Ingenious activities to keep kids entertained over the holidays

Summer is here, and school holidays are a breath away, so if you’re one of the lucky 70 per cent of Australians who happen to own a backyard, you might as well get use out of it.
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Granted, it’s what you tell yourself and your kids every year and every year the trampoline stands un-jumped on. The cricket set is unplayed while the kids sit comfortably opposite their best friends – their screens. Perhaps it’s time to get a little bit creative.

The following ideas for backyard games are cheap, they’re easy and they’re a great way to keep kids occupied so you can go back to watching Netflix on your iPad. I’m joking of course, but the luxury of the backyard has always been that it’s a ready-made safe space for everyone to maximise their vitamin D intake with minimal supervision. 1. Gardening

OK. I know what you’re thinking: “It’s boring”, and it’s for people with arthritis, my kids are going to hate me. But gardening is the perfect activity for the exercise-averse tween, or the more compact backyard. And, as the holidays stretch out over six weeks, it’s one of the few ventures that will change in appearance just enough each day to hold interest. Also: toddlers love watering cans.

Just make sure you choose something relatively exciting, such as gardenias, (which can grow in pots) bougainvillea, (which quickly takes on a life of its own) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a frangipani tree. All of these varieties do well in warm, sunny conditions. If your kids aren’t too keen on flowers you can always try fruit, such as tomatoes, (which take around five weeks to fully mature, so plant them now).

Your kids can make their own recipes from their crop, pretending they’re Matthew Evans or Stephanie Alexander while they talk you through their “process” as they decorate their pizza. You might even set up an outdoor “cafe” by throwing a tablecloth over your outdoor furniture. Try your local nursery or hardware store for seeds, pots and fertiliser. Related: A guide to growing your own cocktail ingredientsRelated: Is it possible to renovate with kids around?Related: Why tech in the bedroom is bad news2. Water balloons

The beach is a wonderful option but on days when it’s too crowded, or too hot or too hard to find a parking spot, there’s always your own backyard. For those Aussies fortunate enough to own a swimming pool, congrats. For the rest of us, we have to be a little more resourceful.

In my day, we ran under the sprinkler, but summer water restrictions have since made that an impossibility.

Water balloons combine the sporty element of dodgeball with the aggressive determination of paint ball. The best bit is that water balloons are now super easy to tie in bulk, thanks to a product called, Bunch of Balloons, that you attach to your tap or hose and watch it fill up all 100 balloons at once before it detaches all by itself. Available from Amazon. 3. Treasure hunt

Who needs to wait until Easter? After the kids have gone to bed each night, creep out into your yard and go nuts. You can hide anything from fun-size chocolate bars, to clues about forthcoming Christmas presents (a great way to build excitement and buzz).

But if it’s pre-schoolers you wish to entertain, you can “discover” encouraging notes from Santa’s elves – a terrific way to motivate good behaviour. 4. Camping

There’s nothing like camping in a tent in your own backyard, but you can upgrade the excitement by taking a couple of blow-up mattresses out into the garden for an unobstructed view of the stars.

You’ll need your usual supply of blankets, cushions, insect repellent and torches, or if your kids are feeling fancy, a bunch of flameless, battery operated candles, (available from $2 shops). Give each child a ration of food, lollies and drink in a backpack and challenge them to “survive” the night outdoors, or realistically, at least wait until you’ve finished binge-watching Will & Grace. 5. DIY art

Grab an old double-bed top sheet (or buy one for about $12 from K-Mart) and peg it to the clothesline. Next, amass five or six spray bottles (about $4 from Target). Fill them with water and a drop of food colouring.

Now, encourage your kid to channel their inner Jackson Pollock by squirting the coloured water onto the sheet. The more mess, the better! At least that’s what you can tell yourself before you call them in for a bath. 6. Make dinosaur eggs

Gather all your kids favourite dinosaur toys, (or any kind of plastic animal, really). Fill up an ice cream bucket with water, and then freeze the toy inside. Scatter them throughout the backyard the next day, and as the sun comes up, the ice will melt away, “birthing” the dinosaur!

As with all outdoor activities, remember to slip, slip slap those kids with sun protection and keep them hydrated. Last, but probably most important of all, enjoy the holidays, they’re yours as well.

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