Children’s Activities Section

What to do …

Creative Ideas and Activities

Make a magazine

Dig out old magazines and help the child cut out their favourite adverts, images and features. They can mount them in a new magazine all of their own and use the images as a basis for creative stories, quizzes and fun activities. Another idea is to use different eye/face/hair/body cut outs and mix them up to create some comical looking collages.

Making scarecrows

Whether you choose to make a mini version or go for the full scale Worzel Gummidge variety, making scarecrows provides many an hour of creative fun for all. All you need is some sticks (to hold the scarecrow up) some old unwanted clothes and cotton wool (or more old clothes and socks to stuff his body with). A few stitches here and there and you’ll have a scarecrow ready to mount in the garden or allotment. Let the children name him and if the activity is enjoyable for all, why not make an ‘Aunt Sally’ to go with him?

Create a film

Let the children take charge of the video camera for an afternoon and create their own little film. Whether they star in it themselves or use their teddies/dollies/Lego men as characters – it’s a great way to entice creative role-play and fill a few rainy hours at home.

Fashion design

Girls love pretending to be fashion designers. Get out lots of paper, scissors, scraps of wool ribbon, material, tissue paper etc. and a couple of models/ Barbie’s and let them spend the afternoon designing clothes on the paper. Once they’re happy with their sketches they can use the materials to make them into outfits for their dolls. A great way to add drama and excitement is by displaying their creations in a fashion show with music and a catwalk (i.e. the kitchen table!).

Friendship bracelets

A current favourite which is quite cheap (or entirely free if you have lots of embroidery thread loitering around) is making friendship bracelets. There has been quite a craze for them at schools recently and girls especially love the rewarding feeling they get from finishing one off.

Open a salon

Hair and beauty salons is a great role play opportunity for young children. Yes, you might end up looking like a cross between Coco the Clown and Tina Turner but if the kids enjoy it, who cares?! All you need is a bag full of make-up, some hair accessories and a mirror and the creative opportunities are endless…

Making and decorating cress heads

Get some dried out egg shells and let the child use paints to create funny faces on the surface. Once the paint is dry, fill them with damp cotton wool and cress seeds and watch their crazy cress hair start to grow! You can make the activity even more fun by growing your own and using any ‘hair cuts’ for a tasty egg & cress sandwich!

Shoebox scenes

Remember those charming little nativity scenes we used to make at home as kids? Re-live the activity by encouraging the children to create their own shoe box scene. From miniature dolls houses, train stations and bird boxes to airports, swimming pools and zoo’s, there are stacks of ideas that will make great projects – all you need are some crafts materials, plastecine, paints and glue.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference is a great game for young children and will harness their concentration skills for a good hour or so. Either sketch out your own (obviously ensuring there are discreet differences between each sketch) or cut out printed ‘spot the differences’ from old magazines or newspapers.

Make music

Dig out a variety of kitchen utensils, pots, pans and accessories and let them create their own little steel band. Pepper mills make great maracas or you could try putting pulses or dried pasta inside empty glass containers to see what different sounds can be made. The good thing about this activity is it requires little input on your part – simply lay everything out and let them go for it!Uncooked rice and an empty (clean) plastic bottle worked for us!  Ensure you tape up the top of it properly as you don’t want younger children to get into the “instruments” and eat the “music”.

Marble runs

Use old cereal boxes, loo rolls and empty containers to make a home-made marble run. Start by making a solid base and build up as high as you want to – glue and sellotape should be enough to hold the pieces in place and you can use sturdier cardboard on the base to ensure it holds the upper levels securely. This is a great activity for summer as you can add to it each day, creating new sections, slides and tubes as you go!This activity is not suitable for children under 3 – 4 years old as it is a choking hazard!

Dolly parachutes

Use old pieces of fabric and string to make dolly/teddy parachutes. Once they’re stitched together stand all of the dollies together on the window and launch them out! You can make it more fun by setting competitions for the most colourful parachute/dolly that stays in the air for longest etc.Never leave a child unattended whilst doing this – Never leave a window open if a child is able to climb out.  Be careful – children are more resourceful than you think!

Margarine tub boats

Make margarine tub boats and see whose floats for the longest. You can do this in the sink, bath, and pond or – if the weather is nice – take them down to the park for a sail on the lake. Card and old lolly sticks make great sails and if your little one is feeling creative let them paint and decorate them too.

Homemade snap cards

Use old catalogues and magazines to cut out pictures, glue them onto some hard-backed card and make snap cards. The images don’t have to be identical as you can help the child recognise the comparisons by writing a title on the bottom of each card – i.e. dog, man, lady, car, house etc. It’s a great activity for reception aged children who are learning to read.

Clean up!

If your child has a penchant for cleaning, arm them with a sponge/cloth and bowl full of soapy water and let them clean the kitchen. If they enjoy it, let them have a bash at the hoovering before moving on to the bathroom. You’ll have a happily exhausted tot and one clean house by the end of it!

Moving hide n seek

If the little ones are bored of the traditional game, try ‘moving’ hide n seek where the hider tries to move from one hiding place to another without being spotted. It’s a fun and challenging game and provides a perfect solution for rainy afternoons.

Photography days

If the child is lucky enough to own a digital camera (or if you’re happy to loan them yours) a lot of fun can be had snapping away at the local town/parks/landmarks.A throw away camera will work just as well! Try to get them thinking creatively by asking them to choose a theme or perhaps tell a story through their pictures. The resulting photos can be printed and put in a scrapbook as a reminder of their day as a photographer.

Spend the day as a superhero

Let a child play super-hero for the day by copying their favourite character or creating a new super-hero with an entirely unique set of exciting powers. You can start by sketching the hero on paper and making notes for the powers, and then you can help the child make a costume from old clothes or pieces of fabric. If you only have a couple of hours, stick to making a cape and mask – both are quick and easy things to make and the child will be able to act out their character with gusto!

Paper aeroplanes

Lay out lots of old scraps of paper and have a bash at building a variety of paper aeroplanes. If you can’t remember how to fold them, there are some quick and easy online tutorials that will help you master a basic rocket/airplane. Let them choose their own designs and paint/colour them in – you can also hold competitions for the best designed airplane/best flyer etc. Super-duper fun!

Origami

The original Japanese art of paper folding is great for creative kids and once they’ve mastered the basics, you can start to introduce more technical projects that require more attention to detail. If you already own an origami book, dig it out and teach children how to start making basic figures and shapes. You can also try a website like the Origami club which splits each exercise into categories from easy-difficult, allowing you to pick and choose projects according to the child’s level.

Dressing up

From tots to pre-schoolers, dressing up is a no-brainer that provides hours of great role-play fun for children. If they already have a selection of outfits, let them try everything on, perhaps helping them to refresh their outfits with new home-made hats and accessories. Pirate hats, swords, necklaces, princess capes are all relatively easy to make and will add hours of extra fun to their play.

Games afternoon

Use a rainy afternoon to dust off those old board games and enjoy a big games fest. Hungry hippos, junior scrabble, connect 4, rummy…there’s lots of fun games that can be enjoyed by all the family. If however, the family’sgames’ offering is a little thin on the ground, why not make up your own? Get the kids to design their own concept – you can even create your own characters and rules by putting it all down on paper.

Old drawing games

The likes of ‘hangman’, ‘tick the box’, ‘noughts and crosses’ and ‘dot to dot’ might be associated with boring car journeys but on rainy afternoons, they make perfect activities. All you need is a pad and a couple of pens and you’re ready to start.

