With the school holidays soon approaching, it’s that time once again, to organise activities for the kidlets! Let’s face it, two weeks straight can be challenging: in running them from pillar to post, from activity to activity: to keep them busy and happy.
So, when school holidays fall knee-deep in the height of Winter, instead of rushing around spending our hard-earned dollars on a plethora of kid’s programs: we thought we’d share an alternative. We thought back to our childhood when things were simpler. Where digital time didn’t exist. Where we would wake up late, take out our board games, engage in outdoor, backyard or street activities – that didn’t cost a cent. When staying at home and in-and-around the neighbourhood wasn’t such a pressure-cooker, but a luxury-in-disguise.
Where, despite our parents being at home or at work, we were able to entertain ourselves independently, with simple plans.
So, in this blog, we’re taking you on a trip down memory lane, where we’ll share our old-time favourite home-based games and outdoor activities with you and your children to indulge in, to get you through the winter school holidays.
firstly - come up with a daily schedule
A week before the holidays start, sit the kiddos down and prepare, prepare, prepare: by writing down the kinds of activities that your kids could engage in. Secondly, divide these chosen activities into morning and afternoon timeslots, and then divide them further into:
- inside/outside play
- an excursion
- screen time
- a quiet activity.
Mix and match them up between your children, and you’ll see your two-week calendar start to flesh itself out!
Care to follow our lead? Let begin with some outdoor morning activities, when the crisp, healthy, fresh air beckons, and where your kids can play outside!
morning or afternoon outdoor activities
hear ye’, we’re going on a treasure hunt
Get your pirate gear on and make your map – don’t forget to singe the edges for that classic old-world effect (good times!). Ye’ little hearties will be so excited to follow clues or simply wander the backyard or living room: seeking out treasure of any kind. Keep it simple – small tokens or coins that can be pooled together for the grandest of loot. To be sure, to be sure – little buccaneers will be asking to play this one again and again!
go on a nature hunt, and reuse for art activity
How many different coloured leaves can you collect on the nature path? How many dried flowers, twigs, acorns, and pines can you find strewn in the park, or in the backyard, waiting to be reused for some unique nature art to do at home? Just grab a wicker basket and go on a nature hunt! You’d be surprised at what you can find, while getting in some fresh air and a bit of exercise for the kiddos! You’ll not only feel fulfilled by using nature’s gifts, but in teaching your kids to value the planet, too!
go on a beach clean up
Speaking of the planet, there is such joy in doing our bit to keep it clean. In fact, make it a brisk, morning activity! Grab some rubbish bags, go to your local beach, and get cleaning! There is nothing more satisfying then helping clean the planet. There are always leftover cans, plastics, and paper bits you can find and either recycle or throw away. And before you go? Grab some sticks and get your kids to write their initials in the sand!
Active kids need to be on the move and the best thing about obstacle courses is that they can be played indoors or out, whatever the weather, and can be easily tweaked depending on kiddie ages. Set up a scoreboard & record times (remember the old stopwatch!) so little champs can compete against each other, or their personal best … or you!
Complete the course as often as needed throughout the day (any time you need a morning pick-me-up) and celebrate the grandest champion of the day. Obstacle courses provide loads of fun and loads of memories – a win-win for all!
just go a-wanderin’
Depending on the age of your children, most school-age kids can be trusted to go for a short or long stroll around the neighbourhood. If they make it around the block, they don’t even need to cross any roads. Give them your mobile phone if you’re worried but try not to be. A mini excursion by themselves is a fantastic way for kids to be responsible and grow their independence.
morning or afternoon indoor activities
There is no denying that due to the rise of social media in communicating with our community, photography is fast becoming a must-have skill for everyone, rather than a hobby for some. Let the kids explore your camera, iPhone, or old Instamatic. Ask the kids to photograph the alphabet (something starting with A, B, C, etc) or use the daily word prompts on the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day challenge as a list of things for the kids to photograph. There are years’ worth of lists to print out for inspiration.
start with a classic movie afternoon
Are the kids feeling tired after a busy morning? Add an ‘element of cosy’ by creating a classic movie afternoon, or family night. Close the blinds or cover the windows with blankets to create an at-home movie cinema. Kids love doing weird stuff like that – it suits their general kookiness. Speaking of out-of-the-box moments, download some old-time Disney classic family-friendly films: like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Bambi, or Mary Poppins, that touches on the importance of family and friendship: that both boys and girls will love.
create a puppet show
Got some soft toys or some old socks? If so, get you r kids to create a puppet show! Make a puppet theatre by pulling the couch out from the wall, let the kids invite their friends over, and let the lights go up! For bigger kids, expect a script to be written and costumes made (cutting arm holes in scraps of fabric is all they need to do).
