6 weeks is a long time to be the master of ceremonies and primary entertainer to a small but demanding audience. We’ve gathered a few of our favourite family-friendly ideas to keep the kids happy this holiday.
7 days x 6 weeks = 42 chances to try a new idea.
Getting the kids involved in anything food-wise is sure to be a hit. Who doesn’t like eating? From improving little ones’ fine motor skills with stirring, to sneaking in some important life skills, cooking makes a great (and functional) activity.
Whether your kids are more weeders or nurturers, there’s plenty to enjoy in the garden. Head out to your local garden centre to pick out some plants, and get the kids to decide where they’re going to live. Watering them every day becomes an activity in its own right, and they’ll get to see it grow and grow.
3. Have a paper plane race
A good one for inside and out, grab some A4 paper and get everyone folding. Once you’ve settled on your designs (and decorated them of course), decide your starting line and finishing line and get throwing!
4. Write a story (one line at a time)
You probably remember playing this at school. You take a piece of paper and take it in turns to write a sentence before folding the paper over so the next person can’t see. The results range from hilarious to the outright bizarre!
5. Tie dye some t shirts
Spruce up an old white t shirt with a bit of rainbow fun! You’ll need some shop bought fabric dye, rubber bands and a bucket (plastic will stain so bear this in mind if you want to use it for anything else.
How to tie-dye:
1. Buy some fabric dye and mix it up following the instructions on the pack.
2. Add about 250g of salt to the mixture.
3. Lay your t shirt on the ground, grab one section and pull it up so you have a cone shape.
4. Tie rubber bands tightly along the cone shape to secure it, remember that where there’s a band, the dye won’t be able to penetrate as well. This creates the pattern.
5. Submerge your t shirt in the dye mix, and stir it for 15 minutes. Then leave it for 45.
6. Without untying any of the bands, rinse in cold water until the water runs clear.
7. Untie and wash in warm water.
8. Hang on the washing line to dry.
Once dry, you can wear your tie-dye creation with pride. Just remember to wash it separately the first few times in case there’s any loose dye waiting to come out. Using a colour catcher sheet in your wash will also help contain any runs.
6. Be sporty
Go to your local sports centre and see what classes and activities they offer, or go to the swimming pool and see who’s the best at floating, and how many laps you can swim in one go.
7. Get modelling
From animals to monsters, there’s no limit to what can be created with modelling clay. Try and find some that can be baked after so their creations can live on.
8. Visit your local library
From reading groups, special events and a wonderful world of knowledge, the library is a wonderful free resource for an inquisitive mind. Next time anyone has a question, suggest going to the library to find the answer instead of looking it up online straight away!
9. Play board games
A little friendly competition never hurt anyone, and board games can be a great time to get everyone together when the weather’s not playing ball. If you’re really competitive, create a leaderboard to track the ultimate champion.
10. Go for a walk
You never know what you’ll see, or who you’ll bump into. Even if you just go for a walk around the block.
11. Visit the zoo
Lots of zoos offer a pass for unlimited visits, so give this some serious consideration if you live near enough. With every trip they’ll think they’re just there to admire cute furry faces, but all the while they’ll be learning too.
12. See the seaside
Looking for buried treasure, running away from waves, eating chips and ice-cream. Need we say more.
13. Conquer a castle
Castles are fantastic tourist attractions and usually cater for kids with activity trails, quizzes and colouring in (plus there’s all that gruesome history to enjoy!).
14. Visit a museum or art gallery
Lots of museums are free these days, and they offer lots of things to look at! The best options for families offer accessible information and activities for kids, like colouring in and quizzes to keep them engaged. You could discover you’ve got the next Picasso in your midst.
15. Spend time with the grandparents
Often the givers of the best gifts and sweets, everyone loves a trip to see Grandma and Grandad. Chances are, in addition to all the kisses and cuddles, you might all get fed too.
16. Play poohsticks
If it’s good enough to the famous bear and his piglet pal, it’s good enough for us. Something of an opportunists activity, all you need it a bridge with water flowing beneath it, and as many sticks are there are players. Stand on one side of the bridge, drop your sticks into the water, and rush to the other side to see which one won!
