The rain is back! As we bid farewell to the all-too-short period of sunny skies, don’t despair.
There are plenty of ways to keep children occupied and happy that don’t involve television or computer games.
Think creatively. Go against the grain and try some of these suggestions. But be warned, they may prove such a success that your children will want to do them every weekend, whatever the weather.
Practise your spying techniques by writing messages in code, using mirrors to write in reverse and making tin-can phones connected with string (yogurt pots can be used if you have no tins).
Make your own codewheel by downloading instructions from the Science Museum’s espionage website (www.scienceofspying.com).
Lemon juice is a good substitute for invisible ink: hold the paper up to a light to read. Acting the part with walkie-talkies and binoculars adds to the fun.
Camping in the great indoors
Who says tents have to be pitched outside? If you have a pop-up or small dome tent, it’s even easier to set up camp indoors.
If not, create tents by draping sheets over the sofa or the nearest clothes horse.
Make them comfy inside with airbeds, cushions and sleeping bags, then follow through with an indoor picnic to be eaten “under canvas”.
Get the children to help make pasta salad, mini quiches, fancy sandwiches, mini sausages in sticky mustard and honey dressing and you’ll enjoy it all the more.
Coming to a cinema near you
Don’t just stick on a DVD: watch a film in style. Write up a poster of the treats in store, cinematic and otherwise.
Make snacks such as brownies, popcorn, ice cream (or smoothies, carrot sticks and mini tomatoes if the grown-ups insist), darken the room, invite the neighbours round, use torches to show people to their seats, then let the show begin.
All dressed up
Allow the children to raid your wardrobe, dressing-up box and linen-cupboard, then go to town with make-up and accessories, hats, scarves, gloves and glasses (you can give them a theme, or let their imagination run wild).
Once they are in character, encourage them to make up a play and film the results.
Lie each child down on a huge piece of paper (a large roll of art paper or the back of a spare roll of wallpaper) and draw around them.
Then, using all the fabric offcuts, paint, stray bits of wallpaper, wool, shiny sweet-wrappers, glue and creativity that you can muster, fill in the clothes, hair and face. This takes ages, is deeply satisfying and creates an arresting wall display for their bedrooms.
Out and about
Investigate your local cinema to see if it runs a children’s film club or has special deals during the day.
Revel in the rain
Don’t fight it, enjoy it. Wrap up well in waterproofs and go for a brisk walk.
Introduce the children to the appeal of splashing through puddles to the nearest family-friendly pub for chips and ice cream. Or step outside and stage a water-fight, with the aim of getting as wet as humanly possible.
The word museum can all too easily sound like a tolling knell of boredom, but not any more.
Today’s museums are brilliant places to go with children. For example, there are an irresistible number of things for three-to 10-year-olds to fiddle with in the Launch Pad gallery in the basement of the Science Museum and it’s free.
For aeroplane-mad boys, the best aviation museum in Europe is Duxford, Cambridgeshire. This weekend sees its two-day “Flying Legends” air show featuring “old warbirds”
Swimming with the tide
When it’s wet, why not get wetter? If the local indoor pool seems too ordinary, find your nearest outdoor pool .
Remember that rain can make pool water seem warmer than it is.
Fancy swimming outside in open water? Take inspiration from the Outdoor Swimming Society (www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com), whose members submerge themselves in lakes and rivers. Next weekend sees the Big Jump, a Europe-wide initiative encouraging people to take a dip in a local river.
Get your skates on
Think laterally. While Dancing on Ice is a fading memory, the local ice rink is likely to be quiet.