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Summer play & learn

Each week of the summer holidays we’re inviting families (and those young at heart) to play with the past by trying out different medieval jobs.

Playing with the past logo with girl dressed in period costume and knights and horses made out of home craft materials

1 Welcome!

Step into historic shoes

Each week of the summer holidays we’re inviting families (and those young at heart) to play with the past by trying out different medieval jobs.

Why not start your journey with our free ‘download and print’ game That Job is History, where you have to pitch for a job like ‘gong farmer’ (poo shoveller) using the three skills cards you’ve drawn. Excellent for encouraging creative thinking and persuasive talking!

If you've younger children we'd recommend our Play Castles at Home download. No need to print - just have a look at the activity suggestions and take them any direction you choose!

Here's what you can look forward to:

We’d love to hear what you get up to – please share your #LearningWithHES with us online!

PS – If you’ve got through all the activities and are hungry for more, check out our Learn at Home page for even more ideas!

2 Week 1: Train to be a stonemason!

Train as a castle-building stonemason

Time to flex your design, building and creative muscles!

Medieval stonemasons were responsible for building structures like castles and cathedrals - many of which still stand today. They had to make do without the computer design tools or the electric equipment that modern architects and builders use, and were often given the challenge of remodelling existing buildings as styles and needs changed.

Here are a few ways that you can step into the shoes of a medieval stonemason from home:

Prepare your site like a master mason
Have a look at some medieval construction techniques and try a few out a few of the challenges:

Den time!
Make a castle den (inside or outside) with inspiration from some of these recreations of castle features made from household objects. 

Boy and girl in a castle den made out of cardboard

Carve a masterpiece from soap
Try out some soap carving inspired by medieval stone work.

Get messy making marks! (early years)
Try some sensory play activities inspired by masons' marks.

A child wearing an apron and outdoors, having a fun with yoghurt on a tray to make Mason

Pens and paper at the ready!
Make your own mask of one of the carved stone heads at Elgin Cathedral. 

We hope you enjoyed your time as a stonemason in training. See you next week when we'll get you all kitted up as a jousting knight!

We'd love to hear about your building adventures - please do share your #LearningWithHES with us online. 

3 Week 2: Kit yourself out as a jousting knight

Kit yourself out like a knight!

Time to show off your bravery, skill and style.

Knights in medieval times would sometimes joust in tournaments - competitions where they used long lances. They rode their horses towards each other and tried to knock their opponent off their horse. It was very dangerous for the knights competing, but a very exciting day out for all the many spectators who came to watch.

Here are a few ways that you can step into the armour of a medieval jousting knight from home:

Design your coat of arms
Knights would have fought and jousted with a shield decorated with their Lord's coat of arms. Create a shield that's unique to you. 

children lying on floor creating their shields

Craft your kit
Jousting was an extremely risky business. Prepare for defence and attack - get your helmet, your horse and a lance ready!

Visualise your victory
Time to either enjoy our printable colouring sheet or draw your own jousting tournament scene. 

Hold your own jousting tournament!
If you're practicing jousting on your own with your new lance, we'd recommend hanging a target from string off a door frame or a washing line.

If you'd like to joust with someone else in your household, make some mini knights on horseback to joust on your table or floor - check out Craft Knight's top tips. You might even like to gather a crowd of your toys to watch the action!

We'd love to hear about your knightly adventures - please do share your #LearningWithHES online.

We hope you enjoyed your time as a jousting knight. See you next week when we'll invite you to party like royalty!

4 Week 3: Party like royalty!

Time to dive into a life of luxury.

Kings and queens in medieval times had a lot of power and money. So did Lords and Ladies living in castles across the country. They could afford lavish furnishings for their homes and have the finest clothes in the land made for them. To show off their wealth they would hold large feasts for many guests, with decadent food and special entertainers like musicians, minstrels and jesters.

Here are a few ways that you can step into the role of a medieval king or queen from home:

Design your jewels and bed chamber

Get your best pens and pencils out and either colour in our template (based on the Scottish crown jewels called the Honours of Scotland) or design your very own personal crown! Have a go at creating a luxurious royal bed chamber - use our printable version or use it as inspiration and go freestyle!

Treat a family member like royalty

A royal household would have had personal assistants - a chamberlain for the king and ladies-in-waiting for queens. They would help them get dressed, tidy their things and bring them anything they needed. Can you spend some time waiting on someone in your family? Perhaps a parent or carer? They might need a lot of drinks and snacks, and cushions to be extra comfortable! They might also want you to read out loud to them, and to open doors for them. Or perhaps they have more outrageous demands - a tower of toast? 4 blankets? A foot massage?

Girl dressed up as a Queen Viking

Plan a feast

Take a look through our two-page family guide to Feasting in the Great Hall. You'll see that feasts would have involved loads of planning - use our handy one-page checklist to design your perfect party. You could also use our colouring sheet to draw an imaginary banquet and guests - or use it as inspiration and draw your own!

Bake some treats

Don't fancy roast swan for tea? Fear not, we've got a tastier food challenge for you! Mary Queen of Scots is reported to have been fond of shortbread - why not make some (with adult help) to share with your family! 

Child's hands in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, combining butter and sugar

Party time!

After your feast you'll need some entertainment - take turns to perform your best tricks. Can you do a cartwheel? Are you good at impressions? Can you sing or dance, or recite a poem? Maybe you'd prefer to do a show - a thin sheet or piece of tissue paper with a light behind can make a wonderful puppet theatre. Family and friends online might like to get involved too! You could even make a simple jester's hat to get into the mood. h

Or a simple game of charades followed by a disco could round off your royal week nicely!

Puppet theatre made from a cardboard boxes

We'd love to hear about your royal adventures - please do share your #LearningWithHES online.

We hope you enjoyed your time treating yourself like a king or queen of the past. See you next week when we'll invite you to hone the battle skills of a medieval soldier!