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ideas

  • Valentine's Day Themed Fun For Kids

    Coming up with fun outdoor activities to keep small people entertained is a lot easier when you work with a theme.

    Thankfully there seems to be some sort of celebration or festival in just about every month of the year and February is no exception.

    Which brings us to Valentine’s Day. It’s probably not advisable to turf the kids outside and tell them to invent their own Valentine's themed games (unless you don’t mind them playing kiss chase all day). We’re here to rescue you, with a selection of V-Day games for all the family.

    1. Heart Hunting Cut some heart shapes out from coloured card and hide them all over the garden. Make the shapes smaller for older children. If you want to add a competitive edge you could leave a different colour out for each child, then have a timed race to see who can find all their hearts the quickest, or who can collect the most hearts within a set amount of time.

    2. You’ve Got Love Mail Set each child up with some pens and coloured paper and ask them to write a love letter, or draw a picture to each member of the family. You could even create a family postbox to put them in. Then when you are together, nominate a postman to empty the box and deliver the letters.

    3. Valentine’s Balloon Games Did you know you can buy heart shaped balloons? Well you can. So for an easy afternoon’s entertainment, buy a pack, blow them up and leave the children to use their imagination.

    4. Cupid’s Arrow Make a jumbo heart, with smaller outlines inside to use as a target. Tape it to the ladder on your slide or climbing frame so it’s held up by something sturdy. Then use foam bullet guns to shoot at it. Alternatively you could cut a heart shaped hole out of an old sheet, secure that in an upright position and try to throw balls through the gap.

    5. Valentine’s Sensory Play You could make a Valentine’s themed sensory play station. Use an old splash pool or a water play table and fill with anything pink, white and red. Water beads, jelly, shaving foam, food colouring, flour, anything that feels icky, is non-toxic and doesn’t stain. Put each ingredient in a separate cup and let the children experiment with different combinations.

    Often to get the party started (even if it’s just you and your kids in attendance) a small amount of structure and a gentle suggestion is all that is needed. You’ll probably find that your children quickly deviate from the activities you had planned. When this happens you should congratulate yourself for inspiring them, and take a moment to admire their fertile imaginations.

  • Building A Play Centre In Your Own Back Garden

    Investing in a large piece of play equipment for your garden will encourage your children to get outside, burn off some energy and enjoy some exercise. A climbing frame or swings and slide set can provide years of entertainment, but can also look a little lonesome if they are the only child-friendly item in your garden,

    To perk up your outdoor play space and add interest to your garden, here are some cheap and easy ideas for your children.

    1. Mini City Take your toy cars outside and create a landscape of roadways for them to explore. You can use cut up rubber matting, bricks laid on their sides, strips of wood, basically anything flat you have to hand can be used to construct your roadway. If you have an old unloved toy garage, re-home it in the garden. You can add interest by sinking small bowls into the ground to act as lakes or rivers, and using blocks, decorated stones, or upside down flower pots as buildings.

    2. Mud Kitchen Kids love mud, so instead of fighting the inevitable mud pie making, embrace it by laying out a separate mud pie kitchen. If you have an old toy kitchen the children have grown out of, simply move it into the garden, next to a patch of bare earth. Alternatively, all you need to get your kitchen started are some bowls and utensils. Dig out kitchen equipment that you no longer used (most people have a cupboard full lurking somewhere), and dig over a patch of ground so it can be easily used to make mud.

    3. Outdoor Chalkboard The jumbo outdoor chalkboards typically found outside pubs and restaurants are relatively inexpensive to buy, and will liven up your back garden. Attach to fence posts erected in the lawn, or hang on the back of the house to create an outdoor classroom.

    4. DIY Inspiration DIY stores are a great source of inspiration for cheap play ideas. A stretch of guttering makes a great ramp for cars to race down, or a length of tubing can be run from the top of the climbing frame to the bottom and used to pour sand, water, marbles, or toy cars down.

    5. Bug Box Set up a cheap bug observation station. Take a clear plastic under-bed storage box with a lid and fill with soil, then hunt around the garden for critters to put inside it. You can get small bug boxes to ctach them in, and magnifying glasses for observations relatively easy. You will also need a small plastic syringe or pipette for dispensing drops of water into the box to keep them moist. In the evening set the mini beasts free, and the soil, by dumping them out into a flower bed, then all your equipment will neatly pack inside the box ready for next time.

    You don't need to spend thousands of pounds to create a playground in your own back garden. Start with a large piece of play equipment, then build smaller activities around that, adding new ones each year to maintain interest.

  • Activity Ideas For Earth Day 22nd April

    Celebrated in more than 192 countries, Earth Day on April 22nd is chance to be thankful for the world in which we live, understand it better, and raise awareness of environmental factors.

    Get your children involved with the Earth Day inspired games and activities.

