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11 free and fun ways to entertain kids at home during the school holidays

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During the school holidays, when money is tight – as it is for many families at the moment – keeping the kids entertained can be tough.

But perhaps all you need is a bit of inspiration. And Zoe Lake, a childminder and mum-of-one, hopes to supply that in her new book Adventures at Home, which suggests easy-to-organise, cheap and fun activities children can try at home with their parents.

Lake, who has a seven-year-old daughter, says: “Our lives are hectic, just like everyone’s, so to ensure quality family time is carved out, we schedule in the fun.

“We love creating mini-adventures at home together, whether that’s building a giant tablecloth den that swallows the back garden, or challenging ourselves to go 24 hours without electricity.”

“Adventures at Home includes ideas to inspire others to make time for having fun, using what you already have and reducing the need to travel far or to spend money. Many of these ideas may be especially useful during the school holidays when the days seem endless and the air is filled with possibility.”

Here, Lake shares some of her ideas to keep boredom at bay by creating home adventures…

1.      Hold a garden music festival

Get out your tent for a back garden music festival (Alamy/PA)

Dig out your tent, drag out your blankets and cushions, power up the radio and set up camp in the garden – the kids will love it! Spend the day listening to music in the comfort of your own garden. Homemade ribbon wristbands and VIP lanyards allow unlimited access to the snack cupboard, fruity mocktails and of course the toilet (without needing to queue!).

2.      Wildlife hunting in the garden

Find out who you share your garden with, using a nature guide to help with identification, or encourage a few new residents with a log pile for insects, hanging feeders for birds, a compost heap for worms, upturned pots for frogs and a colourful flower bed for bees and butterflies. It’s a nice idea for children to keep an illustrated journal of what they find.



3.      Photography day

Lend your youngsters a camera or your phone and encourage creativity. You may wish to document your day, record the garden in full bloom, or use photo prompts for fun. You could each photograph colours of the rainbow and compare your photos, explore shadows and reflections, or even do family portraits. Remember to embrace each other’s perspectives, as we all see things differently.

4. Set up a sewing project


Sewing is a valuable life skill, so why not have fun while learning? Turn old scraps of fabric like t-shirts and duvet covers into tents, cushions, capes, cuddly toys, bunting, utility belts or a patchwork quilt for the more adventurous. Remember, if you’re seen to be fixing and mending too, instead of buying new, this way of thinking becomes second-nature for the next generation.

5.      Boxes for a rainy day

We love a good cardboard box creation. If you’re not yet ready to build, simply flat pack your boxes and store them behind a wardrobe or under the bed for a rainy day. Think Barbie house, intergalactic space station, puppet theatre, racing car, fairy castle or possibly, with enough boxes, a small city!

6.      Create a play shop

Get imaginative with a play shop (Zoe Lake/PA)

 Set up a simple farm shop from pallet wood or an upturned crate. Create chalkboard signage, make play food from salt dough and felt, sell cut flowers from the garden and reuse paper bags for customers. Make your own play money from rubbing crayons over real coins and cutting them out. Even pretend to sell real lemonade or freshly baked cakes for a constant stream of refreshments.

7.      Host a cream tea party

String up the bunting, shake out a pretty tablecloth, fill a jam jar with freshly-cut flowers and dig out the fancy teacups that usually gather dust. Set out your miniature cakes and slice your jam sandwiches, and serve with fruit tea in the sunshine (hopefully). If you’re short on any items, have a look in your local charity shop to make it feel more authentic.

8.      Decorate a tiny doll’s house


We found a second-hand treasure of a doll’s house in a charity shop, and each year we add to its décor, making many items ourselves, such as the sofa from a cereal packet and an old shirt. Corks make for excellent plant pots, stools and tables, scraps of fabric make good rugs and cushions. Keep an eye out for small objects that might make the cut for your newly-furnished pad.

9.      Test your skills at a mini Olympics

Our annual garden Olympics is one of our favourite days of the year. Open the Games with a (tissue paper) Olympic flame and homemade hanging flags, followed by competitive rounds of egg and spoon, sack races, hula hooping, bean bag throwing and swingball. Keep score on a chalkboard and finish with salt dough medals at an elaborate awards ceremony.

10.  Stretch time with a reading nook

Making a reading nook is a wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon. Set up a den or a tepee and make it cosy inside. Fill a basket with books and make the most of little ones curled up in your lap for story time or even have a go at writing your own story together, making characters come alive.

11.  Wear them out with an obstacle course

This can be such fun, keeping the family amused for ages attempting to beat their best times. Drag out what you have from indoors, such as tables and chairs to wriggle under, play equipment, hula hoops, skipping ropes to limbo under, a plank of wood to balance along and cones to weave in and out of.

Adventures at Home (Pimpernel Press/PA)
Adventures at Home (Pimpernel Press/PA)

Adventures at Home by Zoe  Lake is published by Pimpernel Press,  priced £20. Available now.


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