Check out these other blogs for more activity ideas

Friday, 14 August 2015

Water works

Small children will be entertained for a surprisingly long time simply painting with water on a dry patio, path or wall. Just fill a bucket or washing-up bowl with tap water, add some decorators' paintbrushes, and let the fun begin.

Add a paint roller or a squeezy bottle full of water for more patio-painting possibilities. Can the children write their names with the water, or cover the ground completely before the sun dries up their artistic efforts?

They might also enjoy finding a dip in the ground (or using a tray) to make a puddle, then zooming toy cars and trucks through it to make tyre marks. Or using wellies and waterproof shoes to create trails of different footprints.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Baker day

Buy a packet of bread mix and get the children to bake their own lunch. Focaccia and ciabatta are especially satisfying to make as the olive oil in the dough makes it wonderfully slippery and stretchy - and gives a delicious end result too.

To go with the bread, try making this super-simple tomato soup together:

You'll need
1 onion, finely chopped (or use frozen diced onion)
1 clove of garlic, crushed (or use frozen or puréed garlic)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Half a teaspoon of mild chilli powder
Half a teaspoon of ground cumin
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chickpeas (don't worry if your family aren't chickpea fans - they won't notice them in the finished soup)
1 dessertspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon of apple juice
1 dessertspoon of tomato purée
4 teaspoons of stock powder/bouillon (low-salt for young children)
A kettle-full (approx 1.7 litres) of boiling water
Ground black pepper

Sizzle the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan for 3-5 minutes. When they become translucent, add the chilli and cumin, and then the tomatoes, chickpeas, balsamic vinegar, apple juice and tomato purée. Pour in the boiling water and add the stock/bouillon. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add pepper to taste, then blend well until the soup is smooth and velvety.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Go canvassing

Look out for blank art canvasses at your local pound shop - they're ideal for cheap and easy art projects that give a great finished results. For example:
  • Criss-cross masking tape randomly across the canvas from edge to edge, pressing it down firmly. Get the children to dab paint on with a sponge, then flick and spatter more paint on top, and maybe add some glitter too if they fancy. (As this is a messy activity, you may prefer to do it in the garden.) When the paint dries, peel off the masking tape to reveal a striking abstract canvas. 
  • Alternatively, use the masking tape to mark out the child's initial & create a personalised artwork for their bedroom wall.
  • Make hand- and footprints to turn the canvas into a keepsake gift.
  • Paint the canvas completely, then mark out a simple shape (eg a heart, star or car), cover it with glue and fill it with little buttons.
  • Drizzle PVA glue over the canvas & allow to dry before painting, to create a textured picture.
  • Older children can create some great effects by using a hairdryer to melt old wax crayons on to a canvas – Google 'melted crayon canvas' for inspiration. (Before you start, explain the dangers of hot wax and electricity, and supervise this activity carefully.)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

New look

Turn your home into a salon for a makeover day.

Start with hair. Braids, rag-curlers and hair-wraps are fun to try for children with longer locks (look at YouTube for tutorials). Or use gel and spray to create funky spikes and punky mohicans for those with shorter styles. Complete the look with a squirt of coloured spray or hair glitter.

Then move on to nails and make-up (or face paints), with a catwalk show at the end of the day for everyone to show off their new looks.

Of course the most fun part is when the kids get to give you a makeover!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

Children of all ages are fascinated by marble runs, and making their own can keep them occupied for hours. Try...

The junk modelling marble run. Gather together as many cardboard tubes, packets, foil and polystyrene trays, etc, as you can find, together with a roll of masking tape and strong pair of scissors. Then set a challenge - for example creating a run that will take a marble from the table, across a chair and down to the floor, or down a small flight of stairs.

The magnetic marble run. Instead of masking tape, put sticky magnets on to the back of your cardboard tubes and stick them to a fridge, dishwasher or cold radiator for a marble run that can be endlessly reconfigured.

The cardboard box marble maze. Find a shallow cardboard box and use drinking straws, bottle tops, corks, matchboxes and more, stuck on with blu-tack or masking tape, to create a maze to roll a marble around by tilting and tipping. Use a small foil pie case, lid or similar to make a 'goal' to get the marble into, then race against the clock to see who can get the marble around the maze in the fastest time.

