Worried that the kids will be bouncing off the walls in sheer boredom during the school holidays? Or they’ll be glued to cartoons or playstations all summer? Here are some ways to keep them entertained, active and out of trouble. At very little or no expense.
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1. MARBLE PAINTING
This one’s for young kids – preschoolers to 8-year-olds. Get some tempera paint, poster paint or activity paint in at least 6-7 shades; a small pack of marbles; a metal box/canister (the kind that chocolates come in) or, if that is not available, a shoe box; thick sheets of poster paper cut to fit at the bottom of the box. Now get the kids to coat the marbles in different colours and drop them in the box. They can use as few marbles as they want or as many, depending on the number of colours they want in their painting. Now close the lid and shake the box a few times. Open it and voila, the painting is ready! Now wash the marbles and try with different colours. Older kids could experiment with rolling the marbles carefully around in an open box or tray instead of closing the lid and shaking the box.
2. THE LEAF HUNT
This can be done by kids from ages 5-12.Pick an outdoor area green area like a park or a garden where you are comfortable sending the kids on their own. Now, leave the kids indoors while you secretly go and pick leaves from different trees/plants/bushes – one leaf for each child. Hand the kids a container with these leaves and let them loose in the green area. The idea is for them to match the leaves they are carrying with those growing on the plants/trees. You can then tell them the name of the plant or tree as well and as much more information as you think can absorb.
3. FAMILY TREE
This is a great activity for teenagers. They can make this on chart paper or on their computers using a template. They can go back as many generations as they want depending on how complex they want the family tree to be. It’s interesting to learn the names and ages and relationships in one’s family – going back to great grandparents, granduncles and aunts. Rummage through old picture and add those too if possible. Basically, a family tree is the most common form of visually documenting one’s ancestry. Most family trees include a box for each individual and each box is connected to the others to indicate relationships. In addition to an individual’s name, each box may include dates, birthplace, and other information, depending on the desired complexity of the family tree diagram. You can find many resources online to create a family tree.
4. TRAVEL ALPHABET
Play this game when travelling by car, especially long trips, with children of all ages. Run through the alphabet from A to Z by asking them to spot the letters, in sequence, on the number plates of other cars travelling on the road. When they’re done with the alphabet, you can switch to numbers. Next, try spotting objects or cars or buildings in different colours.
5. GRANDPARENT BIOGRAPHY
This is another good activity for teenagers, although 10 year olds can do it too. Do you live in a joint family, with parents or uncles and aunts? Grandparents are often lonely but full of memories of their childhood. Children love listening to their stories. Get your child to record and transcribe an interview with a grandparent or much loved uncle/aunt about their childhood. You can then “publish” it (along with pictures) and distribute to family and friends. Here are a few questions to get them started on an interview with grandma: 1. What are the names of your parents and brothers and sisters? Did you have a nickname? 2. When and where were you born? When and where were your parents and brothers and sisters born? 3. What kinds of things did your family do together when you were young? 4. Who were some of your friends? What did you do with your friends? 5. What schools did you attend? What were your favorite subjects? Who were your favorite teachers? 6. How did you meet Grandfather?
6. A TO Z SCAVENGER HUNT
Give the children a big box and send them off on a scavenger hunt indoors (if you don’t mind your home being turned upside down) or outdoors to a park. Give them a time limit and have them compete against each other if they want. Ask them to collect in the box any items they can find starting with different letters of the alphabet. So your kids may pick up an apple from the kitchen (starts with A), or a safety pin (starts with S) from your sewing box, or a ballpoint pen (starts with B) from your work table. All letters of the alphabet must be covered. And all items must fit in the box provided. The kids can play this in teams with their friends too. A single kid can go on a solo scavenger hunt.
7. WALL CHALK MURALS
Give the kids paper, poster board, canvas…any legitimate surface to draw and paint on, but chances are they’ll head straight for somewhere you dread – the wall! Now, it’s understandable that you want your living room to stay safe and graffiti free, but how about compromising and letting them use an outdoor wall in your home or compound? Give them coloured chalk instead of paint to make murals on the large canvas of the wall. If the wall is large a bunch of friends can do this activity together. Chalk washes off easily so they can try different designs on different days.
8. CAR RACING TRACK
Put coloured tape on the carpet or floor to make roads for your kids’ cars. You can add signals and stop signs to make the activity more creative. Make a special zone for parking where the cars have to come to a standstill after play is over. This will prevent you from tripping over toys lying all around the room. The tape will come off easily when you are done.
9. BULL’S EYE
A couple of sponges (for small kids, to prevent against injury) or bottle caps, and some chalk are all you need to turn a reasonably large indoor or outdoor area into a target practice zone. Join in with the kids for some fun.
