STANDFIRST Lizzie Gore-Grimes has a host of easy, entertaining ideas to keep the kids amused once they’re home from school with the added bonus of sneaky lessons thrown in.
Make Monday evenings bake night with the kids and prepare a handy stash of lunch-box friendly snacks for the week ahead. If they help make it they’re more likely to eat it. Oaty power bars are an easy and popular option. Get the kids to help weigh out the ingredients and under your supervision let them melt 80g butter, 80g brown sugar, 2 tablespoons golden syrup and pinch of salt in a saucepan until well combined. In a separate bowl, add 130g porridge oats, 90g chopped dried fruit of your choice, 25g pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds and 25g desiccated coconut. Probably best to tip the melted butter into the syrup mixture and dry ingredients but you can let them mix the ingredients. There’s no worries about over-mixing with these hearty bars. Show them how to line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment paper and then spoon the mixture into the tin and press down to level the surface, they can use a potato masher to help with this. Then the adult can transfer the tin into an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Once cool, help them to cut the mix into even-ish sized bars. Store in an airtight container.
While the evenings are still lovely and long, why not build an evening walk into your weekday routine with the kids. Either take 20 minutes to walk around the block before dinner to work up an appetite or take a family stroll after dinner to help digest your meal. It’s a lovely time to catch up together away from screens and phones and tedious chores and enjoy a bit of fresh air. It’s amazing how much the simple act of getting out of the house for a walk can lift everyone’s mood.
Have lots of fun making cute wall-mounted hanging buddies for the kid’s bedroom or bathroom. An adult will need to carefully cut a slit in the tennis ball with a Stanley knife or similar. Best to check that they are old tennis balls and not brand new! Then let the kids draw the face of the tennis ball with markers, and stick strings of wool on for hair etc. Anything goes. Then attach the tennis ball to the wall with Pritt sticky pads or similar. In the bathroom they can use their tennis ball buddy to hold their face cloth or toothbrush. In the bedroom it will take a light jacket or school tie.
Maria Montessori was a firm believer in the premise that children learn best through play. Board games can be a brilliant way to get kids to practise their reading, spelling and maths skills without noticing! And there’s no need to buy a child-specific game – just adapt whatever you have at home. Scrabble can be great fun. Simply bend the rules. Give the kids extra tiles (10 to 12 pieces) and let them spell anything – the cat’s name for example –keep the game moving fast instead of getting bogged down in complex rules. Totting up the scores will help with mental maths. Trivial Pursuit or any quiz game can be fun too, just make up your own rules to suit your children’s age. When they land on a category, say geography, you make up the question. If they recently completed a school project on the blue whale in school give them a question on that or something simple like what county in Ireland does granny live in? If their reading skills are up to it let them read the real questions for the adults. Arty improvisation games like Cranium and Pictionary are great fun too for all the family.
Any parents out there remember Mary-Make-and-Do of RTE circa 1994 fame? Well, why not indulge in a bit of nostalgia and let Mary show the kids how to do make their own woven paper place mats and pencil storage boxes. Click on the link here for a bit of 90’s Christmas jumper fun. http://www.rte.ie/archives/2014/0127/500373-how-do-you-do/
If it’s not lashing rain, head out to the garden for a bit of bubble painting. You’ll need a selection of 4 to 6 little plastic cups or children’s cereal bowls, the same size, a selection of colourful paint, washing up liquid, drinking straws and a few sheets of paper. In each cup or bowl, add a generous squirt of paint and a small squeeze of washing up liquid. Use different coloured paints in each cup or bowl if you can. Top each one up with water to about half way. Then blow bubbles in the mixture until the bubbles rise up high over the top of the cup or bowl. Place the paper down over the bubbles until they pop. Repeat with different colours for dreamy, abstract results.
Celebrate summer by making a colourful strawberry handprints. Just make sure you use washable paints and keep clothes well covered as this can get messy. You’ll need red, green and black paint and white paper. Before you start hold your hands up in front of you, thumbs meeting, then twist your right hand so that the right fingers are sitting on top (and across) of the left fingers. Your hands should now form a rough upside down heart shape. Now paint the palms of the hands red, make the upside-down heart shape once more and print the shape on to the paper. You can go over the shape with each hand individually a second time to fill in any gaps in colour. Turn the paper upside down and you have a lovely strawberry shape. Use the sides of little fingers to add two green leaves where the palms join. Finish off by adding black fingerprints for seeds.
There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as baking bread and it’s a wonderful thing to do with your kids on a rainy, cold afternoon. The treat of eating it, fresh from the oven, slathered in good Irish butter and a smear of raspberry jam makes it so worth it. Start by preheating your oven to 220°C (or as hot as it will go). Then get the kids to help weigh out and sift together 225g wholemeal flour, 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl, and then stir in 3 tablespoons mixed seeds (sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower). Get them to wash their hands and add in 25g softened butter and rub into the flour mixture with their fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs, they love this bit! Make a well in the centre. In a measuring jug, measure out 400ml buttermilk, crack an egg in and let them whisk the buttermilk and egg mixture. They can then pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. This part is for the adult! Using one hand with fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more of the buttermilk mixture, if necessary. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky. Turn onto a floured work surface and help the kids to bring the dough together into a round shape about 4cm thick. Adults step in then to cut a deep cross on top and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 200°C and bake for 30 minutes more. When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.