School’s out. Make the six-week holiday fun for the whole family with these ideas, inspired by children
‘I love running around and getting messy – my mum says I’m like a little monkey.'
Maisie Jacka, 8, from South Wales says her perfect summer is spent getting creative. Here are some of her favourite craft ideas…
Bend some garden wire or an old coat hanger into a loop, or any two-dimensional shape you like. Make a bubble solution out of water, washing-up liquid and glycerin, then dip in and blow!
Fold a coloured sheet of A3 paper in half (short ends together). Curl (don’t crease) the top two corners down to about 12cm along the fold and staple. Punch a hole 15cm along the fold and thread with string. Decorate how you like – streams of tissue paper as a tail work well.
Collect smooth pebbles from the beach and decorate with acrylic paint. Create a scene by painting a different object (such as an animal, building, tree, person…) on each.
Pet the animals
‘My perfect day out is to go to the farm and feed the animals.’
Taylor Kisson, 5, from Middlesex, says getting close to animals is his idea of fun. Find petting farms around the country at uk-zoos.co.uk. Here are three of our favourites…
1 Big Sheep & Little Cow in Yorkshire is a ‘destination farm,’ which offers a complete family experience along with cafés and play areas. A family ticket including a tour of the farm is £20. farmattraction.co.uk.
2 During the holidays, Honeybrook Farm in Devon offers pony rides to children aged three and up for £3 a go. Or sign them up for riding lessons – a group session for up to six costs £15. honeybrook.org.
3 Cities have farms, too. Visit Larry the Donkey at Hackney City Farm and enjoy a bit of rural life in the middle of London – plus a fab farm shop. hackneycityfarm.co.uk.
Build a den
‘I love playing in the garden with my brother, making dens’
Ted Conlon, 13, from West Yorkshire, says a dream summer is building dens and having water fights. Here’s The Woodland Trust’s guide to building the perfect den in the woods*…
1 Find a strong tree with a low-hanging branch that can act as a framework for your secret den.
2 Collect large fallen branches and wedge them tightly together either side of this low branch, to create a shelter.
3 Cover the branches with leaves and weave in smaller twigs to make it cosy inside. Make it a competition – get into teams and see who can scavange for branches and leaves and build the best den in the fastest time.
*Find the illustrated version at visitwoods.org.uk.
Because water fights are a must when it’s hot…
Squirt water from a washing-up bottle.
Soak a sponge in a bucket of water and play catch. Carefully.
Fill balloons with water and tie up to make water bombs.
Turn on the garden sprinkler on rotate, shut your eyes and guess when it’s ‘safe’ to run past.
‘Are we there yet?’ 6 ways to stay sane when travelling with kids
Family holidays are fab. Getting to your destination laden with bags, accompanied by easily-bored children and lots to remember? Not so much. Try these to make travelling with children a smoother ride…
- Feed the children before you leave
Adults get grumpy when they’re hungry and children are no different. Feed the kids a reasonable meal before you set off for a journey and take snacks like fresh carrot sticks, fruit and perhaps a treat or two. Likewise, make sure you’re not travelling on an empty stomach.
- Let older children ‘help’ you look after little ones
When you’re digging around in your bag or paying for something, it’s tricky to have your eyes on your toddler, too. For those moments, recruit any older children to watch the baby. They’ll feel grown up being put in charge, and it allows you to get on with that unavoidable adult admin.
- Fill a kids bag with stuff
The trick to any journeys with children is to keep them occupied. There are some great kids pull-along suitcases with wheels, but any bag will do. Before you set off, let them fill it with toys, games and colouring stuff and there’ll always be something for them to do.
- Reward them
It’s an old cliché but rewarding good behaviour really can work wonders. If the children are behaving well on the journey, being really nice to each other and not whining, acknowledge it. Even young ones will feel proud and it’ll be smiles all round.
- Let them run about
For children with bundles of energy, one of the hardest things about travelling is being cooped up. When and where possible, let them stretch their legs. A quick break when you see a suitable space can make all the difference to relax children into the next stretch of the journey. You never know, they might even nod off…
Leave plenty of time! It seems an obvious one, but whatever time you need to get somewhere leave more time than you think you need (this is even more crucial if you have a flight to catch). This allows the kids to prepare slowly (as they do), without you getting stressed, so you can all stay excited and happy about the holiday ahead.
Sports fans unite
Sports-fanatics will love these fun alternatives to kicking a ball around…
Host your own sports day
Organise a sports day with friends and family. Decide what games you’ll play and who’ll bring what – footballs, bats and so on. Divide into teams (mix children and adults), then round off the day with a sports quiz.
Take a tour
For a special day out, take a tour of your favourite sports ground. For example, Lords Cricket Ground offers Match Day tours (£40 for a family ticket), which includes a peek at the famous Ashes urn and into the players’ dressing rooms. See lords.org.
Get fit, have fun
‘Trim trails’ are now popping up in our parks; they involve simple bits of equipment, such as parallel bars and balance beams. Ask your local council where your nearest one is, then invent team challenges involving the apparatus.
Get messy in the kitchen
Kids love to see something transform before their eyes and the kitchen is the perfect place for this…
Make magic happen
Help them blitz up fruit smoothies in the food processor or create ice lollies from puréed fruit (try these delicious Fruit Smoothie lollies). As a bonus, fussy eaters are more eager to eat things they’ve chosen and created themselves – a crafty way to get them to eat more fruit and veg.
Be hands on
Anything that involves getting their hands messy is sure to score points. Choose recipes involving kneading, rolling, dipping and shaping food. Check out our kiddie food ideas.
Whether it’s smearing melted chocolate over a cake, sticking sweets on biscuits or modelling shapes out of icing, decorating bakes is where kids can be really creative. Lay out some sweets and chopped fruit and let their big imaginations run wild.
Kids’ summer clubs
Summer clubs are fun alternative to childcare…
Kids’ summer clubs offer all sorts of fun activities to keep your little turbo fully charged. Supercamps.co.uk runs day camps for children aged from four to 16, with exciting activities from motor quads and archery to crafting and performing arts. Courses cost from £160 per week, making them a great alternative to childcare, plus you can pay with childcare vouchers.
And when it’s raining…
Make the weather irrelevant with these fun indoor activities…
Create your own radio programme by recording your favourite songs and talking about topics you’re interested in. Get friends involved by interviewing them or chairing discussions.
You use more than taste to identify food. Take it in turns to be blindfolded and guess what food is on the spoon. Choose things with interesting textures, like avocado, baked beans and rice pudding. Or see how many people can identify different chocolate bars.
Download music videos to dance to from dancetothis.co.uk. Dancers of all abilities also use the site to post their own routines for you to try.
If you can’t go down to the woods today, get young kids to gather their soft toys for an indoors teddy bears’ picnic. Throw a picnic rug down in the lounge and add pot plants from the garden to set the scene. Lay out a few snacks, make party hats for the bears and play hide and seek by hiding bears for your child to find.