What are your plans for these winter school holidays? My kids start their winter break this afternoon and I have a few things planned such as a trip to Sydney to see their cousins and a extra long weekend at the beach (I love the South Coast in winter!) However, we’ll be looking for ways to fill the days we are at home and as usual I’ll be trying to get them off their screens! My children are getting older now so their interests are changing. The simple fun crafts that used to engage them do not cut it any more. Last school holidays I posted some sewing projects specifically for boys but today I’ve put together some more boredom busting ideas with a creative bent for older kids in that tween age bracket.
Build something with Papier Mâché
I know this is a messy one to start with but my kids do love papier mâché! It has actually been specifically requested so I’ll let you know if I pluck up the courage these holidays. There are some different kids of papier mâché. You can soak strips of paper in glue and drape it around a frame or balloon or you can make pulp to mould. The different techniques have different purposes so have a look at this page on Family Crafts for instructions on each. My preferred paste recipe is the cooked one here. If you are really brave and want a project to last the whole break, go BIG! A teacher I taught with once made a huge dragon with her class that hung above the doorway. I've created lots of piñatas for the kids' birthday parties (like Darth Maul here) but the biggest papier mâché I have done was a ‘Skywhale’ head for our table's fancy dress at the school’s trivia night (the theme was Canberra's Centenary). We each wore giant, pendulous mammaries to complete the costume!
Create a New Recipe
This term my daughter, who started high school this year in Year 7, did a project in ‘Food & Fabric’ where they had to design and test a new cookie recipe. They learnt about the correct proportions of flour, butter etc but it would be fun for the kids to just make a basic cookie dough and experiment with different additions. Here’s a basic recipe from Taste to get them started. But they don’t have to stick to cookies, gather up some of their preferred (notice I don’t say favourite) ingredients and let them create a new recipe for dinner. And, of course, cooking in general is a great time filler in our household – sometimes they even venture into the savoury!
Make a Video
I don’t know about you but my kids seem to be learning a lot more about making videos than I have ever learnt – although I was forced to sit down and learn some of the very basics of iMovie the other night so that my middle one could hand in a video presentation at school. The boys love to pick up their iPods (and often my phone too) and make silly videos of themselves. The holidays might be a chance to do something a bit more in-depth and there are some great pointers here from Desktop Video. They could make a “how to”, a documentary, a movie trailer or video book review, capture a family outing or create a virtual tour of your home or garden. They could even curate their rock collection. My boys have also enjoyed playing with the Stop Motion Studio app. Check out YouTube for creative ideas for using this. The potential to unite their love of Lego with their love of video is awesome! If suitable, your child’s video could also be uploaded to YouTube and shared with the world!
Do a Photography Project
Similarly snapping off photos intrigues my kids. My daughter actually saved up and invested in an entry level DSLR! But she doesn’t have time during school term to really spend much time using it. So the school holidays are an ideal time to embark on a photography project of some kind. To help them improve their photography skills, there are some good tips here from Digital Photography School. You might encourage them to undertake a photo-a-day kind of project too. Fat Mum Slim has loads of prompts lists to look at and maybe you can create a list for two school holiday weeks of photos. And then what to do with all those photos? You could have them make postcards, greeting cards, and gifts. You could potentially sort out your birthday card needs for the rest of the year! Of they could also...
Create a Scrapbook
Scrapbooking, and I mean the kind where you take selected photos, other bits and pieces of memorabilia and embellishments and arrange them attractively on a page, can be a mammoth project but it can be a simple as a single page you can put in a frame and hang in their room. Another idea is to create a mini accordion book. You can find instructions here by Making Mini Scrapbooks.
Start and Curate a Collection
My eight year old has a considerable collection of rocks and polished stones. However, he (we) have never really done anything with them except drop them into a box and stuff it in his cupboard. This page on Collectibles gives some ideas about helping kids display and curate their collection. Does your child like to collect something that is ready for organising and displaying? If not, would they enjoy starting a collection of something?
