21 activities to keep the kids occupied this Easter

 

The Easter hols are here and thanks to recent snow days and a patron saint’s bank holiday, the novelty of having the kids at home may have worn off before it’s even begun!
So to keep your troops occupied and your sanity in check, I’ve compiled a list of cheap or free things to do over the coming two weeks. May the force be with you through it all!
1. Cinema clubs – the old reliable, especially for those rainy or cold days. Many cinemas have morning screenings of kids’ movies at a reduced rate over the school holidays. Some even discount their popcorn and fizz for an extra treat!

 

2. Picnic at the park – make hay while (and if) the sun shines. Lunch outdoors is an adventure of its own. Throw in a football or take in a playground and the kids can burn off some energy while you’re at it.

 

3. Write a family newspaper – as simple as it sounds. Assign all kids in the house a story to cover relating to your family or what’s going on that day. Then add some phone-taken photos or some drawings to accompany their articles and voila – you have your equivalent of “The Hogan Times” and the bonus of something for “show and tell” upon their return!

 

4. Visit the National Museum – There’s loads to see and entry is free! Thanks to school projects there’s sure to be several things that catch your children’s attention and it’s a pretty enjoyable visit for parents too. You can find more info at www.museum.ie

 

5. Playdates –  Have some pals over to keep your troops occupied. There’s always the chance the favour might be returned over the course of the holidays, giving the double bonus of another day’s fun for your child and a bit of breathing space for you.

 

6. Go swimming – An activity everyone can enjoy, that’s not weather dependent or overly expensive. And it might tire them out a bit too!

 

7. Visit some relatives, or invite some over –  With the restrictions of school and after school activities it’s hard to find the time to visit relations who might live that bit further away. If cousins are involved, the visit made or received is sure to cause even more excitement.

 

8. Board games – Always fun and often overlooked in favour of the computer type. And the great thing is that all ages can get involved!

 

9. Treasure hunt (indoor or outdoor). Draw up the clues and hide them inside or outside the house and let the kids do the rest.

 

10. Build a fort – Timeless fun and a great way to keep the kids busy on a rainy day. And if you’ve a few kids, build two. They can visit each other.

 

11.  Games from our youth – Remember how much time we spent outdoors growing up, wary of going indoors to use the bathroom even in case you weren’t let back out again?The games that kept us occupied for hours would no doubt do the same for our own children. So why not teach your kids how to play them? Hopscotch, Red Rover, Crocodile Crocodile, What time is it Mr Wolf, Rounders, Kick the can, Balls and Skipping – to name but a few!

 

12. Home baking – Most kids love baking and even those of us with limited baking skills can help our littles to make fairy buns, rice krispie buns and maybe something more. Happy bonus –  dessert is sorted!

 

13. A walk on the beach – Even if it’s raining. Skimming stones and wave dodging are fun, rain or shine for the bigs and smalls in the family

 

14. Trip to the library  – to browse and borrow books or to enjoy the
different activities that regularly take place there, details of which can
usually be found online.

 

15. Write a letter – To a grandparent, other relative or friend because who doesn’t love receiving mail that isn’t a bill.

 

16. Make sock puppets – Get crafty and creative to the best of yours and their ability. And then afterwards, do a puppet show

 

17. Visit a pet farm – Kids generally love visiting animals and a pet farm gives them the opportunity to get a little bit closer. Have a scour online for some in your locality. There’s lots of cheap and cheerful ones – and even some free ones too.

 

18. Play doh – messy, get everywhere, maddening stuff – that the kids just love!

 

19. Go out for muffin – a treat in a cakeshop always goes down well. (And the muffin is bribery to behave ;-))

 

20.Get everyone to do a self-portrait, make a collage – One to treasure and frame.

 

21.  Have a karaoke competition – because, ahem cough, cough, you can have the craic joining in too.
Kids Easter Artwork
Kids Easter Artwork

 

20 things to do with the kids this summer

School’s almost out for summer, and while the break from routine is welcomed here and the prospect of owning our evenings again very much appeals, there is a real need to find something to occupy the troops at least some of the time.

