Many parents dread the long school summer holiday. Nobody wants their offspring to be staring at the TV or hooked up to a games console for a full six weeks. But the thought of lining up a variety of activities to keep them entertained can be both a daunting and expensive task.
So we’ve put together a guide to help, and the good news is the suggestions below are all free!
Kids grow out of things really quickly, whether it’s toys or favourite outfits. So what better excuse to have a clear out – and let the kids help.
Task the children with finding a few items from their childhood, or something that represents your family or their favourite hobby. Say, five items each. Find an old biscuit tin and place the items in it with notes from each of you, and together, bury it in the garden with a promise not to dig it up until the kids are all 18.
Find some materials from around the house the kids can use to make a pretty marker to place nearby, so you won’t forget where to dig.
Take advantage of the turbulent British weather and help the children make their own kite from a plastic bin liner! You could each decorate part of it. Then get down to your local beach or park to test it out.
Task the children with interviewing the relatives to learn more about their experiences. They could go even further back, by getting down to your local library or using the internet. You may find enough out to make a family coat of arms to hang on the wall.
Whether it’s in your own garden, a local park or beach, or even at one of these carefully chosen spots from around the country, picnicking is a great way to spend the day. You could choose one dish each to prepare or make together. And get the kids to list all the things you must remember to take with you. And then tick them off.
Older kids might like to challenge themselves to learn the beginnings of a new language over the six week break. YouTube has useful tutorials, or you could borrow an audio kit from your local library. This may be particularly nice if you are travelling abroad.
You could couple this with a mini project and get the children to learn as much as they can about the culture of the chosen country. Then you could dress up in traditional dress, make traditional food, sing traditional songs and have a family party.
You could surprise the kids with a day out they aren’t expecting. Choose a destination from dayoutwiththekids.co.uk, which lists county by county all the indoor and outdoor activities suited to each age group.
If the weather suddenly changes, you could easily find an alternative. And if it’s within walking or cycling distance, then all the better – both for burning the kids’ energy, and for your wallet!
See if you can make a game out of guessing where you’re off to. Perhaps find small prizes to take along for anyone who guessed correctly. And maybe give the kids a map to see if they can find a scenic route back.
The Woodland Trust has more than 150 free things to do this summer as part of its Big Summer Challenge 2012. From finding woodland to explore, to competitions, nature hunts and games like snail racing, there is an activity to suit the most creative to the most active children.
Many areas now also have destination marketing organisations such as the South West Tourism Alliance and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative. Browse their sites to see what’s on offer. Sign up for their mailing lists so you can plan ahead.
You could get the kids to make their own calendar and add the events they are most looking forward to.
Whether you’re going away or not, encourage your child to keep a diary, a photo diary, or even a scrap book of their summer exploits.
This will keep them occupied throughout the summer and is a lovely keepsake for them – and you – to treasure forever.
Whether it is a zoo, local park, wildlife reserve or a city farm, animals and plants can be fascinating to kids of any age, and many organisations have free entry. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens is a useful starting point, as is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
Pick your own fruit farms continue to be popular, although you will have to pay for the fruit you pick. An alternative could be foraging locally, although you must take care not to pick poisonous fruit. And make sure you aren’t trespassing where you shouldn’t.
An oldie but a goodie. Just mix plain flour with some water and food colouring, and you’ve got some messy fun. The kids can make it themselves, choose their own colours, and it keeps in an airtight container for days. Cook in a cool oven and you may even find your child is a budding sculptor.
Hosepipe ban allowing, when the sun comes out this summer, why not have an old fashioned water fight to keep cool? You don’t need the latest high tech water pistols. Buckets, basins, kitchen gadgets like washing up bottles and ordinary household sponges can do the job just as well. Add some bubbles to make it more fun. If you’re lucky, your car may get a good clean out of it!
Throughout the summer, collect stones and pebbles of different shapes, sizes and textures from your garden and around the local area. Clean them, paint them and arrange them so you can all enjoy.
Blind Man’s Buff, Charades, Chinese Whispers, Consequences and Forfeits may seem like foreign terms to the youth of today. But generations of children, and adults alike have enjoyed parlour games since Queen Victoria’s reign. They are useful to have up your sleeve during power cuts or on rainy days.
English Heritage and The National Trust have many properties and landscapes in their care which are free for members. However, they are often free for all on certain dates throughout the year. But The National Trust has gone one better with its list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 and three quarters. Sign up for free and let your child loose on the great outdoors.
Museums don’t have to be boring. There are many free museums up and down the country, devoted to all sorts of topics, from football to wool and even clocks!
If you have skilled knitters in the family, why not see if they can pass on the skill? Younger children can still get involved by making pom poms. And pre teens love friendship bracelets which can be made from the thread lying around your sewing box.
Boys may prefer something more practical, like puncture repair, First Aid, or games like chess, which can be played throughout the year, whatever the weather. Magic and card tricks can be picked up from YouTube. And because the kids will have to practise, they can be occupied for hours, leaving you to get on with enjoying your own summer break!
If you’re still short of ideas there’s a huge array of ideas and printable materials available online. And to get more of our money saving suggestions, sign up by email to My Virgin Money magazine, so you don’t miss out on receiving more of our family friendly features.
Details of all schemes contained within the above article are included for information only, and Virgin Money does not endorse them. Links to external websites are for information only. Virgin Money receives no income from them and accepts no responsibility for the website content. The information in this article is correct as at 24 July 2012.