Giant snakes and ladders

Grab some chalk and head out to the patio, garden path (or park!) and draw a grid for your own innovative game of snakes and ladders. You can use different colour chalks for the snakes and ladders and create new rules or themes that allow each player to either move forward or back a few spaces. Clues/tasks and quizzes can also be thrown into the game to make it more fun.

Keep a ‘buddy diary’

Get the child to choose their favourite buddy (this could be anything from a special doll or transformer figure to a teddy or comfort blanket) and ask them to keep a special diary to document their holiday. You can fill the diary with photographs of the child with their buddy, stories, tickets of places they’ve been together, plus any other holiday memorabilia. It’s a lovely activity for imaginative children and you can add something new to it each day.

Write some postcards

Who says you need to be on foreign territory to send a postcard? The living room or back garden is as good as anywhere and the child can make it even better by designing their own picture. Ask them who they want to send it to and help them write a message detailing the highlights of summer/winter so far – ‘I went berry picking’, ‘we saw Mia and Jack in the park’, I’ve been playing hopscotch in the garden’ – small activities they enjoyed will create happy memories and make the activity really enjoyable.

Card houses

Grab a pack of cards and teach the child how to build a stackable card house. You can make it fun by setting a timer or competing against each other to see who can get the tallest house before all the cards fall to the ground.

Patchwork pillowcases

Look around the house for old pieces of material or, if you have clothes you no longer want, cut them up into squares (around 20 x 20cm is usually a good size). Now teach the child to stitch them together and make your very own patchwork blanket or pillowcase. It doesn’t matter if the finish is a little messy – it’s the creative input that counts!

Design a robot

Grab any old cereal boxes, loo rolls and tin foil and let a child make their own robot model. If you have lots of spare craft materials, let them loose with the buttons, ribbon, sequins and string to create something truly unique. Once they’re done you can take a quick snap of them with their robot and let them spend the afternoon online finding out more about their robotic friends and how they’ll develop in the future. You can also expand the robot theme further by letting them watch old Star Wars films or something more contemporary like Wall-E.

President for a day

Give the child the role of President for the day and let them take charge of all the household decisions. They get to decide what to wear, where to go, what to have for lunch – leaving you and the rest of the ‘civilians’ to abide by their rules. Yes, it might be a little difficult for Au Pairs/parents to go along with (especially if they decide on yogurt with chocolate for lunch!) but it’s a great way to teach them about authority and responsibility and they’ll have plenty of fun in the process!

Paint the house (with water)

Arm the child with a large bucket of water and the largest paint brush you can find and let them paint the house. Start at the back and let them cover as much of the walls as they can – if the activity proves a success – you can always move to the front and ‘finish the job’.-Other good objects to water paint include the fence, garden path, dad’s shed and once they’ve done all that, you can move on to the next door neighbours!

What floats?

Fill a deep glass bowl with water and ask a child to select a series of objects to test if they float. You can make the exercise fun by drawing a chart listing the objects with yes/ no written at the top – the child has to guess in advance whether the object will float and if they guess correctly, they receive a tick. If they get the majority right they win a sticker to put in their scrapbook.

Wrapping paper

Get them to design some wrapping paper for their special friend/brother/sister/parents … This can involve paints, crayons, pens or lots of craft materials to create something with a real wow factor.

Midnight feast (at 9pm!)

Midnight feasts can be huge fun – there’s something inherently naughty about eating food late at night and children will love the change in routine. Let them stay up a little later than usual, then put a variety of treats out on a blanket on the floor so they can help themselves. If you want to add to the midnight theme, you can use torches to light up the room and keep the television off so it feels like a genuine night-time treat. A word of warning though – sugary treats may mean they’ll want to stay up at night so it’s probably best to stick to sandwiches, savoury snacks, carrot sticks and fruit if you want to avoid an all-night party.Parents need to agree to this first!

Masks

Grab some card, elastic and paints and help the child create their own mask. They can imitate their favourite character or go for something completely new with extra craft materials, glitter and ribbons. To secure the elastic simply put two pin sized holes on each side and feed the elastic through, tying it in place to fit their head.

Make Sock Puppets

Maker sock puppets using old, worn socks.  Provide the child with buttons, bailing twine, googly eyes, ribbons, sparkles and any other material you can find and let their imagination go wild into designing their own sock puppet.  Why not make a dinosaur one, a space alien or a princess? 

Outside

Rainy day walks

Who says you need sunshine to enjoy a good walk? Get togged up in your macs, wet weather gear and wellies and head outside for a fun, revitalising walk in the rain. Children will adore splashing in the puddles and with most people sheltering away from the rain; you’re likely to have most of the streets to yourself.

Fruit picking

Why not try fruit picking at a local farm? Alternatively there are plenty of woodlands, nature walks and other public areas with visible fruit and berries that are perfectly fine to pick. Be careful when foraging with young children – ensure they don’t just pick and/or eat any berry (or mushroom) – some are very poisonous.

Climbing Trees

We’re not suggesting you tackle the big oak variety in your local park but small trees that are safe to climb are great fun for kids. Ask them to describe the view from the top and make up stories as they climb up to the highest branch. If you’re lucky enough to have a tree in your back garden you can sit under them for story time or use them to hang arts and crafts materials from.DO NOT LET YOUNG CHILDREN DO THIS!

Go to the beach!

Pick a sunny day and take a trip to your local beach for some fantastic seaside fun. Children love dipping their toes in the sea, building sandcastles and filling buckets with water and seaweed – it’s a wonderful way to while away the hours whilst enjoying some relaxing time in the sunshine. Pack a picnic and if you have a few spare Euros in your purse, you can treat them to an ice cream too.

BBQ’s

They’re a great excuse for a good social knees up and kids and adults alike can share in its delights. Barbecues are perfect for summer and food tastes so much better when it’s been griddled and cooked to perfection in the great outdoors. Ask the children to help you prepare the salad and be the ‘right hand man’ by ensuring everyone has drinks and a good plateful of food. They’ll love being important and the adult friends are likely to be most impressed!

Paddling pools/water play

A more economical way to enjoy water is to fill a swimming pool that kids can sit and splash around in. This is a great option for younger toddlers and babies who want to get in on the water fun but haven’t quite yet developed the necessary motor skills to play tag and water chase. You can also add water toys and playballs to preserve their interest. Do not leave children of any age unattended!!!

Daisy chains

This lovely girly past-time is still a popular way to spend time and little girls (and boys!) will love the meticulous task of trying to create a daisy chain. You could make chains to fit around their heads or see if you can combine them all together to stretch from one end of the garden to the other. Simple, but lots of fun.

Water fights

If the kids are hot and bothered, entice them outside with water pistols and a quick game of jumping across the water sprinkler. If things get competitive and it’s an especially hot day, you could get the buckets or hose out (though remember not to waste too much water!)

Beach combing

Take a bucket and spade and walk up and down the beach to see what interesting items you can find. A child will love trying to find exciting looking pebbles and stones to add to the collection and you could put them all in a bowl or jar when you return home as a memento of the day.

Sand castle competitions

See who can build the biggest most innovative sandcastle within a 10 or 20 minute time scale (change the times according to the child’s age/ability) or work as a team to build a sand castle to remember – don’t forget to take plenty of pictures! It’s these kinds of days out that you’ll remember fondly in decades to come…

Crabbing

Take some nets and buckets down to the beach and spend a couple of blissful hours along the shoreline crabbing. Kids will love finding crabs of different shapes and sizes and once they’ve finished studying they can find a safe place to set them free again.

