Last updated on Jun 17th, 2021 at 01:29 pm

After five months of lockdown with your kids, you’re probably tearing your hair out about what you can come up with to keep them busy and entertained. And while we can now thankfully head outdoors, and even travel to visit friends and family, it’s still worthwhile having some good ideas up your sleeve that doesn’t involve them sitting in front of a screen all day!

To help parents worried about all the dangers of screen time, and how to get their kids to spend less time on their computers and phones, bestselling kids’ activity author, Dawn Isaac, has compiled 101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free. This beautifully photographed, engaging hardcover book is packed with creative, fun and occasionally silly ideas for games and activities for young kids.

With exciting things to make including no-sew sock creatures and stress balls, and wacky games such as outdoor noughts and crosses and thumb-wrestling tournaments, Dawn’s engaging and entertaining ideas are guaranteed to provide young kids aged 4-11 with hours of lively entertainment and conversation.

 Here are 5 activities from the book to try: 

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  1. Make peppermint creams

The good news is, if you don’t like peppermint that’s easily fixed: you can just change the flavouring you use. (Unfortunately, “Make peppermint, orange, lemon or strawberry creams” was too long a title, so “Make peppermint creams” it is!)

Ingredients:

340g icing sugar

1 egg white

peppermint essence

food colouring

water

edible decorations and chocolate (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Start by sifting your icing sugar into a mixing bowl.
  2. Next you need to prepare your egg white. To separate it from the yolk you can carefully crack the egg into a bowl, then put in your (clean) hand to remove the yolk by lifting it up and letting the white drain through your fingers.
  3. Now whisk your egg white until it is nice and frothy (but not stiff) and then add it to your icing sugar along with a teaspoon of peppermint essence and a few drops of food colouring. You need to mix it thoroughly until you are able to pull it together into a ball of fondant. If it’s too dry, just add a teaspoon of water at a time until it is workable.
  4. Tip your fondant onto a piece of baking paper sprinkled with icing sugar and knead it until it’s nice and smooth.
  5. Next roll it out so it’s about 1cm thick and then use small cookie cutters to make your sweet shapes. You can lay these on a fresh piece of greaseproof paper on a tray or plate.
  6. If you haven’t got a cookie cutter, just roll pieces of the mixture into small balls that you can then flatten into discs. And if any of your shapes get a bit stuck, just use a flat butter knife to help move them off the paper.
  7. While the creams are still soft, you can press in some edible decorations and then leave the sweets somewhere out of the way to dry for a couple of hours.
  8. When they are dry, you could ask a grown-up to melt some chocolate that you can then dip half of your peppermint creams into for some delicious additional decoration.

Tip: You can split your fondant mixture in half before adding your flavouring and colouring to make two different batches.

  1. Cook a mug cake

Those grown-ups who use mugs to sip dull tea or coffee are missing a trick. This is because the best thing to do with a mug is bake a cake in it. (Obviously.)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter

1 egg

1½ Tbsp milk

2 Tbsp castor sugar

4 Tbsp self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

 

  1. Start by getting a good-sized mug (350ml) – if it’s smaller than this you might want to cut your ingredients back a little. Oh, and make sure there’s no metal on it – even as a pattern. Microwaves get quite cross about metal.
  2. Now measure out your butter into the mug and put this in the microwave. Heat it 10 seconds at a time until the butter is melted, then crack the egg into it and add the milk before whisking it all together with a fork until it’s thoroughly mixed.
  3. Next add the sugar and flour along with the vanilla essence, mix again with the fork until it’s relatively smooth and then put the mug on a plate (to collect any spills) and put it in the microwave to cook for 2 minutes at 800 watts or 1 minute 45 seconds at 1000 watts… (I know, just ask the grown-ups about this bit – that’s what they’re good at, understanding microwave settings – oh, and sipping coffee.)
  4. If the cake sinks a lot as soon as you open the door, then it’s not quite cooked, so pop it back

in and cook for bursts of 15 seconds until it no longer sinks much. Then, as soon as it’s cool enough, tuck in.

