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Turn off the TV and the computer and let your children rediscover the joy of at home entertainment.

It can be a challenge to keep children entertained over long weekends or during the holidays. But by encouraging creative play you can provide them with plenty of home entertainment.

With just a few props and plenty of imagination, you can turn your home or garden into a veritable playground for children of all ages. Make sure they are wearing sunscreen and hats if they play outdoors.

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Here are seven ideas for fun home entertainment.

1. Hide out

Make a fort or teepee out of tablecloths or sheets. Children of all ages will love building a secret hideaway in the garden. You can use a variety of materials to make a fort, such as a large cardboard box or a sheet draped over some chairs. Let your child decorate the fort with non-toxic paint, fabric or stickers. Intrepid adventurers may want to camouflage their forts with leaves and branches. You can also use trees and shrubs as part of your fort’s walls.

2. Hold a teddy bear’s picnic

Invite your children’s furry friends, and arrange them under some trees. Use plastic crockery and serve real juice and snacks for the human guests. For older children, turn this into a midnight feast and include hot chocolate in thermo flasks. Illuminate the meal with lanterns they’ve decorated, but make sure they are placed safely out of reach. Or recreate the magic of the Arabian Nights in your lounge by erecting a Bedouin tent, made of sheets or coloured fabric.

3. Scavenger hunt

You can use all sorts of objects to hide in interesting places in the garden, including sweets (just make sure you remember where these are, in case they don’t get found), small toys and other items. Hide these treasures under stones, in flower pots or between plants. With young children, keep the hunt short and simple. For older children, include clues to direct them to the hiding spots. This can be played with children from the age of three.

4. Turn the garden into a magical outdoor theatre or cinema

Transform the humble washing line into a stage backdrop by draping it with a sheet that can be decorated. Use two sheets to create a working stage curtain. If it’s a balmy evening, what about watching a movie outdoors? A clean white sheet can double as a big screen. Hook your laptop or DVD player to a projector to show the film on the sheet. Set up deck chairs or lay out comfy cushions and serve popcorn for an unforgettable, outdoor cinematic experience.

5. Art in the garden

Give children some coloured chalk and let them do murals on paving in the garden. You can also create a canvas for an outdoor mural by hanging an old sheet on the washing line. Let the children explore their creativity and unleash their inner Jackson Pollock with some non-toxic paints. Just make sure they stick to the sheet and don’t extend their artworks to any walls or garden furniture.

6. Backyard bowling

Create skittles with household items, such as empty cold drink bottles or cereal boxes. Let younger children use a large ball and give the older children smaller balls to test their bowling skills.

7. Amazing race or an obstacle course

This is a great way to let older children burn off some excess energy. Get a group together and make an obstacle course in the garden. Use chairs, boxes, cushions, the laundry basket and bits of rope to make challenging obstacles for children to climb over and under, or through. A novel idea is to tie strawberries or apples to the washing line on long pieces of string, then get the children to eat them without using their hands. This can be one of the tasks on the obstacle course.

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Child Magazine