This past week, a few of us moms met together as we do every week. We are reading through a challenging and sobering parenting book that often leaves you feeling positive about your role as a mother but buckling under the weight of the responsibility you carry as a primary caregiver. This week’s chapter dealt with fun things to do with our kiddies. We sat there, reminiscing on our own childhoods, the memories warming our hearts. Here are some of my favourites.

 

1.  Going to the Movies

This was a real treat and we seldom did this just as a family. It was much anticipated when cousins came to stay. This requires full adult participation and is fun for the whole family!

You will need:

  • Dress up clothes
  • Two cell phones
  • Snacks
  • Money (don’t worry, you’ll get it back!)
  • A hired DVD (nice to have something different and not from your own collection)
  • Simple tickets made from cardboard – or even a slip of paper will do

 

We would haul out the dress-up box and choose something fancy to wear. Once we looked snazzy, we’d make a call to “the movie house”. In our day, we’d be on one end of the landline and my dad on the other (who remembers speaking to your siblings on the landline?!?). Nowadays, you can just phone a cell phone. We made our reservation. My mom would hand us our tickets and some coins and we’d parade off down the passage tottering in our oversized high heels. The lounge door would be closed and my dad would be at the entrance with a blazer over his T-shirt. He would ask us for our tickets, he’d tear them in half…always an exciting part of the process, and then…he’d open the door and we’d enter the “movie theatre”. The whole lounge had been moved around and the couch was right up near the T.V. Before the movie began, we would go to a table in the lounge. My mom was, probably, kneeling behind the table and in front was arranged a spread of delectable treats. She would ask us what we’d like. It would generally consist of a cup of Coke (ha ha, all us sugar conscious parents would cringe at the thought now!), a small packet of chips, a snack-sized chocolate and maybe some wine gums. Of course we would never refuse anything on offer! We’d hand her our coins and, loaded with our stash of yumminess, we found our seats. A few minutes later, my dad would turn off the lights (something we didn’t do when we watched a movie as a family) and our home movie night would begin.

You can use your imagination and substitute ideas here. Cash need not be a problem. Food on offer could be homemade popcorn, a homemade biscuit and a cup of hot cocoa. You can borrow a DVD from friends instead of renting one. This one really need not cost money. They will remember the experience, not how much you spent on them.

 

2. Building a House

This was something we absolutely loved about holidays. We were allowed to do pretty much what we wanted in our room and didn’t need to clean it up before bed time. Depending on the age of your children, you may need to help them with this one.

You will need:

  • Clothes pegs
  • Sheets that you don’t mind your children using
  • Mattresses off their beds
  • String

 

My sister and I would climb onto the windowsills, hang onto the burglar guards and peg the corners of the sheets to the curtain rails. If pegs don’t work here, you can also knot the corners of the sheets, tie string to them and then secure them to the curtain rails. A lot depended on the way the room was arranged and what furniture, such as bookshelves, we could drape the sheets over. We would also close the corners in cupboard doors. Sheets were joined with pegs. The whole room would be turned into a house. I once recall my dad rolling up a foam mattress, securing it with string and using that as a pillar to hold up the sheets in the middle of our house. We would use both our mattresses and pile them on top of one another to make a very soft bed. In came the books, the dolls’ cots and blankets. We would sleep top-to-tail for as long as my mom could stand our rooms being virtually inaccessible.

 

3. Making Crafts

We used to call them “makey books”. Weird name, I know but that’s exactly what they were. And, I won’t lie, I still get a kick out of looking at kids’ craft books. We owned one or two but when we went to the library, my sister and I loved checking out craft books and pouring over them to see what we wanted to make.

 

You will need:

  • Craft book/Computer/Cell phone
  • Time
  • Imagination
  • Supplies indicated

 

Depending on the activity and age of your children, you may need to supervise this one. I still think craft books are way more fun to look at than Pinterest. Don’t get me wrong – love Pinterest – but not having thousands of ideas scream at me all at once makes me feel a lot less overwhelmed. But, maybe it screams fun to this generation, who knows? In any case, the thrill of creating and making something to use or play with is unmatchable and will instil real pride in your children in what they have achieved.

 

4. Washing Dolls Clothes/Cars

This is something that can be adapted and used for many different things. Give a child a bucket of water and, voila, you have at least an hour of entertainment. I recall many sunny Saturday mornings when we would pull out the old baby bath, fill it with soapy water and scratch around to find every item of dolls’ clothing or linen that we could. It would go into the tub and we’d scrub away. We made a makeshift washing line from some wire attached to the Wendy house and a tree and then the clothes would be hung up to dry. Once they were starched stiff by the sun, we’d pull them off and borrow the rolling pin from the kitchen to ‘iron’ them. When we were older, we were allowed to use the real iron! Such responsibility was liberating!

Alternatively, if you have sons, I’m sure they have cars or trucks. Create a car wash on the driveway. Use chalk to mark out parking spots and give the kids a sponge and an old toothbrush to shine those wheels and make those vehicles sparkle.

