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Summer holiday fun

School’s out and the summer holidays are here. But, what with the kids having already been home all day for weeks, it’s understandable if you don’t feel like celebrating! If you’re running out of new ways to keep the kids entertained, here are some ideas you can try at home – including a few they can get on with themselves, giving you some peace…

You can try these ideas with your family or with others as long as you maintain physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Ideas for young kids

Olympics at home

This summer’s Olympic games may have been postponed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t host your own. Decide which country everyone will represent, then have fun coming up with some alternative sports. How about a triathlon of sack race, egg and spoon and wheelbarrow? A relay race carrying a plastic cup of water that you mustn’t spill? Sumo wrestling wearing dad’s T-shirts stuffed with cushions? You can even get the kids to make flags and medals for the winners as well – you can see and download flags from around the world here, and find simple instructions to make your own medals here

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Pitch a tent

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden – and a tent – then your holiday problems are solved. But even if you don’t, the kids will still enjoy camping in the living room. Don’t have a tent? A sheet and two chairs are all you need! Don’t forget to pack some books to read, a few healthy snacks and their favourite toys to share the space.

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Get closer to nature

Getting up close and hands on with nature is great for kids’ development and wellbeing – and of course it’s fun too! The Virtual Nature School is running a free online summer camp for Scottish children up to 6 years old and their families – including older brothers and sisters if they’d like to take part. The camp offers daily, fun-filled, nature-based activities – no garden required! You can drop in to sessions as frequently or infrequently as you like. Find out more at the Virtual Nature School website.

The National Trust also have lots of ideas for ways to get closer to nature, from snail races to creating wild art.

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Treasure hunt

A treasure hunt is a great way to keep the kids occupied while you relax and soak up the sun (or, let’s face it, do the washing and catch up on your work emails). If you haven’t got the time to come up with your own clues, the Treasure Hunt Ideas website will do it for you – result! And if the weather isn’t all that (this is Scotland, after all), you can always do your treasure hunt indoors.

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Birthday bash

How many of us have celebrated our kids’ birthdays (or indeed our own) in complete lockdown, unable to share the day with anyone except immediate family and the Zoom screen? Now that restrictions are starting to lift, why not throw a birthday bash outdoors to celebrate all those big days we missed? Balloons and paper hats are a must, as are party games – our page on outdoor activities suggests games you can play with other households while still keeping to physical distancing rules and staying safe. Just remember not to share food and utensils with any other households.

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Messy play

Yes, we know parents hate messy play, but it’s a natural part of play for kids and great for helping them working through their emotions. If the weather’s nice, take the opportunity to move messy play outside. How about spreading out an old sheet or a big piece of paper and letting them go wild with paint? Try painting with sticks, hands, feet, knees – whatever! Then straight into the bath or paddling pool to clean up. If it’s raining, they could always have fun splashing in puddles and making mud pies. 

If you don’t have a garden, how about grabbing some chalk and heading for the park? We’ve all enjoyed seeing rainbows, suns and smiley faces cropping up on the paths!

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Ideas for older children

Create your own escape room

Set everyone’s minds whirring by getting the kids to create an escape room in your home – and then seeing if the adults can escape it! They’ll need to pick a theme – zombies? fairy tales? Harry Potter? – and create a storyboard and puzzles. This may sound a bit complicated, but complicated is good if you want to keep older kids occupied for any length of time. The Escape Kit website shows you how to get started

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Festival fun

Missing your live music? Why not hold your own mini music festival? Pick your dream line up to suit the whole family (we can’t wait for the festival that has Ariana Grande, the Wiggles and Deep Purple all on the same bill), get the kids to design a poster and start playing those tunes.

Want to dress up festival style? You could make flowery headbands from paper or tissue and dig out those sunglasses. You could even go the full Woodstock and introduce the kids to the art of tie-dying – the perfect way to liven up old T-shirts and add a bit of hippy chic to your wardrobe. These instructions from WikiHow even include recipes for making your own dyes.

And speaking of recipes, you’ll find burgers to suit every taste in our recipe section – the ideal food for any festival. Peace!

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Scotland is a great place for stargazing, so why not pick a dark, clear night and have a go? Bring blankets and jumpers and a flask of hot chocolate (even in summer it can be cold outdoors at night) then lie back and see what you can spot in the skies. How about creating a space-themed playlist to listen to as you wait for the stars to come out? The National Trust has some good tips if you fancy giving this a go. The night sky is never exactly the same two days on the run, so if it goes well you could try it again later in the summer and see what’s changed.

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Make a magazine

Trying to drag the kids away from their screens? Making their own magazine is a fun (and secretly educational) activity that can keep them occupied for hours. First up, what kind of magazine will they make? A football fanzine? Music mag? Fashion? Animals? Manga? Then they can decide what to put in it – they can write stories, draw pictures and take photos as well as cutting things out from other magazines. Then it’s time for you to put your feet up while you read it! 

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Lights, camera, action

Got a phone? Then the kids can make a movie! Whether a live action epic featuring family and friends or an animation, the process of deciding what to film, planning their shoot and putting everything together will keep them busy this summer.

Ever wondered what makes Wallace and Gromit come to life? The answer is stop motion animation – and you can do it for free on your phone! All the kids need is a phone, some free software and something to film – this could be LEGO, toys, their own drawings, your origami models or any other objects they can lay their hands on. Their imagination will do the rest! This YouTube video explains how to get started

Once they’re done, they can create a poster to promote their masterpiece and even hold a premiere – are you red carpet ready?

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Have a home pamper day

Beauticians and spas may be closed, but you can still enjoy a luxurious day of pampering at home. And no need to splash out on expensive products either – these recipes for face masks from Marie Claire magazine can all be made from ingredients from your kitchen cupboards. Slap on your masks and sit back and relax while listening to your chill out playlist. If you need a healthy snack to nibble on, you’ll find plenty of recipes here.

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Go on a treasure trail

Want to liven up a walk in your local area, or explore somewhere new? The Global Treasures app has hundreds of trails, quizzes and treasure hunts in towns, cities, country parks and tourist attractions around Scotland – you can even win rewards like Young Scot points. The whole family will learn a lot solving clues and answering quiz questions – but no need to tell the kids that!

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