School holiday activities

Oh no! School holidays again! sign

Me, I don’t relish school holidays. The 7 year old gets bored easily and demands for activities all the time, one after another. She announces with a glum mien “I’m so bored”, five minutes after a playdate…

{We are trying to teach her that boredom is not always a parent’s responsibility to fix. She has plenty of books, paints, toys etc to occupy herself.}

I find it hard to fill her day with fun-filled activities where I need to be 100% involved. Her constant griping about “nothing to do” wears me out.

But I tried very hard this time. Harder than I’ve ever tried, mainly because this time, I know that her almost-newborn little sister occupies a lot of our time.

I thought I’d share some of the things we did do… and some others we will do next holidays.

Making chocolate chip cookies

We made these the first day of holidays. I allowed her to do most of the steps, except whatever involved sharp knives (cutting up the cooking chocolate) and hot ovens. I tried to locate a very simple recipe and got her to make the cookies very small. Bite sized. That way, it lasted more than a week and provided her with just small doses of sugar and chocolate per day!

This one’s from the Women’s Weekly Cakes and Biscuits collection:

250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups of unbleached plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160ºc. Grease an oven tray.
Cream butter, brown and castor sugars together until pale and creamy. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla and mix well.
Sift dry ingredients together and stir in, mixing thoroughly.
Stir in chocolate chips, and place mixture in spoonfuls onto the baking tray.
Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven while centers are slightly soft. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gardening

We planted some tomatoes last summer. (They’ve since died because it was her responsibility to water the pot.) It was great fun watering little heirloom tomato seeds. We chose a medium sized terracotta pot… and then we went looking for an earthworm to enrich the soil.

She held the earthworm. I stood back. Eck.

This holidays, we planted some string beans.

Painting

I bought from a dollar store some cheap MDF crafty bits and let her paint them. I find that to encourage creativity, letting a child do what it wants rather than to insist on your way so that it appears “perfect” is better. So even though the paint work is rough, I stepped back from the process. She now boasts a happy yellow doorknob sign for her bedroom.

She also watercoloured some lovely pieces and I gave her an old flowerpot with flower relief to paint. She had so much fun painting it with flowers, trees, bees and the sun.

Card games

We played UNO ad-nauseam. It was fun and it was an eye opener to see how quick she develops tricks. When I bought her the set 2 months ago I decided she would win on her merit, not because I was “being soft”. I also aim to teach Hannah how important it is being a sporty loser and gracious winner.

We also played Junior Monopoly. (Not a fan.)

Chalk writing

"choolips" was Hannah's way of spelling "tulips", heh!

“choolips” was Hannah’s way of spelling “tulips”, heh!

We did this last summer and Hannah enjoyed it so much. I bought her some sidewalk chalk and told her she was the teacher and the driveway was her blackboard. I made myself a tea and became her student for an hour (till she got bored).

It was actually really fun!

Movies

This is a classic holiday choice. Rent out a movie (or three). It’s been a reliable choice for me. These holidays, Brave, The Back-Up Plan (supervised!), How to Train your Dragon and The King & I were my babysitters. My mother in law took her to see Planes and gorged on popcorn.

Movie posters, Brave, The Back-up Plan, the King & I, Dragon

It helps that Hannah loves watching things over and over and over. Hannah loves me actually sitting with her to watch it with her. Sometimes, I do… sometimes I don’t.

(Recently she’s discovered Mr Bean.)

Short trips to the beach

This is a no-brainer.

Hannah and Andrew looking for shells

Hannah and Andrew looking for shells

Hannah at old pier

Hannah at old pier

I might have to make a trip to the beach at Thirroul, NSW with my girls. It might just be worth it to drag along their Nanna too. Now that we have a beach tent, I can easily breast feed and watch Hannah in the sand.

