Summer Holiday Activities

 

Keeping two boisterous boys (see  Raising Boisterous Boys ) busy during the long holidays is not always easy, especially when they keep getting ill and we are stuck at home. This year I’ve got my organisation on and have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here are some of our favourite activities so far, fully road tested by both Bears.

Build a Mini Garden (AKA Fairy Garden, but don’t tell the boys)

This gets my full marks in terms of length of time it kept them busy and the fact that it is continuing to give entertainment days later.

You need a bit of forward planning to build a mini garden. Firstly decide what you want to plant in – I went for washing up bowls as they were 99p and seemed the perfect shape and size. I also found items we might need to fill the gardens with such as some mini houses (actually miniature alcohol bottles from a flight Grizzly went on a few years ago!) and small creatures/ people/ furniture. I got most things from a charity shop trawl and from rummaging amongst the little toys the boys have acquired over the years.

I took the boys with me to choose their plants. We went for succulents – some that are flat ground cover which make good grass and others that look like mini exotic trees. Big Bear got a Sage plant too which makes a good tree.

IMG_7778I set everything up outside for them and apart from helping them with planting, let them have free reign. Here is what they created:

FullSizeRender (9)FullSizeRender (8)

 

 

 

Little Bear’s is like the Amazon Jungle and Big Bear’s is very neat and orderly. I was really impressed with their creativity and how much they enjoyed it.

We planted some cress too so they have been able to check their garden each day and watch it grow and change. Little Bear loves giving his a squirt with the water spray. Cress is super easy to plant and grows quickly so they have been able to observe changes already.

A really lovely activity, everyone needs a mini garden in their life I reckon!

Marbling

This is up there as one of Little Bear’s favourite activities of all time. All you need is a bowl (we used the washing up bowls before we planted gardens in them), about an inch of water and some marbling inks. I got ours from Baker Ross but I think you would find them in any craft shop. The inks aren’t cheap (about £5.99 I think) but we’ve already had 2 big marbling sessions and we’ve got plenty left.

IMG_7768You just put a couple of drops of ink into the water and either let it disperse by itself or blow it or stir it to mix the colours. The boys loved this (we used wooden kebab sticks for mixing) and although they were probably a bit over liberal with the ink it did keep them entertained for ages. When you are happy with the mix in your bowl, float a piece of paper or card on the surface of the water. When you lift it out after a couple of seconds, it will be covered in amazing patterns like this:

 

IMG_7956FullSizeRender (4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end we had to stop because the whole table was covered and we had run out of drying space. The boys were not bored and would have merrily carried on. We would highly recommend this for all ages.

IMG_7773

*Just be careful to cover surfaces and clothes as the inks do stain.

Decoupatch or Decoupage

 

This is Big Bear’s favourite activity. Little Bear doesn’t like this one – he seems to be hypersensitive to the feeling of glue on his hands.

Decoupage is basically just gluing paper so you can do it on any surface. So far we have stuck to the shaped cardboard models you can get from craft shops or Rymans. You can buy decopatch paper and glue from those shops too. We have tended to cut our paper up into squares before we start but I think you could use any shape or rip the paper as you went depending on the look you wanted. You just paint glue onto the surface you want to cover, place the paper on and glue over the top. You can overlap pieces so that the whole thing ends up covered. It is fairly quick to cover a small object and there is something very satisfying about it as long as you don’t mind sticky fingers. It doesn’t really matter how neat or messy you are it still ends up looking good. Here are our latest offerings:

Tissue Paper Transfer Art

I like this activity because it involves water and Little Bear especially loves getting stuff wet. However, I was a bit unimpressed with the results and definitely think this is more for people who like a pastel or subtle look.

You need a water spray, matt paper (shiny paper won’t absorb the colour in the way you need it to) and a range of colours of tissue paper. Cut the tissue paper into whatever shapes you want. We used squares for ease but I have seen it done with strips or hexagons on Pinterest (I don’t know about anyone else but I haven’t got the time or energy to cut out hundreds of hexagons!). 