Most kids love LEGO and there are 100s of ideas at LEGO Quest for them to build. Each challenge has a click-through so the kids can see what other kids around the world have made for the challenge. It’s a fun way to spark interest in LEGO again or challenge LEGO buffs to try something new!
They have never really gone out of style and despite all the screen-based games that compete for attention, you can’t really beat a social board game. We like Yahtzee, Trouble, Cluedo, Ker-plunk! and Junior Scrabble and Monopoly best!
straw bead bracelets
Care to make some super-cheap ‘beads’ that won’t cost you a dime? Cut some out of old plastic or paper straws that are lying around the house. Thread them around threaded wool or twine to make necklaces or bracelets. Collect different coloured ones and place in leftover jars. Work on pattern formation in younger kids (red straw, blue straw, red straw, yellow straw, etc) for hours of jewellery-making fun!
if you are worried about the chemicals to be found in finger-painting, look no further than nature-friendly powdered paints, available at your local retailers in-store or online. So safe and non-toxic to use, these powdered paints are the eco-friendly answer to avoiding toxic chemicals. Best of all, they’ll have a blast painting themselves (always making sure you cover the floor and your clothing in case of accidents!)
build an epic fort
Complete with a club flag and club ‘rulz’ of course (no grown-ups allowed)! Start with chairs for the frame and space out with the backs facing inwards, then collect every single blanket available and drape over the chairs. Add some pillows for comfort and cuddly friends for company, and don’t forget torches and snacks for the best fun. Last-but-not-least, the secret handshake, because without it – entry is denied!
cardboard box time
Remember when empty boxes were the thing to play in, when you could turn them into anything you possibly imagined: like a perfect hiding spot, or a make-believe house? Boost your imagination and save your boxes - because everyone knows that kids play with them for longer than the toys anyway!
Become a storeowner! Create a cashier station. Design some colourful play money- by playing shops! Let your child be the shopkeeper, while you play the customer! Whether it’s fruit store, general store, toy store or clothing store, this activity will keep your kids busy for hours! Set them up with some fruit and veggies from your kitchen, a calculator, some post-It notes and a pen and let their imagination soar!
happiness is blowing bubbles
You’ll be feeling all bubbly inside with this ‘straight outta the 80’s’ bubble mix:
combine 1 cup dishwashing liquid
1/2 teaspoon glycerine or vegetable oil
1/2 cup of water
bubble wands /or pipe cleaners with sticks tied together,
Experiment with different shapes (diamonds are a girl’s best friend!) and sizes and marvel at the unbelieva-bubbles you can create!
let’s talk chalk
When it’s time for some fun in the sun, bring your trusty sidewalk chalk. An oldie but a goodie because there are so many things you can do. Remember these: hopscotch, four square, noughts and crosses … just to name a few.
How about creating a life size version of your old-time favourite board games? Snakes and ladders work well, kids get to practice writing and counting their numbers (math lesson, check!) and they get to be life-size game pieces! Just roll a dice and away you go! Tomorrow, there’ll be self-portraits, shadow tracing and rainbows… lots and lots of rainbows. So easy, so affordable, so fun!
A great activity for budding Italian chefs, Pizza Making is a great way for kids to be put to work and get their creative juices flowing! Let them go crazy and happily put together unusual concoctions to pop into the oven at lunch time. If you make the dough from scratch and lay out all the basic ingredients you will need, they will love doing all the endless kneading for you, plus throw on some crazy toppings!
be a pastry chef
Speaking of the kitchen, baking is a beautiful, relaxing pastime for kids as well as parents. Just let the kids pick a simple recipe, like chocolate chip cookies, vegemite scrolls or banana muffins, and away you go, making your kitchen smell delicious and good enough eat! Yum!
Grab a flashlight, some mosquito spray and mind those pesky bugs - it’s time to go backyard camping! Get the kiddos to pitch a small tent close enough to the house to keep an eye on them, but far enough away so that they feel a sense of independence. Hang some fairy lights, with a sleeping bag and some pillows. This is a quick way for kids to create their own sanctuary: where they can keep books, toys, and snacks to graze the day away. A perfect lair to get outta your hair!
lastly … encourage storytelling
Remember those days of writing in your diary? Encouraging your kids to sit down and write in a diary not only provides them with some calming alone-time, but it can also fuel their own storytelling abilities. Start with a diary notebook and allow your kids to start writing freely about their day, and how each day of the holidays went. Then take it one step further – by showing them how to decorate the pages inside too with illustrations. Encourage them to write a few pages each morning, or before bed – to show them that relaxing activities like writing can also be just as rewarding as busier ones.
Feeling nostalgic? These are just a few of so many classic past-times. What were your faves? Take your pick of old school activities for old school fun - guaranteed joy for the young and the young at heart! Pass your days the old-fashioned way. go on - you owe it to your kiddie self!