Camping

With a newborn we weren’t able to, but last holidays, we went camping with another family with children. It was in January… unfortunately, it was a unseasonably hot and humid time then… we couldn’t really help it. It rained and poured the latter half and the first half was hot and hot. I couldn’t dip in the river because I was 5-or-so months pregnant, so I played bodyguard to our tents and belongings while soaking in a juicy, brand new Stephanie Laurens.

Our large new tent while camping with friends in Polish campground in NSW.

Our large new tent while camping with friends in Polish campground in NSW.

Tip #1: If you have young children, go along with another family with young children. They play together (read: you don’t need to occupy said child all the time yourself.) The family we went with had girls ranging from 9-16. Perfect: young enough to play with Hannah (7) and old enough to watch her responsibly.

Tip #2: Don’t ever… ever …. ever… forget the Marshmallows. It is required by EVERYONE from young to old at camping. NOBODY says no to a fire-toasted marshmallow.

Hannah and a friend around a campfire while camping with friends in Polish campground in NSW.

Hannah and a friend around a campfire while camping with friends in Polish campground in NSW.

Tip #3: Don’t be deterred by rain. Children don’t see rain as an encumbersome matter like adults do. The kids dressed all day in their swimming gear, and were not bothered by rain! I know, I know, easier said than done, since camping out in the rain and mud (on purpose!) annoy adults like nothing else.

Cross stitch

This is the age that Hannah can enjoy some simple cross-stitch. We saw some really cute ones in Spotlight today and they are simple enough, with colour codes etc for her to do some. Now let’s hope she stays motivated enough to complete it.

We didn’t get to it this holidays but I plan on stocking up this Christmas holidays with small cross stitch packs.

Organising her jewellery

I hate the travel to IKEA… but I think maybe this time calls for a trip there, even with my 3 month old in tow. We have to get something to organise all her bits of jewellery on a small budget. Needs to be easy for her to organise, easy for her to use and store.

The girl easily forgets what she has … so something that will display her treasures at one go would be handy. Like these stand-alone mirrored cabinets. But they require floorspace, which is not good for now. (Her room is too full.)

A day where I can merge craft + organising must be a good day, surely!

We didn’t get to it this time, but I reorganised and made her clean out her room. We are both happy with it now.

Tobogganning

We took Hannah tobogganing at the park.

We took Hannah tobogganing at the park.

Hannah has a favourite spot in a nearby park. The Rowing Club along the Nepean River offers a grassy slope which she loves to cardboard-toboggan down. We have plenty of boxes which can be sacrificed for this fun activity. Sit on an unfolded box and slide down the slope!

Picnics

Great activity for kids. A bag of chips, a bottle of juice, 2 sandwiches and some fruit. Picnic rug. Hats.

Hannah up a mulberry tree

Hannah up a mulberry tree

Might even bring along our teepee and enjoy some pretty-shade in these hot summer days.

In NSW these are some of the spots we have been to that offer fantastic picnic areas:

Hannah blowing on a Father Christmas bloom

Hannah blowing on a Father Christmas bloom

1. Euroka Clearing, Glenbrook, Blue Mountains, NSW. Come here to see kangaroos, birds, monitor lizards etc roaming about as you BBQ and eat your meal.
2. Park near the Rowing Club, Penrith, NSW.
3. Blaxland Riverside Park, part of the Olympic Parks, Silverwater. Only thing I’d say is if you have a portable picnic umbrella bring it. There’s very little shade.
4. Jelly Bean Pool, Glenbrook, Blue Mountains, NSW. It’s a 20 mins bushwalk along the popular track to a beautiful and naturally formed water hole with a little beach feel.
5. Pebbly Beach, NSW.
6. Beaches along Thirroul, NSW.
7. Any spot along the South Coast, NSW (my favourite spots in Australia).

Surprise guests

This was a big hit. I secretly planned outings with some of our friends and told her only a day before that she was getting a surprise guest the next day.