FullSizeRender (5)

Your child can cover the paper in the tissue shapes by squirting it/them to make them stick. You need to let the whole thing dry then you can peel off the tissue paper. Underneath you should have an abstract picture made from the transferred colour of the tissue paper. We were a bit underwhelmed when we peeled ours back. This is how they looked:

As you can see the greens and blues seemed to work best. Black didn’t appear to work much at all. As I said I think this is great if you like pastel shades and the task is quite fun and will fill 20 minutes or so.

 

We prefer a more vibrant look though and liked how our pictures looked before we peeled the tissue paper off. That led us to another idea: why not create a hybrid of this activity and decoupage? You get your very own stained glass window:

IMG_7832

Mostly free local activities

I have been paying much more attention this year to what is happening locally during the holidays and have discovered that the library, local museums, our local craft shop and our country park all offer a variety of sessions during the holidays. Many are free or have a nominal fee. We haven’t tried any of the craft sessions as we like to get crafty at home but they look good and would be a good compromise if you don’t fancy a messy house.

Instead we booked on to pond-dipping which I thought would be a bit different for the boys. We passed a lovely hour and half dipping our nets and swirling about in the water. The most exciting thing we found was a large newt. We also found baby newts who still had their gills and lots of water boatmen – it turns out they swim one way up and walk the opposite way up when on land. Who knew?

The Ranger was really laid back and full of information, so much so that we’ve booked onto bug-hunting for later in the holidays. It’s brilliant that you can do it all for free.

Wet Wipe Tie Dye

Anyone else who hit their teenage years during the 90’s might also remember staining their parent’s kitchen sink trying to perfect the ultimate tie-dye on their t-shirt. As much as I loved it at the time I am a bit too precious about my lovely grey sink to let the children loose with dye in it now. I was excited then when I discovered on Pinterest that you can tie dye with a lowly wet wipe. Honestly. You really can and it actually works:

FullSizeRender

All you do is pinch your wet-wipe in the centre and squash it into a sausage shape. Twist your sausage a few times then secure it in two or three places with elastic bands. Using any chubby felt pens, colour each section a different colour. Remove the bands and voila.

I have to admit I haven’t tried this with Little Bear but Big Bear was suitably impressed with it.

Science Experiments

When Big Bear was smaller he used to love doing ‘experiments’ which involved various containers, water, food-colouring, sugar and salt and him just mixing and pouring things. That won’t quite cut it now so we have branched out into those science sets you can buy.

We had a lot of fun one holiday doing a volcano one. This time we have had a go at growing our own crystals (I think I got the set from The Works). I’m not going to include a photo as I’m pretty sure the results are pitiful, however, I honestly don’t think that the results always need to be amazing for the children to enjoy it. My two get very excited as soon as they don their goggles (wearing the gear is part of the fun) and take their part in measuring or adding or stirring very seriously.

Chemistry was never my strong point but something has definitely happened in our dishes. The boys are enjoying looking into them each day and noticing any changes so I’ll take that as a success. Plus I’m sure the massive crystals on the front of the box were falsely advertised. Ahem.

Hama Beads

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Hama beads before but they are still up there as a favourite with both Bears. Big Bears works with the standard sized ones and Little Bear with the maxi ones. Big Bear has this book:

FullSizeRender (1)

We decided to get adventurous and try to build something 3D this time. I think perhaps we aimed a bit high and maybe this would be better for someone a little older (Big Bear is 8 now) or with a better concentration span as I ended up building 3 of the sides. However, we did manage it in the end and Big Bear was very pleased with our creation:

The book has lots of easier ideas like keyrings and coasters too so we might try something simpler next time.

Little Bear has completed lots of the kits that are available in the maxi size (dog, car, dinosaur, owl) and has moved on to freestyling and making pieces such as these:

It always amazes me that the boys will sit still long enough but they do and they really enjoy it. Hama beads are great for fine motor control and Little Bear has been experimenting with patterns too: a fun activity that ticks lots of other boxes.

 

That is our top 8 so far. Feel free to comment or suggest other things, there are still a lot of days to fill!

 

Summer Holiday Activities

Raising Boisterous Boys

When I was pregnant with Big Bear I just assumed I was having a girl. I don’t know why – I think I could imagine the fun I would have buying little outfits – so many pretty fabrics, so many beautiful combinations. Maybe I was envisioning a mini-me. Although if I’d have thought hard about that I would have realised that as a child I didn’t really entertain dresses and was more comfortable up to my waist in mud.

