screen free activities

Screen-free ideas to keep the kids happy and entertained

With the summer holidays just around the corner I’ve been starting to think of things to do to with the children to keep us all happy and entertained.

I’m generally quite relaxed with my children using the computer and the tablet but I’m very aware that if I let them they could easily spend the whole six weeks in front of a screen.

Last year we did a couple of completely screen-free days in the summer and I think we’ll do that again this year.  As well as making a point to do more screen-free activities in general.

If this is something you’re thinking of doing with your children too, then here are some ideas for things you can do that don’t involve a screen of any sort!

 

Draw a life-size self portrait.

Grab a big roll of paper (or stick smaller pieces together to make a big piece) and draw a self portrait.   They can lie down on the paper and you can draw round them to get their size right.

If you have more than one child then they can draw each other once they’ve drawn themselves.

 

Blow bubbles

So simple but still a lot of fun.

You can buy a pot of bubbles, a big bubble wand, or go all out and get a giant bubble kit.  You can keep extend this activity a bit more too by getting the children to make up some homemade bubble mixture.

 

Have a Lego competition

See who can build the biggest tower.  Or the most creative house.  Anything you can think of really.

 

Build a domino run

Make it as elaborative as you can.  If you don’t have dominoes, use books or blocks or whatever you have.

 

Have a go at some origami

Get a book from the library, or search online and print out some instructions for a few things to make.  Gift boxes are quite simple to make and can then be used to put homemade goodies in to give to friends and family.

 

Have a picnic

Make up some sandwiches, grab some crisps, fruit and a sweet treat and have a picnic.

You can go to the park, the beach, your back garden or your living room floor.  It really doesn’t matter where you go, the children will just love the fun of having a picnic instead of a normal meal!

 

Go on a nature walk

Head to the nearest park or woods and go on a nature walk.  If you’re organised you could write a little list of things to spot while you’re out, like a scavenger hunt.

 

Make boats

Rescue that plastic tub from the recycling bin and use it to make a boat, complete with paper sail, and then float it around in the bath.   You could also try making rafts out of lolly sticks glued together and see what floats the best.

 

Make paper aeroplanes

Get some paper in different sizes and have a go at making paper planes.  There are tons of paper plane designs on fold ‘n fly so your children can make loads and see which design flies the best.

 

Make mudpies/play in a mud kitchen

Put some old pots, pans, spoons and dishes out in the garden and let the children get nice and mucky playing in the mud.

 

Play a board game

Go through the cupboards and dig out those boardgames you’ve not played in ages.

If you’ve not got many, then pop to the local charity shop to see if they have any, or let the children get creative and make their own.

 

Bake something

Get in the kitchen and whip up some fairy cakes or flapjacks.

 

Go for a bike ride/scooter ride

Whether it’s round the garden, through the park or somewhere a bit different, heading out for a bike ride or a scoot is a great way to let the children burn off some energy.

 

Play a game of catch

So simple, but still such good fun.  If you have three people you can play piggy in the middle and with more people you can play a game like hot potato.

 

Write a letter

Or make a card to send to a friend.

 

Go to the park

 

Go to the library

And choose some new books to take home.  Most libraries also have DVDs available so you can choose something to watch when your screen-free day is over.

 

Make a kite and go fly it

 

Play spies/detectives

If you’re feeling creative you can set up a mystery at home for your little detectives to solve.  Or they can have fun writing with invisible ink and creating codes to send messages to each other.

 

Cook something savoury

Get the children to pick something new to make for lunch or dinner.  It could be as simple as scrambled eggs on toast or something a bit more complicated.

 

Learn a lifeskill

Teach your children a skill that’ll be useful for them to know, like sewing on a button or making a cup of tea.  Or step it up a gear and go to a first aid course together.

 

Learn a new random skill or trick 

Something like how to say ‘hello’ in ten different languages.  Or some tricks with a yo yo, a skateboard or a football.

 

Go swimming

Whether it’s at the beach, the local pool or splashing around in the paddling pool at home.

 

Visit a museum or art gallery

There must be at least one in your local area that you’ve not been to before!

