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Entertaining your kids can be a tricky business at the best of times, and it's even more difficult during holidays.

We've put our thinking caps on and come up with 41 great ways to keep your kids busy, whatever the weather and their age.

So, if you're desperate to drag them away from the TV and games console, we've got 41 ways to keep your kids busy, no matter what age they are.

 

1. Get them in the kitchen

There are loads of simple recipes you can try out with your children. If you're concerned about them getting things in and out of the oven, then why not try making chocolate crispy bars, which have to be chilled in the fridge. If they really love it, then why not challenge them to come up with different sandwich fillings for their tea? They many not particularly enjoy the results, but you're teaching them about taste, as well as having fun! - See our cooking with kids recipes here
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: As soon as they can reach the table or worktops

 

2. Go fly a kite

Brighten up a windy day by going outside and flying a kite. You can buy kites from most toy shops, or you could have a go at making your own.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 5+

3. Teach them cross-stitch

Cross stitch is enjoying a new lease of life and is a great way to get kids involved in arts and craft. You can get special kits designed for younger children, so they won't hurt themselves on the needles and the pattern will be easier to follow.
Find out how to cross stitch here Best for: Girls
Age: 7+

4. Make paper planes

Use up all that scrap paper that was destined for the recycling and build a fleet of paper airplanes. Then you can launch them from an upstairs window, or in the back garden. You could make different kinds and see which one flies the furthest.
- Find ideas for different designs of planes
Best for: Boys
Age: 5+

5. Write a story

Use your imaginations and write a story together. It doesn't have to be original, the kids could write down their favourite fairy tale and just change the ending if they feel like it. Another great idea is to write chain stories with friends. Each person writes a paragraph and then shows the final line only to the next writer. Once the final person has written their section, read the whole story out loud - it's usually pretty funny!
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 6+

6. Host a dance party

Invite around some of your daughter's friends, get a bunch of their
favourite CDs and let them dance til they drop. All you'll have to do is
provide drinks and snacks!
Best for: Girls
Age: 8+

7. Tire them out

Indoor play centres are becoming more and more popular. They're great fun, safe and allow you to relax while your kids run riot without fear of injury. Activities include bouncing on trampolines, go up foam staircases and then coming down slides, climbing rigging and jumping into ball pits.
- For your nearest soft play centre, search at Ideas for the Kids
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 4-12

8. Tie-dyeing

It may conjure up images of hippies, but tie-dyeing is a great way of jazzing up some of your kids old clothes and it's fun to do. Basically, you gather up, fold, and tie your t-shirt (or other item of clothing) with rubber bands or string and leave it to soak in fabric dye. When we spoke to Kirstie Allsopp, she told us tie-dying was her favourite, fail-safe craft to do with her kids!
- If you're a tie-dye virgin, here are some simple instructions
Best for: Girls
Age: 9+

9. Make a scavenger hunt

Come up with a list of odd and fun items for your kids to find. They can
hunt around the house or your garden.

Suggested items can be: a cancelled stamp, a straw, a rubber band, a
penny dated in a particular decade (before the kids were born, or
perhaps have them find one in the year the birthday child was born), a
toothpick. If you live in the country, or go to a park, some suggestions
are a pine cone, a worm, a bug, a white rock, something red, a feather.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 8+

10. Make a sundial

Teach your kids how people used to tell the time before clocks and watches were invented. All you need is a compass to find out where north is and then put a stick in the ground and watch the shadow change position as the sun moves.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 7+

 

11. Get them gardening

Growing plants is great fun and it's even more fun, if they can watch
their work get bigger and flower in front of their eyes. There are lots
of plants that even a young child can grow without too much trouble,
from small trees to herbs and vegetables. If you don't have a garden, then a window box or small pots are the answer and it won't matter what time of year you plant them. Try growing herbs like basil, parsley or cress - that way they can eat them once they've grown.
Best for: Girls and boys
- Check out our 10 fun gardening ideas for kids Age: 5+

12. Play some sport

Most local leisure centres have loads of opportunities to learn new sports, from martial arts to badminton, football to trampolining, swimming to tennis. What's more, they usually provide the equipment so you won't have to shell out for lots of expensive kit, until they're totally hooked!
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 7+

13. Catch some water

If you've got them interested in gardening then you can make some
gardening accessories, like a rain catcher. Take a large jar and mark
lines half an inch apart going up the line jar. Leave it outside with
the lid off to collect water when it rains. Your child will also be able
to see how much rainfall there has been before watering his plants.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 6+

14. Make a wormery

If you're feeling really green-fingered, then you can also try helping them collect worms for their own wormery. Just after it rains is the best time to hunt for worms. Once you've collected five or so then put them in a large Tupperware box or old ice-cream tub with some soil. Make holes in the top so they can breathe. Then you'll be able to feed the worms food scraps, including eggshells and vegetable peelings. The worms will make great compost, which you'll be able to use in your garden.
Best for: Boys
Age: 7+

