Sometimes the thought of forking out another $50 for an organised children's activity, or the dread of having to pack multiple children into a car without a meltdown is too much to handle. School holidays and summer weekends leave kids with plenty of playtime, and often parents with surplus stress as they wrack their brains for activities that won't break the bank. Do you identify?
iPads aside, there are still plenty of things to keep little ones entertained in your own backyard. Here' are just a few suggestions that should leave both you and them grinning, and won't require any more funding than a fiver.
1) Water bombs You can feel the summer heat drilling through the window panes. Short of taking multiple cold showers, a water bomb fight is one of the most entertaining ways to cool off this summer. All you need is a pack of balloons and a bucket for the 'bombs' (call them 'balloons' if this should offend your overly PC neighbours), a tap, and a hat and rashie for the kids. They can run around to their hearts content, while you sit in the shade sipping a cold beer. Or just join in – bet you'll love reminiscing over your own childhood summertime fun.
2) Water balloon 'cuddle fish' For kids that are more lover than fighter, water balloons also make great pets. Take a couple of balloons, a permanent marker, and you can create your own characters with names and stories. How old are they? Who are their mates? How did they end up in your suburb? The game is to keep them alive as long as possible, without them bursting. You can see how long the rubbery friends can withstand a picnic on the grass, or which one will fare best during a stint on hot concrete. Will they survive a bath in the bucket without popping? This DIY pet idea provides fun for hours as they tote around their newfound friends.
3) Puppy poetry Do you have a beloved family dog, cat, or guinea pig? For the literary little'ns who still love to scribble with pencil and a book, writing a poem or story about their pup is a great way to keep kids occupied, and encourage appreciation of their pet. Who knows, it might become their first piece of literary genius, worthy of a frame and wall space. Otherwise, keep it as a token cringe-worthy item to whip out at their 21st birthday party.
4) Mini Masterchef If you own a veggie garden or even a couple of herb boxes, the kids can conjure up some creativity in the garden as they prepare you summertime delights. All you need is a couple of kid-friendly utensils and plastic plates. If your garden's still not ripe for the picking, a couple of pieces of fruit or veggies can be 'harvested' from the fridge to plump out the ingredient box. Set them a task and time limit, and see what masterpieces they can concoct for the judges – chopped carrot with lashings of parsley and nasturtium flowers, anyone?
What creations will your mini-Masterchefs come up with?
5) Boardwalk chalk Even in this modern age, there's still something so satisfying about manual arts. The younger kids love scribbling colour onto your otherwise mundane driveway cement, and the older kids still think it's kind of think it's cool being given permission to 'graffiti' the pavement. Even if you're not a fan of the mismatched colour palettes clashing with the house paintjob, it sure beats them decorating your internal walls with Texta or lipstick. Given our Australian summers and a bit of luck, an afternoon storm will sweep through and wipe the easel clean, leaving them to re-render it all again the next day. It's multiple days' entertainment for the price of one!
These are just a couple of cheap thrills to help turn your backyard into an affordable playground. There are plenty of other ideas for entertaining home-based fun – just use your imagination and a flashback to the old days that were devoid of technology and lavish trampoline centre parties.
So if you'd rather leave the car in the driveway and the wallet in your pocket, these games will give the kids a chance to get active outdoors while leaving you a few idle minutes to enjoy a crisp sav blanc or an ice-cold beer.