    Learning About The Earth's Structure The night before your planned Earth Day activities, make Earth play dough balls. Start with a small red ball, then wrap a layer of orange around it, then yellow, then black, and finally blue. Leave the green play dough off for your children to do the next day. Keep the balls wrapped in a food bag to stop them drying out. The first part of the activity with the children is to decorate the Earth balls with pieces of green land. Have them roll the green dough out, then cut the shapes and place them on the globe. Use photos and 3D models of the Earth to help them position the land correctly. This is great for fine motor skills, and for learning about the Earth's landscape. Then when the children think the game is over and their work is done, ask them to cut their balls in half (not all will want to do this, so you might have to use your own model to demonstrate). You can then talk through the layers that make up the inside of the Earth.

    Learning About Recycling Recycling is a tough concept for little children to understand, so help them make sense of it with this craft activity. Take some old newspapers and craft paper scraps, and tear them into tiny pieces, before adding some water. When the mixture is pulpy and well mixed together, and adult needs to blend the mixture with a hand blender to get it really runny. Next the mixture needs to be spread out over a fine mesh to drain the water out, or a sieve will do. Use a cotton tea towel to press the mixture down and squeeze the water out. Then turn the pulp out onto a flat surface and leave to dry into small pieces of paper. The next day these pieces can be cut into shapes or coloured.

    Earth Day Bingo Make up bingo cards with sights and sounds you might find locally. Sit at the top of the climbing frame or slide, listen and look very carefully to see how many items you can check off. After 5 or 10 minutes, you might need to climb down and go on a walk to tick of the last remaining items.

    Earth Day Scavenger Hunt Like bingo, but you will need to retrieve things too. If you have a big box, or breathable container you can add insects to the list of items you need to track down.

    Taking Care Of Mother Nature Think of one thing you can do to help the Earth and its inhabitants, and take a pledge to do it for the rest of the year. Maybe you can commit to feeding your neighbourhood birds, growing a tree, or recycling more of your waste. Give your children some options and talk through their ideas too, before writing an action plan and pledge together.

  • Frighteningly Fun Food Ideas For Halloween

    OK, I'll admit it, this post doesn't have anything to do with outdoor play equipment. But once I'd written up some Halloween craft ideas, and Halloween games to play, I was really in the mood for some party food.

    In no particular order, here are my top ten terrifying treats the team at Wicken will be snacking on this week.

    1. Eyeball Biscuits Cover a digestive biscuit with white icing, then add a coloured Smartie onto the centre. Stick on a tiny piece of black liquorice, or use a black food colouring pen to make the pupil. Then add strawberry shoe laces as bloody veins radiating out to the edge of the biscuit.

    2. Mummified Hotdogs Cut white bread into strips approximately 1cm wide and spread sparingly with tomato ketchup. Use the strips as bandages to wrap up the sausages. Don't be too neat and tidy about it as the effect is better when ketchup splurges out, and you can see the fleshy coloured sausage between rows of bandages.

    3. Dead Fly Biscuits The easiest Halloween food of them all. Simply arrange a packet of Garibaldi biscuits on a plate and tell the children that they're made with dead flies. Delicious.

    4. Oreo Spiders A perfect excuse to eat Oreo cookies. Push sticks of liquorice in either side to make the legs, and drop on a little icing for the eyes.

    5. Gingerbread Patients Attack a box of gingerbread men with tubes of writing icing and adorn them with injuries and stitches of all different colours.

    6. Marshmallow Ghosts Use a food colouring pen to draw eyes and a screaming mouth onto an upside down white marshmallow. For added gruesomeness, partially melt it onto a biscuit.

    7. Candy Apple Slices Coating apples in toffee or chocolate is not easy, as often the sugary goodness slips right off before it's had time to set. It's much easier to slice the apple into chunks, then dip it into melted chocolate / toffee, and let it dry on a piece of wax paper. If you want to make it really pretty, sprinkle on hundreds and thousands while the covering is still wet.

    8. Pancake Ghosts Instead of pouring your batter into a neat circle, make it into an irregular tear drop shape. Once cooked, decorate with chocolate buttons for eyes, as the heat from the pancake will melt the chocolate a little so the buttons stick on.

    9. Zombie Cake Make a normal cake batter, but add a drop of yellow and blue food colourings to get a green sponge. Bake as one large cake, or smaller cup cakes and decorate with whatever facial features you like.

    10. Haunted Bananas Dip half a banana into melted white chocolate, then use chocolate buttons to make eyes and a mouth. This looks more effective if a lollipop stick is pushed into the bottom of the banana and it is eaten as a variation on the toffee apple.

    Most of these ideas came from Pinterest, where you will find loads more fantastical food. If in doubt, simply add two white chocolate buttons for eyes, and top with chocolate drops for the pupils, and just about any food will look scary.

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