 

Play giant noughts and crosses

Mark out a grid with chalk on the patio and use rocks and sticks as the game pieces.

 

Make a bird feeder

If you’re not sure how then there are 32 different ideas in this post from Happy Hooligans.

 

Paint their nails

Then let them paint yours too.

 

Put on blindfolds and do some taste tests

You can get a selection of different fruits to taste and see if they know what they all are and decide which one is their favourite.  Or you could work out once and for all if you’re a Coke or a Pepsi person by doing a blind taste test.

 

Do a random act of kindness

Tape some money to a vending machine so the next person to come along can treat themselves.  Take some of the cakes you’ve baked round to your neighbour.  Buy a bunch of flowers for a friend.

 

Learn some photography skills

If your children are old enough then take some time to teach them how to use your camera.  Or you could buy some disposable film cameras and go on a photo walk together.  Then you have the fun of waiting for them to be developed to see what everyone captured on film.

 

Learn and play some card games

You can start with the basics like snap and then learn some more complicated games.  Solitaire is a great one to learn too, because you don’t need another person with you to be able to play.

 

Make your own magazine or comic

Grab some paper and pens and get creative.  My sister and I did this one year, but we each made a magazine for each other.  We included horoscopes, quizzes, tips and all sorts!

 

Do some science experiments

Get some education in with the fun and try out some science experiments together.  You can buy science experiment kits with pretty much everything you need to get started.  Or you can have a go at some experiments that use things you probably already have at home.

 

 

Hopefully there are enough ideas here to keep you and the children happy and occupied throughout the summer holidays!

What are your go-to activities when you want your child to have some screen-free time?

Use this trick to work out what your toddler wants

Work out what your toddler wants with this little trick

A friend of mine was at my house the other day, and she was talking to Nerys about how when she was just a toddler it was hard at times to understand what she was saying.

We were laughing about all the times I basically had to act as a translator for her; deciphering what Nerys was trying to tell her.

I know that I was pretty in tune with the way she spoke and, for the most part, I knew what she was saying.  There were times though that even I couldn’t make sense of the scribble coming out of her mouth.

And this stage where communication is so hard can be incredibly frustrating for us as parents and for our children.  There is one thing you can do though to make life a bit easier when you’re trying to work out what your toddler wants and what they’re trying to tell you.

 

Make everything easier for both of you by asking close-ended questions.

So instead of asking what your hungry and frustrated toddler wants to eat as a snack, take them to the kitchen and ask them “would you like this?” about each snack you can think of.  Now I know this sounds tedious, but honestly it’s so much better than you both getting wound up when you don’t know that your child saying “dices” means that they want apple slices!

 

If you’re at the park and they’re getting upset, if you ask them a simple “why” then they might not have the vocabulary to explain it to you.

So asking them questions that need just a “yes” or “no” answer is a better option. 

Ask questions like “did you hurt yourself?”, “are you having trouble climbing up to the slide?” and “is it hard waiting for your turn on the swings”.  It might take a while to get to the right question, but it’s generally less frustrating than trying to understand the garbled ramblings of a frustrated 2 year old.

 

On a side-note, this strategy of avoiding open-ended questions with toddlers is also great for things like getting them dressed in the morning.

It’s much easier all round if, instead of asking “what do you want to wear today?”, you ask them do they want to wear the blue top or the green top today.  They still feel like they’ve ultimately made the choice and been in control, and you don’t have to wait for ages while they pull all the clothes out of the cupboard and mull over all their options.

 

Hopefully this little trick will help make things a bit easier for you while you’re in that developmental stage where communication is a bit tough.

Although you do need to accept that there will be times where, no matter what you try, you just won’t be able to work out what your child is trying to tell you.

When Rhys was younger he used to talk about ‘bisser car’ and honestly it took me weeks and weeks to work out he wanted his toy Mator.  Turns out he had heard the words ‘disney pixar cars’ on an advert for the film and held on to the ‘pixar car’ bit as a name for Mator.

Yeah.  I was quite proud of myself when I finally worked that one out!

