdough
You will need:
- 1/2 cup of salt
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- I cup of boiling water (from the kettle) mixed with
- some food colouring
- Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then mix thoroughly with the hot water.
This recipe makes wonderful playdough at a fraction of the price of shop bought. When the kids have finished with it for the day, put the leftovers in little plastic sandwich bags and it should last for ages.