The biggest challenge for me personally is not actually the
numbers, but more the age span. Finding something to keep everyone occupied isn’t easy. So with “compromise” as our word for the summer, here’s a few suggestions of things that might help to keep your own troops busy and mean that “I’m bored” doesn’t become the soundtrack of the next nine weeks!

1.       Picnics
Make hay while the sun shines! The recent spell of good weather is enough to put anyone in the form for taking lunch off site. The reality unfortunately is that the weather in Ireland is never guaranteed, so when the sun comes out, you need to take full advantage. The picnic needn’t even involve huge preparation – Some croissants, fruit and maybe a couple treats picked up in the nearest supermarket for the last minute dot com parents amongst us, means that taking advantage of the weather can be decided on the day. If you’re lucky enough to live near a park with a playground, there’s a double attraction, but if not, there’s sure to be a green area somewhere that you can take advantage of. Food and an outing on one go – a double win

2.       Beach fun
This one needn’t be dependent on the weather, though of course it’s always nicer when the sun shines. Sea and sandcastles on a fabulous day are great fun, regardless of age but if grey skies come to play instead, then wrap up, bring old shoes or flip flops, skim stones through the waves and run to the edge and away again, playing the “don’t let the water touch my toes” game. Just as much fun, if you join in too!

3.       Childhood games.
It’s definitely worth teaching the kids to play some of the games that you enjoyed as a child yourself. If they manage to rope in some of the neighbourhood kids – there’s near guaranteed longer hours of fun. Rounders, bulldog, kick the can, “crocodile, crocodile”, What time is it
Mister Wolf, skipping, hopscotch.  The possibilities are endless – and free!

4.       Cinema clubs
 
      Many cinemas run kids clubs in the morning time, offering the opportunity to see relatively new releases, at a cheaper price. A good option for the very rainy days.

5.       Visiting time
 
      The summer hols can be the perfect time to visit relatives and cousins who live a little further away. My kids love visiting and while some recipients aren’t as good as others at hiding their horror at the prospect of our invasion , family ties mean they have to get over it, or at the very least have a lot of believable excuses ready. Persistence is the key here!

6.       Have visitors
And the counter side of that, is invite people over. Playdates, cousins, family friends. Invite people to yours. The troops here love having visitors and different playmates too.

7.       Go out for a treat.
 
      Another one that can be a good option for days when the weather is not so great. Take the kids for a bun, ice-cream, hot chocolate etc. It’s great “motivation” too and downright bribery to get them to behave ahead of the event. To make everything run smoothly, particularly if your numbers are up like mine or depending on the age of your kids, speak to them before you go. Lay down the rules about not running around, fighting etc. Take their orders, ahead of time where possible, so that no time is lost once you arrive and opportunities for “energetic” displays are limited. And remind them, that if they’re really good while they’re there, you might be able to do it again in the future.

8.       Swimming pool.
      
      Not dependent on the weather, but definitely one for consideration on those less sunny days, a trip to the pool has the advantage of exercise, excitement and tiring them out!

9.       Rookie Lifeguard training and Lifeguard courses.
      
      And speaking of swimming – one for the older children are the training and lifeguard courses that are run in many swimming pools, including throughout the summer. Something to do and a fantastic life skill to have. Another upside is the future summer job opportunities that will become an option.

10.  Visit to the pet farm.
      They’re everywhere, and some are cheap as chips for entry. Kids love animals and at pet farms they can often get that little bit closer.

11.   Build a fort
      Indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. The time taken to create the masterpiece is great. The time spent in it – even better. Cushions, blankets, basically whatever you used as a kid yourself. The same still applies!

