I hate the idea of summer holiday homework. Children have a constant bombardment of homework, things to do and things to remember whilst at school, so for six weeks I think they need a break. The holidays are a time for children to re-charge their batteries, have quality time with friends and family and experience different things.
However, I’m all for them keeping their brains ticking over and learning during the holidays.
I’ve developed an idea that came from my daughters’ infant school: Summer Holiday Challenges. These are just simple ideas for things to do, which stimulate, encourage creativity, teach a new skill or provide an experience. I’d say they’re suitable for ages 6-11.
Here are our Summer Holiday Challenges…
Go for a walk in the woods
Get back to nature, go on walks, identify flora and fauna (you could even get an i-SPY book on wild flowers and see how many you can spot). We’re huge fans of the National Trust. Visits to NT venues always stimulate a lot of discussion and they usually have a lot of activities on during the school holidays. However, local woods will do just fine.
Go for a journey on public transport
We walk or go by car for most journeys so a trip on public transport can be a bit of a novelty. Get children to check timetables, help plan the journey, purchase the tickets and then check the progress of the journey on maps. Keep the tickets to include in a scrap book or journal of the summer holidays. Check out Zip Oyster Cards, which provide free or heavily discounted London travel for children 5-10 & 11-15.
Sew some salad or vegetable seeds to harvest in autumn
Buy some seeds that are suitable for planting in the summer months and – crucially – are easy to grow. Let your children prepare the ground, sew them, label them and care for them. They’ll enjoy harvesting them, and are usually more open to eating/trying things they’ve grown themselves.
Visit a museum
There are so many free museums to visit. They might not all be on the scale of the British Museum, but you’re bound to find something that’s of interest and they usually have activities specifically for children.
Do something to help nature
Planting some wild flowers for bees, helping with recycling, feeding garden birds and picking up litter are just a few ideas.
Create an instrument with household items
From matchbox or cereal box guitars to homemade drums, maracas and even carrot recorders; anything that makes a noise is usually a winner.
Join the summer reading challenge at your local library
I always encourage reading over the summer holidays. For the past eight years, we’ve done the Summer Reading Challenge at our local library, which is organised by the Reading Agency. It doesn’t have to be just ‘reading books’, it can be information books, comic books or even a joke book!
Make a pavement chalk masterpiece
Get the chalks out and get creative. Perhaps take inspiration from Bert’s drawings in Mary Poppins! It’ll all wash away when it next rains so take a photo of your art.
Join the Big Butterfly count
This takes place between Friday 14th July and Sunday 6th August, 2023. You can download the identification chart and find out more details at https://www.bigbutterflycount.org/ Simply count and identify butterflies for 15 minutes during bright weather at a park, your garden, fields, forests or anywhere else butterflies hang out. You can take part multiple times. Not only is it a nice activity, but your data helps assess the health of our environment.
Build a den
Who doesn’t enjoy building a den? If the weather is rubbish, build a fortress inside. If the weather is good, get outside and use nature to build your den. Den building is one of the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ and they have some good tips: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/50-things-to-do
Press some flowers or leaves
Find some flowers and leaves to press (make sure they’re flowers you are allowed to pick). You don’t have to buy a flower press; a very heavy book will work fine. Just place the leaves and flowers between two pieces of kitchen towel before putting them inside the book. Patience is required as it’ll take at least two weeks for them to be properly pressed. The pressings can be used to make cards, bookmarks, art or to decorate something.
Organise a family games night
Dust off the board games, find the matching pairs set, get Kerplunk and Hungry Hippos out and even improvise with homemade targets/target golf. It doesn’t have to be a three-hour game of Monopoly; it can be a host of simpler games/games for younger children played in quick succession.
Write a letter or a postcard to someone
In this digital era people are putting pen to paper less often. It’s always lovely to receive some ‘nice’ post so get scribbling. Just ask someone how they’re doing, tell them what you’ve been up to; they’ll really appreciate it.
Try a new food
Get them to be adventurous and try a new food or dish. If you’re on holiday in another country, it’s a great opportunity for kids to try something different. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it, just encourage them to give it a go!
Try a free maths app
Find a maths app together that they can play. A few you could try include: DoodleMaths, King of Maths and Pet Bingo.
Find a recipe and make a shopping list of ingredients
Get children involved in the meal planning. This gives them the opportunity to make decisions about what they’d like to eat and also shows them the process of getting food to the table! For some inspiration check out my post: Family Meal Inspiration for 2019
Learn to count to ten in another language
Get the kids learning a few words of another language, it could come in handy! There are plenty of online resources and books from your library that can help. There’s also the BBC’s The Lingo Show for younger linguists.
Spot and identify birds visiting your garden
We’re big fans of our feathered friends. We have the i-SPY Birds books to help identify visitors to our garden and make a bit of a challenge out of it (check out other i-Spy books here. They’re great boredom busters). The RSPB also has a designated children’s’ section with lots of information, games and activities: https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-kids
Prepare a simple meal for the family
Help choose something age appropriate that your child can make independently. They’ll love doing it and will be proud of themselves. They will also be more inclined to eat it! My children are big fans of Matilda and The Ramsay Bunch: Tilly’s Kitchen Takeover. There are lots of simple recipes and sweet treats in there.
Learn how to play a card game
This could be a game that’s new to all of you or one to teach your child. Some of our favourite ones are Beat your Neighbour, Knock and Pig. Solo card games are also good to learn as are any of the Rummy variants. When my daughter was eight, we taught her how to play Crib. She loves it.
Here’s some inspiration: