The Great British Summer is here and once again it’s a bit of a wash out. Even if your child hasn’t started school yet it can be frustrating finding things to keep them occupied during the summer holidays as most of the parent and toddler groups, playgroups, and school-based nurseries have also closed. It’s even more frustrating when your local park resembles a bog thanks to all the rain and it can get expensive taking your little one to a soft play centre every day, so we’ve put together a list of free or very cheap activities that will keep your child occupied indoors.
1) Hold A Treasure Hunt
If you know the next day is going to involve torrential rain and gales, you could spend half an hour after the children have gone to bed preparing a treasure hunt. Write out a set of clues that lead them around your house. They don’t have to be anything elaborate, it could be something simple such as “Where does Mummy keep her keys?” or “Where can you find some healthy fruit?” The prize could be anything from a chocolate bar, a few coins, or a homemade voucher for an ice cream to be used later on.
2) Have An Indoor Picnic
Dig out the picnic blanket, or any old blanket or sheet that you don’t mind getting a little messy. Make up some little bowls of sandwiches and snacks, and invite all your child’s teddies and dolls to join in the fun. You could even get your child to make some simple invites beforehand.
3) Build A Sofa Fort Or A Den
Use the seating cushions from your sofa to construct a sofa fort, or get some blankets and drape them over some chairs to create a tent like structure. Grab a torch and sit inside to read your child’s favourite book with them. If you have some BBQ skewers and paper available your child could make some simple flags to put on their fort.
4) Get Baking
Kids love cooking in the kitchen. You can make some simple shortbread by combining 125g of butter with 55g of caster sugar, and then adding 180g of plain flour. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (if your kitchen is warm you may find it helpful to put the dough in the fridge for half an hour or so first) and use cutters to cut out shapes. Don’t have any cutters? You can use a glass or mug to make a circle, or cut out shapes with a knife (supervising your child of course). You could also make sausage shapes and use them for form letters. They don’t have to be attractive. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 180C. Once cooled, make some simple icing by mixing icing sugar with water to form a paste, divide into pots and add different food colours. You child can use the coloured pastes to decorate the biscuits. Make a simple piping bag by snipping a small hole in one corner of a sandwich bag to draw lines etc. Add sprinkles for the finished effect.
5) Find Your Inner Hollywood
Got a smartphone or tablet? Get your child to make a movie. You could plan a story line with them, use your and your partner’s clothes for costumes, and get shooting. If you’ve got some spare cardboard lying around you could get the children to make a movie clapperboard. Cut out a rectangle, and a narrow strip the same length. Decorate with coloured paper or paint. Put a small hole through the left end of the narrow strip and the top left corner of the rectangle and fasten together with string, a treasury tag, or whatever else you can find. Once you have filmed all of the scenes you can use an app such as My Movie Maker on iOS or Magisto Video Editor on Android. Go one step further and hold a film premier with popcorn.
6) Make Music In The Kitchen
Toddlers in particular will enjoy this one. Saucepans and wooden spoons make great drum sets. You can also make some shakers by filling up plastic bottles with dried beans or pulses, rice, or pasta. Have a singsong time and get your children to provide the beat. Just try not to annoy the neighbours too much!
7) Get Online
If you have a computer or tablet at home you will find there are plenty of apps and websites that cater for young children. The CBeebies website is packed full of fun games and there are no ads. Lots of apps have an educational theme, for example abc PocketPhonics on iOS gets children to attempt to write letters and teaches them simple spellings. These a great way of introducing your child to the world of technology, something that will no doubt be a fundamental part of their future lives.
8) Find Your Inner Mister Maker
Whilst you might not have CBeebie’s Mister Maker’s truck full of buttons, foam shapes, card, and stickers, you can still have fun with your child creating craft items. Take an old cereal box, attached two toilet roll tubes on one end and add some string for shoulder straps and you’ve made a jetpack. Decorate with paint, coloured paper, or white paper that your child can draw on. Collect plastic drinks bottles for rainy days. Put a small amount of rice or something similar in the bottom for weight. Wrap them in coloured paper and decorate with stickers, glitter, or even cut outs from a magazine. These can be used as bowling pins and you could set up a mini bowling alley in the kitchen or hallway. You can also make simple collages with pictures from old magazines or catalogues, or just take turns in trying to draw each other.
9) Have Fun With Science
This is a good one for very young children. Play the “sink or float” game. Fill up your washing up bowl with water. Collect various items from around the house that you don’t mind getting wet, such as keys, a pen, a piece of card etc. Get your child to guess whether each item will sink or float. Your child will have fun learning about the world around them and will probably want to try more and more objects, just make sure they don’t try the experiment with something like your mobile phone.
10) Brave It Out Anyway
Get your waterproofs and wellies on and go outside anyway. Have fun splashing in the puddles and have a competition to see who can splash the most. OK, you’ll probably get a bit damp, but your child will have fun and burn off some of that never ending energy.