1. DJ and disco Give your child the run of the CDs for the day and have her put together a playlist for a disco. Ask her to make decorations and name the event, then set a time when she will play DJ (with Dad’s help) while you take to the dance floor. If your child is too young to work the necessary equipment, ask her to choose a favourite song and learn a special routine together.
2. Put on a play (indoors or out) This works especially well if you have friends over for lunch who also have children. Send all of the younger set into one room – or preferably the garden – to devise and rehearse their performance. Ask for a theatrical 10-minute call before the performance. Inspiration should run wild, but if they are struggling, remind them that fairytales are a very good place to start.
3. Desert island survival Before you are set adrift, make up a ‘desert island box’ of random objects, then imagine that you and your child are marooned on a desert island. All you have are the clothes on your back and whatever materials you can find (in your island box). After making a place to spend the night, search for food, or go fishing (using string and a yardstick) and see what you can catch. Then tell stories about your adventure and draw pictures from the journey.
4. Do a night-time safari of your garden As evening falls, don wellies and arm yourselves with a torch for an outdoor adventure. Listen for the trills of birds and the froggy ribbets from watery ponds. Talk about where all the sounds are coming from and who they belong to. If no natural beasts are around, then be on the lookout for gurgles (very hard to see, but with a noise similar to that of drainpipes) and boogalots (who dance about frenetically but live only in the shadows): both species are very friendly and protect children from the dark.
5. Perform with a DIY band Make a kazoo – use an old toilet roll with a piece of waxed paper secured over the end with an elastic band, then just hum into the open end; percussion – collect pots and pans (and perhaps a big plastic bucket for a bass drum); create a water glass xylophone – line up at least five glasses filled with water to different levels to create different tones; chimes – pull out a set of picnic cutlery and just set one piece on each ‘arm’ of a cutlery stand; bells – collect old bottle tops and string about five to 10 on an old hair band. Now that your ‘band’ is ready, see what tunes you can play.
6. Set up shop and sell your wares First ask your child what kind of shop she wants – does she want to sell clothes, food, musical instruments or even her own art? For younger children, use Monopoly money to barter and trade with them. Older children could invite their friends around to be customers and run their own market.
7. Do a scavenger hunt Make a list of 10 items your child will need to collect. Ask him to put the first object in a ‘Treasure Chest’ in the room where you are, then tell him the next item on the list; when he has collected all 10, offer him a prize. You could also choose the items so that number one is one apple; number two is two shoes, and so on.
8. Set up a fortune teller's stall Curtain off a corner of a room to be a fortune teller’s ‘stall’, tie a scarf around your child’s head and wrap her in some big gypsy-style jewellery, then set up a selection of origami fortune tellers (see Origami Fortune Tellers in our Arts & Crafts section) from which her customers can choose. Cross her palm with silver and the future is yours for the knowing...
9. Decorate your bike Using at least three different colours of crêpe-paper streamers, fluffy wools, coloured straws (for your wheel spikes), bells and toys, create your new super fun bicycle. (Now do that Tour de France – in your garden).
10. Do a traditional wash day Lather up an old-fashioned washing tub (an old tin is perfect, but a plastic bucket will do) and give your child a scrubbing board (a big wooden chopping board is ideal), then set them to scrubbing your old, worn-out clothes with a bristly brush. All the washing then has to be rinsed – using water from the well (the outdoor tap) and wrung out before being hung out to dry.
Read more family activity suggestions...