Inside

Room tidying competition

We love this one! This involves you setting a challenge for each child to see who can tidy their room in the fastest time. You can set a timer or simply count loudly until they have finished their tidying and the winner can choose what activity you do next. Genius.

Pizza party

Lay out pizza bases plus lots of ingredients and ask the kids and their friends to decorate them. Once they’ve finished, pop them in the oven and lay a rug or picnic blanket down with some paper plates and cups. Children will love devouring their home made creations and using their fingers to eat with.

Movie afternoon

Whilst we know lots of TV is bad for children, a nice children’s movie on a wet afternoon is a great way to spend time together. You could make some homemade popcorn, makeshift paper tickets and assign one of the kids the role of steward/stewardess so they can show you to your seats and announce when the movie is starting.

Board games

Digging out the old boardgames can be a delight for children who haven’t played them for a while or are totally new to the game. Set the rules up front and ensure nobody cheats! A big pitcher of homemade lemonade or fruit juice will add to their enjoyment.

Using the web

There are some great kids’ websites to explore – each with their own activities and tasks for children to complete. Teach them how to use the mouse and select different options and add the best sites to your Favourites’ folder so you can easily access them the next time round.Take a look at some of our Equipeople suggestions on our “Useful Links” page. – Check with parents first if children are allowed to use the internet and always monitor what children are viewing or playing with on the internet.

Reading afternoon

Ask the children to pick out their favourite books and cuddle up in their room for a big book fest. Most children adore a good book and if you have older children taking part you could ask them to take on some of the characters in their siblings books. Making reading fun will encourage a strong love of books and it could help move them on to the next stage of reading in their class.

Decorate a room

Holiday times present a perfect opportunity to decorate that room you’ve been meaning to finish and children love to help – especially when painting is involved. Ask them to help you select colours, lay out the sheets and paint the colour onto the walls. Once the job is done, they’ll like nothing more than showing guests their handiwork…(Don’t do this without parental consent – this might not be the kind of surprise parents want to come home to after a day’s work!)

Make a magazine

Dig out old magazines and help the child cut out their favourite adverts, images and features. They can mount them in a new magazine all of their own and use the images as a basis for creative stories, quizzes and fun activities. Another idea is to use different eye/face/hair/body cut outs and mix them up to create some comical looking collages.

Making scarecrows

Whether you choose to make a mini version or go for the full scale WorzelGummidge variety, making scarecrows provides many an hour of creative fun for all. All you need is some sticks (to hold the scarecrow up) some old unwanted clothes and cotton wool (or more old clothes and socks to stuff his body with). A few stitches here and there and you’ll have a scarecrow ready to mount in the garden or allotment. Let the children name him and if the activity is enjoyable for all, why not make an ‘Aunt Sally’ to go with him?

Create a film

Let the children take charge of the video camera for an afternoon and create their own little film. Whether they star in it themselves or use their teddies/dollies/Lego men as characters – it’s a great way to entice creative role-play and fill a few rainy hours at home.

Fashion design

Girls love pretending to be fashion designers. Get out lots of paper, scissors, scraps of wool ribbon, material, tissue paper etc. and a couple of models/ Barbie’s and let them spend the afternoon designing clothes on the paper. Once they’re happy with their sketches they can use the materials to make them into outfits for their dolls. A great way to add drama and excitement is by displaying their creations in a fashion show with music and a catwalk (i.e. the kitchen table!).

Friendship bracelets

A current favourite which is quite cheap (or entirely free if you have lots of embroidery thread loitering around) is making friendship bracelets. There has been quite a craze for them at schools recently and girls especially love the rewarding feeling they get from finishing one off.

Open a Salon

Hair and beauty salons is a great role play opportunity for young children. Yes, you might end up looking like a cross between Coco the Clown and Tina Turner but if the kids enjoy it, who cares?! All you need is a bag full of make-up, some hair accessories and a mirror and the creative opportunities are endless…

Making and decorating cress heads

Get some dried out egg shells and let the child use paints to create funny faces on the surface. Once the paint is dry, fill them with damp cotton wool and cress seeds and watch their crazy cress hair start to grow! You can make the activity even more fun by growing your own and using any ‘hair cuts’ for a tasty egg & cress sandwich!

Shoebox scenes

Remember those charming little nativity scenes we used to make at home as kids? Re-live the activity by encouraging the children to create their own shoe box scene. From miniature dolls houses, train stations and bird boxes to airports, swimming pools and zoo’s, there are stacks of ideas that will make great projects – all you need are some crafts materials, plastecine, paints and glue.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference is a great game for young children and will harness their concentration skills for a good hour or so. Either sketch out your own (obviously ensuring there are discreet differences between each sketch) or cut out printed ‘spot the differences’ from old magazines or newspapers.

Make music

Dig out a variety of kitchen utensils, pots, pans and accessories and let them create their own little steel band. Pepper mills make great maracas or you could try putting pulses or dried pasta inside empty glass containers to see what different sounds can be made. The good thing about this activity is it requires little input on your part – simply lay everything out and let them go for it!  Uncooked rice and an empty (clean) plastic bottle worked for us!  Ensure you tape up the top of it properly as you don’t want younger children to get into the “instruments” and eat the “music”.

Marble runs

Use old cereal boxes, loo rolls and empty containers to make a home-made marble run. Start by making a solid base and build up as high as you want to – glue and sellotape should be enough to hold the pieces in place and you can use sturdier cardboard on the base to ensure it holds the upper levels securely. This is a great activity for summer as you can add to it each day, creating new sections, slides and tubes as you go!  This activity is not suitable for children under 3 – 4 years old as it is a choking hazard!

Dolly parachutes

Use old pieces of fabric and string to make dolly/teddy parachutes. Once they’re stitched together stand all of the dollies together on the window and launch them out! You can make it more fun by setting competitions for the most colourful parachute/dolly that stays in the air for longest etc.   Never leave a child unattended whilst doing this – Never leave a window open if a child is able to climb out.  Be careful – children are more resourceful than you think!

Margarine tub boats

Make margarine tub boats and see whose floats for the longest. You can do this in the sink, bath, and pond or – if the weather is nice – take them down to the park for a sail on the lake. Card and old lolly sticks make great sails and if your little one is feeling creative let them paint and decorate them too.

Homemade snap cards

Use old catalogues and magazines to cut out pictures, glue them onto some hard-backed card and make snap cards. The images don’t have to be identical as you can help the child recognise the comparisons by writing a title on the bottom of each card – i.e. dog, man, lady, car, house etc. It’s a great activity for reception aged children who are learning to read.

Clean up!

If your child has a penchant for cleaning, arm them with a sponge/cloth and bowl full of soapy water and let them clean the kitchen. If they enjoy it, let them have a bash at the hoovering before moving on to the bathroom. You’ll have a happily exhausted tot and one clean house by the end of it!

Moving hide n seek

If the little ones are bored of the traditional game, try ‘moving’ hide n seek where the hider tries to move from one hiding place to another without being spotted. It’s a fun and challenging game and provides a perfect solution for rainy afternoons.

Photography days

If the child is lucky enough to own a digital camera (or if you’re happy to loan them yours) a lot of fun can be had snapping away at the local town/parks/landmarks. A throw away camera will work just as well! Try to get them thinking creatively by asking them to choose a theme or perhaps tell a story through their pictures. The resulting photos can be printed and put in a scrapbook as a reminder of their day as a photographer.