The Lego marble run. If you have plenty of Lego or Duplo, try creating a marble run or maze out of that too.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Lawn slippy

With the weather set fair for the next few days, it's the perfect time to set up a home-made water slide.

Get the largest smooth tarpaulin, groundsheet or roll of heavy duty polythene you can find and spread it out on the lawn, checking first that there are no stones or other sharp objects underneath. (If your lawn has a slight slope, so much the better!) Hang a hosepipe, if possible on a fine spray or mist setting, above the sheeting, securely fastened to a washing line or tree. Then give the sheeting a generous squirt of no-tears shampoo and slide away!

To minimise the risk of accidents, agree rules in advance (e.g. one slider at a time, no pushing and no jumping) and ensure adult supervision at all times.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A little bit of sparkle

Mix table salt with glitter in the lid of a biscuit tin to create a 'sparkledust tray'. Give the children some tools - sticks, spoons, forks, a wide-toothed comb - to make shapes, patterns, letters and numbers in the sparkledust. They might like to embellish or frame their designs with shells, buttons, pebbles or glass nuggets. Photograph the best creations, then give the tray a wiggle to flatten the sparkledust and start again.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Expeditionary force

For an inexpensive day out, visit a park or playground in the next town, village or borough. Get the children to help you plan the journey using a mode of transport you don't normally take - bus, bike, tram or train. Pack a ball, frisbee or skipping rope, and make a picnic together to eat when you get there.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Stick with it

A simple roll of masking tape can provide hours of fun. Use it on carpet or hard flooring if you're inside, or decking if you're outside (it doesn't stick so well to paving or grass), for the following activities...

1. Mark out a masking tape roadway for toy vehicles, with crossroads, car parks, helicopter landing pads - whatever takes the children's fancy. If they're enthusiastic, extend your road network all over the house.

2. Make a grid for a giant board game, big enough for the children to be the game pieces.

3. Mark out squares for a game of hopscotch.

4. Create a target for a game of bowls or bean-bag toss (soft toys make good substitute bean-bags!)

5. Make a zig-zag 'balance beam' to walk along.

6. Tape start and finish lines for a standing long-jump competition, remote control car race or ping-ping ball blowing race.

7. Criss-cross the tape across an empty door frame to play the sticky spider's web game. Each child takes it in turns to be the 'spider' using craft pom-poms or even tiny soft toys as 'flies'. How many flies can they trap in the web?

Monday, 3 August 2015

Come clean

On a hot day, keep cool by setting up a 'car wash' for all your bikes, trikes and garden toys. Some bubbly water, sponges, brushes and rags for drying will keep the children occupied for hours. If they're really enthusiastic, provide some polish for spoke and saddles too.

On a wet day, set up a dolls' spa in the bathroom instead. A little hair conditioner or fabric softener can work wonders on frizzy, matted dolly hair. And a squirt of WD40 or hairspray and a wet-wipe will remove many marks from plastic dolls' faces & bodies.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Nice ice, baby!

Everyone loves ice cream, so try one of these ideas for making your own at home...

1. Slice some over-ripe bananas, lay the slices on a plate and freeze for about two hours. Then blend them and enjoy a delicious ice-creamy pure fruit dessert.

2. Get two large resealable (zip-lock) plastic bags. Into one put one cup of single cream, two tablespoons of caster sugar, four tablespoons of crushed strawberries (or any other flavouring you fancy) and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Into the other put four handfuls of ice cubes and four tablespoons of rock salt. Then seal the first bag securely, place it inside the one containing the ice cubes and seal that, wrap the whole lot in a towel, and shake non-stop for five to ten minutes until the mixture in the small bag has thickened and blended. Take it out carefully to ensure none of the salt gets into your tasty strawberry ice cream.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Digging for dinosaurs

For cool (and free) fun on a hot day, get the kids excavating their very own dinosaur icebergs.

