Beat the boredom: 14 ideas to entertain children as school countdown begins
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The countdown is on until children go back to school and your entertainment ideas bank is now well and truly in the red: here are a few ideas to help you make it to the finishing line.
These ideas are ideal for younger children but older ones may enjoy them too, even if they pretend otherwise!
1) Have a doll’s tea party or a teddy bear’s picnic. Even older children can be persuaded to have some small-scale fun if they can help make a miniature feast. Serve your picnic on a doll’s tea set if you have one and make sure that everything is fairy-sized. Mini eggs are particularly popular (make egg cups from modelling clay) as are dainty sandwiches and vegetable crudities cut into shapes with biscuit cutters.
2) Build an indoor den. It can be as easy as a blanket or duvet draped over furniture or the slightly more sophisticated version where your children colonise a cupboard. Once the den is built, provide torches, cushions and activities for the children to use when they’re in their new lair.
3) Make no-cook fudge: put 175g of softened butter in a bowl and stir in one small can (around 175g) of condensed milk. Gradually add 800g sieved icing sugar and mix together. Turn on to a pastry board and knead until soft and easy to handle. Roll out to a thickness of 1cm and cut into squares or shapes. Leave overnight on a wire rack to harden. Experiment with flavours – you could add peppermint essence or sieve in 75g of cocoa with the icing to make chocolate fudge.
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4) Pond or stream dipping often bears many fruit in the springtime, giving children the opportunity to spot creatures such as frogs and their frogspawn, pond skaters and the nymphs which will eventually become dragonflies, damselflies or mayflies. Choose a site with public access and make sure the children are safe and supervised by the edge of the water. Filling a large container with water to search through can be easier than trying to dip in the river or pond itself.
5) Make your own speedy bird cake by cutting a small hole in the bottom of an old yoghurt pot and threading string through the hole, knotting on the inside – leave enough string so you can tie the pot to a tree or bird table. Allow a block of lard to warm up to room temperature, cut into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl. Add birdseed, raisins, peanuts and grated cheese and squidge together to mix. Fill the pot with mixture, set in the fridge for an hour and hang outside for the birds.
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6) Create your own volcano using modelling clay, baking soda, food colouring, liquid dishwashing detergent and vinegar. Model the volcano out of brown and green modelling clay and add a red ring around the rim to make it look like red-hot lava is flowing out of it. Make your volcano around 10cm high. Scoop out a hole at the top of the volcano and stir in a tablespoon of baking soda, a few drops of red food colouring and a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. When you’re ready for an eruption, pour in around 100ml of vinegar and stand back!
7) Eggheads are easy to make – take eggshell halves, wash carefully and fill with damp cotton wool. Sprinkle on cress seeds and then paint or draw a face on your egg. Wait until your egghead grows ‘hair’!
8) Personalise your wellies (temporarily, at least) with old nail varnish. Take a pair of plain wellies and lay on their sides. Decorate with one shade of nail varnish and leave to dry for five minutes. Turn over and continue your design, then repeat with other colours of nail varnish until you’re happy with your design. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated room! Designs will chip off after around a month, or can be removed with nail varnish remover.
9) Mini muffin pizzas: you can make four mini pizzas out of two muffins, halved, and then your children can add their favourite toppings to create made-to-measure pizzas. Spread each muffin half with a dollop of tomato puree paste and then sprinkle on some fresh or dried herbs. Select your favourite pizza toppings – you could use ham, tuna, pepperoni, sliced peppers, bacon, mushrooms…the list is endless. Add you toppings and then cover the top with grated cheese – use mozzarella for authenticity, or whatever you have in the fridge. Place on a baking tray and grill under a medium heat for around five minutes until the cheese bubbles. Cool and eat. You can also use pitta breads.
10) Make eggbox flowers using the egg compartments from cardboard egg boxes. Cut the compartments from the boxes and paint. Stick to flower shapes cut from cardboard to form the trumpet of a flower such as a daffodil. Attach a green pipecleaner as a stalk.
11) Make a bird’s nest. Ask your children to collect the kind of materials which birds commonly use to make their own nests – small twigs, leaves, feathers, moss, stems and wool. Children can weave their own nests or simply roll their ‘ingredients’ into a ball and then hollow out a hole for eggs. Leave your nests in trees and bushes to fool people walking by and to avoid an invasion of creepy crawlies in your child’s bedroom!
12) Go stargazing. Norfolk is blessed with some of the country’s darkest skies and this time of year is a wonderful time to be gazing heavenward. On March 9-10, you will be able to see an impressive cosmic huddle of Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in the south-east morning sky.
13) Go on a nature hunt in the garden or on a walk. Draw up lists, provide bags and send your children off to look for small items, which they can place in their bags. Items you could include might be a small white stone, a feather, a seedpod, a nut, a leaf skeleton, a flower and so forth.
14) Brave the elements and go for a walk – if it does rain, enjoy it! Splash in puddles, break into a rendition of Singin’ in the Rain and look for rainbows!