First, do you have a room in your house you can live without for the next few weeks? The dining room or conservatory? Let's face it, we're unlikely to be sunning ourselves in the conservatory and fancy dinner parties are probably off the agenda when all our efforts will be concentrating purely on retaining our sanity.
So if you do have the luxury of a room to spare, give it to the kids. Child proof it, remove all valuables, cover the decent carpet with a large cheap rug, put a sheet, or better still a large plastic cloth on the table and create your playroom.
Now gather together the things you need to make this room a hive of activity for the next few weeks.
If your wardrobe isn overflowing with stuff you'll never wear again but don't want to part with 'just in case' then this is a good starting point for a dressing up box... and I've also found that grandma's house often contains decade’s worth of old clothes, shoes and bags that will never see the light of day again (who knows, you might find yourself a couple of vintage pieces!) Costume jewellery, and if you're very brave (and have girls!) your cast off lipsticks, or even kiddie make up.
Powder paints and a roll of lining paper. Painting doesn't have to be just painting - remember potato printing, leaf printing, pasta, lentils, tissue paper, fabric offcuts, wool... the possibilities are endless.
Make your own play dough*. It's cheap, safe and lasts for weeks. Have some ideas ready for play dough 'challenges.' Don't just leave them to it, how about they create a whole zoo or farmyard, a racing track with cars, or stock a supermarket (fruit, vegetables, cakes, pizza, bread etc) all out of play dough.
Get together a craft box. Gather household items such as paper, cotton balls, glitter, straws, lolly sticks, safety scissors, glue and whatever else you have that you think could work well, have some card and elastic for making masks. It may be worth a trip to Hobbycraft (other craft shops are available!) for a few carefully selected items, particularly if your children are a bit older. I guarantee you'll spend a lot less than the cost of a day at a theme park and it should occupy a lot more time! Oh, and I remember what we used to love... bandages! Call me old fashioned but from sticking a plaster onto dolly's knee to trussing my little brother up from head to toe, doctors and nurses was fun... and innocent!
Don't overlook the tried and tested board games. Jigsaws are possibly the most under-rated pastime out there in these modern times yet they can be educational and genuinely absorbing. Make sure they are challenging but not impossible for the age group, and feature a subject that your youngsters find interesting. You may have to help them get started... and you may also be tempted to take over – don't!
Over the next few weeks make that room work for you, the table will be a den one day and a baking surface the next. The floor will play host to a picnic, a domino run and a dolly's tea party. Don't keep everything in there at once, decide what the activity will be for the day then magically produce the necessary. If you're an optimist, throw in a couple of bean bags and a few books for the longed for afternoon energy dip (theirs not yours!) Prepare for the room to look a little bit war torn by the end of the holidays, and console yourself with the fact that hopefully the rest of the house has escaped virtually unscathed, and you have a great excuse to get it decorated in September!
1 cup of plain flour 1 cup of water 1/2 cup of salt 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar 2 tablespoons of oil Food colouring