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Here are 12 top ideas, for inside your home and out, to keep the smiles steady…
So you might not be able to get in the car and head down the East Lancs but you can still get the family together for a fab and fun safari to one of the north west’s top attractions – virtually!
Knowsley adapted its usual educational offering to launch a free Home School Safari hub for parents earlier this year, which gave a behind-the-scenes look at the famous estate – including vets’ and educational videos.
And families can still get that peek at things you don’t see on an actual visit, along with downloadable worksheets, fun animal facts and talks covering topics like classification, Africa, food and feeding, animal care and exploring different species; and a Q&A video series answering all your queries.
Strength and fitness coach for premiership footballers and Olympic gold medallists, Neil Parsley is using his 25 years’ experience to get families across Merseyside off the couch and into a regular fitness routine with his YouTube channel, Family Fitness TV.
Sessions vary but might include a warm-up, and then two sets of 10 varied exercises like squats, lunges and jumps. Neil, from the Wirral, has also produced shorter clips which give ideas of fun things to do in the garden – like noughts and crosses with sticks and socks – and there’s health tips and nutritional recipes the kids can try.
During the last lockdown everyone headed to the kitchen: “It’s fair to say that baking has well and truly swept the nation,” said children’s cookery author and food expert Annabel Karmel. “And it’s brought families together.”
So why stop now? Get creative in the kitchen again with the perfect comfort food – Pizza Muffins
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp tomato puree
200g plain flour
1 x 7g packet of dried yeast
¼ tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
250g mozzarella cheese, diced
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
12 basil leaves
Method: Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Add onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft, adding garlic for 30 seconds, then the passata. Bring to boil, simmer for 10 minutes until reduced. Add the basil and the tomato puree and set aside.
To make the dough. Measure flour, yeast, caster sugar, oil, water and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Mix until you have a dough. Knead for 5 minutes on a floured board. Roll out and cut out 12 x 7cm rounds using a cookie cutter. Line a 12-hole muffin tin, pushing the circles of pizza dough into the base and up the sides.
Spoon the tomato sauce on top, then half the cheeses, tomatoes, basil and the remaining cheeses.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until well risen and golden.
This idea from the RSPB is a great way to look after our feathered friends in the colder months and keep the kids occupied (and you’ll have hours of pleasure watching the birds which come to feed).
What you’ll need:
A cardboard tube (a kitchen roll is perfect)
Two long sticks or skewers
Some lard or suet (or vegetable suet)
Birdseed, spread out on a plate or tray
A piece of string
Method: Start by making four holes in one end of your cardboard tube, these must be large enough for your sticks or skewers, but not so large that the sticks slide out. Be careful of any sharp ends!
Make sure the holes opposite each other line up so that you can thread your sticks through.
Next, make two small holes opposite each other in the other end of your tube. Use a butter knife or spatula to cover your roll in lard or suet, vegetarian varieties are good too.
Roll the tube in bird seed so that the seed sticks to the lard. Finally, carefully thread the sticks through to make a cross shape, and thread a piece of string through the two top holes. Then you’re ready to hang your feeder outside!
Who doesn’t love a brilliant board game to while away the long dark nights or dull weekends and there are some great classics – Cluedo, Scrabble, snakes and ladders even – and newer ones like Game for Fame and The Chase.
But you can’t beat a classic – and why not try one that’s streets ahead like Liverpool Edition Monopoly? Not only do you get to test your venture skills against other members of the family, you can collect you favourite roads and venues, and even ask everyone to learn a new fact about the places they thought they knew so well about the city – like Merseyside Maritime Museum or its famous football clubs?!
It doesn’t just come into its own with a tasty bolognese sauce, dried pasta is great for creating things with tiny members of the household.
You can use a variety of shapes to create a picture which you can paint.
Or you can paint penne pasta in different colours and thread it on a piece of string or elastic to make a necklace, bracelet – or both.
If you have a longer piece of twine and metallic paint or glitter, you could even get cracking on some new festive decorations and make your own Christmas tree garland.