Spend the day as a superhero

Let a child play super-hero for the day by copying their favourite character or creating a new super-hero with an entirely unique set of exciting powers. You can start by sketching the hero on paper and making notes for the powers, and then you can help the child make a costume from old clothes or pieces of fabric. If you only have a couple of hours, stick to making a cape and mask – both are quick and easy things to make and the child will be able to act out their character with gusto!

Paper aeroplanes

Lay out lots of old scraps of paper and have a bash at building a variety of paper aeroplanes. If you can’t remember how to fold them, there are some quick and easy online tutorials that will help you master a basic rocket/airplane. Let them choose their own designs and paint/colour them in – you can also hold competitions for the best designed airplane/best flyer etc. Super-duper fun!

Origami

The original Japanese art of paper folding is great for creative kids and once they’ve mastered the basics, you can start to introduce more technical projects that require more attention to detail. If you already own an origami book, dig it out and teach children how to start making basic figures and shapes. You can also try a website like the Origami club which splits each exercise into categories from easy-difficult, allowing you to pick and choose projects according to the child’s level.

Dressing up

From tots to pre-schoolers, dressing up is a no-brainer that provides hours of great role-play fun for children. If they already have a selection of outfits, let them try everything on, perhaps helping them to refresh their outfits with new home-made hats and accessories. Pirate hats, swords, necklaces, princess capes are all relatively easy to make and will add hours of extra fun to their play.

Games afternoon

Use a rainy afternoon to dust off those old board games and enjoy a big games fest. Hungry hippos, junior scrabble, connect 4, rummy…there’s lots of fun games that can be enjoyed by all the family. If however, the family’s games’ offering is a little thin on the ground, why not make up your own? Get the kids to design their own concept – you can even create your own characters and rules by putting it all down on paper.

Old drawing games

The likes of ‘hangman’, ‘tick the box’, ‘noughts and crosses’ and ‘dot to dot’ might be associated with boring car journeys but on rainy afternoons, they make perfect activities. All you need is a pad and a couple of pens and you’re ready to start.

Giant snakes and ladders

Grab some chalk and head out to the patio, garden path (or park!) and draw a grid for your own innovative game of snakes and ladders. You can use different colour chalks for the snakes and ladders and create new rules or themes that allow each player to either move forward or back a few spaces. Clues/tasks and quizzes can also be thrown into the game to make it more fun.

Keep a ‘buddy diary’

Get the child to choose their favourite buddy (this could be anything from a special doll or transformer figure to a teddy or comfort blanket) and ask them to keep a special diary to document their holiday. You can fill the diary with photographs of the child with their buddy, stories, tickets of places they’ve been together, plus any other holiday memorabilia. It’s a lovely activity for imaginative children and you can add something new to it each day.

Write some postcards

Who says you need to be on foreign territory to send a postcard? The living room or back garden is as good as anywhere and the child can make it even better by designing their own picture. Ask them who they want to send it to and help them write a message detailing the highlights of summer/winter so far – ‘I went berry picking’, ‘we saw Mia and Jack in the park’, I’ve been playing hopscotch in the garden’ – small activities they enjoyed will create happy memories and make the activity really enjoyable.

Card houses

Grab a pack of cards and teach the child how to build a stackable card house. You can make it fun by setting a timer or competing against each other to see who can get the tallest house before all the cards fall to the ground.

Patchwork pillowcases

Look around the house for old pieces of material or, if you have clothes you no longer want, cut them up into squares (around 20 x 20cm is usually a good size). Now teach the child to stitch them together and make your very own patchwork blanket or pillowcase. It doesn’t matter if the finish is a little messy – it’s the creative input that counts!

Design a robot

Grab any old cereal boxes, loo rolls and tin foil and let a child make their own robot model. If you have lots of spare craft materials, let them loose with the buttons, ribbon, sequins and string to create something truly unique. Once they’re done you can take a quick snap of them with their robot and let them spend the afternoon online finding out more about their robotic friends and how they’ll develop in the future. You can also expand the robot theme further by letting them watch old Star Wars films or something more contemporary like Wall-E.

President for a day

Give the child the role of President for the day and let them take charge of all the household decisions. They get to decide what to wear, where to go, what to have for lunch – leaving you and the rest of the ‘civilians’ to abide by their rules. Yes, it might be a little difficult for Au Pairs/parents to go along with (especially if they decide on yogurt with chocolate for lunch!) but it’s a great way to teach them about authority and responsibility and they’ll have plenty of fun in the process!

Paint the house (with water)

Arm the child with a large bucket of water and the largest paint brush you can find and let them paint the house. Start at the back and let them cover as much of the walls as they can – if the activity proves a success – you can always move to the front and ‘finish the job’.-Other good objects to water paint include the fence, garden path, dad’s shed and once they’ve done all that, you can move on to the next door neighbours!

What floats?

Fill a deep glass bowl with water and ask a child to select a series of objects to test if they float. You can make the exercise fun by drawing a chart listing the objects with yes/ no written at the top – the child has to guess in advance whether the object will float and if they guess correctly, they receive a tick. If they get the majority right they win a sticker to put in their scrapbook.

Wrapping paper

Get them to design some wrapping paper for their special friend/brother/sister/parents … This can involve paints, crayons, pens or lots of craft materials to create something with a real wow factor.

Midnight feast (at 9pm!)

Midnight feasts can be huge fun – there’s something inherently naughty about eating food late at night and children will love the change in routine. Let them stay up a little later than usual, then put a variety of treats out on a blanket on the floor so they can help themselves. If you want to add to the midnight theme, you can use torches to light up the room and keep the television off so it feels like a genuine night-time treat. A word of warning though – sugary treats may mean they’ll want to stay up at night so it’s probably best to stick to sandwiches, savoury snacks, carrot sticks and fruit if you want to avoid an all-night party.  Parents need to agree to this first!

Masks

Grab some card, elastic and paints and help the child create their own mask. They can imitate their favourite character or go for something completely new with extra craft materials, glitter and ribbons. To secure the elastic simply put two pin sized holes on each side and feed the elastic through, tying it in place to fit their head.

Make Sock Puppets

Maker sock puppets using old, worn socks.  Provide the child with buttons, bailing twine, googly eyes, ribbons, sparkles and any other material you can find and let their imagination go wild into designing their own sock puppet.  Why not make a dinosaur one, a space alien or a princess?

Active Play

Have a tea party

If the family has a good sized garden; invite some local mums or Au Pairs and their children around for a little garden party. You could make sandwiches and cake and ask the child to help set up the blankets, cushions, cutlery and plates. Have a camera at the ready for all those special moments!

Hopscotch/skipping

Grab some chalk, some rope and head outdoors for an old school playground games session of hopscotch and skipping. Girls especially love these types of games and will enjoy learning the techniques and attempting to teach them to their friends.  If you don’t know any of the “Irish” school playground games, teach the children some of the games you used to play at school.

Painting in the garden

The best place for messy, no-holds barred play is the garden and if you’re going to let them loose on the paints and art materials you might as well do it in style! Lay some big sheets of lining paper out on the grass and let them splash poster paints all over it for their own creation. They could also dip their hands/feet/toes into different paints and make prints to put on their wall or as a special treat for friends and family.

Camping

If the family has a tent, why not pitch it in the back garden and camp out for the night? This is a great activity and kids will love the anticipation of helping to put the tent up, making their beds and putting any toys or books inside. You could add to the experience by cooking their tea on a little camping stove or barbecue and serving it up in plastic bowls.  Small children can camp in their own room or playroom – it is still exciting and at least you don’t need to worry about all those strange animal noises outside!

