By Sean Mortell
It’s a time-honoured dilemma that faces many parents. When weekends and school holidays roll around, or in fact any period where young kids aren’t physically attending school, keeping them entertained and engaged while constantly challenging them throughout their critical learning stages of life can be incredibly difficult. There’s only so many distractions available, and only so many memories to recapture from your own youth.
But we’re here to give you some new ideas that are outside of the box. These rely on resources around you that should be easy to find, and can keep primary-school children occupied throughout holidays, lockdowns and weekends.
There are so many YouTube videos that provide easy and exciting experiments that can be conducted from home. For those who have gotten into baking and cooking, grab some yeast and follow this video to blow up a balloon with it, with the helpful addition of a clear plastic water bottle.
For those who enjoy dabbling in a sly hint of pyrotechnics, get outside and use the fresh air around to create an easy (and safe, for you parents) vortex cannon, with the addition of a cardboard box turning it into a larger cannon. This video provides a quick guide on how to do it – a couple of minutes could pay off with hours of entertainment and craft.
If you want a more restrained indoor experiment, use this YouTube guide to grow stalactites and impress your children. Using Epsom salts and baking soda, while some string and ideal conditions can help grow many stalactites easily on a plate to make an afternoon fly by.
Food isn’t just great to eat, but it’s also a wonderful tool to get creative with activities. The best way to go is natural produce – think fruit, veggies and other options like eggs, that are incredibly versatile. Using popsicle sticks is a well-known way to get artistic, but using an array of vegetables can do just the same trick. Vegetable people are a great way to get your kids creative – gather some carrots, cucumbers, potatoes and beans and get going. Don’t be afraid to get some smaller options like peas and corn to add eyes and minor details. If you want the person to become three-dimensional, use toothpicks to stick it together before dismantling it to create one fun, healthy snack.
But some foods aren’t just creative – they can be used for some cool science experiments. Check out this YouTube video which shows how red cabbage can be used to create nifty little pH indicators that can test the acidity of many objects around the house.
There are also some other fun food experiments that don’t require just veggies. For example, this YouTube video on using an egg to squeeze it into a water bottle and perform a thrilling magic trick is just one way of using the world around you to keep your kid(s) enthralled throughout off-school periods.
The garden is a great way to get children outside and active, providing a nice break from the online sphere of school and socialising. You may have already planted a garden or veggie patch, but here are some other options on using your backyard.
Depending on the type of leaves and plants you have in your backyard, you can create some awesome forts and shelters for kids to play in with a variety of shrubs. Using bamboo, you can sit up a structure and then fill it all out with different seeds, bushes and leaves to create an exciting and visually pleasing little shelter that children will love playing around.
If you live near any nature reserves or parks, take a camera and go explore the random plants that pop up – especially the fungi around the area. Even a cheap disposable camera can be perfect to get your kids into photographing plants and wildlife around the area.
Check out this Cool Australia page full of resources and sustainable ideas to get your kids out exploring and learning while having plenty of fun. There’s videos and worksheets ranging from bushfire learning to observing animals like bees during pollination phases, so be sure to see the wide varieties available.
If you want books or eBooks that also give some great ideas, check out this CSIRO book that suggests 50 kids’ activities that are full of science experiments and explorations from fresh angles.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to search YouTube channels that specialise in these ideas. Search for videos like these to see easy garden activities or at-home science experiments designed for primary school aged children.