I know many parents will be dreading the long school summer holidays. It’s always difficult trying to find enough for the children to do without breaking the bank and/or your own sanity. I’m in my third summer break from school and I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home Mum, so I don’t have to find lots of childcare. However, I also don’t have much extra cash lying around as we’re a one income family. So finding cheap or free activities is high on my priority list for the next few weeks.
Of course the activities have to be something to keep my child interested, and we try to do a variety of things each week to stop boredom setting in. I plan to arrange some ‘home’ days as well as days out. We might even manage a few full family days a bit further afield, but I’ll have to wait and see if that’s possible.
So, my first port of call for activities is my local library network. I consider us quite fortunate in Bury as we still have a relatively good network of libraries around the borough. I love the annual national Summer Reading Challenge as it keeps up reading for pleasure as well as me not having to buy a pile of books every time we go out. My daughter is mad on the Rainbow Magic Fairies and the library has been a real godsend as she always finds different ones every time we visit (And it’s only cost me the price of a bus ticket. She can take out up to eight books at a time and they all count towards the reading challenge. The website for the Reading Challenge is very interactive with games and puzzles as well as being able to unlock different content as more books are read. This year’s Challenge is titled ‘The Big Friendly Read’ and is all about Roald Dahl, so this will be a fun set of books to read. At the end of the challenge – reading six books in the six weeks – it’s great for the child to receive a certificate and possibly some other reward linked to the challenge theme. I can’t wait to see the Roald Dahl poster.
While in the library we can find out what other workshops they have on. We’ve taken part in arts and crafts (in collaboration with the art gallery) and writing workshops with local bookshops and learning centres. Our local shopping centres also have regular themes over the summer. The trick here is to avoid the high priced funfair rides and head over to the main gazebo where we take part in any competitions (drawling and treasure hunts) which are mostly free to enter and there’s often a craft workshop or something being sponsored by some of the retailers in the centre. I love these days out as all the mess is left in the workshop and we come home with a few treats and something we’ve made.
I’ve also found that Pets at Home frequently run animal workshops – ‘My Pet Pals’ . These give children (and parents) a chance to learn about reptiles, aquatics, insects, wild birds and small furries. They are free of charge but you need to book a place, so keep an eye on the website for more information in your local store.
Another of our favourite things to do is pay a visit to the cinema. Our cinema (Vue) runs a film every morning in the holidays at £1.99 per ticket (Mini Morning). They are usually films coming to the end of their general release but we’ve seen quite a few films this way and at a fraction of the cost. I’m hoping they’ll be showing ‘the secret life of pets’ over summer, fingers crossed. Be warned though, it’s probably better going when it’s not pouring down as they can get pretty busy!
On our home days we alternate between enjoying some relaxation time in the garden (weather permitting), playing inside doing something creative. Summer is a great time for the garden and I plan to do some major garden work this year. This will include encouraging my daughter to grow some plants of her own. I’ve bought a couple of packets of radish and spring onion seeds for her to plant. As they grow pretty quickly she’ll be able to see the fruits of her labours and hopefully it will encourage her to try eating them too!
If we do have to spend some time indoors (highly likely in a British summer), then we will undoubtedly get out something creative to do. I’ve been keeping an eye out for low cost crafting materials and always try to have some available just in case. There’s quite a lot of choice out there on the high street and you can find something for most budgets. My favourites for the sheer volume of materials are the large craft jars in the Entertainer (around £10) and Wilko’s selection of boxes (£2 – £15). Another great kit is the activity bag from craft planet (around £10) and they can be found online and from craft shops. There are loads of materials and the essential glue as well as ideas sheets and instructions on how to make a project or two. I like how the projects are aimed at children but all materials are good quality. We’ve had felt pieces, funky foam, card blanks, coloured card, pipe-cleaners, beads and stickers (to name a few) in the past and I can’t wait to see what’s in the next one. It’s always great fun to empty out the contents and start making. These bags even come in boys and girls versions.
My last tip is to start collecting small boxes, tubes, yogurt pots and bottle tops a few weeks before the holidays. (Yogurt pots make great paint and glue pots). You never know what these items can be turned into – just search Pinterest and You Tube for ideas – and best of all, anything that hasn’t been used can be given to your local nursery or reception class in September.
I’m looking forward to the holidays and I hope you have a great summer whatever you get up to.