I can’t believe an entire year has gone by and the summer holidays are almost here again. This time I have a daughter who has just finished her G.C.S.E’s and will be attending college full time in September. Another daughter making the leap from primary to secondary school and a son who has just started nursery. I was almost in the realm of free time until the holidays ran up to me and slapped me in the face, like in the well-known fizzy drink advert from the 90’s, leaving me stunned and speechless.
If, like me, you have a multitude of children of all ages, to entertain for a whole 6 weeks, while trying to stick to a budget – the leftover chocolate coins from Christmas and Monopoly money counts, right? – then you have come to the right place. Stick with me and we will get through the summer holidays together. There will be tantrums and tears, mostly yours, but we WILL have fun.
I am going to arm you with lots of fun and free things to do, but before I do I want to make a point. These ideas are for you to do when you can be bothered, not every, single, day. I am in no way saying parents need to run themselves ragged trying to occupy their children all the time. In fact, the more they can occupy themselves the better. I don’t mean they should be left to their own devices all the time either, obviously young children need supervision in most activities, so safety is key in the holidays.
The first activity is for mums to do alone – no it doesn’t involve Tom Hardy or gin sorry. Get a swear tin, you know the one you put money in every time you swear? Don’t worry, I’m not trying to bankrupt you honest. This will be a ‘mum’ tin. Every time a child says mum they have to put money in, genius I know. Your holidays will be off to a flying start.
I appreciate, that trying to put together activities involving toddlers and teenagers together, is a bit like trying to complete a Rubik’s cube with an oven glove on. I have however, managed to compile a list, that should keep all ages entertained, for a little while at least.
1) Parks & Museums
Local parks and museums are usually free to visit. If you have been to your local one loads of times then travel to the nearest town and visit theirs instead. Most parks have picnic tables and benches scattered around, take a picnic and enjoy the surroundings. See what free activities are being held through the holidays and make the most of them.
2) Beaches & Rivers
If you can take the kids to a stretch of water, they will love to paddle and play in it. If you can get to a beach then you can spend hours keeping them entertained for free. Failing that, rivers and streams are great for a dip. Have a stick race, paddle or take a fishing net and see what you can catch. If there is no way you can get near either of these, then you could always make your own using tin foil to line a little trench, dug out of your garden or a sandpit. Decorate with stones, sticks and toy animals. Make some nature art using pebbles, sticks and leaves, all ages love to be creative, you might even like it yourself.
3) Scrapbooking & Journaling
Make sure at the beginning of the holidays you get the kids to make their own scrapbook journals. Toddlers can stick ticket stubs, leaves or sweet wrappers to remind them of where they have been. Teenagers can be more elaborate, decorating their journals artistically and in more detail. They can write in the things they are grateful for at the end of each day, add photos from your days out or just how they feel in general and at the end of the holidays they will be able to look back on what they have done.
4) Stories & Library Clubs
Check out what’s going on at your local library in the holidays. There are usually incentives for reading a set number of books, where your child will receive some sort of gift for reading. Hold a book club where you all read and then talk about your books afterwards, what you liked and didn’t like. You could have a night where you read a story together out loud taking turns. Encouraging your children to read will not only help with their language skills, but it will stimulate their imagination.
Everybody is a budding scientist. If you have ever wondered anything at all, there will be an experiment behind it.
How much rain will fall in the holidays? Put a container outside and leave it for the 6 weeks and measure it at the end.
What do worms do? Using half a plastic bottle, fill with layers of sand and soil then top with some leaves and fruit and veg peelings. Sprinkle with some water and place your worms on top. Wrap the container in black paper so it’s nice and dark. Keep watered so they don’t dry out and check on them every couple of days, to see what they have been up to.
Ice fun. In a muffin tin or a shaped mould place some flowers and fill with water. Add a loop of string submerged into the water and freeze. You will have some lovely ice decorations to hang outside. Watch how long they take to melt and how they catch the light.
Ice-scavate. Using an old ice-cream carton and random small objects from around the house – be careful of small objects and children choking. Place a few things in the bottom of the tub and cover with water. Freeze until solid then add some more objects and cover again with water. Repeat the process until the tub is full and frozen. When it’s hot and the kids are bored give them the ice block to chip away at and see what they can discover.
6) Grow something
The beginning of the holidays, is the best time to plant something and track its progress through the following weeks. Whether you grow cress, herbs or flowers, you are teaching your children patience and understanding. The food they eat takes time to grow and lots of care goes into it, they will want to eat something they have grown themselves and will be less inclined to waste it too. Keep a note of what happens each week, take pictures and write in a diary.
7) Go back to your youth
Have a day of reverting to a child. What did you love to do when you were little? Instead of lecturing the kids on how much time you spent outside compared to them, get out there with them and show them what you used to do.
Have a game of Kirby – on a quiet road of course – where you throw a football to the opposite curb trying to bounce it off it and back to yourself.
What about a game of Blonk 123? Remember that one? Someone would cover their eyes and count to 20 while everyone else ran off to hide. The place where the person was counting from is base. The ‘hiders’ make a run for the base before the ‘catcher’ catches them out. When at the base they are safe. If the ‘catcher’ gets to the base first, they shout blonk 123 and the person’s name who they see, then that person is out. The winner is the last one to be found.
Rounders is another great family game for everyone to join in. Having fun together will make memories they won’t ever forget.
8) Fashion Designer & Costume Maker
Are any of your children a budding Vienne Westwood or a Hollywood costume designer? One way to bring out the creative side in your children is to visit charity shops, car boot sales and swap unwanted clothes and textiles with their friends. When you have a few pieces of clothing, see what new outfits they can make using old buttons, brooches and whatever else takes their fancy. When they have finished sewing and stitching, they can hold a fashion show for everybody to watch.
9) Save up
The best thing you can teach your children, of any age, is to save money. If there is something they really want, or if they want some spending money for a day out make them save up for it. They can create a savings chart with their goal amount at the end and cross off amounts as they get it. This is a great activity for any age, to teach them life skills that can be used all through their lives. They could do chores around the house for certain amounts of money, do odd jobs for family members, or even get a job if they are old enough.
10) Travel the world
Okay, we’re on a budget here so I’m not talking jumping on a cruise ship for 6 weeks with all your children, but while they are off you could plan to experience a few different cultures. How about a themed tea one night a week? There are plenty of cheap recipes on here you could use. Have a Mexican night and eat chilli, Chinese night and have a stir fry or an Italian night and enjoy my pasta recipe. Make it an event and get the children to help set the theme. Decorate the table in the country’s colours, dress up and make a night of it, why not get them to learn a few words in the language, using an app like Duolingo which is free?
Hopefully a few of these tips will keep them occupied for longer than five minutes. Failing that resort to Tom Hardy and gin…