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It’s something that, I know, some mothers and grandmas dread. The date is carefully marked on the calendar. The weeks are counted off. The gloom settles in … it’s school holiday time.
I’ve always loved them. I know, though, that its not easy when you have work commitments and other responsibilities to factor in. But still, I love being surrounded by the kids’ energy and excitement.
School holidays can become expensive seasons of the year, too, if you send children to holiday camps or programs. But you can spare the expense, build some family memories, and enjoy some wonderful family activities with these simple activities. I’ve included nine, simple, family, fun activities but there are more in my next book, available soon. What’s more… most of these ideas are inexpensive and use items from your home.
I’ve included a downloadable cheatsheet file, sort of a checklist, so that you can plan head.
1. Create an Obstacle Course
This just sounds like too much work.. I know, but it’s really not. First, you’ll need to plan whether you’ll hold this outdoors or inside. Then, check out what objects you have that can be used for this activity. For example, you might have little more than some paper streamers. Great! Tape the streamers down your hallway at different heights and angles. The kids will love to try and negotiate the maze of streamers stepping over or crawling under without breaking any, especially if you give them a time to best.
You can do an activity obstacle course. Everyone has to progress through stations of the course and do various quick tasks like.. jump 5 times, crawl under a chair, throw and catch a ball 5 times.
If you have boxes or hoops, kids love to crawl through things or jump into or over things. Pool noodles, cardboard boxes, even washing baskets are wonderful, too for this type of activity. You’ll be surprised just how many items you already have that can be included in an obstacle course.
Remember, it adds more excitement if you have some sort of prize or reward for anyone who manages to negotiate the course within a particular timeframe.
Check out this site for stacks of other Obstacle Course ideas.
2. Hold a ‘Minute to Win it’ Competition
First, the best thing about this type of competition is that anyone can win. You don’t need to have any particular skill or expertise for these competitions, not even dad.
8And again, there is a time factor so there’s no time to get bored. You don’t have to try and get someone ‘out’ or wait until everyone’s finished. Each person has only one minute to try and complete the task and that adds real pressure on whoever is attempting the task.
Second, the tasks aren’t daunting. Success is often more a surprise than skilful ability. For example, you might have to move an Oreo from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands; or perhaps, bounce a pingpong ball so that it sticks to a slice of bread and peanut butter.
There are plenty of suggested games to include in this competition readily available and even a printable party pack with ideas, scoresheets and decorations. Obviously, choose tasks that will appeal to the ages and abilities of your kids. And since this is such a wacky competition, it would be equally exciting to have an out-there type of prize for the winner- like a weird hat or special cup or mug like the example below:
3. Blow Bubbles
Now, although blowing any sort of bubbles is great fun for kids, there are many other ideas for bubbles that are just super-terrific.
First of all, bubbles can be the basis of a whole stack of party games. They may be simple but you’d be surprised how much fun they can be. Try keeping the bubbles in the air by blowing from beneath. See who can blow bubbles and stack them on top of each other. Pop a bubble without using your hands is fun to try and amusing to watch. Find even more ideas..
How about bubbles that glow in the dark? Or…. try your hand at making square bubbles. You can blow bubbles with a bunch of straws, a hula hoop, even a water bottle. Who knew bubbles could be so versatile?
Then, you can try to make the biggest bubble imaginable. All you need are some simple ingredients (water, dishwashing detergent, corn starch, baking powder and glycerine) and you can find the instructions here.
You can also use bubbles to create art. Find the instructions here. How about some bubble dough?
4. Make Paper Planes
I don’t know about you, but most people I know have their own tried and true paper plane design. How about testing your design against your kids’ paper plane designs? But maybe they haven’t made their own or experienced a paper plane competition.
There are plenty of ideas to get you and your kids started and it’s a lot of fun. Once you’ve made a few, hold a competition to see which plane design flies the farthest or, perhaps, can do a loop. You might try to determine which plane can go through a hoop or under the washing line.
Once everyone has flown their plane and you’ve awarded the best and greatest awards for the various plane designs, why not relax with a big bowl of popcorn and watch the movie ‘Paper Planes’. It’s a wonderful family movie and will probably inspire your kids to try some more paper plane designs. Here are some to get you started.
Flying Fox Paper Plane. Basic Dart Paper Plane. World’s Best Paper Plane. Chinook (easy design) Clipper
5. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Whether you plan to hold your scavenger hunt in your backyard, indoors, at the beach or at a park, it can be a lot of fun for everyone. You won’t need to take the whole day for this activity but it’s surprising just how much time this activity will occupy.
You need to plan a few things beforehand (printed list of items to find, a bag each to carry everything they find, marker, water and snacks are a good idea, too) but it doesn’t need to be too involved. And… there are plenty of resources already available to help with this fun activity.
