A great source for free entertainment

Libraries are a great source of entertainment and learning. Some of the basic things that a library has to offer are:

• Books (for all ages and all types)
• Toys
• DVDs
• CDs
• Internet access
• Printers
• Craft activities
• Story time
• School holiday activities

Many libraries also have a wide range of holiday activities that are great for the kids. They are a free source of entertainment that never wears thin as there is always something new to look at or a different event being run.

Taking your children to the library is a fantastic way to encourage them to read and learn. The libraries do all that they can to make the thought of reading entertaining and colourful for those children that desire to watch a DVD or play a computer game instead. Though they do offer those for hire as well it’s fantastic to get children to read and socialise with other kids in activities and story time.

Though the act of hiring is free, there is always the risk of those pesky over due fees that seem to build up as you forget to return the books in your busy life. A trip to return them is out of your way as you take your kids to school or you go to work. Or maybe you just haven’t finished reading a book or haven’t watched that DVD that you hired yet. It’s all easily fixable from the comfort of your own home now. Now you can simply renew your items online for many libraries so check out their site. You can even reserve a book online so next time you visit it’ll be there waiting for you.

Check out your library’s website to see what school holiday activities are happening in the libraries near you!

Win a travel game – and some quiet in the car!

Any parent knows that car trips (as well as plane, bus, train and boat trips!) can be very long when there is a bored child or two with you. With an ickle kids travel game, the kids will have something to do  – giving you a break from “are we there yet?”

Simply visit the ickle kids site answer a simple question on the entry form on their site before 15th April and you could be the winner! Good luck!

Fun in the garden

Kids love being in the dirt and they are infinitely curious, so the garden is a great place to entertain them during the holidays.

Being in the garden gives them fresh air, exercise, interaction with nature, a chance to learn and a calming influence. it can also mean time with mum, dad or another loved adult.

Some of the activities to try in the garden are:

  • plant some seeds and watch them grow – talk about how the biggest trees used to be seeds, the life cycle in general, what plants need to survive, etc
  • give each child a patch of garden to call their own – they choose what to plant there and they are responsible for that patch. They love it, will be proud of their ownership and it teaches them responsibility in a gentle way
  • walk around and feel the different textures. Add a challenge by blindfolding each other and leading them around or handing them samples to identify by touch alone
  • map your garden
  • discuss how you could redesign your garden – you don’t have to do it, but let each child make their own design
  • make a possum house or bird bath/feeder and hang them in your garden, then watch the creatures that use it
  • make a chart of where the sun is in your garden across the course of a day – explain how that can be useful in deciding where to put certain plants, and talk about why the sunlight moves
  • use things found in the garden for some artwork – rubbings, collages, stick frames, etc
  • simply get the kids to help with routine tasks, they will love the watering and harvesting bits more than weeding but all help is a benefit!
  • get the kids to make a compost pile or a worm farm
  • teach older kids how to mow the lawn – if you have a hand-powered mower, let the kids compete
  • turn over some rocks and sticks and observe the life underneath
  • look for spider webs and keep track of how long they last, if their shapres change, how many flies are caught in there and so on

School holiday programs

Many schools, councils, YMCAs, community centres and museums run school holiday programs. And then there are places like libraries that run holiday sessions, although parents may need to stay for these ones.

While many parents use these programs as childcare when they work or study, these programs can also be used for other reasons. Usually, kids love these programs and have a lot of fun, and the occasional program day breaks up the monotony of holidays at home.

School holiday programs can be educational and allow children to socialise with other children – children of mixed ages and from various schools are often there so your child is exposed to new people and ideas.

As there is such a variety of programs available, you can avoid any that you aren’t comfortable with. And you can choose which days of the program to send your children to.

All day programs can be registered as childcare organisations which means you may be able to get a child care benefit subsidy on the program fees.

Reading is fun!

A really good use of holiday time is doing some reading – and that applies to parents,Reading image too of course!

Reading takes us away from the everyday and lets us experience another world which develops our creativity, understanding of others, sense of wonder and broadens our horizons.

In our article bank, there is an article about encouraging children to read - it includes ideas such as giving challenge books, choosing books about their interests and showing them you reading.

Some ways to have fun with your kids and books over the holidays are:

  • set up a chart and record each book read by each member of your family. The person who reads the most in a week gets a reward of choosing dinner, buying a new book, not washing dishes for a week or whatever works in your family. If there is a big discrepancy in reading abilities, maybe count pages read instead of entire books
  • read a book together – take turns reading, each of you read a particular character’s voice or someone reads it out as the others act out the story
  • set the challenge that everyone must read the book before you can see the movie – and then discuss the differences afterwards
  • for kids who love the internet or need to build computer skills, get them to search for reviews or information about a book they’re reading
  • once a week, do something related to a book being read. For example, go a on picnic after reading Teddy Bear’s Picnic, or follow the characters in a story by going on a bike ride, baking a cake, visit a farm, walk to the park, do some craft work, invite friends over, cook a dinner party or…
  • set up family discussions where you talk about favourite books and characters
  • join in activities at your local library
  • choose a book or story and rewrite the ending of it – you could make it a funny ending, sad ending, ridiculous ending or even a cliff-hanger

What other ways are there to bring books to life and enjoy them with your children?

Cooking time!

Some children cook well while others never get the chance to cook at home so we thought we’d look at the advantages and disadvantages at cooking with children.

Advantages to children cooking:

  • they love it – it is fun!
  • it is a great thing to do together
  • it is a valuable life skill – imagine your 25 year old child living away from home on take away because they can’t cook
  • it builds their maths skills (measuring cups, using scales, comparing weights, adjusting recipe sizes, cooking times, etc)
  • you can show that maths is useful in real life
  • they can practice their reading by reading the recipe for you
  • it can spark all sorts of interesting conversations – everyone’s favourites and least favourites, where ingredients come from, how things are grown and processed, the origins of the recipe you’re using, different forms of cooking, use of technology in cooking, different foods and rules in different cultures, nutrition, etc
  • they can see a result for their efforts
  • you can include a shopping trip as part of the cooking experience – again, there is use of maths, time together and learning a valuable life skill
  • they can learn patience waiting for something to bake or set
  • they are more likely to try different foods/ingredients if they have been involved in the preparation
  • children learn respect and proper use of sharp knives, stoves, ovens, graters, etc
  • children can learn some hygiene basics
  • you can teach them how to tidy after themselves – and how to do things like wash dishes!

Disadvantages of kids in the kitchen:

  • it requires your time and supervision
  • it can get messy
  • there is potential danger (knives, heat, etc)
  • you may need to go shopping for ingredients if you don’t usually have them

but all those disadvantages can be dealt with by changing your perspective – messy may be an inconvenience, but it’s fun and a learning experience so is often a small price to pay!

School holidays for parents

School holidays – eagerly looked forward to by students, somewhat dreaded by parents. Parents know they will have to deal with bored kids, no regular groups/classes, childcare as they work and many disruptions they don’t get through term time.

Parents also look forward to less rushed mornings (no 9am bells!), time with their children, no homework and not having to keep up uniforms and packed lunches.

So we’re starting this category on the blog to help parents make the most of school holidays – let’s face, you’re likely to have 3 or 4 sets of holidays every year for over 10 years so you may as well get used to them!

If you have any suggestions for school holiday activities or coping strategies, please add them as comments or use our contact form to share them with us.