Archives for the month of: July, 2012

At this time of year, I always sit down and write a list of as many ways as possible to give the kids a fun educational holiday, so this post is as much for me as the world out there! I think a little planning (which is posted on a communal notice board for the kids to read too) goes a long way in helping to create free to low cost entertainment to fill those six long weeks. Please add your own too in the comments box!

There are 30 ideas here (one for each week day of the holiday, give yourself the weekends off!) many of which are explained in prior posts:

  1. Try a new exotic piece of fruit or veg once a week – this week I have bought a hairy coconut which we will ask Daddy to open with a knife and then drink from with straws
  2. Staircase mountaineering
  3. Make an easy peasy DIY doll by bending a pipecleaner into a person-shaped frame, then cutting old scraps of fabric into clothing shapes (2 of each, one for front and back) and glue over the frame with lots of PVA. Once dry, the kids can sew around the edges (optional), and you can decorate with ribbons, pen and wool.
  4. Make some Land Art in your local park (look at Richard Long for ideas) by gathering sticks, long grass, pebbles etc and making a natural collage around a tree trunk. Try to use skills like weaving, natural colour coding, freezing and sculpting ice.
  5. Have a pretend sleepover either with friends or siblings, simply by moving them onto a shared mattress on the floor of a different room at bedtime (like the living room), providing snacks in a bowl and a ‘late night’ film (7pm onwards).
  6. Make a Flick Book animation
  7. Have a Backwards Day. Start the day with a bath, bedtime story and milk, eat dinner for breakfast mid morning and finish the day with cereal and toast, meeting yourself for lunch in the middle!
  8. If your house has a pile of half read kids magazines like mine, create a collage or a comic book by cutting out all the characters and letters (then recycling the remainder).
  9. Have a Kids Cuisine Family Dinner – invite the children to cook for the family by showing them the contents of the cupboards, explaining how they must use a healthy balance (draw out the portions of carbs, veg, protein on  a paper plate) and then inviting them to make their own recipe whilst helping them to cook with as little intervention as possible. They must set the table and do the washing up too!
  10. Try some DIY story-telling and bookmaking.
  11. Visit your free local library and museum for research and then make your own at  home, with homemade tickets and badges for staff (you can buy cheap stamp from a Pound shop to help make the tickets)
  12. Throw a Teddy Bears picnic
  13. Speak in a foreign language for a day. The kids can pick the country of choice and use the internet to find the basics – Yes, No, Please, Thank you, etc… you could even theme your dress and food too
  14. Create a DIY Olympics in the back garden or local park – use ribbon for the finish line and make your own medals with paper plates and foil.
  15. Draw a Chalk dartboard on a fence or wall in the garden and arm your kids with water pistols
  16. Build a Lego world for all the small toys (try Atlantis or a theme park).
  17. Eat an apple in the first week of the holidays, plant the seed, re-pot the shoot as it grows and plant it in the garden by the sixth week.
  18. Write an Acrostic Poem (choose a word for the theme of the poem and make the letters go vertically down the page, then write a horizontal sentence from each starting letter of that word).
  19. Start saving your junk modelling now to make endless ‘Finventions’
  20. Make an Imagination Goggles Sketchbook
  21. Have a Home School Day – the  kids must draw up a timetable, with break times and fruit time just like school and run their own school for the day. Teddies can be the pupils!
  22. Watch Deadly Art here and learn to draw your own deadly creatures
  23. Make an Air drying clay model, bake it and paint it.
  24. Hold a Yard or Table Top Sale in the front garden – the kids can choose which toys they want to recycle and then invest the profit wisely in a local charity shop
  25. Create a toy hospital with all the cuddlies and lots of red stickers.
  26. Go on holiday in the house by flying carpet with soundscape.
  27. Play a game of Chess or Backgammon or make a Domino run (can you make it climb up and down bricks as stairs?)
  28. Have a midday Play Bath by dying the water with food colouring and adding all your sea creature toys.
  29. Write a Pen Pal letter or postcard to a friend who lives far away.
  30. Most importantly, make a scrapbook record of all your adventures as you go – then they can revisit all their games for the rest of the year and want to play them all over again!!!