17. Treasure hunt
Try hiding small toys under plants or taping little bags of sweets to branches and get the kids to hunt them down. Also works as an indoor activity, but you’ll need to get more creative with your hiding spots!
18. Garden skittles
Garden skittles kits are a kid essential. They’re inexpensive and last, making them a decent, and more importantly fun, investment. Not just an enjoyable activity, skittles will also help smaller children practise their hand-eye coordination.
19. Make a map of the neighbourhood or a park
Could you kids find their way home from the local park, their school or their best friend’s house? See how much they remember from a familiar (but short) journey, by challenging them to create their own map, complete with any interesting sights they see on the way. If they struggle, you can always go for a walk to remind them.
20. Karaoke competition
Pick your favourite songs and take it in turns to perform to the family. Don’t forget to dress up like a pop star too!
When you’re ready for something more advanced than a paper plane, turn your folding skills to a spot of origami. There are lots of tutorials out there that make it easy with step by step guidance. All you need is a stack of paper to turn into hopping frogs, love hearts, and classic cranes.
22. Build a den
The same activity takes on a fun new perspective from a den. They can be as simple as stacking sofa cushions on the floor, or throwing a bed sheet over a couple of dining chairs, but if you want to step things up a notch, learn how to make a fab tepee from our guest blogger, Tired n Tested.
23. Family tree
Take the ‘tree’ part literally, and draw a sturdy trunk and branches, then use finger paints to add leaves to represent everyone in the family. Once dry, write a name on each leaf. A lovely way to remind the kids how many special people they have in their lives, and a great personalised piece of art to hang.
24. Make a fairy garden
A fairy garden is like a miniature garden, where you use small plants and props to create a fairy-sized green space. They fit almost anywhere, so even if you don’t have a little piece of garden going spare, you can make use of an old flower pot, washing up bowl or galvanised bucket to give these magical creatures a home. Fill it with soil, and add plants and flowers, make pathways with pebbles, half bury a small plant pot on its side to create a fairy den, and even add a little water-filled dish to act as a pond.
25. Make a rain gauge
Rain can’t be helped, so why not turn it into a project? With a gauge, you’ll be able to monitor how much rain falls in your garden every day. Before you know it, they’ll be wanting a downpour to test their experiment!
You will need:
• An empty plastic bottle (a large one is better to maximise rain-catching)
How to make a rain gauge:
1. Cut the top off the bottle, about two thirds up, or just after the top stops curving down.
2. Take the top section and turn it upside down in the bottom section, then tape into place.
3. Using a ruler, mark a centimetre scale along a piece of tape and stick it as straight as possible on the side of the bottle.
4. Pick a location to bury your rain gauge. It needs to be an open area, away from overhead cover (trees, rooves etc).
5. Dig a hole, deep enough to allow the top of the bottle to sit about 5cm above the surface.
6. At the same time every day, pull the gauge out of the ground to see how much rain has fallen. Note the amount, empty the bottle, and check back every day. If you keep daily records you can turn them into a chart.
26. Face paints
Even if your face painting skills are on the novice side, little ones will appreciate the chance to change into a tiger, panda or pirate.
27. Paint with bubbles
Grab a bowl and mix paint with a little bit of water and washing-up liquid. Blow into it using a straw to magically create a mountain of colourful bubbles, then gently place a piece of paper over them to make a print, and leave to dry. Instant art!
28. Have a movie & duvet day
From a family favourite to something new, a movie-duvet day is a great excuse to snuggle up on the sofa and take it easy. Homemade popcorn makes things even better!
29. Go for a picnic
No matter how beautiful your outdoor space is, it’s always nice to get a change of scenery. Parks and local beauty spots are the ideal place to enjoy sandwiches and snacks alfresco, and you can make it more of an event by taking toys to play with too. Pack up your favourite treats, a big blanket, and get out there.
30. Go Geocaching
If you have a smart phone, you are also equipped with a GPS device, which means geocaching should be on your agenda. It’s a great way to do some exploring and get to know your local area, and find some treasure on the way. A geocache is a specific site where you’ll find a surprise left by the last person the visit it, and you can find them all by signing up to the geocaching website for free. Use your postcode to find stashes of goodies near you, but don’t forget that if you take something, you need to leave something too!
