School’s out for summer..


..But it doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Holiday time means loads of opportunities to boost children’s knowledge and understanding of the world, says education expert Robert Watts




Our 15 activities are designed to inspire children to create, explore and experiment, either outdoors or in. They encourage them to articulate their ideas, extend their vocabulary and build their confidence. Most of all, they’re designed to be fun – so switch off the wi-fi, roll up your sleeves and enjoy! For each activity, we’ve included an indication of the curriculum area that is covered.





Outdoor fun!


Blind obstacle race


Communication and language

Years ago, barely a summer’s day passed without an obstacle race. Here’s a twist on the idea. Set up your own obstacle course in the garden and pair children up. One is blindfolded and guided by their partner through the obstacles. Children will learn to articulate instructions more clearly, to listen attentively – and to trust others

to keep them safe!


Egg box scales



Lesson one for parents: never throw away an egg carton. There are a hundred ways to recycle these cardboard wonders, and here’s one of them (found at You’ll

need two egg cartons, two pieces of string, a potato masher and a bamboo skewer. Experimenting outside of the house means less mess.


Stand the masher up and help your child to thread the skewer through its top. Tie an egg carton to each end by threading string through the lid and you’ll have a readymade pair of scales. Ask your child to choose items and materials to weigh and compare, and encourage them to make predictions. What weighs more? Sand or salt? Pasta or lentils? Extend by challenging children to balance the scales by adjusting quantities.


Buried treasure map


Understanding of the world

Thanks to Sat-Navs, our map-reading skills are on the decline. Here’s a way to tempt budding geographers to keep the tradition alive while also exploring their hunter-gatherer instinct. Help children to create a map of the garden or a section of the local park. Let them choose which landmarks to include, but also draw attention to features easily overlooked. With your children’s backs turned, hide healthy snacks in various locations, adding a cross to the map each time. Children can collaborate or compete to use the map to find the food, before challenging each other with maps of their own.


Exploding bags


Understanding of the world

This is designed to encourage children to explore materials. Pour a quarter of a cup of warm water into a zip-seal sandwich bag and add half a cup of vinegar. Spoon three teaspoonfuls of baking soda on to the tissue and fold it up. Close the zip on the sandwich bag but leave one corner open, then carefully slip the tissue full of baking soda through the open corner. The bag should slowly expand before eventually exploding. Probably best done outside!


Make a volcano


Understanding of the world

Here’s another messy one for the garden. Mix together six cups of flour, two cups of salt, four tablespoons of oil and two cups of water. Knead the ingredients to make a soft salt dough mixture, mould it to create a mountain shape and push a small plastic bottle into the top. Pour food colouring into a plastic bottle of warm water, add a little washing up liquid and two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda, and pour the mixture through a funnel into the small bottle. Finally, slowly add a little vinegar and watch as your volcano erupts into life! (The ‘lava’ is caused by a chemical

reaction between the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda – this produces carbon dioxide and increases the pressure inside the bottle until it erupts.)


Balloon rocket


Understanding of the world

Here’s another hands-on scientific experiment. Tie a piece of string

between two points in the garden, threading a straw onto the string before securing. Inflate a balloon and, while holding the neck closed, tape it to the straw. Say 5,4,3,2,1… and let go of the balloon, which should speed along the string. Set up two lengths of string for balloon races, and challenge children to explain what makes them move (older ones should know that the air creates a

moving force as it leaves the balloon).


Teatime teamwork


Personal, social and emotional development

A playful way to explore the value of teamwork. Take two long bamboo sticks and tape a spoon to the end of each. Sit two children some distance apart and provide each with a bowlful of something to eat – ideally something healthy and messy! Neither is allowed to feed themselves and each must feed the other using

their extended spoon. Best carried out in the open air for stress-free spillages.




Indoor fun!


I wanna tell you a story…


Communication and language

Some children have wonderful, original ideas for stories but struggle to commit them to paper. Make life easier for budding authors by providing an intriguing opening line (such as: ‘Last night I found something I hadn’t seen for a long, long time…’). Encourage

children to build on the story, line by line. Finally, scribe the story for them and make it into a zig-zag book.


Socks with eyes


Expressive arts and design

If there’s one thing all parents have in common, it is that they live in houses full of old odd socks. The next time rain stops play, gather together every odd sock you can find, stuff each with shredded newspaper and add a pair of staring eyes (stick on buttons, or paint on) for extra effect. Children will explore how random arrangements of colour and pattern can come together to create a dazzling effect.


Just a minute


Communication and language

Word games offer valuable opportunities for children to develop their vocabulary and articulate their ideas, none more so than this age-old favourite. How long can you and your children speak on a

subject without repeating a word or deviating from the theme?


String printing



Children are fascinated by symmetrical shapes and patterns and love to create their own. Squeeze paint onto a palette and mix colours together. Drag string through the paint, holding it to the

palette with a paintbrush and arrange it on one side of a piece of paper. Keep hold of the end, fold the paper in half and unfold to reveal the symmetrical pattern. Encourage children to pause, look and think about how they could develop their pattern further.


Lolly stick house


Expressive arts and design

Finally, this is one for a LONG rainy day. Head online and you’ll find that a few pounds will buy you a thousand – yes, a thousand – wooden lolly sticks. Your child will remember the day you set aside to help them build a house from lolly sticks. Sketch a design on paper, explore ways of joining the sticks with PVA glue – and draw a little inspiration from this video









July/August 2017

All information is correct at time of publishing