Hang about. How can it be half term when the schools and nurseries aren't even open? Because we're in Lockdown Land. Not unlike La La Land - there's lots of hard work and a fair bit of disappointment involved - but with a lot less Ryan Gosling. (Shame.) Still, that doesn't mean there's no fun and magic to be had. Or singing and dancing, for that matter. Here are some ideas to help fill half term with great memories.
1. DIY Forest School
Forest schools - essentially, learning in a woodland environment - can be a great half term activity. But the DIY version doesn't mean trekking into the wilderness, or spending the whole week outdoors. (Brrr!) Any woody bit of your garden or a local park will do - and even an hour or so a day still gives you loads of scope for fun and discovery.
Insta-whizz and mum-of-two @playfulwonders has loads of great ideas, including making your own bird feeders and a nature colour hunt which takes a bit of prep, but is so worth the effort. For younger ‘students’, mud painting a tree (bucket of mud + brush + tree = bingo) is loads of fun and gives them the mark-making practice that’s so important for learning to write. It also lets them express themselves. Often by covering their faces in mud!
Forest school isn’t only about learning about nature - joining forces on a project like building a den or a rope swing also teaches teamwork and problem solving. Sitting and resting in nature is also an essential part of the curriculum. So you’re allowed to take five too!
2. Celebrate Valentines Day
It’s always great to take the opportunity to show people we love them and there is so much craft inspo out there for Valentines food, craft and cards. We particularly heart @whirlybobble - try her adorable Paper Plate Lovebirds or clever DIY Cardboard Heart Jigsaw, which we definitely think is pretty enough to earn itself some display space year round.
This year, even making the simplest Valentines cards to pop in the post to Grandma & Grandpa or other loved ones will mean so much. (And who doesn't love posting things in shiny red post boxes?) Just make sure you give your cards plenty of time to arrive.
3. Put On a Show
With school pantos, plays and assemblies all cancelled this year, their performing itch might well need scratching. If you plan it over the whole week, putting on a show for your family and friends could become a real focal point. It could be a solo performance, or include parents, siblings, toys, even pets! Babies and toddlers can get involved too - so long as you're prepared for their involvement being pretty improvisational!
Monday: Formally invite your audience with a Zoom, Hangouts or Skype invitation to the Big Show on Friday. Decide what story you want your show to be about. A retelling of their favourite film or nursery story? Or one they've made up on their own?
Tuesday: Casting and getting into character. Who's going to play what role? Talk about what each character thinks and feels. 'Workshop' some or all of the story and be inventive. Trying things out makes all the possibilities of a performance come alive. You might end up with a whole new take on Goldilocks!
Wednesday: Think about costume and scenery. Raid the dressing up or make something new. For kids, wearing adults clothes and accessories can be very entertaining. Don't forget about make-up either. As for scenery and props - get inventive with your furniture and decor.
Thursday: Practise, practise practise!! Is there a favourite song or dance routine you'd like to throw in at this point too?
Friday: It's showtime!! Remember, this is for fun, so it really doesn't matter if it all goes a bit pear-shaped 'on the night'. We're sure your audience will appreciate being invited to some live (and utterly unique) entertainment! Don't forget to press record on your phone or zoom screen - you'll cherish this in years to come.
4. Go Indoor Camping
One of the many great things about indoor camping is that it makes for a brilliant trial run of the real thing - especially if you've bought some new kit. (As many families have, with a staycation looking fairly certain this summer.) Is your tent big enough to sleep everyone comfortably? Are your sleeping bags too warm or itchy? Is there a cuddly toy or blanket that you can't do without at night? This is a handy way to find out.
To prep: First off - unplug EVERYTHING - phones, TV, tablets, you name it. We're in the wilderness, folks! Set up your camp in the biggest space available - probably the living room. Maybe consider bringing the outdoors in and decorate room with some branches, leaves and pine cones? If you want to go the whole hog, sticking come luminous stars on the ceiling (easy to find on Amazon) means you really can sleep under the Milky Way.
It's up to you what you get up to, obvs, but we think this is a pretty important checklist:
- Eat dinner (& breakfast) round the campfire. A cushion will do as the 'fire', but if you want to get crafty, arrange painted loo roll 'logs' arranged around a battery-operated 'candle'. Fabric or felt versions are very now: why not make your own, or splash out on this epic felt number with marshmallows.
- Look for ‘wild animals’ (their stuffed toys that you've hidden round the house)
- Tell stories and sing campfire songs
- Use a torch to make shadow puppets
5. Let's Get Physical
Keep fit was a great focus for early lockdown and lots of families have kept it up ever since. If you have, well done - and show us your muscles! If you've kind of let things slide (we empathise) why not take this week to set yourselves a physical challenge as a family. For example:
- Learn a few yoga poses
- Try roller skating - currently having a bit of a moment
- Try a different YouTube fitness class every morning
- Get those stabilisers off the bike
- Take up skipping
- Have different kinds of races in the park each day - running, jumping, three-legged, egg-and-spoon. If you time yourself, you can try to beat your PB each day.
- Learn to hula hoop
6. Home Makeover
Some kids love getting creative with their rooms - some kids like things left just as they are. (I have one of each.) But this is a great time of year for looking at your space afresh. Of course there’s always benefit in reorganising their toys, but here are a few other fun things to try:
Paint A Wall
Using chalkboard paint and some frog tape - so you get a nice clean line - you can make a great permanent canvas for chalk artworks or writing practice in their bedroom or the kitchen. If you feel a bit more inventive - you can zone a bit of the house with bolder colourblocks of emulsion that can section off a reading space or dressing up corner. Kids can help with this painting too - just make sure they have a small pot of paint, a small brush, you put them in a coverall and you put a lot of dust-sheets down!
Create a Picture Gallery
We love this brilliant guide for making a a cool gallery wall. All you need are a few empty picture frames, some vivid paint, thread or fishing line and clothespegs. Any child will like helping with the painting bit and they'll adore the end result, because they can switch their artwork in and out whenever they like, without needing adult help.
Hang up some coat pegs
The simple fact of having somewhere to hang things can really inspire children to be responsible and organised with their stuff - plus you can use them to drape fairy lights and bunting round the bedroom. And they make great anchoring points for den-building.
Make some houseplants
Houseplants are so in, but sooooo easy to kill - or is that just me? @whirlybobble has a simple demo of how to make Paper Palm Leaves you can display in a vase. Felt plants are massive - ours by Kids Depot are pretty much running out of the door. But if you're prepared to stock up on some pipecleaners and felt (always useful) and a glue gun (trust me, will make you feel invincible), you can have a go at making your own. Little Egg Design makes incredible creations you can use as inspo, and here's a cute and easy mini-succulent to get you started.
NOTE: Glue guns and kids are not a great combo, so let them do more of the cutting, painting and arranging parts.
7. Make a Memory Box
It's been a funny old twelve months, and lockdown must feel like a lifetime for your pre-schooler - and is a lifetime for those babes out there! So creating a memory box you can all look back on in years to come will be pretty special. All you need is some craft supplies, a shoe box and some time to decorate and fill it.
Paint or cover it with wrapping paper and / or photos. Help your child, depending on their age, to ‘write’ their name, age, favourite things and other important information on a piece of paper that fits neatly in the lid. Include mementoes of this year and find some new treasures from round the house or in the park or garden. Finally, tie it up and store it somewhere safe. Maybe you can take it down next half term and add some new souvenirs?
So there you have it. A fair few ideas to make the most of the break. Have fun!
Felt campfire: thebearandthefox.com
Picture gallery: thecaterpillaryears.com