x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Create a holiday camp at home

You're just back in the UAE, your kids have finished their summer camps, and now you're wondering how to fill the remaining weeks before schools starts. We have some ideas.

Keep children occupied by encouraging activities such as arts and crafts.
Keep children occupied by encouraging activities such as arts and crafts.

You're just back in the UAE, your kids have finished their summer camps, you've exhausted every day-out idea and now you're wondering how to fill the remaining weeks before schools starts, we have some ideas.

"I think the key to not only surviving the summer holidays, but enjoying them, is to see them as a time for children to have the ultimate freedom to be children," says Carmen Benton, the director of Lifeworks Counselling in Dubai (www.counsellingdubai.com). But don't get too liberated about things. "Many families abandon their well-executed routines during the holidays, which can be a disruptive experience for some. Keeping a routine alive in your house during the summer break will help things flow a lot more smoothly for everyone."

So, here are some cheap, easy and entertainment-packed ideas to occupy your kids in the remaining weeks of the summer holidays and give you a chance to put your feet up. Some are even educational!

Put on a puppet show

Fold a piece of A4 paper into four. In each space your child can draw and colour a figure from a favourite story using felt-tip pens. Cut out the figure and attach a straw to the back with tape so that it can be used as a handle. Alternatively, use old socks and draw faces on them. Cue endless puppet shows from behind the sofa.

Set up a treasure hunt

Write down clues, which can be questions or riddles, and make the first clue give the location of the next, and so on, eventually leading to a simple reward such as sweets. Once your children know how it works, they can set up their own treasure hunt for you to follow. Alternatively, write a list of things to be found in the garden, such as a brown leaf, a flat stone and a yellow petal, and challenge your children to go out and find them.

Splash around

For younger children, fill the bath, kitchen sink or a paddling pool with bubbles, food colouring and lots of different-sized bottles with lids, funnels and plastic animals. Just remember to supervise your children whenever they're near water.

Camp indoors

If you have a big enough room, you can actually pitch your tent inside. If not, help arrange chairs, clothes horses and blankets into a tent and let your children's imaginations run wild. They can take a torch inside, have picnics, "explore" the rest of the house with binoculars and sleep in the tent overnight.

Create a holiday scrapbook

Using ticket stubs, digital photos, party invitations and leaflets from places they've visited, children can create a lasting memory of their holidays. They can paste in leaves, twigs and sand from days out and decorate the pages with paint, felt pens, tin foil, buttons, pipe cleaners, wrapping paper and scraps of fabric.

Enjoy a sandy world

Fill a tray with sand and show little children how to create a mini-world using their Lego figures or plastic animals. They can add some toys of their choice and enjoy setting up different make-believe scenes.

Become fashion designers

Go to the market and buy a few cheap T-shirts and some buttons, sequins, feathers, glitter and fabric paints so your kids can make their own designs. Or, get creative with newspaper and let them make their own black-and-white clothes which they can model for you in a fashion show.

Try junk modelling

Save as many boxes, tubes, plastic lids and pots as you can. Buy a few rolls of masking tape and sticky tape and encourage your children to be as creative as possible. They could make a robot, a spaceship, a castle or a dinosaur - whatever appeals! Once they're finished, they can have hours of fun painting and decorating their creation.

Go painting crazy

Take a drinking straw, put a blob of paint on paper and blow it around - don't forget to try out different colours. Or cut pieces of fruit and veg in half, wait until they're dry, dip into paint and then press on to paper for some fantastic prints. Apples, potatoes, firm mushrooms and grapes work best. Or try string paintings - lay a large piece of paper on the ground outside then dip a piece of string in paint and whisk the string around on the paper.

Set up an assault course

Your children could create a course in the garden, which includes activities such as stepping stones, a hula hoop to jump through, garden chairs to wriggle under, a wheelbarrow to run with and a pillow case to jump in. They can use a stopwatch to time each other doing the course and try to keep improving their personal speed.


Carmen Benton's top rules on play

It's all about "underparenting"! Try too hard and it's not good for anyone

1 Leave them to it

Children need hours of self-selected and self-directed play, no matter how old they are. They also need to experience active modes of learning, rather than passive ones. Structured school, after-school activities, TV and computer games can rob children of this. Children can lose the feeling of free expression and creativity as they follow a teacher's plan rather than their own. Let your child choose an activity, help set it up and then leave them to it. Ten minutes on can buy you half an hour off.

2 Stay at home sometimes

Give your children a gift this holiday by telling them you are staying at home all day and that no other children will be coming around, then help them set up a project or two. It could revolve around space, pirates or rock bands - whatever it is that your child loves.

3 Children don't need to be entertained by adults

If we allow our children to get bored, then it encourages them to think of things to do themselves. We can easily get into the trap of entertaining our children, but this is not helping them learn the valuable life skills of planning and organising their own time.