Keeping the kids entertained during the school holidays doesn’t need to be expensive. It is a perfect time to bond with your children and create memories. Here are just some ideas that are not only great fun, but will help them discover new experiences, keep their minds sharp and develop their thinking and learning outside of the classroom.
Everyone loves a bake-off and if you do this at the beginning of the school holidays you can have a stock of snacks without blowing the budget. New Zealand’s iconic cookbook, Edmonds has some great simple baking ideas here. The kids may like to start their own recipe book in a scrap book or online and add photos of their creations. Baking is a great way to practice reading comprehension and learn how to follow instructions. The process of weighing, measuring, dividing mixtures into individual cakes or cookies encourages mathematical thinking.
Why not give baking bread a go? It has been the big buzz of lockdowns, particularly sourdough bread. Baking bread is a great opportunity to learn some science fundamentals in a fun way – for example how yeast produces carbon dioxide bubbles, and why bread rises before you even bake it. Or how does sourdough bread work without yeast?
There has been much debate about this in the news so you could collect some articles to study together and try out which method works best. At the end of it, not only will the house smell delicious, but you can all share the loaf – is there anything better than hot bread out of the oven with lashings of butter and jam or cheese.
Camping during school holidays is a Kiwi institution. It is a great way to get outside, immerse yourself in nature, and learn about the environment. It doesn’t need to be at expensive campsites. The Department of Conservation website has suggestions for places where you can pitch up.
Or you don’t even have to travel at all – head for your nearest park or reserve (always check rules around camping), or kids love camping outside in the back garden. There are endless learning experiences in camping, from pitching the tent (that’s PhD level for most adults), cooking on a campfire, identifying local flora and fauna and New Zealand wildlife. Plus, you can put sustainability practices into action, getting the kids to think about how to leave zero waste.
Trip to the beach
Luckily in New Zealand we are never too far from the coastline and a trip to the beach is interesting whatever the season. Building sandcastles, making a hut from driftwood, making moats and holes, fetching buckets of water and collecting shells and stones, all encourage children to think about mathematics such as volume and counting. If it is summer, hone those swimming skills.
Just remember to check for rips and tides and always get in the water with the children and always swim between the flags. A great statistic to share with the children is that no one in New Zealand has ever drowned swimming between the flags. When you get home you can use the shells to make necklaces or hanging art and paint the stones.
Get on yer bike
New Zealand has great cycle tracks for all ages and abilities, whether it is a leisurely ride or a day’s mountain biking. The whole family can bond, enjoy the sunshine (remember hat and sunscreen), and soak up the incredible scenery. Often tracks detail historical points of interest which are good to stop at – as well as take a much-needed rest and bite to eat.
Cycling as a family group is a good way to encourage team work too if there are different ages and levels of skill in the team. If going further afield, kids can learn all the safety skills such as checking the weather, what to pack, what hazards to look out for. Check your local council for ideas, as well as https://www.nzcycletrail.com and https://www.newzealand.com.
Local art hubs, libraries and museums often run children’s programmes in the school holidays which are free or little cost. Kids get to exercise their creative minds and imagination, learn new skills, work with new materials and get to take home their creations.
If you don’t want to leave the home, gather arts and crafts materials at home and invite some of their friends around. Jewellery making is always popular – collect old buttons, bottle tops and beads and use different threads and paints to customise their creations. Or simply set them up with different materials such as paints, crayons and pencils on different types of paper.
Make a podcast or short video
Challenge the kids and yourself to learn how to make a podcast or short video on a topic in the news. Lockdown, the pandemic, and vaccination are obvious ideas but really it can be anything that interests the children from sport to new movies or books. Turn their screen obsessions like the Marvel franchise or favourite game into a challenge where they have to explain it in simple terms (or as they will think to simple adults) in a podcast or video format.
They could choose to interview people about the topic or simply talk to the camera or to the mic themselves. This will teach them a new skill, get their creative juices flowing, and encourage critical thinking about a topic. When all the kids have finished, you can have a watching/ listening session where everyone gets to review each other’s work and ask questions of the director/producer.
Geocaching is a treasure hunt for the digital generation that’s played in more than 190 countries all over the world. If you have a GPS device or GPS-enabled smartphone, you can do it. It’s a great way to learn about your local area too.
The objective is to find a geocache, a waterproof container with a logbook and usually some small items such as to exchange. The geocache creator hides the container in the outdoors, then posts details on a geocaching website.
To play, you use the geocaching website to select a cache you’d like to find. The website will list a description, some map coordinates and possibly cryptic instructions for locating the container.
To get started, sign up for free membership on the Geocaching website then enter your postcode to find geocaches near you. Now you’re ready to use coordinates posted on the internet to hunt out an item or container with the treasure.