When parents are dealt the double whammy of the half-term break keeping the children off school and the rain keeping them inside, it’s time to get creative with ways to fill your little one's days.
Rather than turn on the television, or allow endless iPad time, here are 10 ideas that encourage children to put on their thinking caps while enjoying competitions and challenges, all in the comfort of their own home.
1. Weave through a laser maze
One of the simplest indoor activities to create lets little ones channel their inner spy. All you need is string or wool (crepe paper works well, too) and masking tape.
Best played in a corridor or hallway, cut lengths of string to fit across the hallway and stick the ends of the string to the opposite walls. This creates a laser maze that children have to carefully work their way through.
Stick the strings high, low and close together, so they have to bend, stretch and even crawl to get through the maze without touching any.
2. Go on an indoor treasure hunt
Parents can hide one item or a few pieces around the house and let the children loose to go off and find them – and don't make it easy.
Join in the hunt by going around the house with little ones and saying “hot” or “cold” when they move closer to or farther from the items, or create a treasure map, where X marks the spot.
Alternatively, don’t give them any clues at all and turn it into a competition as to who can find the item first.
3. Create a living room obstacle course
When little ones are stuck inside for long periods, all that energy still has to go somewhere. An indoor obstacle course will not only bring out their creative side, but also expend some of that vigour.
Enlist the children to help design the course, which can be put together in the main family areas of the house or weaved in and out of the children’s bedrooms.
Use chair cushions, pillows and poufs to create places to step and jump to, and toys such as skipping ropes, hula hoops and sports training cones to add in some tricky manoeuvres.
4. Host the balloon Olympics
The last thing any parent wants inside the house is balls being kicked or thrown about, putting the photo frames and china at risk.
Balloons make a great alternative to balls and can be used for a variety of modified indoor sports.
Blown-up balloons can be batted over the sofa (which serves as a net) using badminton rackets or hands for a game of indoor tennis.
Balloon hockey is another low impact option. Use boxes or laundry baskets as goals at either end of the room and wooden spoons or spatulas as sticks to try and knock the balloon into the opposition goal.
5. Recycling creativity
Dig out the boxes, tubes and containers from the recycling box and get creative at the kitchen table.
Find plenty of ideas online with step-by-step guides to create easy and fun things that are creative and useful.
All you need is a pair of scissors and some tape and glue to transform everyday items and give them a new lease of life. For instance, put together a fun jetpack using empty bottles, a pizza box and bottle tops to create a Nasa-worthy accessory for budding astronauts; or build a cereal box aquarium for younger children who will enjoy getting creative designing the tropical fish to go inside.
6. Learn a dance routine
There are thousands of dance routines on YouTube to suit all ages and levels.
Choreographed dances that recreate some of the moves from their favourite films are popular, as well as hip-hop classes designed to engage little ones and get them moving.
Trained teachers put together dances to popular songs – Justin Timberlake’s song from Trolls, Can’t Stop The Feeling is a favourite – with videos that break down the steps for even the youngest children to enjoy.
Remember to have a final show performance of the dance.
7. Send children on a colour hunt
This activity is better suited to younger and preschool children.
Put together a list of colours, and then ask them to go around the house and find five items in that colour.
Give them a bag or basket to put their items in and encourage them to find the strangest objects they can.
8. Have a paper aeroplane contest
Give everyone the same materials, watch a few instructional videos and let them loose to design, fold and craft their own paper aeroplane.
Children should also paint and decorate their craft before holding a competition to see whose plane flies the farthest.
Put masking tape on the ground to mark where each plane lands, and host a few rounds. Don’t forget the prizes!
9. Build a Rube Goldberg machine
American cartoonist, engineer, and inventor Rube Goldberg’s cartoons of complicated gadgets sparked an ongoing global quest to design a Rube Goldberg machine in real life.
Perfect for older children, the idea is to come up with the most complicated way of performing a simple task.
Gather together items found around the house and in the toybox, such as Lego, construction toys, dominoes, marbles, string, cardboard, magnets, balloons, pipe cleaners and more, then go online to @RubeGoldbergTV and be inspired by thousands of machines you can build at home without the need for batteries.
10. Make a movie
With plenty of moviemaking and special effects apps available to download, task your children with making a movie.
They have to come up with the plot, script and characters, and can enlist all family members to star in it.
When it's finished, host a screening of the film, and don’t forget the popcorn.