12.   Home Baking
      My domestic goddess skills are sorely lacking but even I can stretch to fairy buns and rice krispie cakes – and the kids love doing it. What’s even better is, if you have older kids like me, you can defer responsibility for the creations to them. My eldest three love baking too, and are very happy to lead the charge with their younger siblings. Everyone gets to break an egg, or stir the mixture, or add the flour. Each child gets to add the most important icing at the end. A messy one, but an engaging one and dessert of all colours is the end result!

13.   The Zoo
A slightly more expensive one potentially, but who doesn’t love the zoo?

14.   Get creative
 
      Another rainy day activity. Get all the kids to draw a picture of themselves or each other and make a collage.

15.   Home cinema,
      Rent a movie. Draw the curtains.
Get some microwave popcorn and snuggle up on the couch together. Bliss

16.    Trip to the library
      I’ve a few bookworms here and few who are not quite as enthusiastic but everyone loves to go to the library to choose a new book. A cheaper alternative for the ones who practically devour books in rapid succession and a great way to encourage those who need a little more persuasion. Even those who can’t yet read, like to choose one for their bedtime story. It’s also worth checking out the local library for events that take place there over the summer hols.

17.   Give everyone a choice.
      Let everyone suggest a “reasonable” idea of something they’d like to do over the summer. As long as it doesn’t break bank and is practical and manageable, have an individual child’s suggestion day. If everyone has their turn, there’s less risk of complaints and resistance from the other children.

18.   Bring a friend along.
      The same activity on a different day, with a friend this time – effectively means it’s a different activity in your child’s eyes and everything is so much cooler and more fun with a friend. That goes for adults too. Consider teaming up with a kindred spirit and hit the park, playground or beach.

19.   A water fight.
      Fill the water guns. Stock up on water balloons, and take your position. Everyone loves water fights and even more if they have the opportunity to soak their parents too. So join in the fun, not because you’re an overgrown child of course –but because you’re trying to keep then kids happy 😉

20.   Board game marathon
      Another rainy day activity – though they can be taken outside if the sun shines too. Get out the board games and set up the teams and let the battle commence!

8 thoughts every parent has, three weeks into the Summer holidays

8 thoughts (some of which I may have voiced) every parent has three weeks into the summer holidays

1.   The sun is out hurray.  The school holidays haven’t been so bad this year. Oh I love the sun.  It’s so much easier to do things with the kids when it’s glorious like this.  I could get used to this weather.

2.   I’m such a good mother- the kids haven’t spent hours on the ipad or Wii.  They’ve been outdoors enjoying themselves. Well done me.  Technology is not rearing my child.  Wow, I can’t believe the fun they’re having with this paddling pool.  Best 15 euro I’ve ever spent.

3.   Oh for feck sake. Can no one dry their feet before they come inside?  The kitchen floor is covered in water and grass. Right, I’m getting everyone showered now.  I think they’ve had enough of it anyway.  Time to put the paddling pool away for the day. Oh you don’t want to come in? Ok so. Suppose we should takeadvantage of the sunshine. I love this weather

4.  I’ll keep an eye and make sure they don’t go inside again until they’ve dried their feet. Someone could slip on the kitchen floor.  The dog looks very hot. Hang on – one, two , three… six . Damn! Someone has gone inside …. Who owns these swimming jocks in the middle of the kitchen?!!!

5.   I wonder have they had enough fun yet?  Need to get them showered and get the dinner on. Oh for God’s sake has he no trunks on again? Get off the trampoline and put some underpants on now!!!

6.   Right that’s it.  Time to go in.  Last two minutes – I mean it now.  I’m counting to 120 in my head.  Where’s that water coming from? How did you turn that tap on?  Put down the hose! Aahhhhh my washing!!

7.   Ok, in now! This second! – shower time.  No you can’t go back in after your shower, not today. You can the next day. Because I said so. No, no, no. You can play on your ipad.  Well what about the Wii then? WHY IS THE KITCHEN FLOOR SOPPING AGAIN???!!!!!!!

