What to do this summer? Take your lead from literature

The summer holidays are looming, a time when children have five or six glorious weeks stretching ahead of them.

If we are lucky, the days will be filled with sunshine. Even if we’re not, it is a great opportunity for families to spend time together.

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But what to do? Well, as we’re children’s book designers and illustrators, we thought we’d take our inspiration from literature. Here are a few ideas for things to do together, this summer holiday, which needn’t break the bank.

  1. Take a train trip

Inspired by JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, and the Hogwarts Express platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross station, why not hop on a train and go off for the day? There are plenty of off-peak rail tickets available, if you fancy a day at the seaside, or exploring the countryside, or one of the UK’s great cities.

  1. Walk in the woods

Guess who inspired this idea? Yes, Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne’s fictional bear, who lived in the Hundred Acre Wood with his friends, Tigger, Roo, Piglet, Eeyore and Owl. You could walk through dappled paths, spot all the different trees, and listen to birdsong. A top tip for this: take a look at the free Merlin app. If you download this to a smartphone, it will help you identify the bird sounds around you.

  1. Go bug-hunting

Which bugs can you see in the garden, or round and about where you live? Look at them carefully – no taking them home in matchboxes please – and see how different and interesting they all are.

And our inspiration for this activity? Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, named by President George W Bush as his favourite childhood story.

  1. Try pond-dipping

Did you know, there are around 4,700 miles of navigable waterways in the UK? That’s all the rivers and canals where boats can travel, and there are many more hundreds of miles of streams and brooks.

So, there is likely to be a stretch of water or pond near you, which gives you a great opportunity to try pond-dipping. You take along a jam jar, scoop some water from the shallows, and examine all the pond-dwellers who are so abundant in spring and summer. Then, remember to gently tip the water back.

It is also very important to take care when around water. The Natural History Museum has a great blog about how to go pond-dipping safely, that you can read here.

And where did we get the inspiration for this activity from? Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, which follows the story of a water vole (Ratty) and his friends Mole, Toad and Badger.

  1. Be a pirate for the day

Why not dress up like Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and be a pirate for the day?

You could make people ‘walk the plank’ by jumping into a puddle or paddling pool; you could bake ship’s biscuits; you could even play that old children’s game of ‘Port/Starboard’ – if you’ve forgotten the rules, you can find them here on the SS Great Britain website.

To make this extra fun, organise a treasure hunt, bury some ‘treasure’ (anything you have to hand) and draw up a map with clues. As usual, X marks the spot – will the searchers be able to find the ‘gold’?

  1. Time for tea?

Everyone loves a tea party, either a real one with tea and cakes, or a pretend one with dolls and toys.

You could make your tea party like the Mad Hatter’s from Alice in Wonderland. What would you serve? Some homemade jam tarts? Sandwiches? Cake? And remember, during the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party it was always 6 o’clock!

  1. Build a den in the garden

You don’t need much equipment for this just a great imagination, because you’ll be mimicking the children’s book character Stig of the Dump,

Clive King’s Stig was a caveman who was living in the present day, and who was discovered by a boy called Barney. The pair soon become inseparable. If you have a friend, why not take it in turns to play Stig or Barney?

  1. Cupboard love

Of all CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the most popular is probably The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Why not conjure up a world of make believe, and pretend a wardrobe or cupboard in your house opens up into a fantasy universe, just like it does in the book?

These are just eight ideas, but we are sure you and your family can come up with more. For example, why not create artwork inspired by colourful books like Elmer the patchwork elephant? Visit a coffee shop and pretend there’s nothing left to eat at home because of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, who ate and drank everything? Spend the day telling everyone you are ‘glad’, playing the glad game like Pollyanna?

library time

We hope you have a lovely summer, and that it doesn’t race by too quickly. And, if you know someone who has been inspired to write a children’s book, then please ask them to get in touch. We can help with the design and illustrations.

Written by Jo Smyth (www.wordworker.co.uk)

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