It’s Fall and your children are fully back on school schedule. There’s homework, class projects, along with all the extracurricular pursuits like ballet, soccer and, hopefully, trips to the library. Anything to keep them busy enough so that they don’t find too much free time to bury their noses in smartphones and video games, which is the default activity choice for most kids these days.
So if you walk into an eerily quiet family room some Saturday afternoon and find your children in semi-hypnotic, unresponsive states, here are some ways to distract them from up-leveling their Mortal Kombat avatar that just may be engaging enough to compete with the enticing glow of those smart screens. It’s half term after all and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for fun and entertainment for you and your kids. Why not keep your kids busy trying these activities out or a few of your own creativities.
Paper Airplanes and Origami
All you need is a stack of paper and any one of the good books on Origami, like John Molton’s Easy Origami, which is probably available in half the libraries in the United States. Add in a copy of Ken Blackburn’s Kids’ Paper Airplane Book, which is available in the other half of the libraries in this country and your all set.
Once you’ve got your kids actually folding paper and achieving some results, you could add in old rolls of holiday wrapping paper to spice things up. Then let the games begin. A taped rectangle on the floor at the other end of the room can serve as the aircraft carrier ‘landing deck’ for the paper airplane skills games.
An Origami ‘cootie-catcher’, and a scorecard, will keep that activity going for a decent period and will also mitigate arguments – just make sure you are the referee. Also, farms with lots of paper-folded barnyard animals can be the props for a dioramic retelling of the disquiet caused to Peter Rabbit and friends by their nemesis, Mr. McGregor.
Bicycle Obstacle Course
A bike obstacle course is simple to create and can provide hours of outdoor fun. Use pavement chalk to create a wavy lane on your driveway or in a deserted parking lot. Make it about three feet wide and twenty-five feet long, if you have the room. Just outside the chalk line, tape balloons to the ground.
The objective of the game is for the kids to ride as quickly as they can along the lane without going outside of it and popping any of the balloons. Use the stopwatch function on your smartphone for timing each rider’s run. You can either keep individual scores, or, if you have enough kids, split them up into teams. The team cumulative scoring will encourage more routing for other riders and intensify the competition.
Be mindful that any time you’ve got children, bicycles and skills contests; there are the possibilities for bike accidents. So make sure you have a first aid kit handy to deal with cuts and scrapes, and some instant cold compresses for the bruises.
There’s nothing like a blanket fort for passing a rainy day indoors for a bunch of kids. An indoor fort can be anything your kids’ imaginations want it to be. A quiet space where the noise of the outside world is blocked and grand plans can be hatched. Or a secret hideout for a bunch of outlaw cowboys, counting up their loot. Rather than a fort, it could be a cave of a ferocious grizzly bear.
No matter how your children play with their fort, they are reaping the developmental benefits of crawling in and out, ducking under sheets and blankets, and lifting and moving pillows and cushions at random, creating their own world.
Lemonade Stand or Hot Cocoa Stand (depending on your weather)
Get the kids together and raid the garage, or the attic, or the catchall closet, for the parts to make a lemonade stand. Basic components would be a couple of broomsticks to hold the sign, a card table, and a roll of craft paper, tape, scissors, crayons and markers.
Tape the broomsticks to the front legs of the card table, cut a piece of paper long enough to stretch across the sticks, at the top. The kids design the logo and the signage that you tape across the broomsticks and the front of the table.
Now for the lemonade, take a trip to the supermarket or even better, a farmer’s market, so you and your children can all pick out the very best lemons for your awesome lemonade. Also pick up a package of environmentally friendly, paper cups.
Once you get home put everyone to work squeezing those beautiful lemons. This is going to be a natural lemonade stand with the best lemonade ever. Add water, sugar and ice and you’re in business.
Or if it’s not warm enough for lemonade make some hot cocoa to warm those little hands. Just make sure you have adult help with the warm water and don’t make it too hot to burn your customers. Paper cups a must and marshmallows too!
There is endless things to do when you need a bit of fun and creativity at home.
What are you up to for this October half term?