10. BALLOON VOLLEYBALL
When you need to keep the kids active but it’s too hot to play outside, string up a rope or two dupattas tied together across your hallway. Then hand the kids a balloon each and have them play balloon volleyball. Add a couple of rackets or paddle boards and it becomes balloon badminton!
11. INDOOR BOWLING TRACK
You can make a very addictive indoor bowling game using a wooden board or flattened cardboard box laid out on a flat surface. Use pencil erasers or fat crayon stubs for bowling pins. And marbles or a ping pong ball as the bowling ball. Keep score and have fun!
12. MAGAZINE SCAVENGER HUNT
Have an urgent presentation to prepare but the brat is pestering you to play? Keep a bunch of old magazines handy and make a long checklist of the kind of pictures they can find in there. The checklist could include things like: picture of a red car, someone wearing glasses, someone with a moustache, someone wearing a purple tie, etc. Ask your child to tear out these pics and give them to you after you’re done working. Have a small reward handy for finding all the pics.
13. ROOM CLEANING RACE
Get yourself a timer, sit back and let the kids do all the work. Can they put all the cushions back on the couch in 30 seconds? Can all the blue toys on the floor be found in one minute? Can all the shoes lying around the house make it back to the shoe rack in 2 minutes? Can all the clothes on the bed be folded in 10 minutes? The sound of the timer going off will galvanize your kids into action. Remember to have a reward ready for all the hard labour.
14. TEN QUESTIONS ABOUT INDIAN STATES
Ever played 20 Questions with names of personalities dead or alive, where you can only answer with a yes or no? You can do the same with names of Indian states, but with only 10 questions. Is this state in the north of India? Does its border touch Nepal? Is tea grown there? Remember, you can only ask 10 questions before you have to guess. Play this game while travelling by car with schoolgoing kids of all ages.
15. HOLD A CAR WASH
Park your car in the driveway and let the kids give it a good scrub with a bucket of water and sponges. If you don’t mind getting wet yourself, get a garden hose and join in the fun. A great way to cool off on a hot summer day.
16. MAKE A BIRD FEEDER
This is a lovely way to help out our feathered friends while teaching the kids about different birds in the neighbourhood. Several craft websites will give you tons of ideas about how to make easy, inexpensive bird feeders. Here is one with 32 ideas. Don’t forget to put a bowl of water out too. And remind the kids to keep refilling it.
17. GET COOKING
You don’t need to pull out your recipe books or get into dicing onions to cook a meal with kids. Cooking offers a range of choices – from baking with older kids (a muffin pan, eggs, flour, sugar and a couple of basic recipes you find online to get them started) to teaching the young ones how to butter a slice of bread, roll out chapatis, cut a soft fruit like a banana with a non-sharp knife, whip up some dahi to make raita. Expect a mess at the end of the exercise though!
18. LIFE-SIZE SELFIE
“Making a self-portrait is a beautiful way for kids to express themselves. It helps them explore who they are, what they would like to become; what are their likes and dislikes, fears and passions,” says Rashmie Jaaju in her wonderful blog, where she explains exactly how you can help your kids make life size portraits of themselves with this keep-them-busy-for-hours art activity.
19. MY TURN, MY TASK
For a birthday party, or just when you your kids have friends over, this is an interesting game for all ages. Divide the group into two teams of about 5 each. It’s a relay game. On a table keep 5 things in a line, like mug of milk/soft drink, green chilli/cookie, thread and needle, boiled egg, etc. (you can pick any items of your choice). The team members have to stand in a queue at a starting line (assign tasks to each member at this point). The first person from each team will run and drink from the mug and run back to the second person in the queue. The second will run and eat green chillies kept on the table and will run back to the third person waiting in the queue, the third will thread the needle and the fourth will shell the boiled egg, and so on. The game continues till the last person finishes his/her task. The quickest team is the winning team.
20. SPINNING TOP/LATTU/BUGARI
And finally, take the kids down nostalgia lane to your own childhood. When there were no playstations and video games and everyone went outdoors to play with other kids. This very typical Indian game is virtually on the verge of extinction so you may have some trouble finding the necessary equipment. Do you know where to buy a spinning ‘top’ or lattu (Hindi) or bugari (Kannada)? Maybe a small toy shop in the older part of the city? The game involves spinning this wooden toy, which is spherical at the top and tapering at the bottom. A string is used to wrap around the top to spin it. It is knotted at the end to hold between the fingers. You throw the wrapped top in the air in such a way that the toy is spinning when it lands on the ground. Two people can compete to see whose top spins for the longest time. You can also pick up the spinning top on to the palm while it is still spinning and pass it on to others also.
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