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It can be somewhat of a challenge to keep children entertained over long weekends or during the holidays. But, 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.

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. Camp out

Children love the thrill of spending a night under the stars. Pack the sleeping bags and camping gear and head for a spot in the garden where you can perhaps build a small fire, or use a gas burner. Toast marshmallows and sausages and sing camp fire songs. Use the opportunity to teach older children about the stars and the Milky Way.

4. Scavenger hunt

With it being the month of Easter, this is good training if you are planning an egg hunt and it’s also an excellent way to keep energetic children entertained outside. 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.

5. Hopscotch or pavement art

Take some chalk and draw a hopscotch course onto paving. You can also use plastic hoops to mark the course. It usually has seven or eight sections and each child is given a marker, such as a stone or a bean bag, to throw onto the course. The first player throws the marker onto the first square and then has to hop over it to get to the second square, before hopping to the end of the course and back again. If the player lands on the square with the marker, or stands on the line, they are out. Children from the age of three will enjoy this game. You can also use the chalk to play noughts and crosses.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

Anél Lewis