We're aware there's currently a lot of pressure on parents in particular around home education. So, first and foremost, all of the activities in this series are designed to be fun, creative experiences for your children (and hopefully for you too!), but there is also potential for learning in all of them.
Thes activities in this blog use our homes and neighbourhoods as inspiration for having a bit of creative fun with ideas about the past, present and future.
1. Tree time machine
The oldest trees on Earth have been around for thousands of years and can tell us a lot about the world we live in. Find a favourite tree in your area and measure its circumference. If you don’t know what kind of tree it is, use this tree identifier from the Woodland Trust or download their free tree identifier smartphone app. Then use this tree age calculator to find out how old your tree is.
Write or draw the story of your tree. What was the area like when it was planted? What has changed? Consider writing from the point of view of the tree, like a diary, or if your tree is very old, draw maps of how the area has changed at different time intervals.
This is the second line from the Beatles’ song When I’m 64, which is about how life might be when two people grow older. You can explore the same thing with only a pair of dice.
Take turns rolling the dice: whatever number comes up is a number of years in the future, e.g. six + eight = 14. What would you like to be doing, where would you like to live, how do you want the world to be?
Consider drawing or writing a short poem about your hopes and ideas. To extend your time travelling, add a zero to whatever number appears on the dice, e.g. four becomes 40, 10 becomes 100.
Bonus: lots of songs are about time or have the word ‘time’ in the title. How many can you come up with? Which ones do you like the best, and what do they have to say about time? Consider creating your own ‘time’ playlist!
If you’re teaching younger children about time, have them record the time of their favourite things – e.g. a TV show, a favourite song, a walk to the park, a meal. Consider making a time map, cutting out symbols (perhaps from old magazines or newspapers) for the various timed activities and pasting or taping them onto a sheet of paper, with activities taking the longest time at the top and the quickest activities at the bottom.
How many ways can you find to record time, e.g. phone clock, stopwatch, wall clock, counting out loud? What’s the longest and shortest activity you can record in a given day?
A good follow-up to Catching Time, this activity invites you to shake up your daily routines by deliberately stretching out how long you do them.
Warm up by eating breakfast slowly, using exaggerated slow-motion movements to do simple things like pour milk or wash dishes. Take a full five minutes to put on your socks.
Now think of a creative activity you’d like to do, e.g. drawing or dancing. What can you draw in 2, 5, 10 minutes? How many steps can you take in X seconds? Thinking about all of the activities you ‘stretched out,’ can you create a play that runs through them all in only 60 seconds?
With your child, or on your own, come up with at least six different historical eras of interest, e.g. Romans, Vikings, Dinosaurs, Victorians. Assign each era a number from 1-6, and then roll a single dice cube (or two, if you have lots of eras!) to determine which era you’re going to inhabit for a morning, an afternoon, or even a whole day.
Use this history cookbook to explore what people ate throughout time and perhaps cook your own ‘historic’ meal. Simple household materials could become Roman togas or outfits worn by Vikings or Ancient Greeks. Consider writing a short play involving two or more characters from that era, perhaps a parent and child having a meal, and perform it for family and friends near and far through your preferred online video platform.
A time capsule is sometimes called a ‘gift for the future’. It’s something you, your family, or friends can open months or even years later to remember what’s important to you now.
First, decide on your time capsule. This could be a shoe box, an empty Pringles can, a plastic container – there are many options, though something with a hard surface usually works best (the better for colouring and decorating). Then, with your child, come up with at least 10 favourite things and places. Try exploring the rooms of your home and in your local area for inspiration.
Then, think about what representations of your favourite things and places could go into your capsule. It could be a leaf from the local park, a photo of a footballer or singer, or the cut-out label from the box of a favourite breakfast cereal. If you’d like, add notes to your treasured items so your ‘future selves’ will remember what they are and why they are important.
Next, seal your capsule with tape or glue, decorate it as you’d like, then label it with today’s date. Finally, decide where to put your capsule for safe keeping and when you’re going to open it. You could also add a note or a drawing about what you think, or hope, life will be like when you open your capsule.
Bonus: Before sealing your time capsule, consider creating a display of your important items for other family and friends, perhaps encouraging them to add their own comments about the present or questions for the future!