School holiday special: Summer days in

For those long summer days close to base, David Randall suggests 20 ways to banish the B-word. None of them cost more than a few pounds (and some could even make you money!)

Here are 20 more ideas for in and around home, especially suitable for 4- to 14-year-olds. In the interests of public safety and the neighbours, some of them should be supervised at all times.

1 A family history project. This can be the start of weeks of interviewing grannies, uncles and stray second cousins. More informative than a mere family tree, and less dry to compile, it can be extended to building a scrapbook or family archive. For those with a shortage of older rellies, make it a local history project instead.

2 A drinks stand. A small table, plastic cups, cordials, lemonade, their own concoctions, plus biscuits and cakes of their own manufacture - all sold at knock-down prices. Guaranteed to provide weeks of slightly profitable fun. Many years ago, my brother and I turned our garden shed into a "pub", and local kids even donated pies made by their mothers, which they then happily bought back at a penny a slice.

3 Hold a family (or street) Turner Prize competition. They can paint their entry, chalk it on the pavement or patio, make an installation (no unmade beds allowed), or sculpt it. Set a closing date, hold a back garden exhibition (in the Emin-style shed, if wet), and hand out prizes (making sure you obey the first and only rule of family contests - that everyone gets a prize).

4 Help them build a contraption. For older ones, this can be a downhill racer go-kart; for younger children it can be a little pull-along cart to transport their pets or toys round the garden. But it's either built from scratch, or a customised version of something going cheap at a boot sale (which are a great source of old pram wheels and accessories).

5 Some children like forming their own clubs, designing a name, logo and rules. This is partly to create a sense of belonging, but mainly, one suspects, for the pleasure of excluding children they don't like. A source of much fun, and no little psychological traumas.

6 Fix a milo-meter to their bikes. Or, if they have one already, set it to zero at the start of the holidays. They then track just how much ground they are covering, which, with any luck, will induce them to log even more miles to beat their friends. Keep a league table, offer prizes. Organise a Tour de Area. Anything to keep them pedalling.

7 Paper puppets. A great "if wet" option for younger children is to get them to draw a character (from a book, film, their family or, perhaps, a much-mimicked grown-up), colour it in, cut it out, and stick it on to a straw or chopstick. They then hide behind the sofa, and put on a puppet show.

8 Buy a couple of squirrel-proof bird feeders for the garden. Get the children to keep them filled and start a log of species that visit. You can add nesting boxes or bee boxes. A bowl of cat food on the lawn at night will attract hedgehogs - providing a nocturnal nature show.

9 Let them plan, cook and serve the evening meal. Dangerous, I know, but in the unlikely event of a success, could become a regular event. In the more likely event of an inedible pizza being served, say: "You know, this is so good I'm going to take the rest of it to work tomorrow to let them try it." Thus saving their face and your stomach.

10 Sleepovers. We all know these as a source of hours of planning, much nocturnal giggling, and heaps of morning-after mess. But, they are a great inducement for children to carry out any set chore, and, if you're canny, you'll contact the parents of as many of their friends as possible and arrange a sleepover rota, thus ensuring you a few child-free summertime nights.

11 Back garden camping. This can be under canvas, with the house used only for ablutions and as a source of fresh water. Even better, they can try building a makeshift shelter of wood or branches. The canvas option makes a good dry run to see if your cosseted darlings can take a camping holiday.

12 Have a "boredom box". Similar to a swear box, except the children have to put money in it, not for every oath, but for every time they utter the "b" word.

13 Back garden "dig". A small trench-shaped area is agreed, and off the little archaeologists go. Shovels down to about a foot or so, trowels and brushes thereafter. The odd coin, old toy or bit of crockery is virtually guaranteed. The resulting cavity can be used for that water feature you've always promised yourself. Note: sites where old family pets have been buried are best avoided.

14 Infect them with a hobby. Example: get your children a disposable camera each. Tell them to take pics not just of their chums, but also of their area and bits of the landscape they find interesting. Get them to start albums (or portfolios, as the more ambitious little photographers will call them).

15 Moth safari. On a small table in the garden, place a lamp, plus a bit of wood which you have coated in sugar water. Then, as the light fades, sit back and watch the local moths zoom in. For the more serious student, visit www.atropos.info to see how to make a proper moth trap, plus news of unusual sightings.

16 Visit www.allkids.co.uk/kids_pages/Boredom_busters.shtml, which has a wealth of links to games, rainy day ideas, and instructions on making things. Suggestions to suit all ages, and a great place to go for "if wet" ideas.

17 Reading group. Your children and their friends each buy a couple of books at the beginning of the holidays. They then read and swap them - and maybe even discuss them. Can also be done with computer games, but lacks the parental feel-good factor.

18 Treasure hunt. An old stand-by, but, if well planned, can keep younger children amused for hours. For older ones, take a trip round your area, work out some questions and riddles, sort them out so one leads to another, and let the kids loose on their bikes.

19 An eBay contest. Once registered on the site (which will take most of a day), everyone can sort out things to sell online. You put them up, and see who gets the most (and more lucrative) bids. Junior profits to be retained by the seller, adult ones donated to the family Special Day Out Fund.

20 Volunteering. An idea for older, worthier children, is to find out about any local digs, or conservation projects at which they can volunteer. Your local library will have details. Just imagine - your child laying down the foundations of a life as a useful, concerned citizen. Hard to believe as they flick through the TV channels one more time, but it could happen. Just believe.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
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 Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor