We think there is already an ocean of ‘craft’ type blogs out there in Internet land . . . written by people way handier with tissue paper and glue guns than us. so, we’re writing about some of the things we do best. This post is about ideas for what to do, as a family, over the long, Summer weekends. Here are some of our favourite things to do with our families over weekends and holidays:
Out and About
When do we ever not include this on a list? If you’ve left it a bit late, you might have to call around a bit to get a booking on these Summer weekends, but you’ll find something – try some of the sleepier little towns and you’re more likely to find a spot. Also, don’t just go by online booking systems – call camp grounds/holiday parks, as they may have cancellations or know of a spot that would be perfect for you. Go three or four days without any devices – take walks, explore the local area and play board games and card games.
Even if you can’t get away, ‘go camping’ at home. If you have a backyard, set up the tent and tell the family that there is going to be no TV, no iPads, and no mobile phones for a few days.
Visit a national park
Look up the national parks and large conservation reserves that are within driving distance to you. We recently introduced our kids to the 1000 Steps and William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenongs. It was a world away from our suburban environment and they loved it. What I love is that these day trips now go into the tapestry of family stories . . .how it was dark when we left home, how my son beat his dad climbing up the 1000 steps, the best hot chocolate they’d ever had afterwards and the lyre bird we all stopped and watched on the way up. So much more memorable than taking them to another play centre to while away a few hours.
Go on an ‘adventure walk’
Explore where you live. Pack a backpack with snacks and water and just start walking. As long as you stop for little breaks along the way, you might be surprised at how far your children will walk. Just start walking, taking time to look at all the things you pass and talk about them. Maybe there’s always been a building or a water tower or huge tree you’ve seen from the car that the kids have commented on? Walk there to see it close up. My kids love an obstacle. So, if there’s a fence in the way, a dead end street or a really busy road, we ask them to find us a way around it. It might add an hour or so to the outing, but it’s fun. They collect leaves, feathers and seed pods as they go – anything interesting to remind them of their ‘adventure’. If they get too tired, we just head to a bus stop to get the bus home.
We make it a bit interesting by hiding some ‘treasure’ (we tried chocolate, but the dog ate it , , , so now it’s always something non-foody) then leave a series of clues. This hunt takes the kids both inside and outside the house, everywhere from the kitchen, to the laundry, to the chicken coop and the cubby house. The fun is always in the chase. We started with pictorial clues before the kids could read, but have moved onto rhymes and riddles. If you have much older siblings, they might enjoy making clues for the littler ones.
We’re bakers at our place. So, we’ve developed a bit of a ‘bake-off’ tradition. My husband and I make our own versions of something: hot cross buns, bread, dumplings (whatever we’re particularly enjoying at the time) – we each make a batch and the kids decide on the ‘winning’ recipe. We also have a large number of nephews and nieces, so they get in on the voting, as well. I think I worked out the winning formula a few years ago: anything involving chocolate generally gets a vote from the kids. Get the kids into the kitchen and do some baking – it’s much more about the process of measuring, mixing and tasting than the end result. Take them shopping for their ingredients and talk about what they want to make.
We have quite an extended family and we all try to get together for a big family lunch over any long weekends. We also have four family birthdays around this time of year, so it’s kind of bedlam. I know this sounds waaaay too much work for a supposed ‘weekend off’. However, a long weekend is a great time to plan one special meal with family and friends. What better way to spend your long weekend than enjoying a slow afternoon with good food (and wine!), with your family?
Get the kids involved in making invitations, planning a menu, cooking, setting and decorating the table and serving the food. Even if it’s just your immediate family, your kids will love ‘making it special’. You could even do it picnic-style, on the lawn or at the local park.
Make a garden
So, this is the horticulturist in me: if we ever have spare time on the weekends, we visit a nursery and work in the garden. But honestly, it can be as simple as potting up a few pots of seeds or flowers. I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love gardening – you just need to find the right way to engage them. Do they like digging? Do they prefer planting and labelling seeds? Maybe they like pruning and mulching? Or perhaps they’d like to paint and decorate pots for flowers to go into? If all else fails, every kids loves watering!
Plan for Autumn, as it is a great time for planting out bulbs, so you get Spring colour later in the year. You can put them in the garden or in a shallow pot near your front door. They’re easy for little fingers to deal with. (Just make sure they’ve got good drainage so they don’t rot, and that they’re planted the right way up!) It’s also a good time to get a start on the Winter vegetables – think about broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. Leafy greens are good all year around and are pretty reliable and willing for impatient kids.
If you want an instant display for kids, just pick up some flower seedlings: something bright like marigolds, straight into a pot that they can decorate. Try painting a pot with blackboard paint and they can update their design all the time.
If you’re brave and have space, take them to a nursery and tell them to choose one plant each – anything they like. We have ended up with a tangerine tree, a creeping fig and several unusual succulents this way. But the thing is: the kids seem much more invested in keeping their ‘special plants’ alive, when it’s been their choice.
We hope you have a lovely, summery weekend with your family!
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