P.s. Let them get bored at the weekends and they’re sure to come up with their own fantastic ideas too!


Ingredients:  All the toys at their disposal; a climbing rope (or several dressing gown cords tied together)

The Big Sell: Me to the kids: “I’m bored, what can we play?”


My two boys never fail to amaze me, they came up with two fabulous games this weekend which I had to share.

3 year olds game: Let’s Play “Staircase Mountaineering”

Spotting his Dad’s length of climbing rope which I had been using for an Antarctic Explorers workshop, he asked me to tie it securely to the top rung of the banisters, and we proceeded to spend the next half an hour playing mountaineering down the stairs. This involved finding Arctic cuddly toys (a seal and penguin), making a basket of explorer food and flask of hot chocolate, practicing creating echoes “Can you hear me, can you hear me, can you hear me…” whilst travelling up and down the stairs holding on to the rope. I hasten to add our many adventures were heavily supervised (never leave kids and rope alone obviously!) but provided some excellent rainy day exercise and lots of educational conversations about what explorers used to eat (pemmikin and chocolate), how cold the Polar regions are, Arctic food chains, etc… all whilst sitting in the clouds perched on the top stair.

7 year olds game: Let’s play “Our Home Museum & Art Gallery”

Totally invented and delivered by my eldest, I was merely required as a Museum Visitor. I had to patiently wait for the Tour to start in the Waiting Room (dining room) before I was led around the various sections of the Museum (rooms of our house) to see the Dinosaur period (lots of plastic dinosaurs arranged on a shelf), Soldier section (Toy Story small soldiers arranged in battle pose), art gallery (his own art displayed on the walls), Victorian childhood section (rather profusely populated play room covered in lots of plastic, but at least he did try and steer me towards the wooden toys!) and finally taken to the Shop. Here he came into his own as he tried to persuade me a small box of gifts was a steal at only £7.50 (I declined). Again, wonderful opportunities for some two way educational conversations here about history (Me: “And when was the Jurassic period?” Him: “Oh well, at least a thousand years ago!”), and a chance for me to see how much school and our museum trips have inspired him.

The verdict: Sometimes kids come up with the best stuff without us interfering at all. I learn something new every day from them!

Catchphrase: My little salesman: “Well, the museum entry was free, so I really think you ought to spend some money in the shop!”

Left wanting more?

  • One thing I do to help this kind of play along, is to not allow their toys to dissolve into a horrible hybrid mess, but to organise them according to theme (sea, dinosaurs, vehicles, space etc..) in lots of pretty bags and boxes. I’ve always suspected, if you can manage to tidy and present them nicely as often as possible, the children see their toys as valuable rather than junk!

Ingredients: A piece of paper and a pen, or computer & printer

The Big Sell: To child: “How about you tell me a story for once?”

Strategy: My 3 year old loves books and always has. He takes a pile of them to bed with him at night and after we have finished reading to him, he carries on with his Fireman Sam torch. When I come back in the morning they are strewn all over his duvet. Not all children have this natural affinity with reading. My eldest son for example finds it a lot harder to sit still and focus, and although he’s always loved being read to, he shows little interest in reading to himself.

However, with both eager and reluctant readers, I’ve found if you invite a child to become the story-teller there is little to hold them back. There are lots of ways to do this, such as developing the technique of telling a Stepping Stone Story on a journey to school, using the Helicopter Drama technique or putting up a Blanket Den and inviting campers to tell a spooky story by torchlight inside.

However, sometimes the best story-telling moments are impromptu and worth seizing. I was sitting on the sofa with my 3 year old at lunch today and out of his mouth tumbled a completely original story. I immediately went to the computer, typed it up, added Clip Art, and brought it back to him as a published entity within 3 minutes flat.