Take the toys outside

It’s inevitable that children get bored with their toys but by taking them outside you’ll be adding an entirely new dimension to their play value. That Smurf that sits on the car now becomes Papa Smurf, king of the pond whilst the shape sorter makes a great place to store soil and grass. Just the tiniest of gestures is sometimes all kids need to fire their imagination…

Obstacle course in the garden

Ask the children to help you create their very own obstacle course with ropes, hoops and toys that they can wheel around the garden. You can time them and set them a challenge to try and best their original time.

Home sports day

Invite other parents or Au Pairs and their kids around for your own little sports afternoon. You could set the activities out on a chalk board and make home-made trophies/medals from card and paper mâchĂ©. It’s a lovely social idea and a great way to boost confidence and have fun. Some home-made pizzas or snacks will add to the fun.

Outdoor Treasure Hunt

Make up a list of object your child needs to find outdoors.  Tick off the items as you find them.  Include things like – a feather, a white stone, moss, a beetle, clover, a purple flower etc.

Gardening

Most children love to get their hands dirty and there’s no better way to do this than in their very own back garden. Ask them to help you dig, sweep, plant and water the garden. They’ll love being helpful and learning about the garden and the insects that live in it.

Make a bark rubbing

Take some small pieces of paper and a crayon, put the paper against the bark of the tree and rub over it with a crayon. You will get the pattern of the bark. This will not work with really rough bark.

Make a bark impression

Take some play dough or plastecine to make an impression of some bark.  If you can’t name the tree, why not take a leaf home and look it up together in a nature book.  You could create a nature shelf for him/her – store his/her different bark impressions and leaves here, to help him build up a collection.  In our house we have dedicated Tupperware boxes filled with snail shells, stones, pine cones, feathers … It is a serious business our nature collection!

Flowerpot days

Plant orange and apple seeds in cut off plastic bottles then decorate the bottles with paper, tinfoil, felt pens and glitter. It’s wonderfully creative and equally rewarding when the seeds start to grow.

Insect watching

Give the child a bug box and see how many creepy crawlies they can find in the garden. Once they have a box full ask them to count them and describe which ones they like best and why. Once they’ve finished studying them they can find a good place to set them free.

Torchlight tag

All you need for this are a few torches, a back garden (or local park if you’re feeling adventurous) and some excitable children who aren’t too tired! Set the ground rules before you start – one torch per person, no hiding behind wheelie bins or sheds and no scary behaviour – especially if there are little ones are around. It’s also a good idea to set a time limit so children know when the game’s over and wind down time begins.

You can take a break mid-way through with a calming cup of cocoa and finish off with a bedtime story (told outside if it’s warm enough) to get those heart rates down and ready for bed.

Water the garden

It’s often the simpler things in life that grab children’s attention and watering the garden is definitely one of them. Hoses can be fun but using a watering can will prolong the activity and encourage a child to observe different things such as watching the water sink into the soil, taking in the scents, colours and sights and commenting on different flowers and plants. Prepare for children to get wet – don’t do this when it is cold!

Pebble pits

From truck racing to diggers and Barbie’s-at-the-beach, pebble pits offer a multitude of imaginative play opportunities for children of all ages. If you already own a sandpit you might want to throw a few pebbles into the mix, alternatively get a big shallow box or container and fill it with different shaped stones. You can pick them up at rock bottom (uh-hum!) prices from your local garden centre and the child will adore the change of scenery.

Garage sale

If you want to raise some cash for the more costly summer activities, a garage sale is a simple and free way to muster up some extra pounds. Let the child pull out any unwanted clothes, toys, CD’s, DVD’s etc. and hold a big garage sale outside your house. You can invite the neighbours and friends and ask any passers-by if they’d like to come and have a browse. All you need is a big table to display everything on and a jar of change handy. If you don’t make much on the first day, pull the table back inside and carry on the next day!  Probably works better in a town or village than in the country.  Check with parents first!

Water play

Fill a tub with water and lots of washing up liquid to create lots of big bubbles, and then throw in a selection of toys for them to play with. If you want to make the activity a little more fun, use the paddling pool or water play table to increase the splash factor.

Three legged challenge

If you have two excitable children on your hands, set them the challenge of having to walk everywhere together for a morning by tying one of each of their legs together. You can make it more fun by setting up a mini sports day in the garden or asking them to complete tasks around the house whilst having to go everywhere together. It’s great fun for school aged kids who’ll be determined to last as long as possible!

Play cricket/baseball

Simple to set up in the garden or park, cricket or baseball is one of those fun active games that can excite the whole family. Set your own rules according to the child’s level of play and teach them how to bowl, catch and bat properly. They’ll enjoy the blend of concentration, speed and skill that the game requires and if you have a competitive adults or Au pairs (or two) to add to the proceedings – even better!

Make a tree swing

Got some old rope and a tree in the garden? Use it to tie to the branches and make a swing. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfectly straight – children will simply love the novelty of having something new to play around on.

Creative Play

Theatre afternoon

Children have very vivid imaginations so stories and characters often come easy to them. Ask them to help you create a play and decide on which characters they want to play. You could help them create costumes and invite the neighbours(or mummy and daddy) around to spectate. A creative, rewarding activity that’s great for boosting confidence.

Make a pirate ship

Build a pretend pirate ship in the garden from chairs, blankets, plank of wood, homemade pirate flag and cannons made from old wine cartons and plastic balls…. with a bit of imagination the possibilities are endless.

Pretend disco

Get everyone to dress up in their party clothes, close the curtains, put the music on loud and dance dancedance! The children can take it in turns to play DJ and select different music.

Set up your own restaurant

Decide on a three course meal and ask the children to create proper menus with prices. They can dress the table and ask mum and dad to take their seat when they return from work. Check out some of our recipes for inspiration, or cook something which is traditional in your home country.

Colour/shape sorting

If you have a million and one things to do and no time to do it, give the kids a container with hundreds and thousands and ask them to sort them into different colour piles. A perfect rainy day activity, they’ll love the challenge and it will give you an extra half an hour to get on with all those extra things you’ve been meaning to do.

Little chefs

Most children adore helping to conjure up a culinary delight! Whether it’s a delicious cake, pie or something special for tea. Start off with something simple like sugar free jelly and work your way up to more challenging dishes like fish pie or apple crumble. You could set a cooking task for each week and invite a group of their friends round to sample the result. It also offers a great way to teach a child about food and the importance of healthy eating. Check out some of our recipes for inspiration, or cook something which is traditional in your home country.

Build a tent

Tents are inspirational places for role-play and imaginative activities and the good news is you don’t need the fully-fledged camping variety to make it work. Simply stand four chairs together and use sheets and blankets to make the roof, door and floor. If you have enough space, you could even use tables, stools and other furniture to create little rooms and sections inside.

Play time

As an Au Pair or a parent/guardian, it’s sometimes nice to just sit and play with the kids, perhaps creating new games with paper or cards that they’ve not yet tackled before. A few one to one hours is far preferable for children than paying to go to a big theme park for the day.

Make a collection bag

Give the child a bag and ask them to collect things on their way. Whether it is grass and soil from the back garden or sand and pebbles from the local beach, they’ll enjoy exploring their surroundings and trying to find unusual, interesting items to put in their bag.

Decorate a cake

Bake a big plain sponge cake and let your little ones get busy with the icing, hundreds and thousands, sugar flowers and all those other colourful decorative cake toppings. You could even let them put candles on it and blow them out at tea time, accompanied with a song that you’ve made up during the baking!

