If you’re like me you spend the weeks running up to it really looking forward to having the children home all day and frolicking in the sunshine. When the reality hits, well, six weeks is rather a long time isn’t it!?
Once we’ve taken a family holiday and the children have spent a week at my parents I’m going to be left with 24 days to entertain them and try and make their summer break one to remember, for the right reasons.
As you all know, I have a history of failing miserably at school holidays so this time I’ve decided I’ll be all over it. I’m going to plan well in advance all the wonderful, cheap, if not free, things we can do to fill those 24 days home or away.
Paddling pool Let’s assume, for happiness sake, that we are going to have an abundance of sunny days. The most obvious fun to have at home, providing there’s not a hosepipe ban, is getting the paddling pool out. Our garden is on a slight slope so our paddling pool ends up with a deep end and a shallow end. Not entirely practical. You’ll spend an hour filling the paddling pool for the children to have half emptied it within minutes. It will be full of grass, dead bugs, melted ice lollies and other gross stuff to ensure you won’t want to dip your feet in. But they will love it. Also, the garden gets a good watering when you empty it! Win.
Painting the garden Bear with. Not as messy as it sounds. If you have pre-schoolers fill the washing up bowl with water, give them a clean paint brush and let them paint the floor, the fence and the walls. Children love to deface things that don’t belong to them and it quickly dries off so they can start all over again. If you are particularly brave or have slightly older children you can get some giant floor chalks for about £5, they wash off pretty quickly too.
Camping If you’re not a fan of the great outdoors just do some at home camping. You don’t even need an actual tent. Just create a tent like structure with some chairs, an airer and some sheets and let the kids get on with it. They can play in the ‘tent’, eat their dinner on the grass and can even settle down to sleep in there. If your children are like I was as a child they’ll be cold by 7pm and want to be in their own bed. If it’s raining you can just transfer this camping fun to inside the house.
Outdoor Games with Halfords We had a football, it popped. We got another football, it’s stuck on the conservatory roof. We had beach tennis, Seth kept trying to swallow the ball. The usual outdoor games just don’t work for us. Luckily Halfords have created a new range of outdoor games that are very reasonably priced. The range has a wonderfully ‘retro’ edge to it, we chose the Meerkat Ring Toss. The ring toss consists of five wooden interlocking meerkats and five rings. The rules are straightforward. Toss the ring and add up the points. We got this out at a recent BBQ and the children (and adults) played for AGES. The game is really nice quality with the rings being made of rope rather than plastic which is a really nice touch. The Meerkat ring toss is really easy to set up and put away. It’s size also lends itself to be played inside if the weather isn’t the greatest and taken on holiday. This is a big hit and we will certainly be checking out other items in the range, the tin can toss is next on my list.
Cooking Nothing puts the fear in me like the thought of being in the kitchen with my children. So many pointy and hot things, it’s a room of danger. However, I recognise the importance of cooking with children, if they help cook it they are more likely to eat it. I’m still not ready to let Seth lose with a knife but Aoife loves to help us cook. Her favourite dish is mushroom and chorizo pasta. She really enjoys learning to cook new dishes and it always takes four times as long to cook with a child on board.
Baking Different to cooking in that I let Seth help with baking. It feels less dangerous. Probably the lack of knives! Obviously there’s the chocolate crispy cakes but that’s not REAL baking is it? When I was younger I used to LOVE making rock buns. I started with the classic Be-ro recipe then once I ‘mastered’ that I got all inventive with the flavours. Rock buns are a brilliant place to start with baking. It’s hard to go wrong and they don’t have to look ‘nice’. They also can’t be smothered in green icing or something gross like that. Well, they can but not on my watch.
Tech & tablets with Vodafone No, not the medical sort the electrical sort. The tablets that parents don’t know if they should admit to letting their child play with or not. We personally don’t mind our children playing on the tablet, not every day and only for an hour in total in a day. We also monitor what we let them use on the tablet. Well, we are responsible parents! In order to look at the best apps to keep the kids ‘appy, Vodafone sent us the Vodafone tab Prime 7 to have a play with. The prime 7 has a 10 inch screen. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a too big. It transpired it was the perfect size. The bigger screen size means that it’s more difficult to accidentally pull up the task bar and shut down the apps. As my children do. ALL THE TIME. The bigger screen is also perfect for watching Netflix on for me! The prime 7 is also really sturdy. It gave the impression that if dropped it wouldn’t be break. We didn’t drop it to test though. There are so many apps suitable for children that can be downloaded using the 6GB UK data that comes with the tablet. My PlayHome (£2.40) is like The Sims for preschoolers. I loved the idea but the kids stuck to Angry Birds and the Cbeebies Playtime Island! They’re creatures of habit. The Vodafone tab Prime 7 is currently available on PAYG at £175 including 6GB of UK data.
D.I.S.C.O Big fish. Little fish. Cardboard box. All you need to entertain the kids and burn off excess energy on a rainy day is a disco party lightbulb. Relatively inexpensive, around a fiver, use a bayonet fitting and some pumping choons. Simply change the bulb, shut the curtains and crank up the stereo. The kids will love the rotating, coloured lights. They’ll dance, they’ll sing, they’ll be loud and they’ll get tired. Perfect. Except you probably have to listen to bubblegum pop for an afternoon.
Home Cinema If you don’t have a reasonably priced cinema close by you can buy a DVD or get a film On Demand. Smurfs 2 and Boss Baby are both coming out on DVD this summer and Moana will be available on the movie channels. Whether you decide to watch something new or something you’ve watched a thousand times just pop some popcorn, make some milkshakes, buy some jelly sweets and close the curtains. Like a real cinema but without the shushes when your children witter through the film.
Games On those inevitable rainy days, when they’ve played so much Wii sports you can’t even convince yourself it’s exercise any more, get the games out. Board games, table top games or card games. We are big game fans, it’s also nice to take the time to do something together. I like games with the least amount of setting up. There’s nothing worse than taking ages to set up a game only for boredom to set in after ten minutes, I’m looking at you Mousetrap! There are a fantastic range of card and travel size games about now. Uno, Dobble and Ugly Dolls are often pulled out in our house for a quick game and are good to play with a group of varying ages. If the kids have friends round the ‘bigger’ games come out. Dig In! and Crazy Claw are new to our games library. You can read a review and enter a competition to win them here.
Picnic Food always tastes better when it’s small or when it’s in picnic form. It doesn’t matter if your picnic is in a park, in the garden or on the living room floor. Get a blanket out. Make some small food. Make the squash in an empty squash bottle and shoo away flies and, in our case, cats. The kids will love it.
Chasing Rainbows No, not a Shed Seven sing along. On a hot day in the garden there’s nothing more my children love to do than chase rainbows. They prefer it to the paddling pool. Well, y’know, the paddling pool is “a bit wet” after fifteen minutes. It sounds wonderful and imaginative but it’s actually pretty simple. Attach the hose pipe to the tap. Set it to ‘spray’. Aim up high et voila. The sun makes rainbows, the children run around the garden trying to catch them whilst getting drenched and you can do it sat on the chair, sipping a nice cold glass of wine water.
How will you be entertaining your children at home this school holidays?
Part II of 24 Days of Summer: Home and Away – The Away Edit can be found here.
I received some of the items from Halfords and Vodafone for purpose of review. All opinions are entirely my own.