Posted tagged ‘summer projects with kids’

How to help your kids have a go at things that frighten you

June 20, 2013

Here are some tactics to help you let your child have a go at life. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see or

On top, behind and going over a waterfall. Parents either look away or check it's safe before they jump.

On top, behind and going over a waterfall. Parents either look away or check it’s safe before they jump.

On a bridge I sometimes cross with my dog or child (or both) there’s some new graffiti. It says: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I don’t feel very nervy about life, but I reckon a fearless me would:

Climb up the Shard! Go wild swimming! Remonstrate with anyone who won’t clear up their dog poo! Take walks between midnight and dawn! Walk the beam at my aunt’s house that’s at ceiling height over a stone floor…

It’s a daft list – because anyone could live without needing to do any of these things.  However if I was living in Brazil or Turkey now (despite the right political instincts) I do wonder if I’d be brave enough to be out on the street protesting?  Worse I reckon I’d use my kids as an excuse, like this, “I can’t campaign for civil liberties… because I need to look after my family,” knowing it was a transparent lie.

Parents are often frightened for their children – fortunately in the UK this is often for no good reason. But those parental fears mean that modern kids have a very short leash in case they are run over, abducted or mix with the wrong people.

In a bid to try and get over all those grown up fears  it’s worth setting your kids challenges that help them develop the instincts, skills and resilience to deal with your fears.  It’s very popular these days to write a bucket list (eg, the 10 things you want to do before you die say, or perhaps more usefully the 10 things you want to to do before the end of the summer…). With the school holidays fast approaching consider writing a list of things to do that help tackle the real, and the unfounded, fears. I think mine might be something like this…

For toddlers

  • Dealing with choking or other accidents
    Teach the difference between no (it’s annoying but not life threatening if you don’t stop what you are doing) and STOP (must be obeyed – eg, by a road, if about to hit another child with a heavy object..) And an idea for mums and dads – get your mates together and do a First Aid course with a focus on babies. That way if your child chokes on a carrot you can sort it out.

For primary school

  • Dealing with fears about drowning on a school trip/family holiday/friend’s party
    Challenge: Teach your child to swim – this may mean taking swimming lessons. At the very least teach water safety so they know not to run by pools & know that if they did fall in they should grab an object to help them float. They also need to know about staying away from ice.
  • Dealing with bigger kids (possibly bullying your tot)
    Challenge: Act out what might happen at home and then talk through solutions. Primary schools ought to have a be friendly (anti bullying policy) so ask the school office what they teach the children – you can then follow a similar approach.

For the Year 5-8 (age 10-13)

  • Dealing with fears of traffic
    Challenge: Go on a bike ride (teach some cycle safety & check she knows how to pump up tyres/mend punctures etc)
  • Dealing with fears about food/healthy eating/nutrition
    Challenge: Make cooking inspiring (get a friend/s to come round and see if they can create a whole show-off meal from scratch including the shopping, cooking and eating)

For the Year 9-11 (age 13-16)

  • Dealing with stranger danger/personal safety/sexual attack
    Challenge: See if your child can travel longer distances on their own (keep checking she knows about the A-Z, maps, GPS, timetables, safety when travelling)
  • Dealing with fears about spoilt child syndrome
    Challenge: Work out how self-sufficient she is (eg, with homey tasks – like dealing with laundry; locking up; making picnic lunch, flask of tea). This would be a lot more fun if I could just give her an animal to take 100 per cent care of for a while (go see War Horse the musical to see what I mean).
  • Dealing with worries about drugs and drink (and sex)
    Challenge: Let her do roughly what she wants to do but aim to answer questions, avoid making any conversation taboo, discuss news horror stories – people’s state of mind, how to avoid the situation, what would you do in that situation etc. Maybe offer books, share information etc. A really good website about drugs can be found at Frank.

Over to you
Do let me know what freaks you out about your children growing up and how you’ve tried assuaging those fears. Thanks. Nicola


Want ideas for summer projects?

August 2, 2012

Easy to make, fun to play, now all it needs is a name.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post offers a few ideas for summer projects. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

Anna,11, is moving homes. She’s also moving schools, so her family has a lot of clearing out to do. The old school uniform has been passed on to a smaller pupil. The charity shops have enjoyed bags of toys and picture books. Not everything is going though – on her much-clearer desk is a game she and her granny made together in Russia (where both her grannies live). Last summer Anna’s Russian wasn’t as good as it is now so she’s still a bit vague about the name of this game – but it seems to be a version of Connect Four, or Battleships. The aim is to get all your coloured counters in a line of five (either horizontally, diagonally or vertically). It’s a good way to learn a new language and a genius way to improve your maths, and bond with relatives…

Anna folded up her game into an old chocolate box and took it home to London (on the plane) as a birthday present for her Mum.

How to make Russian Granny’s game

  • Make or find a piece of green felt about 30cm x 30cm. Then use a pen to mark out a grid (you could embroider the grid if you wanted to practice sewing). 12 x 12 equal-sized squares is enough.
  • Now cut out black counters to fit all the squares (12 x 12 = 144)
  • You also need to cut out the same number of white counters
  • Glue the counters together.

How to play Russian Granny’s game

  • It’s a game for two players.
  • The aim is to get five of your coloured counters in a straight line.
  • To start close your eyes, mix up all the counters, then without cheating arrange the counters on the board.
  • Choose your colour counter.
  • Now off you go: take turns to flip over one counter. You can flip over any counter on the board.
  • If you find doing this one counter at a time is too difficult to win, experiment – try turning two or three counters each go.

Good luck, and no fighting.

More summer projects
1 Learn a skill by making something

You could try making a woven basket from cut willow or hazel stems; pick strawberries and make jam; or get crafty on a sewing machine – if you can do a handkerchief how about trying something you can wear, such as a skirt or shorts?

2 Get growing
Radishes are your friend in the summer – and when growing food with children.

3 Plan a variety of routes to a place you go often
This is a good way to get a child to know an area better, plus develop more navigational skills and the ability to map read.

4 Super simple entertainment
Get hold of some chalk and draw on exterior walls, pavement or a terrace. You can always wash it off if someone complains.

Over to you
What are your favourite projects for enjoyably spending time on long hot days, or very wet ones?

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