Have you ever noticed how long the holiday breaks seem when you sit around the house and don’t make plans? If you are like me you make long mental lists of fun things to do and then forget them all when the time comes! I’ve learned from my mistakes and now make lists on my phone as well as bookmarking internet sites that I visit under ‘fun things to do’. While I’ve never shied away from taking my 2 boys out by myself I cannot deny that now they are nearly 2 and 3 I find it so much easier if I have another adult with me. So if you are lucky enough to have a helper or brave enough to do it alone (I often pair up with another Mum if the Dad’s are away and the grandparents are unavailable) then here is a basic list of things to do that are healthy, fun and entertaining.
Stay in and cook up a storm
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The importance of real food and where it comes from teaches our children basic skills for life. They will learn about animals, health and safety, flavours and taste, mathematics and most important of all cooking can spark a lifelong love of good food. Organisations such as cook with me kids run workshops for cooking, farm visits and in school cookery. For me personally there is a special bond formed between children and the adults they cook with. Sure it can be messy but they learn surprisingly quickly and soon know what to do with a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl and each time they spill less – I promise! Try simple recipes first such as mince pies or pumpkin soup.
Head to the great outdoors
If you have a wooded area or even just a garden going for a walk or a hike can be a treasure trove of excitement. Be imaginative and find things in the woods that can be taken home and used to create something. Check out these Pinterest boards for ideas. We often collect sticks and branches that have already fallen and place them in boxes to make a nest or a treehouse for Noddy or other toys/dolls or we build a parachutists landing zone. We then spend days making parachutes for the toys, putting stickers on the box, colouring or painting the box in different shades. We talk about the colours of nature as we do this, how branches fall and why along with the cycle of life of trees. Going on a mission to find something particular takes away the ? and brings more of the fun into the walk.
Recently we bought a trailer that both children can fit into. It’s so much fun getting out and about a little bit faster than walking allows. We whizz around the neighbourhood on our wheels and on the days I don’t feel running or walking it’s a pleasant way to get outside for some fresh air. If your children are old enough to ride a bike themselves, or if you can get a trailer for your own bike, getting everyone out is a bonding experience as well as an under-stated way to show them that physical activity can be easily brought into everyday life. As a bonus the fresh air generally resets them and they are much calmer afterward!
Explore the world
Visit a castle and climb all over it, go to a farm and oink at a pig, build sand castles at the beach, take their trucks or dolls along with you and role play. Enjoy every minute of your children and live life through their eyes while you can. Taking a step back from life is healthy for us adults too!
Get into the Christmas Spirit
Our local zoo has a fantastic Christmas themed event that is on for much of December. It offers almost everything you could hope for; a pantomime performed by the zoo staff, soft play managed by elves, reindeer that are far from their home of the North Pole and a magical Grotto that brings to life the books and stories of Santa for children – and for adults! Many cities and villages have their own winter wonderland events and carol services that you can take part in. The sense of community and feel-good factor from attending such events is a lovely way to bring people together and take time out as a family.
Did you know that the average 8 year old spends eight hours a day using various forms of media? Several studies have linked high media usage with poor health outcomes – for example children with TV’s in their bedrooms are more likely to be obese. If we don’t set examples for our children we cannot expect them to be the best they can be. Allowing one type of activity to take up majority of their time, whatever that activity is (screen time inclusive of TV, ipad, computer, games etc is one activity) cannot allow our children the freedom and flexibility to thrive. They need to read books, run outside, play games with their friends and watch real people doing real things. Give your children the ultimate gift of learning through play.
(image credit: lovablelabelsblog, 2.bp.blogspot, ymcacalgary, edinburghsteinerschool, royalparks)