9 Ideas for Summer Holiday Projects

Filling up the long days of the summer holidays can be tricky for even the most creative parent. Factor in the constraints of tightened budgets and it’s easy to see why we all might be tearing our hair out before August is over.

Although there are many wonderful - and often free or low cost - options available in local libraries, parks, etc., sometimes it can be more relaxing to do something based in your own home. You don’t need to worry about packing up a huge amount of supplies before you leave, your timing is flexible and there is always a toilet nearby if you need it.

However, after spending a lot of time at home whilst the children are away from school, all of you might be looking for something that’s just a little bit out of the ordinary - something that feels like an ‘event’ and makes the day more interesting for everyone involved.

Here, then, are some ideas for different summer holiday projects that you can undertake with your children at home with no need for excessive planning or extortionate financial outlay.

Chalk Painting on Pavements

Chalk paintings

We have had some old chalks lying around for ages, but if you don’t have any to hand you can easily pick them up very cheaply online, in supermarkets or in craft / stationery stores. The marks you make with the chalk will rub away over time, or will wash away the next time it rains. However, this does mean that there is still a chance that they will be visible for quite a few days, so always make sure that the pavement or patio on which you are drawing is owned by someone who won’t mind your children’s decorations.

Children love the freedom and the excitement of being able to draw in big spaces and it means that there is is plenty of room to start again should they go wrong. My boys were absorbed for much longer than I’d expected when we tried it out at the start of the holidays.


Making Awesome Robots

Cardboard robot

We have been inspired by this recently published book, ‘Welcome to your Awesome Robot’ by Viviane Schwarz (if you’re interested, you can request it from your local library or pick up your own copy here).

The basic premise (which in the book is based around a story) is that you can make yourself into an awesome robot with the help of your recycling materials and an afternoon’s work.

The hardest thing to get hold of will be the very large cardboard boxes required to make the main body of the robot. You could either go and ask at a local shop that stocks consumer electronics and appliances, as they may well be happy to offload some of their packing material, or you could adopt a mix and match approach as we did, fashioning a robot body out of some smaller boxes stuck together.

Once you’ve assemble the main structure of the robot, you can decorate it as you wish. With the the help of some other recycling materials (always make sure that these are clean and safe for younger children to use) and some felt-tips or paints, you can let your ideas go wild as you create your own masterpiece.

After you’ve finished, you and your children will be able to have great fun making up stories about your robots and acting out some robot scenes.

With this activity, it might be worth waiting for a nice day in order to be able to do it outside. If you have enough space inside and you aren’t afraid of a little mess then by all means go for it, but if - like us - your playroom is also your dining room and living room, you might want to hang on in order to reduce the clearing up required.

Building a Den

Den

Sometimes the old classics are the best. I remember the thrill of making a den from when I was younger and my children are already big fans. There’s just something wonderful about creating your own little ‘nook’ and then taking all your favourite things inside ready to cocoon yourself away from parents (and maybe even siblings, though it can be fun to share a den as well).

Basically, there are no rules when it comes to building a den. We tend to just grab whatever is closest for the ‘tent’ material, which might be duvets, sheets, throws, rugs or even towels. You can then drape these over a table so that the sides hang down for walls, or you could hang part of the material behind a radiator and then part over a nearby sofa instead. You could even build a frame from old boxes and create a framework from scratch.

Don’t be too worried if your child wants to spend an awful lot of time inside the den once it is finished. If you can do it without too much mess, you could even allow them to eat a meal inside their den and depending on where it is located, perhaps even sleep in it!


Looking for ‘Wild’ Food

Boys looking for berries

Obviously there are many caveats attached to this activity, the most important one being that children must be accompanied by someone who knows what they are looking for and knows what things are definitely not safe to eat. Around where we live, there are loads of blackberries growing in the wild and my children love collecting and eating this on an almost daily basis during the summer. There may be different ‘wild’ foods available where you live, but always make sure that you are taking them from public land and not someone’s private home.


Helping Out Your Neighbours

This is easily done and can make a real difference to someone’s life. If you live near anyone who would appreciate some help with shopping, gardening or just some company, then encourage your children to give up just a little bit of their spare time over the summer. Clearly you will need to feel comfortable with the person and unless your children are teenagers or older, you will need to accompany them. Having said that, it can be really wonderful for a child to see just how rewarding it is to think about other people, so it is worth giving it a shot if possible.

Making Books

This might be an activity that is more suitable for older children, though with some preparation and support on the part of an adult, younger ones might be able to join in as well.

Children often find it really exciting to make ‘real’ things as well as play items, so making books ticks that box perfectly. If your children are able to read and write, you could encourage them to fill the pages themselves. If there are still too young for this, you could get them to tell you a story and then write it down for them, or you could forget about words and just allow them to stick shapes and pictures into their book.

This link takes you to a site that is filled with different ways of making books and some step-by-step guidelines as well, and you shouldn’t need much more than paper, cardboard, glue and perhaps some string.

Creating a Train Track on Your Floor

Tape train track

A friend of mine did this on her carpeted floor with parcel tape, but as we have wooden floors we used masking tape instead. It took a little while to get the track finished (it was an afternoon’s work) but the boys loved showing me where it should go and where the little offshoots of track should lead.

Having a big space covered by train track is ideal as it means multiple children can play there without ever banging into one another. It is also considerably cheaper than investing in actual wooden train tracks for children to play with and it doesn’t need clearing up at the end of the day, which is great.

You could also use it as road, as a pathway through a secret forest, as a route around a treasure map - the possibilities are endless!


Playing Imaginative Games

Boys hiding in ‘cave’ (behind a chair!)

There have been a few articles in the press over recent months suggesting that children’s imaginations are suffering as a result of having heavily scheduled lives filled with classes, play dates and other enriching activities. Whilst no-one would deny that these things are valuable, it can help for children to have regular ‘down-time’ as well in order for them to be allowed to create their own games.

Obviously, the aim of all this is for the adults involved not to take charge, but you could always place a few key props around the house to get them started, or give them an exciting ‘mission’ at breakfast time and then encourage them to work out how to solve it. For younger children like mine, you could invent simple scenarios based around real life events or on books or television programmes that they enjoy. My two children love pretending to be in the emergency services and this photo shows them sleeping in a ‘fire bed’ in the fire station (behind a chair) before rushing to another disaster!


Make a Shoe Box Theatre

This isn’t something that I have attempted with my children yet, though I have made one myself as an adult (for the class I was teaching, I hasten to add...). Anyway, you and your children could pick your favourite story, whether it be from a book or one that you have made up, and then create a scene from it in a shoebox (or any other box that you might have lying around). If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even make little puppets to act out the scene.

This tutorial talks you through all the simple steps required to make a shoebox theatre, so break a leg!