Holidays are the perfect time to leave technology back at home and indulge in some proper family fun time. There is no denying that gadgets and game consoles can be great fun, and are undeniably a useful way to keep the kids distracted on long car journeys or when you need to make dinner. I’m sure we can all admit to letting the kids watch TV or turn the computer on so we can get a few extra minutes in bed or get on with something pressing that needs doing.
If the idea of a whole holiday without the use of tablets, phones, laptops or game consoles seems like your family’s idea of hell, then why not just have a day that is technology free or simply try to include more technology free activities in your holiday. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Let the fun begin in the car by creating a series of games. If the children take to them, they could be useful when queuing up for attractions or to distract them while you are washing their hair etc. Fun car games can include The Alphabet Supermarket game, where the first player says “I went to the supermarket and I bought an…(adding a word that begins with the letter A)” the next player has to repeat the phrase, including the word that the first player said and adding their own word that begins with the letter B. This continues until you reach the letter Z. It’s great fun trying to remember all the letters and is a great way for little ones to practise the use of the alphabet and to learn new words.
Twenty Questions is another fun game. One player thinks of an object and the others have to figure out what it is, by asking questions. They can only ask 20 questions in total between them all and only yes-no questions can be asked.
Take advantage of the changing landscape around you by playing games such as Yellow Car (simply the first person to shout yellow car, when they see one wins a point) or to play Eye Spy or challenge the first person to count ten silver cars or 3 burger kings or a blonde lady with sunglasses driving a car.
You can buy books that offer lists and pictures for kids to identify flowers and animals and check them all off. However, for younger children you could easily make your own simpler version. You could also add pictures to ease identification. In fact, why not get the kids to make a list for Mummy and Daddy to find and the parents create a list for the kids to find. You could even offer prizes in the form of chocolates or sugary treats.
All you need is a bridge and some identifiable pieces of twig. Pooh sticks is a lovely family favourite. For those of you not familiar with the story and the game, then I’ll quickly sum it up. Each player picks a stick (ideally one that they will be able to spot easily once it is in the water), you all stand on one side of a bridge (ensuring the water is flowing beneath the bridge and not away from the bridge), on the command you all drop your sticks into the water and race to the other side of the bridge and see whose stick emerges first. This is a lovely spontaneous game as you can play it whenever you happen to come across a bridge.
It might be worth taking a copy of A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh Stories with you on the holiday as bedtime reading, so you all feel fired up and ready to engage in Pooh sticks. You could even find more inspiration for games within those pages, such as setting traps for Heffalumps, going on an “expotition” or making up little rhymes and hums in the manner of Pooh Bear himself. I’m sure your little ones will be able to conjure up Hundred Acre Wood in any woodland or scenic countryside with a little encouragement.
Going on a Bear Hunt
This popular story is another one that just begs to be acted out. Why not take your teddy bears and the story book (or a print out if the book itself is too precious) and enjoy finding swishy grass and mud to stomp through. Get the children to chant along and look for the next part of the story with you. You could finish off with a nice teddy bears picnic.
Back in the cosy comfort of the cottage that evening you could all paint pictures of your bear adventures.
Set up a treasure hunt in the cottage garden or on the beach without the children knowing and present them with a map and the first clue. To extent the activity, why not start off by making eye patches and pirate hats out of paper and even a big Jolly Roger flag (be sure to pack some black and white sugar paper, glue and scissors!). You could dress as captains and say you are looking to recruit the best crew and challenge your children to a series of tests. Can they stand on one leg for a minute? Can they hold their breath for 30 seconds? Can they stand so still that a dangerous animal wouldn’t notice them? When you’re convinced that they are a worthy crew member you could set sail for the new island. Securing the flag to your vessel (perhaps the sofa or a bunk bed). Finding clues and eventually getting the treasure could take up a whole morning or afternoon.
Dressing up is a great way to keep kids interested in new activities. Why not pick out some simple costumes that are in keeping with the things you have planned on your holiday. Not just the pirate outfit that will help with the cottage garden treasure hunt, but you could dress as dinosaurs for your fossil hunting, or dress as butterflies on your wildlife search. If the adults fancy visiting a castle but think the children may get bored, then why not encourage them to dress as princesses or knights and bring the ancient ruins to life in their imaginations. Theme days are a lovely idea, starting with dressing up and activities but you can also pick out stories that fit the theme and craft activities. You could even do some themed baking; cutting out dinosaur cookies, fairy cakes or decorating cupcakes with simple themed designs back at the cottage.
The beach is full of endless possibility and most parents find that children won’t even mention computer games when they are faced with expanses of smooth sand and pristine blue waters. Build an enormous sand castle, have a go at crabbing, go paddling and jump over the waves, fly a kite, fossil hunting, explore the rock pools, collect sea shells, bury Daddy in the sand so only his head sticks out. Older children will enjoy body boarding or surfing and surf schools can be a great enjoyable challenge. Otherwise, you can pick up body boards for reasonable prices at most seaside towns, so you can try it out for yourself.
A holiday collage is a great thing to do as a family and is a useful distraction if you get wet rainy days. Find some beautiful leaves, small shells or pebbles and flowers. Flowers and leaves can easily be pressed between the pages of a heavy book, so don’t worry if you don’t have a custom flower press. Assemble the collage alongside written memories, tickets to attractions, pictures and paintings. You can even include little jokes and stories, to keep the holiday memories alive for longer.
All you need is a plate and a natural setting, you may want to bring some plastic plates from home for this activity. Either let your children loose in the cottage garden or get them to collect special items on a woodland walk or day at the beach. Then they can create a miniature garden on a plate using entirely natural ingredients. Start with a layer of mud or sand, use a line of pebbles to make a path and stick flowers in the ground to make a flower garden. Small twigs can resemble trees and you could even make some dry stone walling. Houses could be made from painted rocks or pinecones or curved pieces of bark. You could even cut out fairy silhouettes for your children to colour in and add to their fairy garden.
Board games and card games
Snap, go fish and cheat are great card games for little ones, and there are plenty of board games that will keep you all occupied. Many cottages come with board games, otherwise you could scout out for some in charity shops or at car boot sales before you go. If you only pay a small price then you won’t mind if the children don’t take to them. Board games are a really great way to include the whole family and create some lovely memories together.
So with a little planning and preparation you can easily fill your family holiday with gadget-free activities; building memories, teaching the children new things and having a wonderful time as you go.