The night before you want to try this activity, put a couple of toy plastic dinosaurs or sea creatures into a sandwich bag for each child, along with a few shells or pebbles. Fill the bags with water, then twist or tie them shut & pop them into the freezer.

The next day, peel the dinosaur icebergs out of their wrappers and put each one on a tray, along with with a few utensils - spoons, spatulas, maybe a turkey baster (nothing too sharp). Then challenge the children to free the 'fossils' as fast as possible.

Ask them a few questions as they work. How does the ice feel? Which tool works best? What happens if they put their iceberg in the sun, pour a cup of warm water over it, or add some salt?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Up, up and away...

Spend a day making, decorating and flying paper aeroplanes. Instructions for different models are easy to find online (eg at Try them out using different sizes and thicknesses of paper. Then take the children's creations outside and hold an airshow, giving marks for distance, style and speed.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Birthday bear

Find an unloved teddy (or any other furry friend) and announce to the children that it's his or her birthday. Ask them to prepare a party, writing invitations, wrapping presents and making cakes. At the end of the day, get everyone - including Ted - into their best clothes, choose some favourite music and games, and have a party picnic tea.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Hunting high and low

Try one of these ideas for a scavenger hunt, either at home or in a local park or woods...

1. The classic scavenger hunt. Give each child or team a list of things to find. (Use picture lists for pre-readers.) The winner is the individual or team that gets them all first.

2. The natural scavenger hunt. Go to the woods, beach or park and ask the children to find natural objects that are specific shapes (circle, oval, triangle), colours (green, brown, pink, yellow) and textures (prickly, furry, smooth, soft, sticky, rough, hard). Can they also find something that holds water, something see-through, something that moves...?

3. The alphabet hunt. Get the children to search for something beginning with every letter in their name, or every letter of the alphabet (they'll have to be creative with Q, X & Z!)

4. The string hunt. Hide pieces of string of different lengths. Then split the children into teams. The teams hunt for the string and tie together any pieces they find. The winning team is the one with the longest combined length of string (so coil it carefully to avoid tangles!).

5. The snap-happy hunt. For older children, give each team a digital camera or camera-phone and set a photo challenge: get a photo on a slide, in a phone box, doing a handstand, star jump, piggyback, etc. Back at home, plug the cameras into your TV or computer and compare the results.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Once you pop...

On a rainy day, what could be better than a movie? A movie with popcorn, of course! Shop-bought varieties are often high in fat, refined sugar and salt, so try this healthier homemade recipe.

You'll need
  • half a cup of popping corn
  • two tablespoons of olive oil
  • two to three tablespoons of agave nectar (a plant-derived sweetener available in most large supermarkets and health food shops) - or maple syrup if you prefer 
  • a level teaspoon of cinnamon.
Put three or four popping corn kernels and the olive oil into a large saucepan with a lid (a non-stick pan with a glass lid works best) and place on the stovetop on a high heat. Once the kernels start to pop, add the rest of the popping corn, replace the lid, and keep the pan on a high heat while the corn pops, giving it a shake from time to time. When the rate of popping starts to slow, take the pan off the heat and stir in the agave (or maple syrup) and cinnamon, making sure the popcorn is well coated. Then spread the popcorn out on a baking tray (or two) and bake at gas mark 5/190C for 10 minutes, turning it over halfway through. Yum!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kids' Q&A

The start of the holidays is the perfect time to conduct an end-of-school-year interview with your little one(s). Record their answers on your phone, tablet, webcam, camera or camcorder - or just use pen & paper. Here are a few ideas of questions to ask:
  • Who's your best friend, and why?
  • What's your favourite toy?
  • What's your favourite book?
  • What's your favourite song? (And can you sing it?)
  • What your favourite food?
  • What's your favourite film or TV programme?
  • When you grow up...
what job will you do?
- where will you live, and who with?
- how will you get around?
  • What makes you happy? And what makes you sad?
  • Where's the best place in the world?
  • Is there anything you're afraid of?
  • What's the best thing about you? And what's the worst thing?
  • If you could have one wish, what would it be?
  • Can you tell a funny joke?
Carry out a similar interview at the end of every school year and see how your child's answers change - or not - as time passes.