This past year has presented many a challenge and one of the things that I found hardest was planning activities for our tribe that were fun, engaging and didn’t require a Pinterest-worthy supply of resources. As a teacher, a mum and a step-mum, I have a little experience with planning activities, and I have found that my most successful endeavours have been the simple ones. Our tribe consists of a nearly 9-year-old, a just turned 5-year-old, a 2-and-a-half-year-old and a very freshly baked 5-month-old Coronnial. The activities I plan therefore need to be open to differentiation and can be very easily adapted for each child. The Instagram Mum in me itched to plan separate activities for each child but an incident involving papier mache, a fringe, a pair of scissors and a tube of red glitter very quickly changed my mind, and my sanity took precedence over social media likes. As I was pregnant during the lockdown, an ever-growing pregnant belly meant that I was planning activities that required very little set-up, clean up and, where possible, required only the things I already had in the house. If the lockdown left you short on gin and inspiration and the half-term is filling you with dread and you can’t bear the thought of making yet another batch of slime, here are a few tried and tested ideas that are sure to keep you and the tribe a little entertained. I have divided them into two groups – Sunny Day Activities and Rainy Day Activities because…England, that’s why.
Sunny Day Activities:
One of my favourite activities and all you need is a good stick, an elastic band and a bit of imagination. Simply tie your elastic band around your stick and as you take a wander around nature, pick things that you think would add to your wand aesthetic. Tucking bits and pieces into the elastic band can prove tricky for little fingers but it’s a great fine motor activity and the struggle really is worth it. The brilliance of this activity (apart from its simplicity) is that it is a fantastic imagination tickler and requires the user to seek beauty in ways they may not have done so before. A dandelion fluff suddenly becomes the element necessary for time travel, a feather allows the user to take flight, a bramble twig provides protection – the possibilities are endless.
Nature Treasure Hunt:
This one is so adaptable. You could have a theme for your treasure hunt – colours, shapes or textures. For the emerging reader, you could provide a list of objects to find alongside pictures. Can they make a nature rainbow? Find something red, something orange etc. Can they find 10 stones, 9 leaves, 8 flowers, 7 dandelion puffs, 6 acorns, 5 sticks, 4 bees, 3 butterflies, 2 squirrels and 1 pigeon? Side note – for the sake of the animals, establish at the beginning of the hunt whether you’d like for your children to collect these items or if you’d like them to simply spot them. If you’re doing the collecting sort of hunt, leave the animals out of it and use the collected items to create a magical potion or fairy soup or stick them to a piece of card to create a nature picture. When you feel like you’ve exhausted all options, turn the tables and get your littles to organise a treasure hunt for you – they could write or draw what they need you to find, and they get to decide what to do with the collected items.
This Instagram-inspired activity is one of my favourites. I always find it difficult to throw away the flower treasures gifted to me by the 2-year-old on our daily walks. This activity solves that problem. I found this idea on an Instagram account called muddlypuddly which is overflowing with gorgeous ideas and is definitely worth checking out. All you need is gelatine powder, a jam jar lid (or something of equal size) and whatever you’d like to capture in the sun catcher – different types of leaves, flowers, petals, dead bugs etc. Mix 4 teaspoons of gelatine powder with 12 teaspoons of hot water and mix until dissolved. Pour a layer of the liquid into your lid, carefully place your leaves or flowers etc on top and then pour the remaining liquid over the top. Leave somewhere safe to set. We have had mixed results with the setting and are still perfecting our technique, but we’ve found leaving it to set at room temperature for a few days results in a sturdier sun catcher. Hang in a window or from a tree branch as a pretty decoration. Ta-da!
Rainy Day Activities:
If arts and crafts really aren’t your vibe, may I suggest the humble puzzle? Before you tell me to head back to the 1950s, hear me out. One of the positives that has emerged from the lockdown, is our tribe’s love of puzzles. Even the nearly 9-year-old has enjoyed the building process and has been asking for more challenging puzzles. The 2-year-old started with Crocodile Creek’s Let’s Begin puzzles and she is now completing their range of 36-piece puzzles. The large, sturdy pieces are made from recycled materials and beautifully illustrated with soy-based inks. We have had a few rainy afternoons spent building puzzles together and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the children’s excitement for this simple activity.
If the thought of PVA glue on little hands is enough to consider an hour of Cocomelon instead, this collage is for you. For this activity you’ll need self-adhesive contact paper, washi tape (or sticky tape) and collage bits – scraps of paper, material, sequins, ribbons, foam stickers, buttons and whatever else you can think of. Cut your contact paper into two equal size pieces and lay one piece aside for later. Carefully remove the paper from the sticky side of the contact paper and place it on a flat surface. Secure the sides with washi tape or sticky tape. Present your littles with the collage materials and let them loose. Once they’re happy with their creation, take the other piece of contact paper, remove the backing and carefully lay it on top of the collage piece. You can then frame their masterpiece with painted and decorated lolly sticks (there’s another fun activity) or cut it into shapes to use on a homemade card or simply leave as is. If the thought of organising bits and pieces for the collage sounds tedious, get the kids involved. Send them on a treasure hunt to look for or create different sized triangles or use a colour theme and get them to collect as many green crafty bits as they can. The best part of this activity for my 2-year-old? Ripping up bits of tissue paper. Once you’ve finished, save your collage bits for another activity – it will save on prep plus we’re all about that recycling life.
If, like me, you’ve amassed an impressive amount of Amazon boxes over the last few months, it’s time to put them to good use. The possibilities really are endless with a cardboard box. We joined some of our boxes together to create a space rocket. The children spent a good hour decorating with tinfoil, felt-tips and stickers to create their “Mysjf [mischief] Rocket”. I cut a box into a rainbow shape and the 2-year-old and I spent a few weeks creating a rainbow collage (told you those bits and pieces would come in handy). You could use the contact paper method for this, but I wanted the project to last a few weeks and didn’t fancy a rogue Lego block and dust bunny version, so we used PVA glue instead. Sorry. I love the finished product and the slowly-slowly approach was definitely a winner when it came to keeping the toddler engaged and focused. I feel like I could probably write an entire blog post on the many uses of the humble cardboard box.
I am forever on a mission to find inspiring and fun ideas and I look forward to sharing more of these with you. May this half-term be one of recycle binspiration and (hopefully) plenty of sunshine.