  1. Or, and here’s the best bit, just use this as a starting point. The joy of mug cakes is it’s easy to experiment and create all sorts of recipes. Instead of using four tablespoons of flour, use three and add an extra tablespoon of something else. How about some berries? Or mashed banana? Or grated carrot? Or ground almonds? Or glacé cherries? Or cocoa powder? Or sultanas? Or a mix of these?
  2. You could swap the caster sugar for brown sugar or demerara. Or replace the butter with vegetable oil.
  3. You could add a small pinch of ground cinnamon, or ginger or nutmeg.
  4. And, of course, you could throw in some mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. I mean seriously – is there any recipe not improved
  5. with those? Exactly.

 

Tip: Rubbing butter all over the inside of the mug before you begin will stop the cake sticking too much.

 

  1. Make a pomander

Pomanders may look very pretty but the very best thing about them is how they smell. Well, unless your top 5 lists of “stuff I really hate the smell of” includes both oranges and cloves, in which case this might not be for you.

You will need:

oranges

double-sided sticky tape (optional)

a wooden skewer

a toothpick or old ballpoint pen

cloves

ribbon (optional)

 

To make:

  1. If you’re using a ribbon decoration then first stick on the double-sided sticky tape so it goes all the way around the orange from top to bottom (but keep the backing strip on). You can also add another two pieces of tape to intersect the first loop and divide the outside of your orange into quarters if you wish.
  2. Now decide how you want to decorate your orange: you could follow the lines of the tape
  3. or how about adding a star, a face or even your own initial?
  4. Mark out your pattern by puncturing holes in your orange every 0.5cm using the nib of an old ballpoint pen, a wooden skewer or toothpick.
  5. Push a clove into each hole – they should be next to each other but ideally not quite touching as they’ll move nearer each other when the orange dries.

 Tip: As the orange shrinks when it dries you may need to retighten the ribbon.

  1. Shadow drawing 

“Put your hand higher. No, I meant lower. Now touch your nose. Oh, and balance on one leg.”Yes, the best thing about doing shadow drawings is getting people to do ridiculous things in the name of art. But it’s also a remarkably easy way to make some great pictures.

 You will need:

a sunny day

chalk

a model

Method:

  1. First, you’ll need a sunny day – shadows are fussy like that – and a nice open space no-one will mind you drawing on – driveways or playgrounds are always good.
  2. Now get a friend, or someone you can boss about in the family, to create interesting shadow shapes – maybe an action shot, a classic “teapot” pose, or a wave. Or how about bringing in some props? When you’re happy with the look, it’s time to get your chalk and draw around the shadow edge. Just be careful to do this without blocking out the sun or you’ll lose the line you’re tracing.
  3. Also, make sure you try this at different times of day so you can experiment with different shadow shapes as the sun moves across the sky.
  4. When you’re done, you can add more details, colour it in with more chalks or chalk paint or simply make your sister’s nose look twice as big just to annoy her.

 

Tip: If you have no willing volunteers, you can always get a piece of paper and a pencil to trace the shadows of your favourite toys instead.

  1. Plait wool dolls

Wool may make fine jerseys and scarves, but it’s also ideal for legs, heads and arms – at least if you’re making a doll.

You will need:

wool

a piece of stiff card or a small notebook

scissors

Instructions:

  1. To start your creation, first find a piece of card or a small notebook to wrap the wool around. And remember, whatever you choose will be the same height as your finished doll.
  2. You will need to wrap your wool around it between 30 and 50 times. The taller the card or book, the more times you should wrap it.
  3. When you’re done, slide the wool off your card or book and then cut across all the fibres – so you’re left with a bunch of wool all the same length.
  4. Twist this bunch in the middle and bend it in half, then take a short length of wool and tie it tightly with a knot just below the twisted section before cutting off any long ends. This will form the head.
  5. You can now leave most of the wool in the middle, but separate two equal sized bunches to form the arms. These need plaiting (see page 62 for instructions) and then tying with another piece of wool when you feel they are long enough.
  6. You can trim the ends to make “hands”.
  7. Now tie another length of wool around the large middle bunch to form a waist.
  8. If you leave the doll like this, the wool will form a skirt. Or you can split it into two equal sized bunches. If you plait these separately and finish them as you did for the arms, these will make legs and feet.
  9. Of course, you should feel free to personalise your dolls. You could pull some strands out from the head to make hair, or perhaps you could plait pieces of wool and then add them to make a crown, or a tie or a belt.

Activities extracted with permission from 101 Things for Kids to do Screen-Free by Dawn Isaac (Kyle Books); Photography by Kate Whitwaker. Available from www.octupusbooks.co.za