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By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer, former The Star and Pretoria News journalist & editor of magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Twitter @sholain

It’s holiday time and every parent needs an arsenal of activities to keep their little darlings busy and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are 5 of my top budget activities that both my girls love:

1. TASTE TEST

You will need:

  • A variety of spices, salt, sugar
  • Different sauces(maybe avoid the hot stuff)
  • A variety of fruit and vegetables cut into little cubes
  • Little bowls for each child
  • Blindfolds
  • Notebooks
  • Water and cups
  • Paper and pen to keep scores

What to do:

Select one set of ingredients so that you have other options for another day.

Blindfold the children. It’s best to do this at a table and supervise each child as they take turns to taste things. Don’t give them the same thing at the same time.

For the spices – put a little in the palm of their hand and let them taste, one and a time, and tell you what they think it is. Then if the child is older, he or she can write it down in the notebook and you keep score. Let them drink water in between tastings.

The one to guess the most correctly is the winner.

A variation of this activity would be to get lots of different fruit that you don’t buy regularly – kiwis, litchis, different types of melons – the kids can take photos of each fruit and make notes on how each fruit tastes and google the fruit and where it’s found.

2. NATURE ART

You will need:

  • A garden
  • Plastic bag or old ice cream containers
  • Cardboard or paper(recycle newspaper or old cereal/shoe boxes)
  • Glue – make a glue paste by mixing flour with water
  • Old mayo jars or baby food jars for the glue
  • Paintbrushes or sticks to spread the glue
  • Art aprons made of old plastic bags – cut the bottom of the bag, use the handles of the bag as straps of the apron and it’s good to go!

What to do:

Send the kids outdoors with the old containers or plastic bags to collect interesting leaves, sticks, stones and sand. If the weather is good, you can also set up a picnic blanket covered in newspaper outdoors and they can do the activity there.

Once all the items are gathered – give each child a little bit of glue in a jar and their own paintbrush or stick for spreading the glue. Let them decide on the type of picture they want to make and then just watch as your Picasso’s do their thing.

3. PUPPET SHOW

You will need:IMG_0637

  • Any old box
  • Some paints
  • Old material or curtains
  • Old socks, buttons
  • Markers/nail polish
  • Glue
  • Lots of imagination

What to do:

Cut a square hole in the old box which will create the puppet theatre – it doesn’t have to be fancy and if you don’t have an old box – a couch which the children can sit behind and reach their arms over the top works just as well.

Make some hand puppets using the old socks. Stick buttons for eyes and draw in the mouth and nose. We use nail polish for the mouth and nose so that we can a variety of colours and it looks brighter.

Decide on a story idea for the puppet show – different characters, a theme – and let the kids entertain you. My then 3 year old loved doing solo puppet shows with improvised stories and the beauty of this is that they can entertain each other or else practice and do a ‘big’ show for the whole family on Christmas Day. Then you can set aside a little bit of time every day when they can work on their puppet show.

For older children, they can write their own script and even designate a director and stage manager if there are more than 3 children so that everyone is part of the fun.

4. DOCUMENTARIES

You will need:

  • Smartphone or camera/video camera
  • Pen and paper

What to do:

Plan a list of questions with your children that they will ask family members and people they know. Decide on a theme.

If the children are very little, you’ll have to supervise. If they are older, they can choose a director and interviewer.

Let them set up interviews with family members and then also set up a space in the house to do the interviews or if the interviewee is very busy, they can do the interview wherever the person is. Supervise use of the video function on the phone with the little ones – if your kids have leap pads this activity may need less adult supervision. If the child is very little, you can prompt him/her with the questions and you can do the recording.

Remember to note the date and time of each recording and then save and watch interviews with the whole family for a laugh later on.

5. RESTAURANT

You will need:

  • Pen and paper
  • Imaginary or real food(depending on your supplies)
  • An apron
  • A table set with plates and cutlery

What to do:

My girls love playing Masterchef and pretend that they have a restaurant with one being the chef and the other(or mum and dad) being the customers. They make a menu and draw each menu item instead of writing the words. Then they will take orders, prepare imaginary or real food, and then serve the customer. They can play this game for ages. The kids can also first make different foods using playdough(lots of DIY playdough recipes available online so check which one suits your supplies). My girls also cut up all those colourful festive season catalogues and use the yummy food pics from magazines. They can stick these pics onto paper plates and serve that to the customers.

Click here to find a holiday calendar for Gauteng and here for  KZN

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