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School is finished, bags have been discarded and uniforms thrown in the back of the cupboard ready for their reluctant retrieval in January.

The end of year holidays is a stretch of time that presents an ongoing juggle for most families. The delight of having a break from uniforms, lunch boxes and homework is replaced with the question of how to occupy and entertain children throughout these weeks of summer days, but also promote holiday learning.

The concept of play-based learning may be familiar, particularly to parents of pre-school aged children. This concept focuses on how children learn through being actively engaged in activities that require imagination, creativity, social skills and language. The world of play sets a foundation for developing curious learners and creative thinkers. This same concept applies when it comes to entertaining children during school holiday breaks. There are many ways of creating “sneaky” learning experiences through fun activities, as well as in everyday tasks – all it takes is some imagination.

The Great Outdoors

Fresh air and sunshine… finding ways to entertain children outside in the garden, at the park or at the beach is fantastic for wellbeing and physical activity, in a sun-safe manner.

Sand Castles – Take a range of plastic containers of different shapes and sizes to the beach and build crazy sand castles.

Herbalicious – Plant herbs, in pots or in a garden bed, and discover the different varieties and how they are used, particularly in cooking. Make creative labels for each herb pot.

Picnic Party – Plan a picnic together, write a list of things you’ll need, prepare and pack for the picnic and scout for a location.

Go Old-School – Get some chalk and mark out a hopscotch game on the driveway. Elastics and jump rope are some other easy ways to be active and to learn skills such as counting and rhyming, and social skills such as taking turns and cheering on others.

Fairy Garden – Fairy gardens are tiny gardens built of tiny plants and accessories designed to attract fairies. Build you own fairy garden and keep watch for evidence of fairies visiting.

Scavenger Hunt – Think of a theme for a scavenger hunt in the garden or the local park. Create a list of items to search for in a certain time.

The Great Indoors

Games Cupboard – Board games and card games can while away the hours with a lot of fun and learning involved.

Craft Corner – Set up a table or an area with colouring in books or downloadable patterns, posters, arts and craft activities. A google search will reveal many excellent craft ideas for making decorations for the season.

Cubby House – Construct a secret haven out of sheets, pillows, cushions and other household items.

Reading Nook – Create a reading nook with cushions and throws, stacks of books, lights and other creative tweaks to appeal to young readers.

Local Services

Library Activities – Visit the local library and discover the many resources and activities available, other than borrowing books – which is always a very excellent idea!

Toy Library – Just like a normal library, but with Toys instead of books! You can check out a variety of toys for the kids to enjoy for a reasonable membership fee.

School Holiday Guides – Check out PakMag’s extensive School Holiday Guide and the local Council’s holiday activities on offer, many of which are free of charge. These are fantastic ways of entertaining and developing learning across a range of areas – academically, emotionally, socially and physically. Local Museums may also offer holiday activities, and are simply great places to visit.

Every-Day Activities

Everyday activities such as grocery shopping can also be full of opportunities for young children to learn numeracy skills. Counting items, adding up prices and comparing price differences are all fantastic ways of turning shopping into a subtle learning opportunity.

Mindfulness

Whilst being active is very important, it is also beneficial to find ways to entertain children that help them to develop a sense of calm and mindfulness. Below is a list of games and activities that can help children develop their sense of awareness of the world around them.

Cloud-watching – Lie on your back on the lawn and watch the clouds drift into different shapes – can you see a horse, an angel, a person?

Little Surprises – Look out the window as you are driving in the car and spot the little surprises – the small things that you’ve never noticed before – it might be a colourful flower that’s appeared on a footpath. The more you look, the more you see!

Rainbow Walk – Go for a walk along the street or in the park and spot one thing that matches each colour of the rainbow – ROYGBIV.

Every family is busy and school holiday entertainment is naturally dependent on a range of variables such as transport, accessibility, affordability and the availability of time.

The above ideas are great conversation-starters with your children to plan some quality time together having fun, with a sneaky side of learning. Creativity, imagination, a sense of adventure and patience required!