If you find yourself at home with very young children and too much time on your hands, not to mention no money to spend, here are some activities you can do at home over the Easter holidays. The best part is they factor in potentially hours (or at the very least half an hour) of 'grownup' leisure time. Setting up the activity might take a bit of effort but once that's done, you can be kicking back, having coffee, reading a book, working on the computer, doing yoga - or the housework.
1. Get out forgotten activity books, unfinished craftworks and toys and games not played with in a long time and set them out at different spots around the lounge room. Have timed play sessions before you move on to the next one, getting use out of all those items craved at Christmas and birthday time - but never played with since.
2. Stage your own Easter hat parade. Use an existing hat – from home or the $2 shop - or create your own out of cardboard or newspaper. Cut up scraps of coloured paper or coloured-in foil or Easter egg wrapping to decorate – use your imagination. Invite your friends or neighbourhood children to do the same, crank up the stereo and have them parade their hats while the parents relax with coffee or cocktails.
3. Make your own Easter show bags. If you can't afford (or can't cope with) the various Easter shows, make up your own show bag just for fun. Take a bag (paper, plastic or green shopping bag) and pop in morning tea snacks - packets of sultanas, muesli bars, cheese, biscuits, fruit maybe a special Easter treat, a box juice or water. Add a novelty toy, colouring book, stickers, whatever you want. They'll take time to eat and play with their surprises.
4. Get them to organise a dance competition, fashion show, band concert, circus or magic show. With kids, it's all in the anticipation, preparation and rehearsals. They love to spend hours getting ready to perform 'the big show'. With siblings or friends, send them off to practice while you pursue your own leisure or housework activity. If it's a dance show, they'll obviously need some music.
For fashion, some dressing ups or old makeup. For a band, use any instruments you have or make your own using pots, pans, spoons - and rice in a plastic container for a shaker. Get them to make up their own magic tricks or borrow a book from the library. You can even get them to draw up their own tickets to extend their preparation time. Clear a stage area, prepare some popcorn and sit down to enjoy the show. If they're old enough and you have a handycam, one of them can even be the filmmaker to record the event for a further showing to grandparents at a later date.
5. Running races in the park or garden. Make up medals by cutting out circles of cardboard and covering them with foil and stapling ribbons to them. Let them run around and award the medals accordingly or to all runners if that causes less fights.
6. Drawing exercise, which can be conducted around the house, park or garden. Arm them with colouring pencils, crayons or textas and have them wander around and find a subject. Ask them to sit down and draw what they see. It can be anything that inspires them - spider-webs, dolls, cars, their toys. Organise an art exhibition, by setting up their pictures in their home and inspecting and admiring them.
7. Build a cubby using chairs, sheets, blankets. Have morning tea inside once construction is complete.
8. Water play. Set up a tub of water with bath toys, bubbles, even a leaf to be used as a boat from the garden, a doll to wash or some plastic cups. If you live in an apartment and they are playing inside, put down a plastic sheet or towels.
9. Play Shops. Use items from your cupboard or save old cereal, toothpaste, tea boxes, spice and vitamin bottles to set up a shop. Give one child a basket and let them pretend they are doing the week's shopping for you.
10. Afternoon tea party. Let them set up placemats, plastic cups, plates and spoons for a tea party for friends - or for their favourite soft toys. If you have older children and have the strength, you can bake cupcakes. For younger children, let them join in the cooking with their own bowl and small amounts of flour and water for mixing with a wooden spoon. They won't know the difference but they feel like they're part of the action.