15. Become a model maker

What kid doesn't love getting his hands dirty? Get some modelling clay, a plastic knife and mould away. You can even buy self-hardening clay if you want them to become permanent.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 8+

 

16. Check out your local library

If you haven't managed to create a bookworm, then this could be the
perfect place to start. There's something for everyone here, regardless
of whether they're a sports buff, adventure fan or prefer something more
romantic and girly. Best of all, if they find some they like, it costs
nothing to take them out!
- Find your local library
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 6+

17. Play a board game

Encourage your child's competitive streak and break out a fast-paced game like Connect 4, Cranium or Scattergories. You'll be surprised how quickly they get into it. Beware of arguments, though, when either you or your daughter start losing?!
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 7+

18. Take a walk

Whether you live in a city, town or the country, there will be places to go they've never been before. Think of somewhere with spectacular views, or a part of your local area that's has lots of history attached to it - the local cemetery is often a great bet with kids. If you're not sure where to go, your local library can help you with some ideas.
- Get started with Walking Routes
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 6+

 

19. Go down on the farm

Introduce your children to animals by taking them to a farm. Even if you
live in a city, there are lots of city farms around the country, and
many of them cost peanuts to get into. It's also a great opportunity to get up close to wildlife, if your child's only previous contact has been with a cat or dog.
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 4+

20. Catch a movie

DVDs may be easier to get your hands on, but nothing beats the thrill of
a trip to the local cinema. If you're on a budget, many have a Saturday
morning kids film. Alternatively, it's always cheaper to go during the
day.
Best for: Boys and girls
Age: 7+

21. Take them to the seaside

You're never that far from the beach in the UK, and even if the sun's
not shining, it can be great fun, walking along the beach looking for
'lost treasure'. You can find crabs and barnacles in rock pools, lots of
shells and amazing coloured pebbles.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 5+

22. Find an old ruin

Castles are magical places and capture the imagination of most boys and
girls, who love crossing moats, running up and down spiral staircases
and looking at cannons.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 6+

23. Visit a museum

We know they spell boredom to many people, but lots of museums are free
now and have made great efforts to be interesting for kids. - Try these brilliant free museums in the UK
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 7+

24. Take them to your grandparents

Most kids love visiting gran and grandad and this time, why not get your
son or daughter to ask them what it was like when they were kids. What
did they do to pass the time? What were their favourite toys? Did they
watch TV? They'll be surprised by the answers.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 9+

25. Make a treasure hunt

OK, so this means a bit of work on your behalf, but why not write some clues and then hide some treats around your house and garden for your children to find. Solve the clues and they'll get the prize!
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 5+

 

26. Go bowling

Get your fancy shoes on and try and score a strike. There are loads of
bowling alleys all round the country and, if your young ones find it a
little too tough, they can put bumpers down the gutters to make it
easier.
- Find your nearest bowling alley
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 6+

27. Get them to make a map

You draw the squares on a large sheet of paper and see how easy they
find it to draw the local neighbourhood. Get them to imagine they're a
bird in the sky looking down. Not as easy as it sounds.
Best for: Boys
Age: 9+

28. Have a karaoke competition

If you have a games console, then something like SingStar
is fantastic. Alternatively, karaoke CDs cost very little from music stores. Make sure you sing along to some of the songs as well. There's nothing like embarrassing yourself to entertain your kids!
Best for: Girls
Age: 8+

29. Put a play on

Encourage your child's creative side, by finding a box of dressing-up clothes and get them to come up with a story for a play. You might need to help them with some ideas (princess trapped in a castle; stranded on a desert island are two). Don't forget you'll also have to sit through the performance.
Best for: Girls
Age: 6+

 

30. Teach them to knit

OK, so this one's probably for the girls, although some boys might be interested. Don't know how to knit yourself? This site should provide you with some inspiration

- Never done it yourself? Here are some handy beginner's tips plus we've got plenty of free knitting patterns, like Peppa here, to keep you busy
Best for: Girls
Age: 7+

31. Go pond dipping

Get your kids to discover a bit about nature just by visiting your local
pond: all you need is a net or plastic carton and a local pond. Sweep the net or carton firmly through the water and then transfer the creatures using a plastic spoon into a separate carton filled with clean water. You'll be amazed at what's in there!
- Find out more and what you'll need
Best for: Boys
Age: 6+

32. Play Poohsticks

This came from the famously Winnie The Pooh books and has now become a
worldwide activity. All you need are some sticks and a running stream or
river with a bridge over it. Just throw your sticks in one side and then rush to the other to see whose comes through first. There's even an annual world championships held every year at the end of March in Oxfordshire - anyone can enter!
- For more info go to the World Pooh Sticks site
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 4+

33. Learn origami

The ancient Japanese art of paper-folding easy to do and is also dead
cheap. You can fold a sheet of paper into pretty much anything, as long
as you've got a pattern.
- Origami.com is a great place to start.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 8+

34. Do some junk modelling

Get together a load of things like egg boxes, cereal cartons, plastic milk bottles and let their imaginations run riot. If you get some friends round and ask them to bring their own junk, it becomes even more fun. You just need to provide the sticky tape, scissors, glue and paint and keep an eye on them. If you do need some inspiration, give these home-made skittles a go.
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 6+

35. Go star spotting

Gazing at the clear night sky can be an amazing experience and, if you can tell your son which constellations are which, it'll be even cooler for him.

