Surviving the Summer with Small Children!

Gemma Tyler our Education Officer while not busy preparing this autumn’s range of workshops and RHS courses will be busy at home with her young daughter. Here she shares her tips for surviving the 6 week break!

  1. Go to all the parks!

    Cannnon Hill Park, only minutes from Winterbourne

    Cannnon Hill Park, only minutes from Winterbourne

This might sound obvious; you probably go to the park all the time!  But I bet most of the time you go to the same one, probably the one nearest school or home.  Well, why not take advantage of the other parks Birmingham has to offer especially as there are loads of activities taking place over the summer.  Check out @ActiveParksBirm on Twitter or Facebook for updates on events taking place.  Organise an outing with friends – the kids will love having the chance to play together during the summer break, and you’ll get to talk to another grown up!  Take a picnic, avoid the playground and go and explore the wooded areas, flower beds or whatever you can find.  If you’re planning to stay a while, make sure you find out whether there are amenities nearby!  And don’t forget the sun cream.

  1. Water play!

Don’t limit yourself to paddling in a paddling pool.  Fill it with jugs and beakers, let the kids pour and splash, send them round the garden watering the plants, make paper boats to race.  Give them lots of different objects to find out what floats and sinks (just make sure they can’t find your phone!).  Let them play with the hose (but watch out for your neighbours who almost certainly do not want to join in the fun) or turn on the sprinkler if you have one.  Let them draw on your patio or fences in chalk, and it can all be washed away with the paddling pool water.  Sticking with the water theme, take a day trip to Droitwich Spa Lido and have a real swim in the open air.

  1. Stay indoors!

If it’s a typical British summer you’re going to have your fair share of days where the water comes from the sky, not from a tap.  It’s fine to stay inside and sprawl on the sofa – kids need a rest sometimes.  But make it an interactive experience.  If you’re watching Toy Story, get them to recreate a scene with their own toys, if it’s ET then get them cutting out silhouettes and sticking them in front of a white circle to recreate the moment Elliot’s bike soars across the moon.  You can make food that features in the film, watch from a blanket den, write them a quiz to answer as they watch.  Or just watch something a little bit different; my daughter loves My Neighbour Totoro, a Miyazaki film which is a beautifully animated, gentle story of friendship and childhood.  Other indoor activities to consider are board games, but not your usual Hungry Hippos or Monopoly; invest in something you’ve not tried before like Rhino Hero, which is a dexterity game, or the charmingly illustrated card drafting game Sushi Go if they’re a little older.

  1. Go on a bear hunt

    Sleuth Bears in Birmingham

    Sleuth Bears in Birmingham

The Big Sleuth has arrived in Birmingham this summer.  There are beautifully decorated sun bears throughout the city and beyond, and you can download a map from, pick up a paper copy from various locations or download The Big Sleuth app to your phone.  There are three big bears based on the University of Birmingham campus, so you can visit the Barber Institute, The Lapworth Museum or Winterbourne at the same time.  And talking of sleuths of a different kind, this summer Winterbourne’s family fun day, on Saturday 5th August, is all about detectives… there will be mysteries to solve and the kids can even come dressed as a detective.

  1. Get creative

At nursery and school your children are with people who have been trained to use creative ideas with them.  At home, we are sometimes too tired to feel all that creative, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.  Visit museums, galleries, historic houses and gorgeous gardens with colouring pencils and a sketch pad, and let the kids draw what they see.  Give them encouragement, point out what you like and you will be building their confidence in leaps and bounds.  Ask them to pick up sticks, stones, cones and leaves (let’s face it, they do this whether you want them to or not), and then make collages out of them.  You can usually find somewhere to pick up a cheap craft set, so whether it’s painting a money box, making a bead bracelet or building a wooden dinosaur puzzle, these are all ways to keep your beloved, demanding, small people entertained without too much effort.

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