Children’s Activity 16: Make a Den In The Garden

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Making a den in your bedroom or in the garden is not only fun, it’s magical! I have memories of playing exciting and imaginative games in dens me and my friends made in the woods as a child. The secretiveness and privacy of the den sparks children’s imaginations and turns their den into a spy base, a meeting place for a secret club or a magical place to have a picnic.

Building a den outside in the garden, we think, has an added excitement compared to dens built indoors, however, since it’s Winter we understand if you opt for an indoor den when trying this out!

As with all our activities you can try this out with varying degrees of investment and effort. The furthest you could take it is to create a permanent den in your garden for your children to enjoy. This might be a children’s wendy house. You can get some very elaborate ones these days! Alternatively, get your children involved in building their own using things like chairs, tables and bamboo poles to build a framework. The frame of a swing set, washing line or large trampoline could also be great frames!

Then you’ll need some covers to form the roof and walls of the den. Tarpaulin or waterproof materials would be ideal for use outdoors unless the weather is clearly going to hold out. To make it brighter on the inside you could use bright or light sheets to make the roof and walls and then layer a waterproof material over the top. Make sure it’s all secured with string, rope or tent pegs.

Once you’ve got your basic den you can begin setting up the inside. Consider making it relevant to the kind of games your children will want to play in there or the sort of things they will use it for. For example, if they’re using it as their pretend home make a sleeping area, cooking area, drinks, snacks and some seats. If they’re going to use it as their top secret base make sure there’s lots of paper, pens, magnifying glass, maps, etc.

Use a waterproof groundsheet and then add cushions, rugs or seats on top as needed.

Once it’s built, we’re sure your children will be able to entertain themselves for hours!

Children’s Activity 17: Create a Clay Sculpture

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Clay is something you can buy from arts and crafts shops if you want to try this one out at home. It is relatively cheap and comes in different colours. Alternatively there are packs that guide you through the modelling process and help you to build something like a dinosaur by the end of it. You could also look up whether there are any clay modelling or sculpture classes in your local area. Most will let you come along just for one session and may have classes dedicated to teaching children how to do clay sculpting!

If you decide to freestyle it from home with some clay, some fun ideas for things you could make are:

A bird
A sculpture of your head and face (N.B. the results are unlikely to be flattering!)
Stars
Butterflies
Snowmen
Beads that can later be threaded to make a necklace
A vase or bowl
Food

Ideally, get them to make something they can either use or display afterwards so they can be reminded of their achievement! A vase or bowl could be used around the home to store things like hair pins or or other nick nacks. If they make something flat like a star or a heart shape, it could have a hole through it, tie string through the hole in a loop and hang the shape up on a window handle or elsewhere in their bedroom. Christmas themed creations could be put out on the table at Christmas dinner or turned into Christmas tree decorations.

Some things you could use to help make the sculpture more interesting are:

1. A thin stick such as a wooden kebab stick to make indented patterns and dots across the object.
2. Pastry cutters can help your child to simply and easily create lovely pieces. This is particularly good for very young children.
3. A plastic knife can be used to carve up the clay and engrave patterns or words into it.
4. A rolling pin will help your children to flatten out the clay if they’re trying to make a flat shape.

Children’s Activity 18: Find Some Worms

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Children are generally fascinated by things we as adults might find a bit disgusting like wiggly worms or beetles! I remember as a child finding lizards when on holiday in Greece and showing them to my mum with a sense of triumph and interest. She was not as interested as she was terrified. Still, worms are fairly innocuous and you don’t have to pick them up yourself.

You might come across them whilst gardening so take the opportunity to get your children involved. National Geographic have a great little information page about earthworms specifically for kids that can help them learn a bit about them!

Worms also love to come out in the rain as well, which is not in short supply at the moment! They may emerge spontaneously on your patio when it’s raining in the evening. Go and have a look next time and you may be surprised by how many there are!

Be careful and supervise your children if they decide to handle the worms because we don’t want them getting hurt. Also, after handling, make sure your children wash their hands thoroughly to get rid of any bacteria that may have been in the soil. Happy worm hunting!

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November 15 2012

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