Do some research beforehand, if you want, otherwise just get him to see
if he can spot any interesting shapes in the patterns of the stars.
- For a beginner's guide, check out Astrocentral or buy Philip's Stargazing 2008
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 8+

 

36. Take them ice-skating

Dancing On Ice has inspired a boom and indoor rinks are a great place to
learn. And it's unlikely that you'll be up to Torvill & Dean
standard, so your kids will enjoy watching you fall over as much as they
do.
- Find your nearest rink on the National Ice Skating Association's website
Best for: Girls
Age: 6+

 

37. Get into painting

In the same way that museums are far cooler now than they used to be,
art galleries have woken up to making painting fun. Many of them have
workshops that kids can take part in and quizzes they can answer as they
go round.
Better still, government-sponsored places are free, so even if your
child gets bored after 30 minutes, it won't have cost you anything.
- Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall has won a family-friendly award for its noisy workshops
- Tate Britain and Modern in London are both great fun for kids. There's also one in Liverpool!
- Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
is showing 50 winning entries to the National Galleries Of Scotland Art
Competition for Schools until the end of February 2008.
- Manchester Art Gallery has stacks of things to do for families, many of which are interactive.
- To find more places near you, search at Ideas for the kids
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 7+

38. Build a den

All you need is a large blanket or sheet and some cushions and let them
pretend they're in a tropical rainforest or somewhere similar. A large
box is also a great idea for a cave - this is likely to entertain them
for hours.
Best for: Boys
Age: 5+

39. Make a miniature garden

Don't ditch the foil trays that ready meals come in. They make great containers for a mini garden. You'll just need a bit of tack to stick the rocks and twigs in. Add some toy figures to make it more lifelike. You could also use sand to make it a beach scene.
Best for: Girls
Age: 7+

 

40. Make a family tree

How much do your kids know about their family? Do they know
anything about your parents' parents? Not only is drawing family trees
fun, but it also teaches them a bit about history. You may unearth some
really interesting stories about your own family that you never knew.
- Here's how to make this cute family tree craft (including family pet!)
Best for: Girls and boys
Age: 9+

41. Make a weather station

Get the kids learning science
at home by setting up a homemade weather station in the garden. A rain
gauge will measure how much rain falls (perfect for the weather we get
here!), a wind vane will let you know which direction the wind is
blowing and a barometer will help the kids learn about air pressure.
They can keep a weather diary and write down all their findings.

How to make a rain gauge

  • You
    just need an empty two-litre plastic bottle, which you cut two thirds
    of the way up. Then turn the top part of the bottle upside down and
    place it in the bottom part using sticky tape to secure.
  • Use a ruler to make a scale in centimetres on a piece of tape and stick it on the bottle.
  • Find
    an open space in the garden away from any shelter and dig a hole to
    bury the gauge so that around 5cm of it is sticking out of the ground.
  • Then simply check your rain gauge every day at the same time, measure the amount of rain it has collected and empty the bottle.


How to make a wind vane

  • Draw a 25cm arrow on a piece of card and cut it out, then draw around the arrow to make another one and cut it out.
  • Place
    a pen top between the two arrows and glue together. Get four
    matchsticks and a cork and push the matchsticks into the long side of
    the cork at right angles to each other.
  • Label four pieces of card with N, S, E, W and attach these to the ends of the matchsticks with Blu-tack.
  • Fill
    a bottle with sand and push a knitting needle into the cork and then
    push into the sand. Balance the arrow on top of the needle and place the
    wind vane in an open area using a compass to point the N label North.
    The arrow will show you the direction the wind is blowing from.


How to make a barometer

  • Pour a few inches of water into a plastic cup and add a few drops of food colouring.
  • Place
    an empty plastic bottle upside down inside the cup. It shouldn't be too
    tight in the cup but should fit snugly. The top of the bottle must be
    below the waterline but not touching the bottom of the cup.
  • Use
    a marker to note the water level on the side if the cup. Put the
    barometer outside with the rest of the weather station on a rainy day
    and check it after a couple of days.
  • If the weather is
    clearer the water level in the cup should have fallen and the level in
    the bottle risen - it's the air pressure that causes the change in water
    level. When the weather's clear, air pressure is high and when it
    rains, air pressure drops.

 

Where to next?

- Fun ways to help your kids learn
- Help! The kids are off school
- 7 ways to teach kids big stuff

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