Treasure hunt

Depending on your children’s ages, place between 5-10 clues in the house or garden each with activities on lasting around ten minutes. These can be anything from painting each other’s faces to building a tower and having a quick drinks break (you could place the items they need to complete their task next to the clue). Once the hunt is finished, each child can win a small prize or decide on which games they want to play next.

Messy play

Shaving foam, mashed potato, water, cornflour…there are tons of easy ways to enjoy messy play – both indoors and out. Get the child to help you make the mixture and pile it all into a bowl or plastic table where they can squeeze the mixture through their fingers and make little sculptures and shapes.

Making play-doh

Children will adore making play dough and they will have fun exploring different food colourings to give the dough that lovely vibrant colour. All you need to do is mix together 1 cup of plain flour, half a cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar and then add a cup of water and mix until smooth. Add a dash of food colouring followed by 2 tablespoons of oil and cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly until the dough forms a ball. Non-toxic, cheap and easy.

Washing the car

This may be perceived by any nosey neighbours as a ploy to get kids doing a family’s dirty work but boy does it keep them occupied! They’ll enjoy washing the car clean with sponges and foam and you could set them tasks, such as cleaning certain sections of the car within a minute. A small treat or a Euro for their money box is a nice way to reward them. And what a lovely surprise for mum and dad!

Face painting

Face paints are worth their weight in gold and are a great way to entertain children – whether it’s at a party, playdate or simply a rainy afternoon at home. Ask them to choose a design and help them create their finished look, you can also help them to find an outfit to match their new fairy/superhero/witch/monster face. Priceless.

Themed days

Set a theme for the day and dress up accordingly. Children will adore all of those role-play opportunities being a fairy/pirate/princess/soldier brings and will value you getting in on the action too.

Write a diary

You can encourage older kids to keep a record of their favourite days, moments and activities throughout the summer. Postcards and photographs can be stuck to the pages, plus little mementos of days out (shells, leaves etc.).

Bubbles

Cheap, easy and oh what fun! Bubbles are a great activity for children of all ages. You can set them tasks such as who can blow the biggest bubble or how many bubbles they can pop in a minute. Younger children will probably enjoy just sitting back and watching them fly around the room. Young children are better off doing this outside unless you love cleaning…

Snap away!

Photography is lots of fun for children and a great way to record special memories of days out, lunch with friends or playing around in the back garden. Let them snap away with a camera (a throw away camera is better for the job than an expensive digital one!) and once they’re printed, they can make a scrapbook out of them with notes and funny stories.

Summer project

Choose a theme for a big summer (or winter) project and ask the kids to work on it. They can collect items from places they visited and create art projects or research new topics through books and the web. A great way to learn that’s rewarding for kids too.

Make ice lollies

Ask the kids to choose a selection of fruits then mix them together in a food blender. Pour the mixture into lolly moulds and freeze them for a few hours. The result? Delicious, healthy, home-made snacks. Yum.

Playdates

Playdates are invaluable and you can alternate so one week their friends come to play (and trash your house!) and the next week they go to their house.  A great way for Au-Pairs to meet up during the day!

Tidy up days

Create tidy up days for everyone to participate in. You can have a complete house overhaul or focus on individual rooms by moving furniture around or adding shelves/new pictures or photographs. It’s an easy, practical way to multi-task by keeping the kids entertained and ensuring the house looks its best.

Dancing

Whether it’s nursery rhymes or a good bit of rock music, children love to dance around and have fun. You could teach them new moves and ask them which different types of music they like. Great fun and perfect for enhancing confidence and co-ordination skills.

Themed country days

Let your child select a country on the world map and spend the day as if you were living there. If they choose France, you could make onion soup and dress them in hats and stripy tops. Tea could be a lovely spread of cheeses with pâtĂ©, a crusty baguette and olives and you could teach them a few French words such as ‘bonjour’ for hello and ‘merci’ for thank you.

Sleepovers

Invite up to 5 of the children’s friends for a sleepover and lay out duvets, sleeping bags and pillows in their bedroom (or living space if bigger). There are stacks of activities they could do – from dancing/singing competitions to pizza making, face painting and movies.  Check with the parents first and do not organise this on a school night!

Create a music band

You don’t need real instruments to be in a band (well not a pretend band anyway…). Kids are great at improvising and will love bashing the drums, strumming the guitar and singing along to their favourite tunes. Change their instruments around so they each get a turn doing something different and put on a special ‘gig’ for family and friends.

Role play games

Role play is a classic, easy activity and can be done at any time of the day, especially when nerves and tempers are being put to the test. Turn a fractious moment into a role play game and the child is more likely to engage with you than ponder over their negative feelings. You could also ask them to come up with their own role play ideas, based on events at school/nursery or recent films they may have seen.

Arts and Crafts Play

Water painting

Who says you need paints and pencils to create a masterpiece? Fill up a bucket of water and give the child a big paintbrush that they can use to paint the house, shed, patio, bricks….they’ll love watching the water stain everything a different colour and going back over the bits they’ve missed. Probably best done outdoors or at least on a covered kitchen floor, watch out for slippy floors!

Sculptures

Make use of all those boxes and containers by encouraging a child to create something unique. You could give them scissors, glue and paint and set them a theme (robots, rockets and princess castles are usually popular) or simply let their imagination run wild and get them to come up with something totally individual.

Make a cardboard house

Who needs bricks and mortar to build a great house? A couple of big cardboard boxes (one for the building, one for the roof) is all you really need to create a mini child-friendly house and the children will adore decorating it with pens, paints, glitter and crayons. If there’s space in their rooms, you could move it upstairs and let their toys live in it for a week or two, plus they’ll love showing it off to all their friends.You don’t even need cardboard – in our house we use the old baby pen and a few blankets thrown over it.  Add cushions around the inside to create walls and voilĂ  – secret children’s house – no grown-ups allowed (you won’t fit in it anyway!)

Collages

You could ask a child to make a collage out of items they’ve collected from the garden/days out or give them recycled card, paper and materials to create their very own masterpiece. Another easy way to ensure lots of fun without a penny in sight.

Painting

Indoors or out, painting big pieces of paper is a fun way to spend an hour or too. You could pencil in some faint shapes for them to colour in or leave them to create their own designs. If they like it enough, you could even use it as a mural for their bedroom wall.

Making cards

Use a rainy afternoon to make cards for forthcoming birthdays/Christmas and any other special occasions. Children can create their own unique designs or do finger/hand printing (perfect for party invitations).I get my four-year-old to make up loads of birthday cards which I send to family members for their birthday.  I always ensure I have a stack of them in the cupboard; it is much more personal and saves me buying birthday cards every month!

Lining paper fun

Lay some lining paper out in the garden and ask the child to lay down, draw around them and then ask them to paint themselves, they can also do hand prints with paintbrushes, sponges and other arty materials – brilliant fun.

Posters

On rainy days sit them down with old magazines and get them to cut out pictures and make a creative poster. Mismatching heads with different bodies will add a humorous touch and they could decorate their finished article with glitter and sticky stars.

Papier mâché animals

Mix some water and paper with glue for extra gloop and create little animal sculptures, towers or miniature cars. Once dried the child can put it on their shelf or make something special for a friend or family member.

Make butterflies/hanging mobiles

Set card, tissue paper, glitter and stickers out on a table and help the child create their own butterfly, bird or animal. You can use strong card or wire for the frame and hang it in their room once it’s finished.