 

Do you struggle to understand your child or are you generally quite in tune with them?

Have you tried using this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question strategy when you can’t quite get what they’re telling you?

Hide your chocolate stash

The trick you need to know to keep your secret chocolate stash hidden

There’s a joke I’ve seen a few times since I’ve become a parent, about how our children can’t hear us when we ask them to put their shoes on 15 times but they can hear a chocolate wrapper being opened from the other side of the house.

If you find in your family that your supplies of chocolate are constantly being raided by your children (and most likely your partner) then this sneaky trick is for you.  It’s an idea for the perfect hiding place to keep your stash a secret.

 

Get your favourite chocolate bars and stash them inside the packaging of a really healthy food item that your children will never voluntarily open up.

I’m thinking things like the box of Ryvita in the cupboard.  Or tuck the chocolate behind the veg in the fridge.  If you like your chocolate frozen then you can hide it in an empty bag of frozen vegetables.

 

Of course if your children are little health nuts then you might want to find a different place to hide your secret pile of chocolate bars.

Or maybe you’ve been rumbled and need to find a new spot.

In that case here are some ideas for other places you can stash your chocolate:

  • In a container tucked away with the cleaning supplies
  • At the bottom of a box of cereal that the children don’t like.  Think Beth hiding the piles of cash in Good Girls
  • The back of your underwear drawer
  • Under your bed
  • At the back of your filing cabinet/with all the boring paperwork
  • Bottom of a tissue box
  • Behind the books on the shelf, or get a hollow book to hide them in

 

The important thing here is to hide things well enough that your children don’t find them, but not so well that you forget where you’ve hidden them.

 

Do you ever hide treats from your family?  Where’s the best hiding place you’ve come up with?

Quick cleaning tips busy parents need to know

Quick cleaning tips for busy parents

I have come to accept over the years that I will never be a domestic goddess.

I’ll never be a member of the Hinch army and my home will never be pristine and spotless.

What I would like though is to feel just that bit more on top of things when it comes to keeping the house clean and tidy.  If you’re like me and want some quick tips on having a cleaner home without worrying about keeping up with the Hinchers then this post is for you.

 

Here are some of the best cleaning tips I’ve found to make things easier for busy parents.

 

1) Work from top to bottom

This is such a logical thing to do, but something that we might not always think about.

The thing with cleaning is that you want to be as quick and efficient as possible, and you really don’t want to end up needing to do a job twice.  So start at the top of the room and work your way down.  Dust all the shelves and wipe down surfaces so that any dust falls on to the floor.  Then hoover the room last to pick it all up.

Another tip like this is to start in one corner of the room and basically work your way out.

 

2) Clean as you go

This is something I’m really trying to get in the habit of doing.

Instead of leaving jobs to pile up I’m working on tackling them as they come up.  For me this means taking 2 minutes to wash up the board and knife I’ve used to make a sandwich and wipe down the kitchen worktop before I sit down to eat lunch.

It can also be things like putting the junk mail in the recycling as soon as you pick it up from the letterbox.  Putting the dishes straight into the dishwasher after a meal rather than putting them down on the counter.  Hanging up clean clothes as soon as they’re dry instead of putting them on the bed to hang up later.

You see the idea here.

If the job will take just a few minutes to do, then do it there and then instead of leaving if for later.

 

3) Find a routine that works for you (and then stick to it)

If you go on Pinterest you can find so many different cleaning routines that you can try.  As well as advice on how to create your own routine that fits perfectly with your life.

The beauty of a routine is that once you get into it it takes most of the thinking out of cleaning.  You don’t look around the house wondering where to start or what task to tackle next.  You just follow the routine.

I’ve recently discovered The Organised Mum Method and this is the routine I’m planning on following for a bit to see if it suits me and my family.  It’s a really popular routine created by a busy mum and is designed to be nice and quick to complete each day.

If this routine isn’t the one for you, then Clean Mama and FlyLady are also worth a look to see if their methods suit your lifestyle better.

 

4) Put on a playlist and set a timer

There’s a rule that says work expands to fit the time we allocate to it.  So if we allow an hour to clean the kitchen then we’ll take that long to do it, but if we give ourselves just 30 minutes we can most likely do it in that time too.