8.  Oh my God, how can we be less than three weeks into the holidays?  How am I going to get through it? I’m putting a scissors through that bloody paddling pool.

                                                                                                      ………or is this just me?

 

Sports Day’s a comin’!

This week sees the annual occurrence that is sports day at my boys’ school. I had a vague recollection of it’s mention in the school newsletter a few weeks ago but watching my older lads running laps of the back garden while passing the dog’s toy to each other this weekend, in preparation for the relay and discovering my seven year old going through my husband’s tie drawer for a “nice colour” tie confirmed my suspicions that it was drawing ever closer. The countdown has begun and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that the weather will stay fine.

Experienced parents have booked their time off work and one first time Junior Infant parent asked me earlier “is it that big a deal?” My reply was “Oh yes – sports day is a huge deal”

Love it or loathe is, and I’m really not sure what camp I’m in, sports day is a huge deal for the kids and for several of the parents too. Yes it’s great to see our children having fun with their friends and, if your child is any way sporty, maybe even win a medal or two. The “it’s all about taking part” line, however, does not wash with all of the children, particularly those past Senior Infants for whom a medal is no longer guaranteed, just for taking part.  In this house, with children of extremely mixed sporting ability I know there will be tears and sadness on the day for some of them, when best efforts will still leave zero chance of coming anywhere.

I know it could be viewed as a life lesson but, as an adult, I’m not likely to put myself in a competitive environment for something I know I am absolutely brutal at, and I can handle disappointment slightly better than a child.

And speaking of competitive environments, the highlight of the day for many there will be the parent’s race! You will see some, kitted out in their top notch sports gear and expensive running shoes, laughing off suggestions that it’s anything but a “bit of craic” but discreetly warming up on the sidelines as they cheer on their sons in their races.  Toned and tanned limbs give away any misconception that these parents are anything other than seasoned runners, and they mean business. Elsewhere, the more reluctant sportsmen and sportwomen among us will panickedly try to think of excuses not to take part. I already, am lamenting an absent pregnancy bump for different reasons to usual. It has crossed my mind to just stick a cushion up my dress, after all I’m always pregnant and I think most of the parents from the school have lost count at this stage.  Would anyone even be suspicious?

Failing that I’ll just have to hope the organisers turn the tables on those magnificent sporty parents and that the parent’s race involves an egg and spoon!

 

Easter holidays

Excitement is steadily building, well amongst the kids anyway, as the Easter holidays are looming. The prospect of a longer than usual Easter break however, is filling parents everywhere with an impending sense of panic! My troops finish early on Wednesday and it’s been their main topic of conversation at the breakfast table these past two mornings as they chat away about their plans for the almost three week break from school! I say their plans, I have a slightly different take on things. 
The school holidays are a great break from the routine but without a few ideas and/or plans in place, boredom can quickly lead to frustration! Next thing you know mini Bruce Banners everywhere are turning into incredible hulks without the innate compulsion to do good! The weather this week has certainly set the scene and if we get anything similar to it over the Easter break we’ll be on the pig’s back. Much easier to find cheap and cheerful ways to occupy the children when the weather is good. I have decided to be proactive this year and have started a list of things we can and might do depending on the weather, which won’t break the bank. Thought I’d share a few that I’ve come up with so far
– play some of the games I played when I was younger such as rounders, kick the can, red rover, crocodile crocodile.
– visit a pet farm
– meet up with friends and cousins for a picnic
– baking
– cinema
– movie afternoon with curtains drawn and microwave popcorn
– take the older children to Kilmainham Gaol, especially with the year that’s in it.
– get everybody to do a self-portrait and make a collage
– make some lego
– have some of the kids friends over- go to the library
Of course I don’t plan to occupy their every waking minute. They have enough structure and organised activities throughout the school year and it’s so important that they can play freely and amuse themselves. All children need a chance to use their imaginations, create their own games, pretend to be superheroes and escape from reality. The list is partly for variety and partly for when the superheroes’ worlds collide! So if anyone has any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!