31. Bake cookies
Everyone loves them. They’re quick, delicious, and almost fool proof. There’s also the option of decorating them after baking, for added entertainment. Try our gingerbread man recipe here.
32. Splash about
Recommended for hot days only, if you’ve got a hose, a sprinkler, or even a watering can, your kids will have a blast while they keep cool.
33. Make pet rocks
Once a sensation of the 1970s, all you need is a rock, paint, brushes, googly eyes (plus other crafty bits) and glue. From bright colours and googly eyes to bees, frogs and monsters, pet rocks come in all shapes, sizes and species.
How to make a pet rock:
1. Go for a walk and find your rocks. Look out for smooth ones, or interesting shapes.
2. Give them a wash when you get home, and let them dry thoroughly.
3. Cover a table in newspaper, plastic, or cardboard.
4. Break out the paints and brushes and see who emerges to join the family.
34. Go on a colour scavenger hunt
Make a colour scavenger hunt grid quickly and easily with some paper and coloured pens, pencils or crayons. Simply draw up a grid and fill each space with a different colour. Once complete, set everyone the task of finding something to match with each section.
35. Make an indoor obstacle course
A roll of masking tape is all you need for this amazingly simple rainy-day idea. With masking tape in hand, head to the hallway , and place strips of your tape at different angles between the walls. The idea is to create a web for the kids to crawl under, crouch through, stretch and step over. Think about all those laser-evading scenes in the movies… Can the kids get from one side to the other without disturbing any of the tape?
36. Beanbag toss
Easy indoor and outdoor fun. Find a big cardboard box, or large flat piece of cardboard, and cut a hole in the middle. Then get throwing beanbags! For something more challenging, try cutting holes of different sizes, with more points scored as the holes get smaller. And if you don’t have any beanbags to toss, pairs of balled-up socks will work just as well.
37. Sock puppets
Finally, a use for those mysterious lone socks. Make sure it’s clean, and long enough to cover the hand and wrist of your puppeteers. You’ll want a nicely lined-up face, so stick your hand in and start forming the features. Fingers go in the toe area, thumb in the heel (or a more reachable area for little hands). Now bring your fingers and thumb together to create the mouth. Using a marker pen, place a dot where you want the eyes and nose. Remove your hand from the sock, and it’s time to add some features. Use fabric glue to add button eyes, pom pom hair, and felt lips, or any other bits and pieces you feel like.
38. Get green-fingered
From easy-to-grow tomato plants in the garden, to a cute little crop of watercress on the windowsill, caring for and monitoring a plant of their own will require patience, but the results are satisfying (especially when you get to eat the outcome).
39. Sunflower growing competition
All the wholesomeness of gardening, with the benefit of a winner. If you like your competitions on the tall side, try this one for size. Each plant a seed, water it, talk to it, give it a name and watch it grow… hopefully higher than all the rest.
40. Finger-paint animals
Paper, paints, fingers (and thumbs). Dip your tips into your colour of choice, press it on the paper, wait for it to dry and use pens to add snouts, hooves, wings, beaks, and more. Try whole hand prints, and turn them into horses, cows, peacocks, and turkeys.
41. Frozen chalk
It can be tough to keep the kids cool when the temperature soars, but icy frozen chalk offers a fun outdoor activity that can help. Make sure they’re ready in the freezer when you see a heatwave forecast and let the kids loose on your garden paving with their melting art materials.
You will need:
Ice cube tray
Liquid or gel food colouring
How to make frozen chalks:
1. Take an ice tray and fill about 40-50% of each segment with the cornflour.
2. Next, add some colour. You can use liquid or gel food colouring, but gel tends to go a bit further and give brighter results. If you’re using liquid food colouring, make sure to use plenty!
3. Now carefully add water to each individual section, and mix each very carefully. Don’t overfill the sections or the water will run together and spoil your colours.
4. Place in the freezer for 5 hours or until frozen.
5. Once ready, remove from the freezer and get playing.
42. Become woodland explorers
Check out the free downloadables from the Woodland Trust. They’re packed with ideas from hunting mini-beasts to making hedgehog homes and flower crowns, and when the weather turns, there’s plenty of print-out and colour-in pages too.