News room: Is it September Yet? Summer Holiday Activities Inspired by Children's Classics

Is it September Yet? Summer Holiday Activities Inspired by Children's Classics by Jessica Barrah

It’s over halfway through the school summer holidays – and it may be difficult to come up with new and exciting ideas to keep your little dears happy and entertained. Even if your offspring aren’t fans of children’s literary classics, these books can still be the inspiration for some summer holiday activities. Or maybe they can just read watch the film adaptations.

1. The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

It’s summer – send your children off camping, or to stay with a kindly old couple on a farm. They’ll enjoy fresh air, exercise, and picnics with lashings of ginger beer. The lack of wifi and almost zero mobile phone signal will mean they’ll be away from the dangers of screen-addiction. Unfortunately this will also mean that they won’t be able to call for help with the smugglers/ people trafficking/terrorist plot that they will undoubtedly uncover, and may be sold into slavery.

Alternatively, sign them up to some kind of group who will take them camping – Scouts, Guides, Woodcraft Folk, the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award or the Glastonbury Town Band. Meanwhile, check into a boutique hotel.

2. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

The Walker children sail off alone in a small dinghy to camp on a island in the middle of a lake. Are they old enough to be left alone in what is essentially ‘the wilderness’ with only a tent made of a sheet hooked over a tree branch? Can the youngest boy, Roger, even swim well enough? ‘Better drowned than duffers’, says the father of the Walker family (away in the navy). Almost ninety years later, this laissez-faire attitude would probably get you referred to the social services – but you could sign your children up for some sailing lessons. If they can’t actually swim, perhaps sign them up for some swimming lessons first.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Re-reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it’s obvious the caterpillar had an eating disorder, or was on a strict fruitarian diet which he broke spectacularly at the weekend.

From Monday to Friday he ate one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries and five oranges. So far so good, but then came the weekend blow-out. On Saturday, one piece of chocolate cake, an ice-cream cone,and a pickle – was the Very Hungry Caterpillar actually pregnant?
He followed it up with a slice of Swiss cheese, a slice of salami, a piece of cherry pie, a sausage, and a cupcake, then finished off the binge with a slice of watermelon.

As a holiday activity, lay out the same foodstuffs on a long tablecloth on the floor. Get your children to climb into a sleeping bag, (preferably green with black socks sewn on for legs, wearing a red swimming hat with antenna stuck on. ) If that’s too much trouble just tie their arms to their sides. The kids need to try and eat through the hungry caterpillar’s feast without using their hands. Hopefully they’ll be so exhausted/full by the end they’ll just continue lying down or take a long nap.

Alternative turn the first part of the caterpillar’s eating week into a smoothie, garnish with a watermelon slice, then discuss why processed meats, high sugar, salty and fatty food might be bad for your health. Or make one of those butterfly pictures where you paint one half of the page then fold it in the middle.

Watch the animated film on YouTube (unfortunately this only kills 6 mins 47 seconds.)

4. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This children’s classic offers many opportunities for animal cruelty and family fun. For example, hiding a small family pet in a teapot – a guinea pig, hamster or gerbil could take the place of a dormouse, depending on the size of your pet and teapot. Famously, flamingos are used as croquet mallets in the book, however in real life they are not readily available or amenable to being grabbed and turned upside down. Do not approach a local swan – they would be much too heavy and apparently could break your arm if riled. Instead use the smallest members of the family making sure they’re equipped with a cycle helmet for safety.

When the ensuing ‘hilarity’ turns into fisticuffs and floods of tears, drink a travel sized miniature bottle labelled ‘Drink Me’. This might also be labelled ‘Bombay Sapphire’, or ‘Smirnoff’. Look at your children through a pair of binoculars.You have shrunk! They look like giants. Giants are surely big enough to look after themselves? Drink a few more bottles labelled Drink Me, and then entertain yourself by looking through the other end of the binoculars.

Alternatively make some cupcakes with the children. After all, the new ‘Great British Bake Off’ starts soon. When cooked, add ‘Eat Me’ spelled out in currants or chocolate chips. Then follow those instructions.

5. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Are your children bored of being indoors? Do they moan that they never do anything exciting? Take them on an exhausting trek, through some long grass, across a (shallow) river, across some mud, through a forest to a beach. It would be unusual to encounter a blizzard, as in the book, but not impossible in the British summertime. Perhaps a freak hailstorm is slightly more likely. Place a portable bluetooth speaker at the back of a cave, then press play on a recording of a grizzly bear roaring. For example this one.

Laugh as the children shriek with fear, and rush back the way they came, swishy swashy, squelch squerch etc back to the house, where they’ll huddle together under a blanket, with new appreciation for the safe and unchallenging confines of their home. Alternatively just go out for a normal walk in the park. Avoiding dog poo, pigeons, muddy puddles, alcoholic tramps and threatening youths is traumatic enough.

6. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Leave your children with your mother. While she watches ‘Loose Women’ the kids can get creative, making her a delicious lunch with the random assortment of out of date ingredients in her cupboard, including turmeric powder best before 1998. After a trip to A and E or the local pharmacy, explain to your children why although Granny might have voted for Brexit, she didn’t really deserve food poisoning. Alternatively use their creative energy to help set up a microbrewery, making craft beer with ‘imaginative’ flavourings.

Here’s a few more quick ideas inspired by kids literary classics:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren

Enrol your children in intensive weight training scheme, then give them a suitcase of gold, and leave them while you go on holidays to the South Seas. Alternatively, do some family exercises together each morning and give them fifty pence pocket money, which was good enough for you in your day. Ignore their protests that they won’t even be able to buy a Mars Bar.

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

Employ a dog as a nanny, leaving your chidren to float off through a window to a different world beyond the clouds. Or have a frank discussion with your children about any fears they may have about growing up. Totally embarrass your pre-pubescent daughter by talking about the mysterious ‘changes’ that will be happening in her body, and presenting her with a jumbo box of sanitary towels.

We hope you’ve found these ideas useful – and if not, at least it’s killed a short amount of time. Only a few more weeks to go. Cherish those last precious days of summer with your enchanting offspring.

Further reading:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Children, Books, Summer, Holiday, Vacation, and Activities