School vacation has always been a stressful time for many parents. You have to juggle work and occupy children at the same time. This year has created its own challenges, with both school and work operating from home. Unless you are fortunate to have vacation at the same time as your children, there would be times that your work schedule will conflict with family time. Here are some creative ways for you to occupy children and in some cases let them learn while at home during this vacation.
1. Plant a kitchen garden
You can take this opportunity to introduce your children to agriculture. See a list of easy to grow crops here Grow food: 10 easy crops to plant. You can start the garden from seed in jars on the kitchen counter using paper towels as a growth medium. That way, your children will have a better understanding of how plants grow from seed. You can also grow the seeds in a seed tray and then transplant them when they are ready.
The pruning and watering of the garden can be a daily family activity, and when the crops are ready to harvest your children may be more inclined to eat what they have grown. These processes are engaging and occupy children for a while. This may prove to be both an educational and a healthy activity for both kids and parents.
2. Make spring cleaning fun
A house filled with children may not be a dirty house, but it may be disorganised at times. As both children and parents are at home, you can use this opportunity to show the kids how to put away the house. Some supervision will be required, but once you put away the sharp objects and all poisonous chemicals this is an activity that can be done on an ongoing basis.
Try making this activity to occupy children interesting. The kids can be split into teams which may incorporate a competitive aspect. It can be brother versus sister or parents versus children with prizes at the end of each day. Scholastic Parents suggest ways to make household chores fun which include hiding treats in places to clean, giving stickers for completed tasks to mark a winner, playing “Go Fish” with socks, and having a scavenger hunt to pick up items. By the end of the summer, you may have the kids cleaning up after themselves.
3. Occupy children with virtual field trips
This one should get the children out of your hair for a couple of hours so that you may get some work done. Field trips have always been popular with children, as they provide a fun way to educate them. Virtual field trips have allowed children to see places that were not normally available because they were on the other side of the world.
There are virtual field trips available for almost any interest such as nature, history, art, computer and science. Here is a compiled list that should last you the entire summer. Great part is some of these can be revisited if your children show a particular interest.
Zoos and Aquariums
Other virtual tours
4. YouTube PE classes
Diet and exercise are part of a healthy lifestyle and confinement to the house has made exercise for both children and adults become difficult if not impossible for most. Only owners of home gyms have been able to maintain a regular fitness regimen. Motivation may be key factor in getting the young ones involved. Fortunately, there are fun, interactive online solutions for exercise for young ones at all ages. Here are a few links to some virtual PE classes.
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5. Make your own play dough or slime
Play dough and slime can help in the development of toddlers. It improves dexterity in their hands and teach them about texture and motion. It can be expensive, especially in a house with more than one child. Here are recipes for homemade playdough and homemade slime that are guaranteed to occupy children for hours on end.
You will know exactly what is in your children’s toy and it will be non-toxic. Making of the slime and playdough can be used as a family activity. As children get to choose their own colours and make it themselves, they are most likely to be more appreciative and take care of it.
Homemade Playdough recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Food colouring, optional
Quart sized bags
Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar in a large pot. Add the water and oil. For one colour playdough, add the colouring. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until the dough has thickened and forms into a ball. Remove from heat and place inside a gallon sized bag or onto wax paper. Allow to cool slightly and then knead until smooth. For several colours, divide the dough into balls (one for each colour) and then add the dough into the quart sized bags. Start with about 5 drops of colour. Knead the dough while inside the bag until the colours are mixed.
Homemade slime recipe
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)
Borax (Sodium tetra borate)
Beaker or jar
Supervise children around slime ingredients and finished slime. Avoid contact with mouth, eyes and hair. Pour ½ cup of the polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) solution into a beaker, jar, or bowl. For coloured slime, add food colouring to the PVA solution and stir with a stir stick.
Add 2 teaspoons of the Sodium Tetraborate (Borax) Solution into the PVA solution and stir slowly. Test the consistency of the solutions with the stir stick until satisfied. Seal finished slime in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge or it will dry out or grow mold.
6. Birdwatching/name that animal or plant
You may be amazed at how many wild animals inhabit your neighbourhood, and even your backyard should you take the time to look. Some of these animals could be found inside of your own house like the Bridled Forest Gecko, Daddy Long Legs, Black House Spider, Common House Spider or Huntsman Spider. You can then expand your search to your backyard or garden, there you may find Copper-rumped Hummingbirds, Red Peacock Butterflies and the odd Trinidad Ameiva or Green Iguana.
You can use an app like iNaturalist to help identify the animals that you have discovered at home. Take a pic of the animal or plant, upload it to the app and you will get all of the information on that particular species. This could be both fun and educational, your children will learn about native species and what roles they play in the environment that they inhabit.
7. Write a book
This is an activity that can be tailored to suit any age. For toddlers, you can draw pictures and letters and let them colour the images. For ages 5 to preteen, they can write any story that they like and for teenagers they can write a novella. The added advantage to writing a book is that you can take advantage of self-publishing platforms to sell the books that your kids have created.
Some popular self-publishing platforms are:
8. Introduce the kids to STEM
STEM Education teaches students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This activity will occupy children and show them how these areas are integrated in the real world rather than as separate subjects taught to them at school. It will be beneficial to children who struggle with understanding mathematics and science. They will learn how these subjects are applied in the technical and construction fields and will have fun doing so. Your children will have a better appreciation for schoolwork after seeing exactly how it is used to improve the lives of people.
Try it here:
9. Indoor scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt may seem old school, but the only limit is your imagination. An indoor scavenger hunt can be done regardless of the weather and you may be able to squeeze in a couple hours of work or chores while the kids are busy. The great thing is that scavenger hunts for kids will not require much at all. More importantly, it will be free as you would be using things from around the house. Hide treats, toys or clothing behind doors, under tables, inside pots and on top of shelves for the children to find in a specific time. Winner may keep the treats, pick what’s for dinner, choose the movie or decide what’s the next activity.
10. Indoor mini golf course
You don’t need golf clubs, just fashion a couple from broom sticks. If you have access to kids sized golf clubs or toy golf clubs, then great. The course is only limited by imagination and materials that you have on hand. If you are still at a loss as to how to get started, there are many YouTube videos guiding you on how to construct both indoor and outdoor mini golf courses.
This is a fun activity that can help bring the family together. As the courses get easier to complete, you can always add more complicated obstacles and extensions. Involve the children, and let them express their creativity in the design of the golf courses. Just be mindful of glass windows and flat screen HDTVs, projectiles such as broom handles and golf clubs seem to be attracted to them.
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