Footsteps

Ask each of the children to make a foot print for each month of the year (or more) to record the growth of their feet. You could put it in their own scrapbooks with hand prints, photographs and lots of other lovely childhood memorabilia – a perfect keepsake for when they are older.

Make a mural

Spread some lining paper out and invite the kids and their friends to create drawings, patterns and shapes with as many colours and art materials they can find. The result could be put on the wall for all to admire.

Make vases

Create vases with recycled bottles and papier mâché and go and pick some wild flowers to put in them. These make great treats for mums and grandmothers and are a lovely way for children to be creative.

Rubbings

Make rubbings from garden objects and create an art gallery in the hallway for friends and family to see.

Flower pressing

Pick a selection of colourful flowers from your garden and let them dry out for a while. Put them between sheets of newspaper and press them by laying heavy books on top of a flat surface. When they are set in place, the child can use them to create cards, bookmarks or arty collages to hang on the wall.

Stick names

Collect little sticks in the park and help the child make the letters of their name. You could mount them onto card and use them as a door sign for their bedrooms or attach them to string and hang them in their room.

Out and About

Art excursions

Pack your pencils, paper, crayons and paints and head out on a special ‘art day’. You can theme it in advance by choosing to focus on nature and birds for example or visit as many places as you can sketching, drawing and creating as you go. Children will love the variety the challenge brings and it’s a great way for them to visualise their local area in a different light.

Discover colours

Try to find flowers in all of the colours of the rainbow.

Under the bridge

Shout under the bridge and listen for the echo. Even better with a tunnel.

Let him put his ear to the wall, and then whisper at the wall. Can he hear you?

Look for bird pooh. Is this where birds sleep at night?

Leaf Collage

Go to the nearest woods, park or garden and find as many different leaves as you can.  You can also collect things like moss and pine needles. When you are home press them in a telephone book or any other heavy book will do the same job.  After a couple of days the leaves should be dry enough to create your own collage with.  Get a large sheet of paper, or stick several smaller ones together, get out the glue and create your own picture.

Nature walks

Pack a picnic, pad and pens and take the children on a big expedition to the local park/nature reserve. Children will love the excitement of planning routes, drawing any birds and animals they see and finding a quiet spot for lunch. You could also set them tasks or create a list of likely sights you’ll see so they can tick them off as you come across them.

Picnics

Ah the good old fashioned picnic…this family staple is lots of fun for kids and the best thing about it is you don’t even need to leave your back garden! Ask the children to help you make the sandwiches and choose which fruit and vegetables they’d like to eat. You could even bake a cake the night before to add to the anticipation…easy, free fun to be enjoyed by all.

Parks

Kids love a good session in the park – it’s a perfect way for them to socialise with other kids, let off steam and get a healthy dose of exercise. You could take a picnic, arrange to meet friends, or just nip out for a quick half an hour before dinner time. If you need to drive to get to your nearest park, why not make an afternoon of it with ball games, home-made sandwiches and a camera to snap all those memorable moments.

Country walks

Little explorers love the country and there’s usually plenty to see and do for all. You could make up imaginative games as you go along or tell mystical stories of fairies, knights on horses. If the weather isn’t great, don’t let it put you off. Raincoats, wellies and good wet weather gear will keep you suitably dry and in a child’s eyes, will probably add to the entertainment!

Bike riding

You don’t need to go far to enjoy a good bike ride, a trip round the block, to a friend’s house or the local park is perfectly fine or you could drive to the nearest bike trail equipped with a picnic and make a morning/afternoon of it.

Fly a kite

Kite flying is a traditional past-time that provides entertainment and enjoyment for all (not to mention a thorough workout). Pick a windy day and head to the hills/local park/common for a kite flying session to remember. You could take a flask of warm hot chocolate as a treat and time the children to see how long they can keep the kite in the air for.

Rounders/Camogie/Football/Soccer

Grab a bat, ball and a group of 6+ people and head off to the park for an afternoon of your favourite sport. You can use t-shirts or bags for the bases and you could get the kids to spend a creative morning making a pretend trophy out of old cardboard and paper. Super-fun and healthy for all.

Watching the local bowling/tennis/cricket or football

There’s plenty to see at your local park and if there’s a game of tennis, bowling or football taking place – even better. You can pick a small discreet spot near the pitch and ask your child to tell you which person they think is going to win the game and why. It’s interesting and inspiring for kids to watch sport and you could take a ball or some racquets and play your own game once you’ve finished spectating.

Visit to nanny and granddad’s house

If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents living close by, why not take a bike ride, walk or bus journey to visit them? It’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon and you could bake some cookies or ask the child to draw a picture to take as a gift.

Blackberry picking

Give each child a container and go on a blackberry picking mission! Children will love to see how many they can collect and you can use the blackberries to make a delicious pie for dinner. It’s a great way to enjoy seasonal food and it doesn’t cost a penny.  Keep a close eye on young children – they could put anything into their mouths.  (If you are unsure about a certain berry or mushroom – do NOT pick it!!)

Sensory walks

Choose local walks with plenty of delightful sights, smells and objects to touch and feel. Local woodlands, parks, ponds, rivers, lakes, old castles are all packed with interesting things to do, touch and see and offer a great way to teach a child about nature, history and the world around them.

Fishing

If you enjoy a spot of fishing now and again, why not take the child along too? They will be interested to learn how the rod works and will be excited to see the fish. You could take lots of games and books along or simply enjoy the serenity with imaginative stories and quiet games of eye spy.

Free play-schemes

Take advantage of any local free play-schemes or mum and toddler groups you can go along to. Most older kids are more than welcome to attend to and it’s a great way to meet other families and Au Pairs in your area.

Local library

Books are great time fillers and are integral to helping children to learn about themselves and the world around them. The library is a great place to show them new books and encourage them to explore the shelves for new characters, stories and topics. Most libraries also offer a story time, a great source of entertainment for young children and a good opportunity to meet other kids in the area.

Galleries

Many cities have free galleries open to the public. Depending on the child’s age, they pose a perfect opportunity to teach them about art, photography and the whole notion of creativity. There are often kids classes and talks designed for children so it’s worth checking your local museums page, local events or signing up for the galleries newsletter to ensure you know of any up-coming events.

Grocery shopping

Something as regular as doing the weekly shop can inspire interest in kids. Ask any older children to help you write a list whilst younger tots can be in charge of the money (you could make paper money to add to the enjoyment). Once you have everything you need, let them choose a small treat each for helping you out.

Wild flower photography

There are some beautiful wild flowers around in summer so head out on little local walks to see what natural delights you can find. You are not supposed to uproot wild flowers, but with digital cameras these days you can take a photo of every type you see.

Story time at the park

Pick a sunny day and take the family (plus any friends) to the park for a picnic and story time. You could ask the other mums or Au Pairs to take it in turns so the children get to sample different story telling styles and ask the children if they want to act the book out themselves during or after the reading session.

Visit the pet shop

Pet shops are lovely places for children to learn about animals, the way they smell, sound and move so if you find yourself free of an afternoon why not pop along for a visit? Parrots are a great source of entertainment and the colourful fish will entrance children of all ages.

Bird watching

Grab some pens, a pad and some binoculars and head outside for a bird watching afternoon. The child could draw any birds they see and make a note of their favourite breeds.

Local fetes/fairs

Local events are often in abundance throughout the summer holidays so it’s worth keeping tabs on your local listings to ensure you don’t miss out on anything.  Check out some of the websites we suggest.