About 6 weeks before giving birth I woke in a panic. This wasn’t unusual, I was particularly panicked about giving birth somewhere strange and would often wake with thoughts such as “what if it happens in the car?” or “what if it’s on the kitchen floor?”. On this particular day, my panic had nothing to do with inappropriate locations; instead I had been hit by the realisation that it could actually be a boy. A boy!! What on earth would I do with a boy?

Looking back this was clearly the befuddled workings of a hormone flooded mind. How could it possibly have taken me 8 months to figure out that there is a 50/50 chance of having either gender? I was just so certain the baby would be a girl that I hadn’t even considered anything else. It was time to get thinking of a boy’s name. Just in case (because I still acted under the delusion that it was a girl).

It was a boy. Grizzly says he knew so all along but was probably a bit too scared of me to say so.

Having given birth I couldn’t have given a tiny rat’s backside what gender the baby was. I was just relieved he was healthy and seemed to have all the correct anatomy.

When we came to adopt, I was quite adamant that this time it WOULD be a girl. A girl wouldn’t provide the same competition with Big Bear I reasoned. A girl would have different toys so we wouldn’t have the same issues over sharing etc.

And I’d be able to buy pretty dresses.

It was a boy.

This time I had a choice in the matter. It was me who saw Little Bear’s profile first; it was me who shared it with Grizzly and Anne (Our Social Worker). I was very sure he was the right match. If a child seems as though they would fit right into your family clearly gender becomes irrelevant. And so I welcomed into my life a second boy.

Now, I must point out that not all boys are the same, just as not all girls like dressing up and playing with dolls. Apparently some boys are quite bookish and prefer quiet indoor games. Forgive me if I sound disbelieving, it’s just that my boys are quite possibly not from the same species as those boys. My boys (and in that I include my husband) are Boisterous Boys. I mean noisy (extremely), excitable, active, energetic get-bored-very-quickly boys.

When I hear the chant of BEAT-DOWN, BEAT-DOWN thundering around the house I know it’s time to take cover. This signifies the start of a mass wrestling “pile on” kind of situation. The volume will rise by 20 decibels, my posh cushions will be cast to the floor in a haphazard pile, made beds will be rapidly unmade. There will be a tangible shift in the atmosphere, as though the air itself is getting overexcited. I will know that it will end in tears or injury. Grizzly will be surprised when it does.

For a while I did exercise my matriarchal rights and banned beat-downs. Little Bear loved them but couldn’t cope with the adrenaline rush. The certainty of pushing him into over-stimulated territory made them untenable for me.

However, he generally can cope with the madness now and as wild a situations as it is, Grizzly does (sort of) manage it. The bears never oppose each other, always working as a team to “defeat” Grizzly. I just leave them to it and studiously turn down all offers to join in. Ditto Nerf Gun fights (it hurts) and water fights (its cold).

I always said I wouldn’t have any guns in the house, peace-loving as I am. However, all 3 boys are drawn to weapons and we have ended up with an extensive collection of guns, bow and arrows and swords. None of the bears want to hurt anybody, they just seem to like shooting and are fascinated by knights and soldiers. Big Bear had quite a major Army phase and went everywhere dressed in head to toe camouflage. We frequently had an army tent erected in the living room. In fact, he took his SAS Survival Guide to his Pre-school graduation (just to be prepared I’m guessing!).

Before we met Little Bear, we met with his Paediatrician and I have never heard anybody use the term “busy boy” so many times in one hour. We could have aced buzzword bingo.

The thing is that all 3 of my bears are ‘busy boys’. Not one of them can sit still for long. Grizzly somehow manages to work in an office but he has to get up to pace about every few minutes. Big Bear does well at school but gets into trouble due to his boisterousness and over-excitability. Little Bear seems to have interminable energy. They all need exercising regularly. If they are not playing football, they are canoeing. If they are not canoeing they are swimming. If they are not swimming they are on a bike ride. If not a bike then scaling across some sort of rope lattice suspended between two trees outside.

