8 Scotland-themed activities to try with kids
Scotland is a wonderful place for the family to visit, but if you can’t get there at the moment, then why not explore Scotland from home? It’s a great way to find out about this amazing land and entertain the family, while inspiring everyone for a future trip. Here are 8 fun activities to get the kids thinking about life in Scotland.
1. Research your family tartan
Each of the clans had their own tartan which developed and changed as families formed allegiances. Use this site to explore the tartans linked to your family names: https://houseoftartan.co.uk/scottish/searchsurname.asp
Even if your family name doesn’t have a tartan linked to it, the children can ask other family members about the names of grandparents and even great-grandparents and then search for those. Do you all like the family tartan? Would you want a kilt or a cushion in that design?
And if none of your family names link to the tartans shown, how about looking at the tartans in a colour you all like and finding your favourite? Or design your own tartan using the colour combinations you like best.
2. Make shortbread
Shortbread is delicious and easy to make at home. We’ve found a seriously simple, yet delicious shortbread recipe for kids.
The crucial step is resting the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes, as this makes it much easier to roll out. You can make biscuits in a simple shape like a circle or square but you can also design your own template so their biscuits are completely original. You eat them for a tea time snack or put them in a box as a present.
If you prefer to make gluten and dairy free shortbread, here’s an alternative recipe. Be warned, this one is a bit more crumbly so not as easy to make into different shaped biscuits
And, if your shortbread is successful, why not move onto something more complicated, like Arbroath Toasties or Neeps and Tatties? You could have a fully Scottish teatime!
3. Read the Katie Morag stories
This delightful set of books introduces you to Katie and her family who live on, Struay, an imaginary small Scottish island. Her mum looks after the postal service and her dad runs the island shop. There are lovely illustrations of the island and the other people who live there and Katie lives an idyllic life of freedom and adventure.
4. Learn some Scottish dancing
OK, so this may not be the easiest of things to do but it is guaranteed to be lots of fun! Check out the video below of children dancing a traditional Scottish reel.
Can you gather together a group of 8 people and try it for yourself? Or just practice a smaller part? There’s a simple repeating pattern which is quite easy to learn. Kids are often better at picking up dance moves than adults. Warning: This activity may involve a great deal of chaos, and considerable laughter. WHy not give it a go?
5. Design furniture for Skara Brae
Skara Brae is a pre-historic village on the island of Orkney north of Scotland. Evverything there is made of stone and it’s still there today. The village gives us a great idea of how ordinary people would have lived 5,000 years ago.
The houses in Skara Brae contain furniture built with simple materials – stones, pieces of flat slate and clay. Have a look at some of the images of the homes and their furniture and then ask the children to imagine what they might need and how they could build a bed, a table, a set of shelves or a place to cook.
Neolithic people only used things they could find nearby – there are very few trees on Orkney today so maybe wood wasn’t easy to find thousands of years ago either. What things are around your house now and could you use them to build furniture?
6. Build a camera obscura
Edinburgh has an exciting museum built around a Victorian Camera Obscura – it’s a great place to visit when you’re in the city but you can share the excitement by building one at home.
A Camera Obscura means “dark box” and was used by artists long before people worked out how to make photographs. Here you can find out how to make one at home – it’s fun but it also helps understand how optics work. There are instructions for how to make a camera out of a cereal box, a shoe box or even a room. Personally I can recommend using a Roses tin! Definitely more accessible than physics lessons.
7. Become a Castaway
Do you remember the BBC programme Castaway?
A group of people went to live on a remote island off the coast of Scotland and had to survive together for a year. So, imagine that your family is going to be on Castaway. Each of you needs to make a list of 10 things you want to take with you. Don’t worry about food, clothes and basic necessities – they’ll be there for you all.
But there is no TV or internet and you’ll be there for a whole year. Give everyone an hour to come up with their list and then sit down together to talk about what you’ve chosen. Then (and this is the tough bit) agree between you the 10 things you would take as a family! It needs a bit of compromise and negotiation but it’s also an opportunity to imagine what it might be like to be just you, making your own entertainment and interest.
If you’ve never heard of Castaway, you can watch the first episode of Season 1 here.
PARENTS: Please be aware that this episode has a demonstration of how to kill a chicken quite early on. You may not want to share this with your kids, depending on how graphically you want to explore the harsh realities of producing your own food…..
8. Create a family quiz about Scotland
Almost everyone enjoys a quiz. The key is to make sure everyone can answer some questions and that no-one can answer them all. You can start with a quiz online like this one.
But why not make up your own? You can ask each family member to create their own questions and put them together, taking it in turns to be the quiz master – if each of you make up 5 questions you’ll soon have enough to make the quiz fun.
You can even share your quiz with other family members or friends. Where there are people across a wide age range, you can set questions for a restricted group – clues to be answered by those under 10 only or by those over 40 for example.
If you’re looking for more fun activities linked to Scotland, why not try Deliberate Tarvel’s new activity workbook?
It’s 48 pages with 18 activities and 3 physical challenges, designed for kids aged 7-12. Based on principles of Inquiry Based Learning, the workbook is filled with research activities and educational puzzles, including:
- A challenge to climb Arthur’s Seat in a week, using your own staircase
- Travelling around the Hebrides, working out which island is which
- Breaking the code on some smuggled whisky barrels
- An exploration of evidence around Nessie the Loch Ness monster
- Much, much more…