HALF TERM HAPPINESS

No sooner have the kids gone back to school after six million weeks off over the summer, than they’re somehow off again! Remarkably it’s half term already. Don’t blink because if you do it’ll be Christmas…

With more and more dads able to work from home or take advantage of flexi-hours, or worst case, just take old-fashioned leave (pull a sickie), childcare responsibilities over the school holidays no longer necessarily fall to mum, child-minders, grandparents or the cat - dads are doing it too and rightly so.

With Christmas fast approaching (don’t you dare blink) I’ve decided that this half term is going to be a cheap as possible. Well, cheap in monetary terms but rich in laughs and creativity.

Edie and I are one week into our two weeks off and we’ve done the usual country walks, competed in the Pooh Sticks World Finals and had afternoon-long tea parties with teddies, dolls and dinosaurs, but this break, we’re also focusing on arts, crafts and a little bit of baking - look what you've done Mary Berry! It’s cheap, it’s not weather dependent, it promotes creativity and the messy chaos will be a hit with any young child.

So, if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here’s what we’ve done so far and what we plan to do next week. I should add, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, I’m no Tony Hart. There are literally thousands of ideas out there so if our creations don’t float your papier-mâché boat there’s plenty more to chose from...

Christmas Cards – it’s really not that long to go now, so we’ve had a dry (actually very wet) run of our homemade Christmas card designs. Who knew you could create so many designs using a painted limb? Father Christmas, that's who, he knows everything.

EDIE'S (WITH A LITTLE HELP) POTENTIAL CHRISTMAS CARDS... (THE BLACK FEET WILL BECOME PENGUINS)

EDIE'S (WITH A LITTLE HELP) POTENTIAL CHRISTMAS CARDS... (THE BLACK FEET WILL BECOME PENGUINS)

Pumpkin carving – with Halloween only days away, Edie and I have been to our local pumpkin farm to pick out some prized produce to be carved next week. Obviously it's not advised that children get involved with the carving but their little hands will come in very handy for scooping out the gory innards.

Potato prints – sticking with the Halloween theme, we’ve had some messy fun with some Maris Pipers this week. Quick and easy to cut, we've printed spooky pumpkin faces on paper and an old t-shirt. Next week we’re going to have a go making some Christmas wrapping paper for Edie to use. Spoiler alert: Granny, if you're reading, your present will be the one with the smudged Christmas tree paper. 

Painting – again, using a painted hand/foot, Edie has two new prints (a lobster and a jungle scene) to go alongside her Very Hungry Caterpillar which she completed over the summer. The other classic kid’s painting technique we’ve used is the symmetrical butterfly but because of Edie’s insistence on using brown paint, hers actually resembles a rather bland moth!

IMAGE: BBC.CO.UK

IMAGE: BBC.CO.UK

Baking – I can’t bake to save my life, but I'm determined to give it a go because I know how much Edie enjoys it. With Halloween just around the corner here are some spooky cookies we’re going to bake (burn) next week.

Clay modelling – this one’s on the list for next week too. A few minutes spent shaping a hedgehog from clay, with the addition of some twigs and you'll quickly have something even Neil Buchanan would be proud of. This could also be used as a crayon holder – seems well worth it if it keeps the millions of crayons I find round the house in one place for five minutes.

image: geriscamera.com

image: geriscamera.com

Autumn wreath – with fallen leaves battling it out with grass at this time of year to see who can cover the most land, there’s an abundance of resources out there desperate for one last hurrah. That hurrah is forming part of an autumn wreath. This requires a bit of preparation such as pressing the leaves but even that will entertain your child. Once pressed, cut out the middle of a paper plate, whack on some glue and stick on the leaves. Go crazy and add gold paint for bit of an autumnal glow. I can imagine macho dads out there now, frowning at such a way to spend their time – well turn that frown upside down and make a wreath with your child. You'll surprise yourself, your child and even mum! Who knew you had such a delicate side?!

Sloe gin – ok, so as a well done for building that wreath, here’s a little reward. It’s not exactly arts and crafts, but you deserve a treat. Now’s the time to make some sloe gin that will be ready in time for Christmas. Obviously children aren’t going to get to taste the eventual product but they can certainly help with collecting the sloes. Hedgerows everywhere offer good sloes at this time of year and they can be collected with your merry (and now very creative) little helper. Back at home, prick the sloes, add sugar and mix with a bottle of gin. Then leave (with the occasional shake) for a couple of months... and voila!  Here’s Jamie Oliver’s method for more detail. All that's left to do is crack it open on Christmas Day, sit back and enjoy your finest creation... you'll need it, there's only six weeks until the next school break.

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So dads, if you're off this half term don’t slob on the sofa with Hob Nobs and Homes Under the Hammer whilst your kiddie craves your attention. Take time to bond over a pot of paint and send your child back to nursery or school enriched by their wonderfully creative moments with you..