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Summer holidays! How to have fun with the children...
The children are enjoying some 'down-time', the sun is shining, the garden is blooming and all is well in your world. Or is it? Are the kids squabbling? Are they bored? Scratchy (the children, not the dog)? It's raining. The flowers are battered. In fact there aren't many flowers, most of them have finished blooming. This is summer. The pinnacle of desire. You have waited all year for this moment and now it's not working out quite as you wished.
It's hardly surprising that children get bored when they have a long summer without school. Kids have largely abandoned the outdoors in favour of technology and they are more likely to be slumped in front of a computer screen rather than racing around the garden. Technology is an addictive pastime and not one that you would probably choose for your children unless teamed with more active sessions.
Ben Fogle found that many kids spend just 30 minutes or less playing outside each week. 1000 parents surveyed by Mothercare admitted that their children didn't play outside as much as they had during their own childhood. It is perceived that there are greater risks for children playing unsupervised outdoors in the modern age and this is largely due to increased media coverage of unfortunate incidents. Computers and similar devices provide a limited range of stimulation and almost no physical movement. Social skills are not being practised and even the eyesight is being tested as it's all close-focus. Once the balance between time spent indoors as compared to outdoors has shifted it's quite difficult to redress the result. A survey involving adventurer
Nobody wants to put a child's life or wellbeing at risk but part of the problem lies in the fact that parents have less time to direct and supervise play effectively. We all live in a busy world where most parents work and even grandparents are working too. The rise in popularity of summer schools, camps and clubs has been enormous in the last few years but many parents can't afford these expensive options.
So what can you do about this lack of 'outdoor fun'? Plenty. And it's one of the cheapest forms of entertainment too! Here are six suggestions to help you get your children excited by the garden or the wider world this August:
1: Make a simple swing using a tree: a rope; and a big knot - or a rope tied to a used tyre. If you want something purpose-built you can find all sorts of swings, including tyre swings that look like horses!
2: Build a camp! You just need an old sheet or two; some twine and something over which you can build your camp. In amongst the shrubs, draped over fences - even the smallest garden has potential. You can buy purpose-built tents or wigwams for the ultimate camping extravaganza!
3: Go wildlife spotting! Take the children on a little walk and spot birds; paw prints; mice; squirrels; shrews; deer; water creatures; insects. The possibilities are endless! See how long your list is when you get home. Try drawing some of the creatures you found.
4: Build an insect hotel! It can be tremendous fun. You just need a framework which you can fill with hollow bamboo sticks; twigs, twine, leaves; anything in which insects can make their home. Or you can buy a ready-made insect hotel instead!
5: Get the children to help you make a raised vegetable bed. Fill it with compost and sow some salad seeds; perpetual spinach; winter-hardy spring onions; radishes and spring cabbages. You can make a simple raised bed using gravel boards or wood off-cuts or even buy something purpose-built. You might be giving your children a life-long love of growing.
6: Make a miniature garden! It's tremendous fun - not just for children but for all ages. Find a container - even a cardboard box, a broken pot or a seed tray will do. Fill it with soil or compost; add some grit or small scale gravel and find things that look the right size for the container. You can add twigs for trees; plants with small leaves (Buxus is good); even make little houses from Lego or card. There are small-scale items suitable for miniature gardening here.
Never mind the weather! Get your imagination into summer mode and have fun with the children this August!