The verdict:

I can’t describe the look on my 3 year olds face when faced with his very own story – it was a mixture of sheepishness, pride and glee. It had to be read back to him several times over and then we started to discuss how we could share his story – take it to read to brother when we pick him up from school? Read to Daddy at bedtime? Take it to show the other children at play group or grandparents next week? The possibilities for sharing his accomplishment belonged to him too.

And in the midst of this happy moment, it occurred to me that first time around with my eldest son, I tried many artistic ventures in the hope that I was planting a seed and it might someday lead to something. But second time around I have the benefit of hindsight, and I can reflect with greater clarity that these seemingly inconsequential acts of validating your child’s creativity, which could be so easily missed or dismissed, form something more powerful than you can imagine at the time. They preserve an inner creative core that continues to protect that person’s sense of agency into adulthood. I am so privileged that my son chose to tell me his own story, and I feel it’s so important that I show him his stories are worth listening to and sharing. What does it matter if you’re only 3? Story-telling is how we have always communicated with each other and nothing beats the feeling of holding your own book in your hand.

Catchphrase: Let’s write some happy endings…

Left wanting more?

  • One, as yet, unfulfilled ambition is to make my own DIY story-telling book in the style of Nick Sharratt’s Pirate Pete with the kids. You have slots in the page and can choose your plot twists by changing the objects. I would love to try this more visual approach to story-telling with reluctant readers and writers.

Ingredients:  Sheets of a range of different materials – fabric, baking parchment, foil, cellophane, newspaper, black paper, bubble wrap, wrapping paper etc…,  needle and thread, a range of mark-making tools

The Big Sell: Bored in the summer holidays? Create your own Imagination Goggles Sketchbook

Strategy:  First an explanation of the term ‘Imagination goggles’. In every workshop I run with children I begin by asking them if they have remembered to bring their imagination goggles. Children do NOT question this – they immediately copy me by putting their fingers up to their eyes to make goggle shapes. I then lead an activity asking them to prove they are wearing their goggles properly – often this means producing an everyday object from my magic bag and inviting them to turn it into something different, or using their bodies to mime something completely different. This sets the scene for our workshop – anything is possible if you enter into your imagination.

As part of the reward system for my current Artspip group (ages 5 – 8) I have promised to give them each a special homemade gift IF they get 20 names on the leaves on our Artspip Tree (our Behaviour Contract) which are awarded for exceptional listening, sharing, thinking and having fun.  This homemade gift (shhh, don’t tell them yet!) is an Imagination Goggles Sketchbook for the holidays.

Homemade sketchbooks are easy to make. Simply collect a range of different interesting materials and sew together. This will invite the mark-maker to look at them in resourceful ways in order to make an impact on their book. They could choose to make a coherent story from start to end, to treat each page as a separate work of art, or have a theme. They could mark them with crayons, scissors, charcoal, collage; they could fray them, fold them, put lipstick marks on them… literally anything!

The verdict: Learning the art of recording your thoughts in innovative ways is an incredibly powerful life skill and you are never too young or old to learn to start. This is a great way of using up odds and ends around the house and the making of the sketchbook can be as fun as the completion of it.

I will interested to see if my Artspips have fun filling theirs in and bringing them back to show each other in September. I hope each one is as individually expressive as their makers.

Catchphrase: There are no such thing as mistakes in these sketchbooks – make it your own.

Left wanting more?

  • I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s so brilliant I’ll recommend it again. If you are teaching children how to respond creatively to homemade sketchbooks you MUST read them ‘Beautiful Oops’ by Barney Saltzberg, published by Workman. It is the Bible of this type of practice.
  • Last week, my first short story written for children was published by the charity Access Art – it’s called ‘The Incredible Finvention’ and you can download it FREE for i-pad or as a PDF. It’s carries the same message of the process of creating being more important than the end product. Enjoy!