Think beyond the box for your scavenger hunt. How about a colour scavenger hunt or maybe a texture hunt? A photo scavenger hunt is a lot of fun, too. The kids will need to take a photo of the found item, which adds a lot of interest especially if they’re required to do something special for the photo: find a brown leaf and take a photo of it balanced on your nose etc
If your kids are a little older, add a level of difficulty with cryptic or magic clues. A treasure hunt is another option, too.
You might decide to have an evening scavenger hunt. After all, kids love to use a torch/flashlight. Remember, little ones will need someone to hold their hand for this one.
And… if you’re rained in, you can still have a scavenger hunt… how about a movie scavenger hunt?
You’ll find even more ideas and resources to get you started here.
6. Enjoy a Tea Party
This probably sounds like the sort of thing that would only appeal to the girls… and you’d be mistaken.
The art of tea drinking is experiencing a revival and many people are enjoying it. And your kids will, too. After all, they’re usually happy for anything that relates to food. And there are so many different tea accessories, brewing tools and tea flavours that the boys spend as much enjoyment mixing and trying flavours and recipes as the girls.
If you’re not sure what you could serve for your tea party, there are plenty of food options and some fruity tea ideas, too. Check out the Ultimate Guide to a Memorable Tea Party for more ideas.
7. Devise a Secret Family Handshake
Devising a secret family handshake isn’t just a fun activity, though it’s certainly that. It’s also great for developing memory and coordination. You can choose and learn some handshakes or you can come up with your own family handshake– even more fun.
It’s probably a good idea to start with some handshakes that others have come up with and then take it from there. And you don’t need to stick to just using your hands. Include other body parts as well- head, shoulders, elbow, knee.
Try it… the kids will love it. And… there’s no prep required for this one.
8. Go Star-Gazing
Naturally, this is one activity that you’ll have to do at night.. exciting! Yes, by all means, the kids can bring their torches/flashlights. But they really need to switch them off once they lie down to view the night sky. Bring along something to lie down on comfortably. And yes, you can do it in your own backyard. But remember, you’ll see the stars more clearly when you’re away from the city lights and if you’re in an elevated area. Winter is best. And check the cycle of the moon. A beautiful moon-lit night is not best for star-gazing.
It’s great if you have a telescope but kids will be just as happy with a cheap set of binoculars. You can buy star charts to help you locate constellations but you can also download an app like Star Chart. Just aim your smartphone at the stars and the app will tell you what you’re looking at. It takes some extra planning, but you could also play some star theme related music while you’re watching to set the mood.
There are more ideas to add to the fun.. printable constellation guides, star gazing crafts, cardboard constellation viewers and more… and don’t forget to include some snacks.
If you’re star-gazing at home, you could also set up your fire-pit and toast marshmallows to conclude the evening.
9. Create a Backyard Waterpark
You only need to say the words ‘waterpark’ and the kids will be clamouring to help you. But again, this can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like to make it. (Let’s face it… if you can involve dad, it will become increasingly complex, but loads of fun… so try and involve his help.) Of course, my grandsons are happy if I just fill a couple of buckets with water!
But you can do so much more. Set up special water activity stations so that the kids can rotate round.
Spongy stepping stones: Fill small rectangular containers with water and big sponges. The ones you use for washing the car work well. You can add some food colouring, if you like, for added interest. Line up the containers so that the kids can easily step from one to the next. They’ll love the squishy feel as they splash through these stepping stones.
Water tightrope: Position a plank of wood on a couple of bricks. (If you have little ones, just leave it flat on the ground.) Fill a small pail with water. Ask the kids to try and walk across the plank with the container of water held above their heads.
Water balloon Piñata: Fill a oversized container with water balloons. (You’re going to need quite a few- kids love them.) Fortunately, the Bunch of Balloons Instant Water Fill works so well! Suspend the water balloons from an elevated structure or from trees. Your kids can try to jump up and break the water balloon.. which, of course, will splash all over them- what fun!
Water balloon dodgeball: Yep, you’re going to need more of those water balloons. This version is so much more fun that normal dodgeball and won’t hurt. If fact, your kids will hope that you can hit them with these water balloons.
Water slide: Sure, you can buy one of these and set it up. But it’s just as easy to lay out a long piece of heavy duty plastic and set up the hose so that the water runs down the length of the plastic. Strangely, kids don’t need much instruction about how to use this.
Now, if you’re really adventurous or creative (or if dad is happy to help out) you might like to consider these more elaborate waterpark features.
I think, if you present any or all of these fun activities for your kids, you’ll have no trouble enticing them away from their devices. And there’ll be no complaints that ‘they’re bored!’ Instead you’ll find that they’ll be clamouring for more. I think, too, that you’ll look forward to weekends or holidays with the whole family enjoying these simple fun, and memorable ‘moments that matter’.
Find and download it here or below: Kids activities cheatsheet
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.