Christmas is a now a distant memory, you’ve rung in the New Year and relaxed yourself silly beside the beach. And now you’re home again with a month ahead before you slip back into the ebb and flow of the school year routine.

The kids have sun-kissed hair and traces of sand in the lining of their togs from days of fun in the sea. Their gifts have lost that novelty factor that comes with new toys and lie forgotten with last year’s ones in the toy box.

The following four weeks stretch out endlessly in the mind of a child, and with all that time to occupy, the phrase “Mummm I’m bored…” is a common thing heard in homes around the country!

The conundrum comes with what to do with these bored kids.

Having said that, they aren’t the first generation to say it and probably won’t be the last. In fact, if you look back a few decades you may see a smaller you telling your own mum the very same thing!

If your mum was anything like mine, the reply would have been, ‘well go outside and play’ as she shooed us out the door. We’d quickly find something to do – make a hut, climb a tree or invent some bizarre game that could go on for days.

Today’s kids seem to have a different motivation when it comes to the “I’m bored” phrase, as they angle for more screen time than is good for them. For a harassed mum, this is a too-easy fix and with the use of head phones a noisy chaotic house can have quiet descend upon it for many an hour, without so much as a single peep or squabble.

But the sun is shining outside (well, most days anyway!), radiating much needed vitamin D.  The trees gently wave in the breeze, beckoning kids to climb their branches and see the world from a higher perspective. There are pools to swim in, bikes to ride and huts to build. Even the simple act of lying on the ground and watching the clouds float by can spark the imagination.

However, if your kids’ imaginations need a bit of a kick start you could set them off on a few projects in the garden; that will keep them out of mischief for a while.

How to make a compost oven

compost-oven-grassYou could encourage them to cook bananas in cut grass. Take advantage of the ankle deep lawn that appeared while you were away and mow it back to a respectable height.
Get the kids to rake up the clippings into a big pile. Cover it with black plastic – an old black sack cut open will do, and weigh it down with bricks or stones around the edges so it doesn’t blow away.

Leave it for 3 days for the grass to begin to break down. This creates a considerable amount of heat and the bigger the pile the hotter it will get.

After 3 days, it should reach about 50°C, which is the perfect temperature for cooking bananas.

Take the bananas and carefully peel open a strip and remove a few slices. Replace them with chocolate and put the strip of peel back.

Wrap them firmly in tin foil, bury them deep in the centre of the pile of grass clippings, and leave for 3 hours.

When the time is up you should come back to some wonderful gooey banana and chocolate goodness that will disappear in about 3 minutes!

This is a really fun thing to do with your kids and will easily keep them preoccupied for a few days at least. And next time the lawn needs mowing, you’ll have willing helpers to clear up the clippings!

Sarah O’Neil’s kids gardening book Play in the Garden has loads of great activities to help keep kids off the screens and outside in the fresh air during the summer holidays and a back yard – whether it’s a jungle full of trees, has an edible patch, or even just a lawn, there’s always something fun that can be done. All it needs is a little imagination.


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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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