So set yourself a timer, find an upbeat playlist of music to listen to it and get going.

 

5) Let the children help

If you have young children chances are they’ll be really keen to get involved and help you with the cleaning.

And yes, it’s not always all that helpful when they join in but there are things they can do so that you can tackle other jobs.  They can put their toys away while you dust the shelves.  They can help you load the washing machine.  You can give them a damp cloth so they can wipe the kitchen cupboard doors while you do the washing up.

Going with the flow and letting them help is generally better than trying to do it all yourself with them under your feet.

And studies have shown that children who are allowed to help with these sorts of things when they’re really little are more likely to keep pitching in with household jobs as they get older.

 

6) Stash first, sort later

If you want the house tidied in a hurry, go round each room and stash anything that doesn’t belong in there in a laundry basket.

This clears up the space so you can actually see the floors to hoover them, and clears table tops so you can wipe them down.

Later on when you have another spare 10 minutes you can go and put all the items back where they belong.

 

7) Let your cleaning products work for you

First of all, find a good multipurpose cleaning spray that you can use on all the different surfaces around the house.

Then make sure you let it do as much of the hard work as possible for you.

So when you’re cleaning the bathroom, spray the cleaner all round the bath and sink, then leave it while you clear up the clutter, empty the bins and so on.  Then when you go back to the bath and sink they’ll be much easier to clean down without needing to scrub too much.

 

8) Never leave a room empty handed

This is more of a tidying tip than a cleaning tip but it’s a useful one to keep in mind.

Each time you leave a room have a quick look round and see if there’s anything that needs to be taken where you’re going.  For example, take your coffee cup with you when you go from the lounge to the kitchen.

It doesn’t take any extra effort to do it, but saves you having to return lots of things in one go later on in the day.

 

 

How many of these tips do you use on a regular basis?  Do you have any other quick cleaning tips that I’ve not mentioned here?

I’d love to hear them if you do!

Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

The older my children get, the more I’m aware of how important it is to make sure we communicate with each other.

I want them to know that they can tell me anything, that they’re safe to talk through their feelings and tell me about anything that’s bothering them.  There have already been times where Rhys has taken quite a while to let us in and tell us when something has been playing on his mind.

There is a psychological trick that I’m keeping in mind for the next time it seems like he’s not told us everything and it’s something you can try too if you feel that your child isn’t telling you the whole story.

Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

 

When you feel like there’s more to the story than your child is telling you, simply keep quiet.

Keep looking at them expectantly, but keep quiet.

 

Chances are they’ll start talking again and reveal more information or tell you more about how they’re feeling.

Something about the almost awkward silence and the eye contact with you will, more often than not, prompt them to fill the silence with more information.  If you want to you can add in a little eyebrow raise that subtly lets them know you’re expecting a bit more, and also communicates that you’re interested in what they’re saying.

 

I’m not sure how well this would work with toddlers and really young children, but with older children it is a useful trick to know if you feel like you’re only getting half the story.  And I have a feeling it’ll come in handy when we hit the teenage years too.

You can use this on other people too.

Lets say you have a feeling a work colleague isn’t telling you everything about a recent meeting that you weren’t part of, try this trick of staying quiet and maintaining eye contact and see if they’ll give up a bit more info.

Pretty much any time you feel like you’re not being told the whole story, give this little trick a try and see what other information comes trickling out.

 

Have you ever tried this with your children?  Do you have any other advice or tips for these situations where you feel like your child isn’t telling you everything?

5 minute warning

The power of the 5 minute warning

There are some things that I do as a parent that feel so obvious that I think twice before I write about them on here.  Because it seems like something that every other parent must be doing too.

This 5 minute warning is one of those things.

I’m sure most parents already know about this and do some version or another of it with their children.

This post though is for the parents out there who haven’t heard of it before, and are struggling with getting their children to transition from one activity to another.  Or who face battles every time they tell them it’s time to leave the park.  Maybe first-time parents who are only just entering the world of toddlers and haven’t had to think about this sort of thing.

