As you may know we spent the Summer in Jamaica and there was more than one occasion whilst there where I had to think minimally when it came to keeping the boys occupied.
We only stayed at resorts with kids clubs a couple of times and the majority of the trip was spent living in a villa in a gated community; which although had a park and a pool; they were a hot, uphill walk away and could only occupy a couple of hours each day. The boys still had a good 10 hours a day in a villa with none of their home comforts and as both boys had chickenpox during our stay, a good 6 of those days we couldn’t even visit the pool or park.
Travelling over 9 hours on my own with the boys meant that I had to pack lightly; I couldn’t physically bring a lot toys so we had to stick to a few transportable favourites (check out my recent blog post on minimal travel tips to see what we took with us). So with lots of spare time and little to use I had no choice but to release my inner creative mama … here’s what kept us entertained:
Science experiments – Baking soda and white vinegar make a chemical reaction that is not only easy and fun for children to create but also completely safe. When the two mix together they fizz and foam and if you do your experiment outside or in a tray then the mess will be contained!
One option is to freeze a mixture of white vinegar and water in ice cube trays and once they’re frozen you can pop them out and your little one can sprinkle baking soda on top. Alternatively mix water and baking soda to freeze and then pour the white vinegar on top.
You could also pop different liquids into cups or ice cube tray segments and then sprinkle baking soda over them to see which ones react – a mixture of acidic and non acidic liquids work great like fresh juice, milk, water, white vinegar etc.
Adding some food colouring to the mix makes it even more fun – you could make red volcano cubes, blue sea cubes etc – really use you imagination!
Ice play – There are lots of other ice cube activities you can do with your children; letting your little ones draw patterns on your patio or a wooden fence with them keeps them busy while they melt away. It’s great for their dexterity, coordination and writing practise and leave no mess!
Try popping small items into the ice cube trays and then filling them with water before you freeze them; once you take them out your little one will be occupied for minutes (depending on how hot it is) trying to get the items out. They could use a little toy hammer, spoon or simply throw the ice cubes against the floor outside to break the items free! I’ve seen a lot of people using small pieces of lego but as we had no toys Jasper collected stones, leaves and pennies to freeze!
Get cleaning – There’s something oh so grown up about chores that kids seem to love (up until a certain age) so giving your little one a spray bottle of water and a clean cloth can keep them and your windows/ laminate flooring/ selected pieces of furniture busy for a long time!
If you don’t trust them near your interiors then try getting them to wash their toys; fill a paddling pool or large bowl with soapy water, give them a selection of dirty toys and a toothbrush, cloth and scourer and let them go crazy!
Scavenger hunts – This is probably mine and my boys favourite game to play and that is basically going out and finding items outside. Sometimes we pre-plan a list of things to find and other times we wing it but as long as we have a pot or bucket of some description and the great outdoors we can make the game last for hours! Usually on the list are different colour, size and shaped leaves, flowers, stones, sticks, grass and bugs!
You could also add an element of education to the scavenger hunt by matching your findings to different letters of the alphabet or different colours!
You could also write riddles or clues like ‘find something that smells nice’ , ‘this item can be smooth or rough’ or ‘I have 8 legs’. Depending on your child’s age ask them to find items beginning with certain letters or sounds or even items thats names are made up of a particular number of letters.
This game then leads of quite nicely to potion making aka adding water to the findings and mixing them with a stick – often gifted to me as perfume!
Of course if it’s a really cold and miserable day then you could do a scavenger hunt indoors. The items could then be used for a treasure basket or for a memory game where you remove an item at a time and ask your children which one is missing!
Imagination games – Hide and seek, Simon says, musical statues, musical chairs, eye spy, sleeping lions, tag, the floor is lava!
Making dens – Another favourite of Jaspers; as long as we have a table, blanket, chair or even just an overgrown bush or tree – we’ve got ourselves a bears lair!
Singing and dancing – When all else fails – dance! Even if you don’t have a CD player, iPad or phone to hand, sing your favourite tunes, make up silly dances, burn some energy and release some positive endorphins!
Get crafty – While in the villa the only craft supplies we had were a pack of colouring pencils but aside from A LOT of drawing Jasper got really creative with everyday household items! He made volcanos and superheroes with paper cups and ripped up paper (old letters). We also used loo roll and kitchen roll tubes to make swords, slides for stones, robot arms and houses!
Food, glorious food – Melas times don’t need to be a break from the fun, in fact you can centre a whole load of fun around a simple lunch! Have a floor picnic (it’s a lot more exciting than sitting at the table); make faces and shapes out of snacks or let your little one create fruit kebabs!
I hope you found these ideas useful; I’ll definitely write a few more posts on entertaining your children minimally, perhaps great toys that travel well and gift ideas!
Thanks for reading!