Trips to the local toy shop

Large toy store chains like ELC and independent stores openly welcome children to come and play with their toys. You’re not committing to buy anything and the kids will have a wonderful time exploring the shelves and playing with the toys on display.

Explore the local town

Sometimes just walking around your local area can be enough to keep children happy. Ask them to point out local landmarks or describe the route to Aunty Amber’s or home – school. You can set lots of games and challenges along the way and reward them with a small treat once you get home.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Toddlers, especially boys seem to go through an obsessive phase with vehicles – especially those that fly or travel at high speeds like planes/helicopters/trains and cars. If the child gets excited by moving vehicles, why not spend an hour or two at the train station, ferry port or airport watching the traffic come and go? You might have to sit with a few nerdy types (no offence intended I am sure!!) but that little smile on their face will make it all worthwhile!

Stone throwing

A simple past-time that still packs a punch where fun is concerned, kids will love spending an afternoon by the sea/lake/river throwing and skimming stones as far as possible. Set them challenges and competitions to add to the fun and take a picnic to make an afternoon of it.

Help a neighbour

Providing a few hours of help to an elderly neighbour can reap huge rewards for children and it’s a wonderful way to teach them about respecting and caring for others. Buying groceries at the supermarket, doing the washing-up, baking them a cake or simply popping along for a cuppa and a chat can be all it takes to put a smile on their face. Let the child take charge and explain to the neighbour that they are off school and therefore happy to help with any household chores and errands. Most will be only too happy to take them up on their offer!

Walk a dog

If you have your own dog then you’ll already be used to regular walks with a child in tow. If not, then why not give it a try? Ask to go along when a friend next walks their dog and let the child take hold of the lead for a while. Grab sticks/balls and throw them for the dog to catch and let them indulge themselves in the moment. Dogs can be great fun and a high/fast-paced walk is healthy for all the family.

For the Little Ones

There is a lot to explore when you’re out and about in the countryside or garden. Looking out for tiny details really helps children to learn to pay attention and to look for the detail in things – an important pre-reading skill.

  • Footprints. Can you tell which belong to birds and which belong to animals?
  • Whose had lunch? Look for leaves that have been eaten by small creatures. Can you find the creature nearby?
  • Look who lives under small logs and stones.
  • Look who lives under leaves.
  • Look who visits flowers.
  • Snail trails.
Sink or float?

A game for the bath that encourages her to categorise, investigate and to look for what objects have in common.

* Give her a variety of objects including

– Ones that sink straight away – keys, spoons etc.

– Ones that float – wooden lolly sticks, plastic toys

– Ones that float then sink when they fill with water – plastic cups and bottles

– Ones that gradually sink – like sponges, flannels etc.

* Let her experiment with the objects in the bath

* When she’s had a chance to play, you can try offering her the objects one at a time and asking before she puts them in the water what she thinks will happen.

Splash and blow painting

Here are some simple but messy painting techniques which produce interesting pictures.
* Paint flicking. Fill a brush with paint (thin rather than thick) pull back the bristles aim at the paper and let go.

* Paint blowing. Put some thin paint onto some paper, using a straw blow the paint across the page.

* Paint dropping. Drop thickened paints from varying heights onto a sheet of paper.

* Paint diluting. Make a line of thickened paint at the top of the page, use a brush dipped in water to work this down the page.

Growing cress

This is a simple but sustained activity which she must think about over a period of a week or two.

This also builds the idea of nurturing and creates a sense of ’I can do it’.

  • Sprinkle cress seeds on a bit of dampened kitchen paper
  • You can do this on a plate or even inside half an egg shell to grow an egg head!
Weather Presenter! 

As children grow up they need practice with the sort of sustained activities they will have to get used to at school. This is a simple one which you can carry out for a week – or even longer if she enjoys it.

  • Divide a sheet of paper into eight rows each about 1 inch wide and three columns
  • Write the days of the week in the first column.
  • Across the top write the time of day (morning and afternoon)
  • Every morning after breakfast she looks out and decides on the weather. This is entered on the chart.
  • She does the same after lunch.
  • You can make this more fun by using symbols to indicate the weather on the chart instead
  • She can play at presenting the weather and telling you all about what the weather was like this week
Animal Walk

Dr. Doolittle sings a song called “Talk Like the Animals,” but your baby can “Walk Like the Animals” with a little assistance from you. All you need are a little imagination and a creative step!

Materials
  • Pictures of animals
  • Marching music
  • Floor space
Instructions
    • Pick out pictures of animals that have a distinct walk, such as an elephant (sways back and forth), a cat (tiptoes), a dog (runs), a snake (slithers), a crane (high-steps), a duck (waddles), a mouse (scurries), a spider (uses all its arms and legs), and so on.
    • Put on some marching music to inspire your Animal Walk.
    • Stand in the middle of a large floor space and show your baby the first animal picture.
    • Then begin to walk like the animal, using your body creatively.
    • Encourage your baby to follow your footsteps.
    • After a few moments, pick another animal and change your walk to suit.

Safety
Be sure the floor space is clear so your baby doesn’t trip over anything.

Game Ideas

Don’t forget the simple, all-time favourites:

      • Football
      • Catch
      • Card Games
      • Rock, paper, scissors
      • Hide-and-Seek
      • Three-legged Races
      • Obstacle Courses
      • Simon Says

For some extra ideas, visit www.best-children-games.com

Capture the Flag

From About.com
We loved playing this when we were kids, capture the flag is one of those timeless games played all across the world, you can teach your kids to play it or join in yourself

Materials needed

Two flags and flagpoles. Bandannas or fabric scraps on sticks will do

How to Play:
  • Players are divided into two teams.
  • Each team has its own territory with a boundary designated between the two.
  • Each team must also designate a spot to serve as a jail. This need not be anything more than a particular rock or tree that a prisoner has to touch.
  • Another decision that must be made is how large the designated safety zone around the flag should be. When the game begins, each team must decide where to place its flag. Once placed, it cannot be moved, although it can be guarded.
  • Those guarding their own flag may not enter the safety zone around the flag unless in pursuit of an opposing team member. Once the flag is placed, team members are assigned to guard their own flag or to enter enemy territory to try to capture the other team’s flag.
  • Any player in enemy territory can be caught and put in jail.
  • The classic Boy Scout rules say that the capture is made by holding the other player long enough to say caught, three times.
  • Some play that tagging the other player is sufficient.
  • Prisoners can be released by being tagged by a teammate, but only one prisoner can be rescued at a time.
  • A team wins the game by capturing the other team’s flag and bearing it back to their home territory.
  • If a flag is seized but is recaptured before reaching the opponents territory, the flag is set up where it was recaptured. If a game must be ended before a flag is captured, the team with the most prisoners wins.
Go on a treasure hunt

From simplemom

  • Think of some unusual spots around your house, or plant some treasures in rooms and on shelves (in an age-appropriate location, of course).
  • Then make a list of objects, and have your child go on a treasure hunt. If they cannot yet read, draw a sketch of the hidden item.
  • For a little more fun, prepare the night before. Draw a map and pour some cold tea over the entire surface.Leave to dry and next day you will have an Authentic looking Treasure Map which just adds to the fun!
Potato and Spoon Race

From best-children games
A hilarious and famous party game!

How to Play:
  • In this relay game all the players divide into teams and every team gets a spoon with a potato on it.
  • Now the children need to complete the distance till turning point and back without dropping the potato and then give the spoon to the next player in the team.
  • If the potato drops, that player of the team has to start again at the starting line.
  • The first team to have all its players complete the course is the winner.
  • A balance relay game for 4 years and up.