If this is you, then keep reading to find out about this brilliant little tip to help stop all sorts of battles with your children as they get older.

 

The 5 minute warning is as simple as it sounds.

It’s where you give your child a warning that in 5 minutes time they’ll need to do something.

 

So when they’re busy playing with their toys, give them a 5 minute warning that lunch is nearly ready and they’ll need to stop playing to eat.

Or if you need to head out to play group, let them know 5 minutes ahead of time that they’ll need to turn CBeebies off and put their shoes on.

 

Basically, whenever there’s going to be a change in activity of any sort, give your child a warning about 5 minutes ahead of time.  This gives them a chance to finish up what they’re doing, instead of having to just stop abruptly.

 

So much of parenting toddlers and young children comes down to feelings of power and control.

As parents we need to be the ones in control, but we also need to acknowledge that our children need to feel some kind of power over their lives.  If they’re playing happily at the park and we, out of the blue, tell them it’s time to leave they’ll most likely get upset and angry.

It’s not fair.

They’re having fun and aren’t ready to leave yet, and we’ve just decided out of nowhere (as far as they’re concerned) that it’s time to go.  Letting them know that it’s nearly time to go gives them a chance to prepare.  It lets them do the things they want to do a few more times, to finish up any games they’re in the middle of.  It puts a bit of control back in their hands.

Especially if you ask them what they want to do with those 5 minutes. 

Do they want to go down the slide 5 more times, or have one last go on the swings?

Letting them choose how to spend those last 5 minutes lets them feel like they have some control over what’s happening, and makes it more likely that when the time is up they’ll leave happily with you.

 

My children are 5 and 8 now and we still use the 5 minute warning every day.

We use it in the mornings so they know they’ll need to stop playing soon to go and brush their teeth.  I use it after school when they’re playing with their friends in the woods and it’s nearly time to head home.  And when it’s nearly bedtime we use it so they know they’ll have to stop watching whatever it is they’re watching on YouTube soon.

Now they’re a bit older we’ve found that this rule can be negotiated with at times, so that everyone is happier.

If one of the children is watching something that is on for another 8 minutes then we can agree that bedtime will be when it’s finished, rather than in the 5 minutes we said.  But giving them that warning means that they’re prepared at least for that particular video to be the last one they watch before heading upstairs.

 

I have a feeling that this idea of a 5 minute warning is something that we’ll keep using long after it stops being a necessary ‘parenting tool’.

Do you use it in your house or is this something you’ve not really thought about before?

Mother holding child's hand

Try this little trick to keep your toddler safe in car parks

If you have more than one young child then you’ll know how stressful it can be trying to keep everyone safe while getting them in and out of the car.  It’s a bit of a juggling act, making sure your toddler is safe while you strap the baby into their seat.

Even if you have a system for sorting the toddler first and then the baby, whether you’re getting them in or out of the car, there are still bound to be times when you need to turn your back for a second to grab something from the car.  And things get even more tricky if you add another child to the mix.

If you do find you worry about keeping your toddler safely by your car when you’re in a car park or by the side of the road, then this little trick can help.

Mother holding child's hand

 

Challenge them to keep one hand on a certain spot on the car until it’s time to go or to get in the car.

 

I did this with my children when they were younger and it worked brilliantly.  I used to get Rhys to stand with one hand on the little fuel door while I got Nerys out of the car.

The little door is just the right size for little hands and you can make this into a fun challenge, getting them to keep touching the car, rather than just telling them to stand still by the car.

 

You can actually get magnets and vinyl stickers with hand-prints on them that you can put on your car to make it even easier for little children to know where to put their hands to stay safe in car parks.  These are a great idea if your child needs a little something more to make this special for them.  Their own special spot on the car to place their hand.

 

It might take a bit of time to teach them, and of course you still need to be watching them as much as you possibly can, but this little touch-the-car challenge for children is so handy as a way of keeping them close to the car and out of harm’s way.

 

Do you do this with your children?  Or do you have a specific system for getting everyone in and out of the car each time?  I’d love to hear what you do in the comments!