Tip: It’s important to only tell her a day before so if plans change you have some lee way and it’s great way to get her to do her chores quick smart, “If you don’t get to bed early, I might cancel the day.”…

We had a friend who loves little kids and has none of her own yet come and take her for a picnic down by a bush-pool. She also introduced Hannah to the very ambitious project of paint-by-numbers (not completed of course! Hannah was bored after 10 mins of painting!)

Surprise pop-up tee-pee

We have a teepee. Sometimes I have it popped up anywhere in the house. It attracts Hannah to it like flies to jam. She discovers it and then plays with it for hours. Better with another play-friend.

If you don’t have a teepee, a cubbyhouse table covering works amazingly well too.

A table covered with a cubby house cover

Teepees are available from Lime Tree Kids and really cute cubbyhouse table coverings are sold on My Playhouse Adventures (Australian) as well as Etsy.

If nothing else works, sometimes we come out in the mornings and find that Hannah has dragged out her doona and sheets and blankets and chairs and stools to make something like this:

Baby sitting

Cram a cousin-visit with the task of baby sitting! Hannah’s little cousins thinks the sun shines out of her bum, so Hannah gets them to run around and they have so much fun! She can do half hours of baby sitting while mummies have civilised tea time.

Hannah baby sitting her little cousin, Gracie

Hannah baby sitting her little cousin, Gracie

Must start charging her aunties!

Roleplay with mummy

Hannah playing with my hair and her multitude of hair decorations.

Hannah playing with my hair and her multitude of hair decorations.

Hannah went to town putting either makeup on me or doing up my hair in all her little pretty clips. (No photo of me being made up. Her idea of “makeup” includes being made up to fit into a horror flick.)

Playdates

Hannah and a little friend on a playdate

Hannah and a little friend on a playdate

I’m very careful with these. Playdates can be hard work especially when they come to you for everything and anything. Children these days take it upon themselves to invite friends over, without asking parents. And some, like my child, grabs the parent at school and asks them and then asks me!

I think children need to be taught playdate-etiquette. We had a girl come over recently with her little brother for a playdate with Hannah. Her first words in the house, less than 2 mins in, was “I’m really hungry, what’s there to eat?” We were astonished at her impertinence – yet, we realise this is not rude behaviour, it just needs to be something taught.

Playdate Etiquette according to drey@bijoukaleidoscope:
1. Never demand for food the minute you enter the home.
2. Find out if shoes are ok in the house.
3. No, you’re not allowed to take or “borrow” my child’s toys without asking parent first.
4. After a pee, WASH your hands!
5. Finish whatever is served. The parent would already have thought about what she/he can offer. Rarely are brussel sprouts on offer. Deal with the strawberries (“I don’t like berries”) and chocolates (“I only eat white chocolate”).
6. Assume that other than your friend’s bedroom, all other bedrooms are out of bounds.
7. Make an effort to pack toys when being picked up by a parent after a playdate.
8. Never be late picking your child up.

Any others?

Swimming

Take them to the local pool. Better with a friend. An out-of-house playdate!

P.S. Can be expensive, for entry fees and ubiquitous snacks and lunches and drinks.

Face painting

During the school holidays, most Bunnings warehouses have children corners, where they can get their face painted or balloons animals made. Hannah loved these.

Hannah being face painted.

Hannah being face painted.

I must say, I think Hannah loves BEING painted, not the actual thrill of having something on her face. She never lets the paint sit more than 3 hours on her face. (Lucky mummy carries baby wipes everywhere!)

And.. LEGO.

Of course. We do LEGO all the time. We love LEGO.

Hannah and I made a apartment block from Lego

Hannah and I made a apartment block from Lego

What do you do in your children’s school holidays?

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The Woman behind the Blog

Welcome to my blog! It’s such a pleasure having you here.

What are you inspired by? I am inspired by beautiful and bright interiors, fabric, furniture, pinks, yellows, greens, chairs, china, trees, chocolate, peonies, hydrangeas, cherry blossoms, roses and rhubarb with cream.

Friends and family call me drey (pronounced 'dree'... short for Audrey) and I can often be found zipping through op-shops and vintage stores in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

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