Rainbows have become a symbol of hope for all of us this year, so why not have a go at making one with your kids using autumn leaves. It just shows how many colours there are out there right now.
Chances are you should be able to find vivid reds, bright oranges, sunny yellows, gorgeous greens and deep purples…so once you’ve gathered your leaves, lay them out in a semi-circle on the ground to make a cheerful rainbow. When you’ve finished, stick it onto paper to put in your window or take a photo and send it to friends or family to brighten their day.
This is a great idea from the Woodland Trust – and it’s got loads more! Info here.
Who can resist mud – you can squish it with your fingers when it’s wet and gooey, and create a work of art.
There are three essential ingredients for a fantastic mud creation, says the National Trust: a lot of mud, interesting things from nature to mix in, like twigs, leaves, feathers and seeds and a big mixing stick or spoon.
* Find a natural canvas – such as the bark of a tree or a log and use your mud as paint and create a work of art.
* Or, create a mini muddy sculpture of an animal you can see in nature. You can use feathers, sticks and stones to help you decorate and shape it. Twigs make great legs and hedgehog spikes.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a museum or exhibition all to yourself – now is the chance to find out, with 3D virtual tours which you can take at your own pace, including these:
World Museum Liverpool – Dinosaurs and Natural World Exhibition: Explore the story of life on earth through a series of displays that will take you on a journey around the world and through time to the beginnings of life itself.
The Bones and Stones display explores the rise of animals with backbones as they emerged from the seas and dominated the land, while full-size dinosaur skeletons show how these immense animals lived and died. You can even discover the mysterious large reptile that lived in Merseyside over 220 million years ago which disappeared leaving only its footprints behind…ooh, love a good mystery!
At the International Slavery Museum, you can take a look around the museum’s main galleries and exhibition space and find out about some of the highlights.
On this tour you can see the Life in West Africa gallery; the Enslavement and the Middle Passage gallery, the Legacy gallery and the former exhibition, Journey to Justice. It’s like your own VIP visit.
Create your own quizzes to test the other members of the family – it can be general knowledge, or you can base it on your favourite book or film (or both). For instance, what about a harry Potter quiz to get you started?
1. What is the Number on the front of the Hogwarts Express?
2. What time were Harry, Hermione & Neville, expected to meet Filch in the entrance hall, for detention?
3. Who is the creator of the Philosopher’s Stone?
4. Where does Harry’s first meeting with Draco take place?
5. Which animal does Professor McGonagall appear as in the first chapter?
6. What is the only thing Harry can remember about his parents’ death?
7. How many silver sickles are there in a galleon?
8. Which teacher does Harry meet in The Leaky Cauldron pub?
9. What is the number of the vault the Philosopher’s Stone kept in at Gringotts Wizarding Bank?
10. What is Harry’s wand made out of?
1. 5972; 2. 11pm; 3. Nicholas Flamel; 4. Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions; 5. A tabby cat; 6. A blinding flash of green light; 7. 17; 8. Professor Quirrell; 9. 713 ; 10. Holly and with a phoenix feather at its core.
You don’t even need a pair of binoculars, just a beady pair of eyes which you can keep peeled to see how many different bird species you can get in your own back garden or close by.
It might help of course if you put out food (see above) or water to encourage them.
Not sure which is what? Then help is at hand…
The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (like that at Martin Mere) has put together a list of birds most likely to pay you a visit and it’s got info sheets which you can download to help you spot them, and sections to fill in like ‘what call does it make?’ and ‘what do you think it might be talking about’?.
If you walk anywhere near a wood or park – or you can grab these things from your own garden – why not make a leaf boat?
You will need:
• A bit of mud
Choose a piece of bark or a curved leaf to make the hull, or bottom, of your boat.
Use mud to attach a straight twig to the hull which can be your mast.
Carefully thread a leaf or two onto the stick to make your sail (s) then look out for a puddle or pond to sail your boat on so you can see how far it goes. Have a competition with friends or family to see whose goes furthest.
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