Summertime and the living is easy - just as long as you can keep the kids busy

Entertaining your children during the long summer holidays can be as simple as defrosting a fridge, says Sue Palmer

You've been to all the museums within dragging distance; you've seen this year's Disney release; you don't fancy the crowds at the zoo or the theme park - and anyway, you'd rather not watch the family finances leak away on admission charges and junk food. Six weeks stretch ahead of you and your holidaying offspring, and for parents with work and family to juggle, it can feel like six months.

There are, however, lots of ways of having a good time with children. The trouble with the daily grind of earning a living and keeping the domestic show on the road is that we often forget why we're doing it in the first place. Most children are surprisingly easy to entertain, given a little time and inspiration. Most adults do find - once they've got going - that entertaining children is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The knack is to recognise that you don't need to go out and buy fun; you can find it lying around anywhere.

All parents have experienced happy moments of this kind, often by accident. The children's author Michaela Morgan, for instance, found one of her most successful holiday activities was defrosting the fridge. "We started off with a snowball fight," she remembers happily, "and then, later on, there was lots of paddling."

This list below offers many more starting points for home-grown enjoyment. Though most refer to a singular "child", all are also suitable for sharing between siblings. And all bar one require adult involvement to a greater or lesser extent: after all, the whole point of the summer holidays is to give parents and children some time together.

Food

l Choose a letter of the alphabet. Shop for, prepare and eat a meal, in which every item (food and drink) begins with that letter.

l Throw a dinner party for two or three of your child's friends. Your child can make invitations and menu, lay the table (flowers, candles, napkins, etc), help make the food, then dress up and act as host. Chefs and waiters to be played by other members of the family.

l Go for a picnic. Let your child plan where (check local maps), when, how - then choose, prepare and pack the food. If it's rainy, still go ahead - indoors, with a table-cloth on the floor.

Managing money

l Start a "market jar" for collecting 10p or 20p pieces, and name a date towards the end of the holidays for visiting a local market and spending the proceeds. Your child is responsible for persuading people to feed the jar, and for keeping count of the contents.

l Visit a toy superstore with an imaginary budget: how could your child spend pounds 500? Ensure s/he knows it's just a pipe-dream and NO money will be spent. (But you might take secret notes of any ideas for Christmas.)

l Spend pounds 3 at a jumble sale buying brightly coloured clothes. Cut up along the seams; wash and iron; then use fabric to make dolls' clothes, fabric collage, etc.

l Hold a garage sale to supplement pocket money. Your child can sort out the toys, etc. s/he no longer wants, then advertise the sale to friends and neighbours.

Home and garden

l Plan and share some "summer cleaning": clearing out kitchen cupboards, cleaning carpets, sorting wardrobes. (Don't let the work ethic take over - enjoy it.)

l On hot days let children slosh water about while washing the car, the windows, the garden furniture, the dog, or their toys (teddies can be doused and hung out to dry).

l Discuss the life skills your child would like to acquire (knitting, making a cup of tea, sewing on buttons, playing Scrabble, changing a plug, etc) and provide tuition.

l Organise a treasure hunt: give a list of things to find in the house and/or garden (a feather, a dandelion, a paperclip, etc) and a couple of cryptic clues to solve. Supply a rucksack for holding the booty, a sandwich for sustenance, and a reasonable prize when the hunt is complete.

Scrapbooks and diaries

l Help your child organise spare family photographs into interesting collections: animal album, alphabetical album (one picture for each letter of the alphabet), See-How-I-Grew album tracing his/her own development, etc.

l Make a family scrapbook for one week - commission written accounts of activities and illustrations from all family members. Collect ephemera from outings, photographs, etc for your child to stick in and caption.

l Help your child use a cassette recorder to make a taped diary - the diarist's own thoughts, interviews with others. (Older children could try a video diary using a camcorder.)

Pretending

l Provide or even upgrade a dressing-up box - from a wardrobe clearout, jumble sale buys, old clothes and hats begged from neighbours, grandparents, etc.

l Let children organise a fashion show with funky music on a cassette recorder, a catwalk, and plenty of changes of outfit.

l Help set up a shop: make merchandise (eg fruit and veg, bread and cakes, fish and chips) from salt dough, harden by cooking overnight in a slow oven, and paint for verisimilitude. (Salt dough recipe: 300g each of flour and salt, 1 tablespoon cooking oil, 200ml water.)

l Show your child (preferably with friends) how to use a cassette recorder to make a radio show (lots of sound effects) or a camcorder to make a short television presentation (an advert is about the right length).

The great outdoors

l Find a neglected place which you can explore for wildlife. It doesn't have to be large, but the more overgrown the better. Get books from the library to identify flora and fauna. Make regular visits and build up a record - sketches, notes, animal droppings, pressings of flowers and leaves, plastercasts of footprints, etc.

l Try some pavement art with coloured chalks (a patio or backyard can substitute for a pavement).

l Collect creepy-crawlies for a Mini-Beast Zoo, with labels and information on the inmates. Get library books to ensure your child looks after the creatures properly.

Finally

l Make sure your child has some time these holidays to him or herself, with nothing organised at all. Every child needs time to daydream.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003