For many parents, electronic devices will be the go-to method to keep children entertained and busy over the two-week Easter break. It is, of course, understandable that the normal rules of engagement in relation to screen-time have gone out the window over the past year. Needs must.
Hopefully, in two weeks’ time, primary and secondary school children will be back at school – many for the first time in 2021. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
In the meantime, there are two more weeks to negotiate – so here are some suggestions to keep children and teenagers entertained.
No matter how old they are, children love making things and many old-fashioned craft activities are still relevant today. So if you don’t have a supply of paint, crayons, paper and glue in the house, now is the time to get some in.
Drawing and painting pictures is always fun, but by being more adventurous, kids will really be engaged – try painting old shoes, filling with soil and planting some seeds, similarly, old T-shirts can be painted or tie-dyed, while cardboard boxes can be transformed into vehicles, buildings or even spaceships – and older kids can be kept busy with stripping and painting an old piece of furniture or door.
Rainbow pictures can be made by covering a sheet of paper in various colours of crayon, then painting over it with black paint and when dried, scratching out a colourful image. Potato stencilling is also a great way to keep kids amused as is making greeting cards or pictures with glitter, glue, paint and anything else you might have lying around.
Make and do
Years ago, knitting and sewing were part of the curriculum. However, unless studying home economics, most kids these days will have no experience of needlework – so you could teach them a useful skill.
Basic stitches can be used to make a simple scarf or blanket while learning how to mend tears, darn socks and turn up hems is something which, in our throwaway society, many have no idea how to do. Learning these craft skills can also have a dual purpose as if granny (or indeed granddad) is on WhatsApp or FaceTime/Skype they can get involved in the teaching process and have virtual company from grandchildren.
Now that the constantly moving pace of modern life has been ground to a halt, it might be time to teach our teenagers some tricks of the trade. Learning how to prepare a basic meal is obvious, but what about something a bit more elaborate?
We could pass on our grandmother’s recipe for soda bread, show our young adults how to make a soup from scratch, how to put together a casserole, make an apple pie or even some dough to make their own pizza. And on a more practical level, changing a plug or a fuse is a necessary life skill which not many youngsters have any knowledge of – as is learning how to “cut in” to the edges of a wall when painting or even hang a picture correctly using a measuring tape to ensure accuracy. When they have tired of learning about stuff around the house, you can move on to the car as there is a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned here – changing a tyre, putting water into the engine, filling up the windscreen wiper, attaching jump leads correctly, even changing light bulbs – and even if you don’t know how to do these things yourself, you can both learn together with the aid of handy YouTube videos.
In a world where many kids play far too many games on their computers, now that we are all in confinement together, it’s a good time to break out the board games which are usually only used at Christmas.
It might even be a good time to give the old-fashioned traditional varieties, which require actual tuition, a whirl – so if you have a chess or backgammon set, get it out and teach your children how to play. Card games are another family winner and while the very notion may sound cheesy, sitting around the table with nothing more than a pack of cards, can be a great way to pass a few hours and involve everyone of all ages (younger children can sit on laps and “help” you choose cards).
It’s the Easter break after all, so a treasure hunt is a must and will keep the younger children amused for ages. Hide objects around the house or garden or ask them to search for various things using a list (draw pictures if they are not at reading age).
Apart from Easter eggs or real eggs, outdoors they could look for sticks, stones, particular flowers or leaves; and inside, a sock of a certain colour, toothbrush or teddy. The list can be as long as your arm – and pack them a snack for their “break”. Also, if you have a sandpit, hide small toys or marbles and get them, using a spoon, to dig out the treasure. Mix up the games on different days and, depending on their age, children can be kept busy for up to an hour while you have a quiet cuppa or make an important phone call.
Hopefully, we will get some bright and dry days over the next fortnight. Children have missed their sports day at school or nursery, so have one at home instead. Small kids will love an egg and spoon race (with hard-boiled eggs or a small potato), keep the balloon up (providing there is no wind) and ball-throwing competitions to see who can catch and throw without dropping.
Other activities could include: balancing on a “tightrope” (some tape on the ground) while carrying something or balancing a soft toy on their head; bean-bag toss using a washing basket or bucket as the target; a three-legged race or long jump – and you could even set up an obstacle course with various objects for children to jump over, climb, run around or carry. Is it too early for paddling pools, sprinklers and water fights? Probably, though they always guarantee lots of laughs. Flying a kite, kicking a ball, hopscotch or skipping are always great for getting kids into the fresh air, but the whole family can get involved on a hike or day out. Choose a spot (within your limit), pack a picnic and enjoy.
Hopefully children won’t spend too much time online over the Easter break, but of course there will be times when children and adults need to rely on the TV or internet to provide much-needed downtime.
Kloud Academy has educational videos on yoga, dance, drama, literacy, science, puppetry and more and is aimed at pre-school children. There are also plenty of free apps for small children including Paint Sparkles for those who like to colour, Lego Juniors Create & Cruise, Kids Piano Lite, Pirate Treasure Hunt and Endless Wordplay. And while in-person camps are not taking place yet, there are many online camps available to take the pressure off parents over the next two weeks. From coding to painting to learning a language, and for all ages, there is something educational that will suit your child or teenager.
Want to become a critic? Choose a movie based on a book. Read the book first, watch the movie and do a comparative analysis between the two. Which was your favourite? What would you have done differently? Big Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition is full of brilliant prompts to get the creative juices flowing. Or why not start a blog. Sign up for a free blog at Wordpress or Blogger.com.
Or how about making your own podcast? All you need is a phone or tablet with a recording app and a topic you’re passionate – or even mildly curious – about. Research it first. Write out a rough script, then record and have fun. Older children could experiment with a sig tune, audio inserts, studio guests and some sound effects; younger ones can keep it simple.
If video games are popular in the house, perhaps they could be used to encourage children and teenagers to get fitter. For example, would they do squats, stretches and knee lifts while battling a muscle-bound dragon and its toadies in Ring Fit Adventure? The game, created for the Nintendo Switch console, is one of the latest efforts by the video game industry to try to entice consumers to get up off the couch and become more active.
It has obvious appeal to parents worried about the amount of time children spend glued to screens. The concept of exergaming is not new, but is increasingly popular and there are now many games that promote movement of the user – including Zombies, Run! which coaches runners to complete hundreds of missions, including one with author Margaret Atwood, in order to escape the zombie apocalypse while running a 5K.
The lockdown has been tough on all ages. For something to look forward to, if there’s a teenager in your house, get them to make a realistic, plan for the future – when the current restrictions are just a memory. Perhaps they could plan a holiday – look into places to go, things to see, accommodation, flights, etc. Get them to make a itinerary. Something to look forward to.