I have to admit that some of the time I feel a little left out. It’s mainly when the boys are embarking on a water based pursuit that I would hate.

I have made efforts to get involved in their other favoured activities though. I like a bike ride and can just about pass muster as a goalie. Some of our best family days have been when we’ve donned our wellies and headed off to a forest or country park. We build dens, explore, get muddy and make log bridges. The boys are suitably exercised, we all get some fresh air and I return to my younger tom-boy ways (just with really pretty wellies).

Even just walking down the street is turned into a gymnastic activity by Little Bear. He will hold my hand and the hand of anyone else that makes the error of walking beside him and do mid-air roly-polies (the child has abs of steel) or skid along on his heels. If we pass something climbable, it will be climbed. The inappropriate indoor climbing has mostly stopped but I do need to watch out for shop counters. As the cashier in M and S aptly observed, I could do with eyes in the back of my head.

Boisterous Boys also tend to be LOUD. People always know we have arrived and I generally wish we could be a bit more inconspicuous. It does come in useful sometimes though – my voice doesn’t carry at all but all 3 of my bears can yell without any effort and make the whole village hear if needs be. Occasionally that can be useful. Most of the time it isn’t and when we are eating outside and they are exchanging rude insults I do frequently wish they had an inbuilt “silent” button. Our poor neighbours!

I have to admit there are times (when I’m being roped into sword fighting practise or am crawling around with a child astride my back shooting at imaginary baddies) that I wish I had children who would sit still and be quiet for a while! Maybe draw a picture or colour in. I would have sat for ages as a child doing that and to be honest I would still enjoy it now. Or sit and read a book. I can remember reading my way around our local library until I felt as though the books had run out. I have made sure that both boys appreciate books but it tends to be a bedtime only thing at the moment – they are too busy (!) during the day.

It is times like these that I wonder if I need a girl in my life – a little calm, colouring-loving ally in a world outnumbered by Boisterous Boys. I know of course that girls can be just as noisy, wild and boisterous as boys, so it wouldn’t be the panacea I’m imagining, but a girl can dream.

Whenever I’ve had these thoughts, I’ve usually ended up in a situation with other parents talking about their children and the conversation will have drifted to ballet classes and the pressure to create the perfect bun. “Eugh”, I will think, “thank God I’ve got boys”.

And I am thankful (mostly) because the other thing about Boisterous Boys is that they are really good FUN. A big part of Grizzly’s appeal when we first got together was his ability to make me laugh like no one else and he still does to this day. Both of my smaller bears are budding comedians too and I can’t help but laugh when I find the smaller one running around sporting my bra on top of his t-shirt or the bigger one comes out with some clever witticism or other; or perfectly mimics someone’s accent. All 3 have a naughty glint in their eye which I find very endearing.

All 3 bears are tough (in their way) and completely unfazed by being dirty or seeing small decapitated creatures the cat has brought in or by picking up interesting looking insects with their bare hands. Equally there are no longer many things that faze me, used as I am to neighbours bringing the boys toads they have found or helping them to dig in the garden or forage on the beach.

IMG_2455

Not long ago we went for one of our muddy adventures with our friends and their girls. One got a smudge of mud on her hand and trousers and wanted to go home to change. It completely ruined her trip and she was quite upset about it. I realised that my mad outdoor life with the boys has become so second nature that I had forgotten it was even possible for people to become upset by mud. Perhaps a clean, book-loving girl would not fit quite so well into our family after all…

Having boys has also taught me things I never thought I would know. I have been subjected to A LOT of Star Wars. I know lots of ladies like it too but I just don’t get it. It’s not for me. Yet I know my Darth Vader from my Kylo Ren, my Emperor Palpatine from my Jabba the Hut. I can reel off names of sports cars and talk in depth about different types of Lego. I can identify a wide range of superheroes and quite possibly describe a back story or two. I now seem to be embarking on a crash course in all things football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic you say? Yes, I know the one. Having boys is mind-expanding it turns out.

As mad and noisy and full-on as my boys are, I completely adore them, just as they are. And there is nothing better in this world than a big snuggle with them (if they’ll stay still long enough).

I do occasionally still find myself wandering through the girl’s clothing section though…

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Raising Boisterous Boys