There is absolutely, categorically nothing less fun than being stuck inside with children when it is raining outside. Unfortunately, if through no fault of your own you reside in the UK, this effectively makes a large part of the summer holidays about as enjoyable as, well, being trapped in a small house with a bunch of overexcited, under-stimulated hoodlums.
There is only so much of a day that can be filled with play-dough, baking, and building blocks. Even painting, a sure winner whatever the weather, starts to lose its shine a little (for me, at least) when the creativity shifts from the paper to the walls and furniture. And yet, it is so hard to be imaginative and original when it comes to dreaming up rainy-day activities.
A friend sent me a link today for a website designed by Woolworths, the dinosaur of the high street, previously assumed to be extinct, but apparently still evolving. It is called the Ideas Machine, and it is a clever little gadgety gizmo which generates ideas for play. You enter various criteria, such as the number of children, their age, and the weather conditions you are competing with, and it churns out a bunch of ideas for things you could do with them. A lot of the ideas not-so-subtly hint at items you might wish to purchase from Woolies, but that’s fair enough; it’s their gadget, after all. But some of them are more like the sort of crafty, make-your-own-entertainment-from-a-washing-up-liquid-bottle kind of ideas that appeal to the Blue Peter presenter in me.
I had a go at ”Kitchen Skittles” with my little girl and her friend. I raided the recycling bin for empty bottles, and used satsumas as balls (more robust than the nectarines, the other option to hand). Conveniently, my kitchen is tiny and very narrow: not often a great selling point, but when said kitchen is being used as a bowling alley you couldn’t ask for better, and the girls were thrilled. The kept on knocking down the bottles, giggling like maniacs, until eventually all the bowling balls had been eaten and we had to think of something else.
There are some great ideas in there, although in fairness I think my girls were a little young for most of them, but there was certainly enough material to generate an afternoon’s entertainment, and lots of outdoor ideas too. I particularly liked the idea of a “Sleeple Chase”, a sack race in sleeping bags, and “Skipping Splash”, where the kids take turns to jump rope holding a cup of water, and the one with the most water left at the end wins. In fact, I may have to nip down the road next time the sun comes out and borrow my friend’s slighly older children…