The summer holidays are fast approaching and it’s likely you are feeling mixed emotions. The kids are getting restless and need a break from learning. You may be in shock at how quickly the year has gone and can’t quite believe that pretty soon they will be going into the next academic year. You’re probably excited to get to spend more time with them, but the thing we all tend to struggle with, is what to do with them to keep them entertained and not break the bank doing so.
Here, I’ve put together some fun, affordable and cost effective ideas to help keep you and your kids happy this summer.
Going for a free walk.
I know it sounds simple, but if your family is anything like mine, going for a walk can be like one of those dusty unloved board games at the back of the cupboard. It’s easy to bypass a walk for something that seems more exciting, but walking is an amazing way to enjoy time together as a family. You can choose to walk as far as you like and you can incorporate other activities (I will include more ideas below). It’s going to boost moods and lots of us are very close to something very beautiful that we maybe don’t appreciate yet.
Most towns and cities have some type of natural area close by, a park, river or canal. Some areas will of course have more options such as moorland, woodland or the beach. Start by looking for something local to you, if you have one of these places close to you then make the most of them.
Ok so sadly not everywhere is free. If it means driving or using public transport then this is a cost to consider.
As a child my mum would take me and my friends to the local river. We would spend hours playing in the water. We would take a picnic and mum would relax with a book. It was a short drive from where we lived and then a short walk through the woods to get there. It only cost the price of fuel (ok so that was definitely cheaper back then) but it didn’t break the bank since the rest of the activity didn’t cost anything. We loved going and it’s one of my fondest memories from my childhood years.
There are also lots of outdoor paid entry attractions to visit such as National Trust gardens. If you are likely to use these a lot, it’s worth considering a membership as it may be more cost effective for your family.
Do you have a garden? Do you have a tent? Why not try camping in your back garden? Its about the people you are with and the fun you can have rather than the location. Toast marshmallows and stay up late looking at the stars.
Don’t have the garden or the tent? Make a den in the living room. Make a ‘midnight’ feast and tell each other fun stories.
Either option is a great way to spend some time together without screens to interrupt the quality time.
Playing in the garden.
There are endless things you can do in the garden at home. Depending on your garden size and your imagination there are lots of options to keep the kids entertained for very little cost.
- Water play – weather it’s a pool or a bucket, water play is lots of fun. Get them to wash all their toys, or make an underwater scene for them to play with. You can use old washing up liquid bottles to spray at each other in water fights. (Just make sure its thoroughly cleaned before using it - nobody wants washing up liquid in their eye!)
- Build a bug house or a fairy garden. You can use any natural material to build these, why not collect fallen sticks and leaves.
- Garden games. – You can buy or make lots of fun garden games and they don’t just have to be for outside. They can be just as fun inside too. Your imagination is the limit. Here are some fun ideas for you to get some inspiration.
Get in the Kitchen.
It doesn’t matter how old they are, it’s never too early to get the kids helping in the kitchen. You can find lots of simple recipes online to get your kids enjoying being in the kitchen.
They could bake cakes or cookies or help make their own tea. You can buy inexpensive ice lolly moulds online and experiment with making your own lollies. I think it brings children a lot of joy and pride when they make something themselves. The BBC has a some fab suggestions for easy to do ideas.
Pack a picnic.
As I briefly mentioned above, a picnic is a really fun activity. It doesn’t have to cost extra, they are going to eat lunch anyway, just pack up their usual food, grab a blanket and enjoy eating outside. It’s really that simple. You could take it with you on your walk, go to the park, have it in the garden or even put a blanket out in the living room and have it there. It doesn’t have to be anything more than your usual meal, just the fun of getting to eat somewhere other than the table can be exciting for lots of children. Some simple Picnic ideas could include fresh fruit and vegetables as the high water content can help keep them hydrated, Pasta/wraps/sandwiches or an alternative carbohydrate to keep energy up and lots of water.
We have some lovely insulated individual lunch bags to pack your picnic in and help to keep it cool if you don’t already have something. Or you can often find larger insulated ‘bags for life’ in the bigger supermarkets. Pop in some ice blocks or freeze some *bottles of water* to help keep the food cool. Remember to try and keep your bag out of the sun where possible and avoid packing meat and dairy if you can, especially if it’s going to be a really hot day.
NOTE* If you freeze your own water, make sure you don’t fill the bottle the whole way. Water expands when frozen so you don’t want to end up with a split bottle and wet food.
Annual passes or return tickets.
This one does cost money, but as I briefly mentioned above, getting a membership or annual pass can be much more cost effective. Our family usually asks for tickets or money towards them for Christmas and birthdays from family members that we can use throughout the year. We usually try and get one or two attractions close to us that we can visit as frequently as possible without the cost of getting there being too much extra.
This makes it more achievable to have something to go out and do when nobody wants to be at home. If you choose somewhere local to you, you can invite along friends and family too for extra company. We have chosen Annual tickets for the closest theme park attraction this year.
There are also a lot of places that offer a free return pass with your ticket or money off access to another attraction so check what’s available locally to you. Our local Aquarium offers an annual return pass for local postcodes so once we have paid for our tickets we can return for free for the rest of the year.
For younger children see if there are any soft play places near to you. Its usually a lot cheaper then a big 'day out' event and although its not a whole day for most, its a good few hours. I know mine love a good run around at the local soft play. It keeps them happy and I get five minutes to myself for a cuppa.
Make the most of all offers available to you.
Check to see if your car or home insurance came with special deals like 2 for 1 cinema tickets.
If you have loyalty cards see if there are any perks. If you have a Tesco Clubcard you can convert the points to rewards and put the value towards attractions such as the aquarium or zoo and dining out experiences on their website.
If you are thinking of going to a specific place, search for deals or money off coupons for attractions online or in attraction leaflets you usually find in the supermarket. lots of places offer special deals if you go at certain times. And it is quite often cheaper to pre-book online then to pay on the door.
If your travelling somewhere by train, your tickets can allow access to lots of 2 for 1 deals in the area you are visiting. See here for the National Rail days out guide.
Look at what's on in your local area.
Lots of towns and cities have events on throughout the year. Farmers markets, conventions and various local celebrations.
In our town we have regular craft fairs, farmers markets and different events in the local park and town square that are free to attend.
You could also consider the Museum. If you have a Museum close to you then make the most of them. We travel a little way to get to a great museum in Exeter. Its free to go in but you can choose to leave a donation and there is so much for children to enjoy in there. There is the cost of getting there but for us it works out much cheaper then paying to get in many attractions. So take a look at what's available to you. You might live next to an exciting adventure without even realising. Check out this link for more museums in the UK.
My final suggestion is making a treasure hunt. You can do this just about anywhere but its easiest in the house and garden. Hide objects around the garden and let them search for them, the same as you might do at Easter. It doesn't have to be sweets. you can use pretty pebbles, or pencils and colouring books. It can be as big or little as you like.
If you are doing it in a public place try to use large objects and make it more of a quest. It could be very disappointing if someone else finds your treasure first. For example give instructions to find the big rock, then walk x distance until you get to the pine tree etc. the final clue could take them to an ice cream shop or the park.
I hope this has given you some ideas of things to try with your children this summer. Enjoy the time you spend together, before you know it they will be all grown up.
Rainbow Nation Clothing.