Decorate Something with Fabric Markers or Paint
A few years ago, the kids and I created pillow cases for each member of the family for us to take camping. We had old pillowcases from sets where the bottom sheet had worn out (always the first to go!) and I had a letter stencil to create our names. Then we cut some potatoes with cookie cutters and printed shapes around the names. Now they are older, if we were doing it again, I would probably let them loose with paintbrushes and let their creativity shine. Other things to paint or decorate would be calico bags, t-shirts or a drawstring bag (find a link to how to make one on my beginner projects post). I recently found these pens called Stained by Sharpie which would be fun for creating all sorts of fabulous fabric art too.
Tie-dye a T-Shirt
Along the same lines is to tie-dye a t-shirt. You can buy tie-dye kits these days. It came as no surprise to find one distributor in Mullumbimby in northern New South Wales. However this artcle on Parents.com gives instructions if you want to pop to the shops and pick up some good ol’ Dylon dye. Another technique uses Sharpies (the regular kind rather than the Stained by Sharpie mentioned above) and you can find instructions on Martha Stewart.
Making jewellery is something boys and girls enjoy. My daughter has lots of beads and findings for making earrings. The required bits and pieces can be picked up very cheaply at discount shops too. We are fortunate not to have sensitive ears here but you might have to look out for suitable findings if you do. However, there are lots of different ways to make fun jewellery and this page at Education.com gives some inspiration. Along the same lines are friendship bracelets which are also popular regardless of gender.
Fold Origami and Paper Planes
I think we are all fascinated by the skill of master origami makers but we’ve all got to start somewhere. Origami Instructions has a page of projects for kids. Your children also might be interested in extending themselves beyond the classic dart and test their skills with one of the huge number of paper planes on FoldnFly.
Create a Board Game
We have some fantastic board games that we all enjoy playing (which can’t be said for all board games!) including Carcassonne, Forbidden Island, and the divinely illustrated Dixit. These are, of course, great school holiday activities in themselves but to extend your kids’ creative minds, perhaps they could design their own board game. Activity Village gives some very basic starting ideas. You never know, your creative genius might come up with the next Sleeping Queens (a card game admittedly but also a game we love) which was the creation of six year old Miranda Evarts.
Go Thrift/Charity/Junk Store Shopping
My 11 year old son just attended a birthday party where one of the activities was to give each of the kids a $5 note and take them all to our local ‘Green Shed’ to spend their money. What a hit - the boys are crazy about picking up treasures from garage sales and junk shops (even if I’m not so crazy about the all stuff returning to my house). Recently my littlest one, nearly 9, wanted to do some tinkering with electrical things so we picked up some likely bits and pieces at the Green Shed and he created a fan on wheels! The fan works by being connected to batteries in the car. I can't tell you how proud he is of this creation. Another fun idea is to find fabulous clothes and have a fashion parade. For older kids, they could repurpose and redesign the clothes into something new and stylish. You know how I love my repurposed items.
Construct Marshmallow Towers
Kids Activities Blog gives instructions for building towers with marshmallows and drinking straws. This is a fun, creative - and even a bit educational - activity perfect for winter because you can pop those marshmallows into a hot chocolate when you are finished!
Make Crystal Snowflakes
I also stumbled across a project to make crystal snowflakes on Adventures of a DIY Mom which would make a lovely winter activity even if these are as close to snow as most of us will get this winter.
Create Snow Globes with Fimo
And continuing the snow theme, my boys made some great snow globes or snow domes when they were in their Fimo (polymer clay) frenzy a few months ago. Red Ted Art gives some instructions and links. I would recommend hot gluing the lids onto the jars both to stop little people from tipping water and glitter all over their bedroom carpet but also to make sure it is good and watertight when placed lid side down. It is MUCH easier to glue the contents to the lid rather than the bottom of the jar so you will want to stand it on its lid. Make sure things are glued securely to start with because opening the jar after gluing the lid on clearly poses some challenges! Of course, you don’t need Fimo to make a snow globe (use other plastic figurines etc as suggested by Red Ted Art). And Fimo is a really fun, creative substance to play with as a standalone. It makes great jewellery too (see point above!) So there you have a list of fifteen things to do these school holidays – one for nearly every day! Throw in a trip to the museum (my boys adored the Australian Museum in Sydney last holidays) and you’ve got the whole break covered. Please let me know what you get up to and I’d love to see photos of any of the activities above that you try. Post them in the comments below. I hope you survive the school holidays with your sanity intact!