Summer activities for every age

Dad reading to sisters
Keeping the kids occupied over the summer holidays needn't cost an arm and a leg, or be all about plugging them into the latest video games. In fact there's absolutely heaps of fun and games to be had around the house and garden!

Four to six year olds

Go wild on safari
Okay, so it’s not exactly the African savannah, but your back garden or local park is absolutely brimming with fascinating creatures worthy of a mini-safari. And while the creatures may be a little mundane and familiar to you, it's important to remember that for your child they are still utterly magical. Take a magnifying glass, notebook, binoculars, jam jar, and camera, and make a real day of looking at all the little creatures up close.

Play dress-up
Create a dressing up area with face-paints, old make-up, mirrors, and plenty of clothes, shoes, and hats. Set your child the challenge of dressing themselves up like a policeman, butterfly, clown or whatever you can think of. Once they are ready, provide a role play situation for them, such as a butterfly who is looking for some flowers, or a clown who is performing in a circus. If your little ones get tired of their character, do an ‘All Change’ and they can start again as a new character.

Plant Jack a Beanstalk
Take your child to a local garden centre and choose some bean seeds. Plant them in plastic tubs on moistened kitchen towel. Put a cover over the tubs and place them in a warm spot. Remember to keep the towel moist and in just over a week you should start to see a thin root emerging. Re-plant each sprouting seed in a 10cm pot of damp compost with a thin stick for the shoots to wrap around. The beanstalk will then grow and grow and eventually reach the giant’s castle in the clouds.

Bring the magic of stories to life
Work with your child to make a story glove. Using a pair of old gloves, ask your child to choose their favourite story, and then use each finger of the glove for the main characters in the story. Decorate each finger with your child using sewing in strands of wool for hair, sewing thread for facial features, scraps of fabric for clothes, and decorate with buttons and sequins. Once you and your child have finished the glove, get your child to use it to tell you the story.

Design a sandwich
It’s a simple idea and a great way to get your little ones thinking about different foods and combinations, while also extending their vocabulary. You can use items from the fridge or cupboard, or take your kids shopping to find their perfect filling. Once they’ve selected it, they can get to work preparing their designer sandwiches, and even draw or write up the recipe. You can then go on a picnic, have a tea party, or just have a sandwich-swap – anything really to celebrate their creations.
 

Six to 11 year olds

Patrol the water hole
Try some pond, lake, or river watching. Again take magnifying glasses, jam jars, binoculars, notebooks, and a camera – plus some wellies and shorts. You could also provide a small net which the kids could try fishing with – throwing everything they catch back of course! Look at the different types of water birds, see if you can spot any fish, tadpoles, toads or frogs. Discuss things your child may know about their surroundings, such as the lifecycle of frogs, or the threats to the environment.

Put on a talent show
In true Britain’s Got Talent style, encourage your child to decide on a particular talent they would like to showcase. It could be anything from skipping to singing, dancing to balancing. Get them to rehearse their talent, and provide any props or costumes. They can put on a lively variety performance just for you!

Make a Hansel and Gretel Gingerbread house
Make some gingerbread and roll it out flat. Cut out (using a clean ruler if necessary) three straight sides. Then cut a slanted roof shape on one end. You can then cut out squares and rectangles for the door and windows, and using the excess dough build a chimney coming from the roof. You could also make three gingerbread characters – Hansel, Gretel, and the witch. Bake in the oven. When it has cooled, mix up some different coloured icing, and paint the house and characters. Decorate with dried fruit and sweets.

Full of beans!
Make your own beanbags. Supervising your little ones, provide some scraps of fabric from old clothes or bed sheets. Fold a square piece in half and sew around three edges using tight, small stitches. Turn this inside out so you have a pocket, and fill this with dried peas or beans. Stitch up the hole, making sure the beans don’t escape, and decorate with anything you like. You can then play games from balancing to juggling.

Go potty for painting
Get the kids to jazz up your garden or window sill by getting some terracotta plant pots from your local garden centre or hardware store, and giving them a lick of paint. You can provide poster paints or ceramic paints for this activity, and the kids can get working on their very own designs. Don’t forget to varnish the pots once the paint is dry.

Build a secret hideout
In your garden or an outdoor space provide old cardboard boxes, old blankets and rugs, branches, cushions, tubing, lawnmower clippings, anything with which your kids can start to build their very own outdoor den. It’s a great construction activity and one which will keep little hands occupied for hours. Once the den is built you could put books, paper, pens, and cushions inside and let them hide and play the day away.

Create an adventure course
In your garden or an outdoor space find a flat open stretch of grass and get your kids collecting items with which they can build a giant adventure course. Chairs can be crawled under, old bricks or square panels of cardboard can be used as stepping stones, bin bags can be used for sacks to race in, bean bags can be balanced on heads and old tubing or kids’ garden tunnels can be used to tunnel through.