 

You will need:

  • Bucket of soapy water
  • Kiddies table
  • Towel to mop up the mess
  • Sponges
  • Old toothbrushes
  • Chalk
  • Wire (+ two points to attach the wire to)
  • Wire cutters
  • Pegs
  • Rolling pins if you so desire J
  • Iron and ironing board (requires parental supervision)

 

5. Walking home from school

This was an absolute treat for us and required minimal effort from our dad – just a little bit of time. He had Tuesdays off and would sometimes suggest a walk home from school. It was such an exciting activity because it didn’t happen often and I would watch the clock the whole day, anticipating seeing my dad standing outside the school gate instead of waiting in a car. He would carry our bags and we’d have a good half an hour of quality time together and enjoy the fresh air.

 

You will need:

  • Your legs
  • A bit of time to leave the house earlier to get to school before the bell and to get home again

 

I feel like you can make even the most mundane things exciting to kids. It just takes a positive attitude, motivation and a bit of effort on your part.

 

6. Walks with the dogs

This was an activity we did as a whole family. It only happened once a week, if that. We would set out into the forest on a Saturday morning, each parent walking a dog. As we got older, we wanted to take the lead. Once in the forest, we’d release the dogs and watch in joy as they relished their freedom. We often took our bikes as well and cycled alongside the delighted dogs. This is also a versatile activity. Dogs or no dogs, bikes or no bikes, forest or no forest, you can make this work for your family even if it’s just a walk around the neighbourhood together.

 

You will need:

  • Bikes/skateboards/roller skates (optional)
  • Dogs (optional)
  • Leashes (optional)
  • Your family (not optional J)

 

The great part about this activity was that, although we were all together and stuck together on occasion, we also had some quality time as siblings while my parents strolled behind us. They were also able to have some adult conversation while keeping us in sight. Win-win for all!

 

7. Dinosaur dinners

Again, here is a mundane task that was turned into a fun, exciting activity. Every now and so often, we would have a Dinosaur dinner. The rules – no crockery, only fingers. We then could get our creative juices flowing and create a prehistoric landscape in our food.

 

You will need:

  • Mashed potato
  • Blue food colouring
  • Broccoli
  • Sausages
  • Gravy (Tomato based, preferably)
  • Any other veg that you think can be incorporated

 

The mashed potato (or one time we had blue carrots if I recall correctly) could be dyed blue to create a river. The sausage could be a log. The remainder of the potato could be hollowed out to create a volcano and gravy poured into the hollow as lava. And the broccoli could be trees. Use your imagination!

 

8. Tea parties

My mom used to attend ceramic classes and painted tea sets for my sister and me which held more tea than the playsets one can buy in the shops. She used to make it mid-morning and bring our tea through on tray. While we sat playing with our dolls and Barbies, we could enjoy copious amounts of tea. Sometimes when we had friends over, we would dress up and have our tea in the Wendy house.

 

You will need:

  • Tea set
  • Tea/Hot Chocolate
  • Milk
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Biscuits or cake (optional)
  • Cake plates (optional)
  • Tray

 

It feels so elegant and grown-up to be able to pour your own cup of tea. And it’s such fun to be served like the adults who come to visit. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.

 

9. Baking

This was an activity that kept us occupied for ages. It was lovely to page through recipe books and choose something to make. I especially loved the stunning kiddies’ recipe books that had step-by-step instructions and pictures. And it was also something I felt like I could make on my own even if my mom helped. It was simple and easy.

 

You will need:

  • Ingredients
  • Cook book/recipe online
  • Baking utensils

 

As a general guideline, it’s good to find a recipe that the children can do pretty much on their own even if they are too young to be left on their own – recipes that require stirring by hand, pouring, measuring, cutting, decorating, kneading, etc. In her book, Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman speaks of a three-year old in France baking independently. The recipe – a yoghurt cake made using the yoghurt carton to measure most of the ingredients. That’s simple, right? And the more independence you give them, the greater their joy at their achievements.

 

10. Read a book together

Each holiday (if not in between as well), my mom would pull out an Enid Blyton or a classic like The Little Princess. She would sit in the passage outside our rooms (we could both see her from our beds) or lie on her bed in the holiday house and read a chapter or two. And, in our minds we’d enter an imaginary world and climb faraway trees or have midnight feasts with the children in the books. This fostered a love for reading and a longing to write stories.

 

You will need:

  • A chapter book
  • A comfy spot
  • A cup of tea/hot chocolate (optional but highly recommended)

 

11. Write a Story

Our love of books and imaginary worlds created in us a yearning desire to be authors (a desire that neither my sister nor I have lost). One holiday, my dad folded a few A4 pages into a booklet. We must have discussed beforehand what we wanted our story to be about. We then drew pictures on each page and afterwards, he would be our scribe. We were very proud of our finished work!

 

You will need:

  • Blank paper
  • Crayons/Kokis
  • Pen/Marker
  • Imagination!

 

As we got older, we would scribble down our thoughts on scrap paper or in old school books and, eventually we’d furiously type for hours. We’d then call each other into our rooms and read the latest unfolding of events. To this day, I love going back to a drawer in my desk and pouring over the many ideas that flowed onto many pages over the years.

 

So go ahead and get those little fingers busy creating memories that are priceless and quality times that will be treasured in their hearts forever.

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