We’ve been spending a lot of time at home in the last couple of years. Thankfully this has reduced significantly and we have been able to go to farms, forests, play parks and beaches. But there is a fatigue that is still there and some days I just can’t bring myself to pack up the car, with changes of clothes, snacks, buggy with buggy board and seemingly millions of other things. Staying at home is easier.
That said, the children still get restless and I like to have a list of ideas I can rattle off to my kids when they say they’re bored, ask if they can watch tv or beg for snack for the twelfth time that morning.
I thought I’d share this list with you in case you need a little inspiration throughout the summer holidays. I’ve split this list in to two categories, inside and outside, with suitability for a wide age range. We’re hoping for dry sunny weather to make use of the outside options but, living in Belfast (or indeed anywhere in the U.K.) makes this quite unlikely. You can adapt these and tailor to your own children and to what you have available in your home. Perhaps consider a couple of activities you think you’d children will particularly like and stock up on what you will need for them.
Inside activities for creative kids.
Arty free for all.
All you need is a craft box full of bits and bobs (whatever you can gather - buttons, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, chopped up bits of straws, gems, sequins, dare I say it - glitter, autumn leaves, pressed flowers, stickers…) a glue stick or two, some scissors and a stack of paper, a cardboard box or any other surface for them to decorate. Let them go wherever their imagination guides them.
This is a great one especially with my 7 and 6 year olds. On a good day, they can spend a couple of hours at the kitchen table with cookie cutters, little toys and other bits and bobs to create shapes and games in their balls of dough.
Here is my favourite recipe for play dough. The only ingredient you’ll possibly need to buy in specially is cream of tartar. It is worth doing though, as this play dough is much smoother and longer lasting than other home made doughs. You can also add in colours or smells if you have those. Cinnamon makes it smell like Christmas.
Play dough recipe:
-In a large bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients (flour, salt, cream of tartar) and mix well.
-If you’re using any, mix the food coloring with your water first. Then add the vegetable oil and water with food coloring to a large saucepan. Mix together.
-Add the dry ingredients to the saucepan and mix well.
-Cook over a low to medium heat until the dough starts to form and becomes dry.
-Once it starts to form a ball together and looks fully cooked, take it off the heat. Let the dough cool first before touching.
-When it’s cool, knead the dough for a few minutes to make it soft. If it doesn’t become soft, add a little more oil.
-Store the play dough in an airtight container to reuse again and again!
Write a book.
All you’ll need is a few sheets of paper, some pencils and a staple or two. Depending on their ages and interest levels, you may need to help with this one. But it is great for their imagination, and you can end up with a funny read. You could write the story they come up with and direct it with questions and then they can draw all the pictures. It’ll be something to keep!
You could make this a fun social activity by taking it in turns to say a word, and so creating a collaborative and, most likely, completely ridiculous book!
Write a letter to a school friend.
Since I’m writing this about school holidays particularly, why not get your kids to write a letter or make a card for their school friend they miss the most. Most classes these days have a parents WhatsApp group, so it probably won’t be too difficult to get in touch and find out their address.
It can also be really lovely to get your children to write a birthday card to a friend or a family member. If they’re not in the mood to make their own card, I have a selection here to choose from that they could write in!
Use penne or macaroni pasta (painted if you’re brave), Cheerios and fruit loops to make simple necklaces (that are somewhat edible - you may find your kids have a snack while they make)
Elmer the elephant
Draw a large elephant (or really, any animal or picture) on a large sheet/roll of paper and give your children a few sheets of ripped up coloured paper or a stack of gummy stickers each. They can decorate the elephant (or whatever you’ve given them to decorate) to look like Elmer the patchwork elephant.
Make a cosy reading corner with cushions, a box of books, maybe even blankets and fairy lights, add in a wall type thing so they feel like they’re in a special den and call quiet time for half an hour. Or don’t say anything if you think they’ll then just spend the time counting down, like one of my kids does (even though she loves to read, she doesn’t like to be forced to do it).
Outside activities to do at or close to home.
Collect flowers or autumn leaves and press them between the pages of a big book, using kitchen towel to avoid the pages being stained. Make a sandwich that goes: book page, piece of kitchen roll, flower or leaf, kitchen roll, book page. Place the book back on the shelf for a couple of weeks until the flower is well and truly dried out. You can use them to make crafts at a later date. An easy one to do in a lot of gardens.
Feed the birds.
A really simple way to make a bird feeder is to attach a piece of string to a pinecone, smother it in peanut butter and roll it in some assorted seeds. Then attach them to trees and watch the birds feast on your creations.
Make an obstacle course.
This one is great to tailor to your children’s ages and abilities. A few ideas include hopping on one leg, hopping like a bunny, doing a hopscotch (use sidewalk chalk to draw one out) skipping with a skipping rope, spinning round 5 times, jumping over a stick, log or stone, throw a ball into a bucket, leaping from ring to ring, go down the slide, fill a jug with water using a cup and another jug a few steps away, slither under a chair, … three options really are endless!
A top tip is to time them all individually and have them cheer each other on rather than getting them to all do it at the same time.
Create a scavenger hunt.
Print one off or make one up.
It could just be find something of all of these colours, or find something beginning with all of these letters or it could be more specific. A blade of grass, an ant, a grey stone, a stick, a brown leaf, a pink flower (make sure it’s one you’re happy to be picked) etc etc.
Jenny at Grizzli Bear has a great customisable pouch to collect all these treasures, and she also has a waterproof notebook which could come in handy for this activity (it is, after all, summer in Northern Ireland!)
You could also do something along the lines of an Easter egg hunt, hiding bits of Lego all over the garden (make sure you know how many you hid) or scatter a bag of frozen peas in the grass and see who can collect the most in their bucket. They could be there for hours!
Teddy bears picnic.
You could even involve them in the making of the picnic - help make cupcakes? Chop up some fruit? Spread some jam for the sandwiches? Then everyone has to have a teddy to sit with them on the blanket. You can play outdoor games or songs like duck duck goose, musical statues or anything else they’d like.
Flower soup and mud pies.
Use a plastic box with some water and give the children free reign of (a portion of) the garden in which they can pick flowers and leaves to make a flower soup. They can also make mud pies scooping some dirt in to a bit of water. If you have plastic plates, bowls and cups this activity can last longer as they make a cafe serving their soup and pies.
I find a few bottles of bubbles to be a great thing to have stashed away for days when you want them outside but they’re coming back in bored very regularly.
Fill some empty cleaning bottles with water and let the children “paint” the fence, paving or house wall. This is highly likely to descend in to a water fight which you might be okay with. If you’d rather avoid that and would like to keep the water firmly on the fence, give them paintbrushes and a cup of water instead.
This is another favourite to have stashed away when inspiration is nowhere to be found. There are options for them to use them independently, like drawing race courses to race their cars along, or train tracks for their toy trains, they can draw scenes just for fun (these usually include girls in dresses, flowers and rainbows in our house!) or make a pattern or write notes to passers by. Then there are options for you be involved as well. You could make a giant game of snakes and ladders or twister on the ground. You could draw a crown, a set of wings or an astronaut’s helmet and have you children lie on the ground to take some fun pictures.
I hope these have given you some options or sparked your imagination to come up with some fun ideas that will keep your children amused this summer. Pin this blog post to come back to the ideas when you need them!