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A Few Things to Occupy the Kids at Home when during the School Holidays

by Beverley Paine

Straight up I have to say we never had holidays. Learning happens every day and just because the school down the road shuts shop for half a dozen weeks doesn't mean the children stop learning - it's just that the responsibility for those kids shift from teachers back to parents. I loved hanging out with my children every day of the year and enjoyed the many different activities we did together. So this list of 'holiday activities' is really simply just a list of things I loved doing with my children - all year round! But for many of us, the school holidays are a time when we purposefully stay home, away from the crowds frequenting the shopping centres, cinemas, museums, conservation parks, playgrounds, etc! If you suspend homeschool lessons during this period to give yourself a break you might find this list of activities useful too.

Reading

If you aren't already a regular lurker at your local library, now is the time to get acquainted. Libraries host many school holiday activities for children young and old. Use fabric paints on recycled material to create personalised library bags for each family member. Fill them up with books, games, magazines, CDs and DVDs - whatever takes your fancy at the library! Don't make visiting the library a stop on the way to do the weekly shopping: treat it as a highlight of your week, a bit like a trip that special playground the kids love. Take time to sit and read a story or three to the children while at the library. Explore all their services. Get to know the librarian. It's awesome what they know and how helpful they can be to home educating families!

Drawing

Our house was never short of materials we could use to draw. Sometimes I'd borrow books on art from the library to inspire us or show us different techniques or ideas. We had a selection of different things to draw with: different grade lead pencils from very hard to very soft, charcoal, chalk, a variety of crayons, craypas, fluorescent and ordinary texta pens, different quality colour pencils, water-colour pencils, carving tools for etchings, ink and nibs. What we drew on varied too: pavement, walls, large sheets of paper or card, windows, different colours types and qualities of paper and card, wood, fabric and more.

If your shelves don't already stock all these items, why not put together a few interesting activity bags or boxes together to add some drawing sparkle to your day? Stuck for ideas? Spend an hour or so searching 'drawing activities' on the internet. I searched under 'children's art ideas' in Google Images and found lots of photos of interesting and simple activities we could do.

Sewing

I've already mentioned one sewing project, but if you are crafty you can put together little sewing projects that are within the ability of each of your children. Again, source your ideas from the internet. Download or create your own patterns, from simple felt mice toys to handy aprons and oven mitts. Buy sufficient materials to complete each project, slip them into a envelope or plastic bag with simple instructions and make them available to the children when you have time to sit and help them without too many distractions. Children love making things and learn so much from us (across the curriculum) as we help.

Dress Ups, puppets, masks, skits and shows

A box of dress ups is the cornerstone of imaginative play. Children don't need cute little costumes that look exactly like what they are pretending to be: a few simple scarves, hats, capes and pieces of colourful different textured fabric are generally enough to create the illusion in their minds. Cardboard tubes become swords or guns, boxes become cars or trains, the dining table with a sheet over it becomes a dark cave. Making masks is another wonderful art activity that begins in a simple way with paper plates while the children are very little and then evolves into a complex craft activity using a variety of materials as their skills mature. Puppets start off in much the same way: little felt finger puppets with drawn on faces gradually give way to decorated sock puppets, simple shadow puppets and finally intricate marionettes. All are props for the most wonderful creative wanderings through the world of imagination!

Playing Shop

Until the youngest was six or seven play shop was a favourite activity that regularly turned our living space into a mini-mall! We'd have a hairdresser, bank, post office, fashion boutique (dolls' clothes, of course) and supermarket. Most of the props for the shops would be sourced from our large 'junk' box, full of recyclable items from the kitchen. One year we designed and photocopied our own 'Australian' money, using different sized buttons for coin. You'll need plenty of sticky or masking tape to shape cardboard boxes into counters and shelves!

Origami and paper crafts

Our tray containing shiny coloured origami paper with its instruction book was popular with our children. We made lovely fluffy flowers using tissues and cotton, and some from potato print hearts and stiff paper ; paper boats that actually floated and had lots of fun creating fashions for paper dolls. Search for 'paper craft' on the internet and start collecting ideas today! Maybe collect these together in an 'ideas scrapbook' next to your supplies shelves for easy access for your children.

Playdough and other clays

Make or buy playdough but always have some available to enjoy! Older children enjoy creating models with commercial clays that they can later paint. All children (and most adults) love the gooey oozy squelchiness of kneading and rolling wet clay into animal shapes or small pots. If you have access to a potter's wheel, try your hand at throwing a pot or three! And in the kitchen, experiment making bread dough and plaiting loaves or making fruit buns. Baking is a great source of fun and interest for children, especially as they get to eat what they create!

Marble run

This idea never goes out of fashion! Make a point for a few weeks of not throwing out cardboard tubes: start a secret stash instead of putting them in the 'junk' box (because they are incredibly useful play props and kids just love using them!) You can start the children off in the right direction simply by holding a tube on an incline next to another tube and dropping a marble into the open top. Drag out the sticky tape and a few more marbles and let them take over! I've visited houses where the marble runs go right around the room, from ceiling to floor!

Create a huge playmat

I love this idea and wanted to include it even though it is something we never made. It is the kind of project that would take many hours to complete and provide many more hours of sustained play - a definite 'must have' for busy parents! Head over to Filth Wizardry blog for the instructions, complete with photos, and while there, check out her other awesome ideas for 'sharing messy art and craft fun' with kids: http://www.filthwizardry.com/2009/02/shower-curtain-village-play-mat.html .

Knitting and crocheting

Almost everyone ends up knitting something, even it is only a square for a blanket for teddy or a half finished scarf for dad. My attempts at knitting are very basic, but we've enjoyed a little bit of finger knitting, whole hand knitting, French knitting, and knitting on a circular loom. Download some ideas for specific simple projects that can be used as gifts or works of art. I remember how proud I felt as a young child when I completed my first (and only) 'granny blanket' from wool left over from my mum's knitting projects.

Life at our house was never dull: the children and I were always doing something, either in the kitchen or outside in the garden, helping dad with his DIY projects, playing or doing some kind of art or craft project. We were inspired by what we saw others doing: either friends, or while out and about, on television or in books. Our 'have a go' attitude meant we honed our problem solving skills and developed an attitude of recognising how to turn 'junk' into useful items. 'Holidays' for the children meant going away, visiting relatives and sightseeing!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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