Many mums, dads, grandparents and carers who are lucky enough to be off work when their children are off school, love school holidays, but at the same time, they may be worried too. What will the weather be like? How can I think of something to entertain the kids every single day? How much is this going to drain my bank account?
Worry not. I have a plan. And the first part of the plan is to plan.
You need one large sheet of paper folded into four and then unfolded:
- Label the top left “Free” and “Outside”
- Label the top right “Free” and “Inside”
- Label the bottom left “Costs” and “Outside”
- Label the bottom right “Costs and “Inside”
Allow your children to help come up with lots of ideas to fill in each square. It’s an activity in itself and a great reminder of previous fun days and activities. Here are some of my ideas to help you.
Top left is the golden square. Free AND outside – perfect!
- Play Park – no, not just your local park that they go to all the time. Why not hop on the bus and go to a different park? You could do a new one each time and let the children give them marks out of ten. Choose their favourite one to visit again at the end of the holidays. They could even write reviews. 😊
- Country Park – great big spaces to kick a ball about, fly a kite and play games such as tag or hide n seek.
- Forest – lots of forests have free events on such as bug catching. If there are no events on, you could do things like build dens from fallen wood (don’t break off living branches). Much of the wildlife in forests hides away from humans, but you can identify the animal footprints you find using my picture book: “Who Hides Here? Footprints in the Forest.”
- Litter-picking – you’d be amazed how much children love litter-picking. Make sure the children don’t touch litter with their hands though – litter pickers are the safest way and quite a skill to learn. If there are a few of you, you could ask the council if they’ll lend you litter-pickers and bags. Our council does 😊
- Beach – it doesn’t have to be the one you usually visit, ask friends for recommendations. Remember to pack a picnic or it gets expensive and this is supposed to be one of your free days. While you’re there, the children can collect pretty shells to make a cute picture frame when you get home. You can identify the footprints you find in the sand through my book: “Who Hides Here? Footprints at the Seaside.”
- Geo-caching – you need to download the app then you hunt for hidden treasure anywhere in the world (but if you want it to be free, I’d stick to your local area!) The treasure is usually a sticker or an interesting pencil! When you find it, you note down your name and date you found it, take out the treasure and replace it with some treasure of your own that you brought with you, then hide it back in the exact place you found it for the next person to find.
- Rock hunting – find the rock hunting Facebook page for your local area, usually the town name followed by “Rocks” so “Stockton Rocks” for example. You’re looking for interestingly painted rocks which can be hidden anywhere – next to pavements, in a crack in a wall, on a tree branch… When you find a rock, you take a picture of it, post it on the Rocks Facebook page and then either hide it back where you found it or in a new place, for someone else to find.
- Hills/Moors (hiking) – There’s something very liberating about hill tops and moorland. There’s nothing else higher than you for miles around. Make sure you stick to well-marked footpaths so you don’t get lost and don’t disturb wildlife.
- Footprint hunting – they can search for footprints in their own garden, parks, beaches, countryside, woodland and forests. If you place a tray of wet sand at the edge of your garden with some food in the middle over night, you might find some very interesting footprints the next day. I might just happen to know of some good books you can buy for very young children to identify the footprints of animals that may visit your garden! 🙂
- Bike ride – if your children are very young you can put them in a bike seat or on a tag along. If they’re old enough take them to the local off-road tracks in the woods and in parks. Lots of canals have lovely bike rides along side them. It’s worth asking where the best routes are at your local bike shop.
- Streams – paddling in a tiny river, feeding ducks, picnicking on the village green – a lovely taste of village life.
- Paddling pool – in your own back garden! Throw in the bath toys and a couple of water guns and they’ll have endless fun. Show them how to paint the fence with water too – that’s a never ending creative task as the sun drys it and so they can do it over and over again.
- Castle ruins – some are still free to explore. Great for firing up the children’s imagination and loads of space to run all off that energy.
- Dog walking.
- Park runs.
Top right is good too. It’s still free, but inside if the weather isn’t great.
- Decorating rocks for rock hunting. The paint needs to be weather proof. If your children are very young, use poster paint and then seal it with varnish. If your children are older they can use old bottles of nail varnish. (Top tip – if you paint the rocks white first, the image will show up better). It doesn’t matter how good or bad the images are – every rock hidden and found is exciting!
- Friends’ and relatives’ houses – It’s great to take turns hosting with all the kids together – they can entertain each other.
- Museums. You’ll be surprised how many are free. Train museums are especially popular with mine.
- Art galleries – they often have art and craft activities for children in the holidays, either free or a nominal amount such as 50p.
- Country Halls/Houses. Some are free or a nominal amount and again they often have activities on for children during holidays.
- Library – obviously lots of great books to choose and read, but also they usually have some kind of summer reading challenge on where you can collect stickers and prizes.
- Playdoh – you can make your own from flour, water, oil and food colouring.
- Baking – if you choose to make bread you can play with it like playdoh, then bake it and eat it! No awful models left around to “admire”! Cake decorating is another favourite that lets the children be creative. We love to make our own pizzas. We cheat and use the bottom of a muffin for the base, but the children love smearing on the tomato puree, selecting from lots of toppings I’ve prepared, and then sprinkling (smothering) the pizza in grated cheese. Then I just put it under the grill and they’ve made their own lunch!
- Lots of sports clubs have reasonably priced holiday activity clubs such as football, tennis, cricket, etcetera.
- Country shows – easily spend the whole day there looking at farm animals, farm machinery, arts and crafts tents, etcetera. Be careful because the big ones can be expensive to get in and food and drink can be expensive there too – take a picnic! If you plan far enough in advance your children could enter some of the craft competitions or enter your family dog into the fun dog competitions such as the dog with the waggiest tail.
- Horse riding at your local stables.
- Air trails – great way for the children to push themselves and they get a great feeling of satisfaction from what they’ve achieved. It’s a safe way of allowing “risk taking behaviour” which is a natural part of growing up.
- Go-Karting – great adrenaline filled activity.
- Car shows – vintage/custom/modified.
- Petting farms.
- Camping/caravanning. This could be free if you know a friendly landowner, but do not trespass. Organised camps are safer and better equipped.
- Fruit picking – what better way to persuade children that fruit is great to eat, than tell them they’re to pick it but not eat it! We always have to pay the farmer a bit extra for their bulging bellies! They love making it into a pie later too and it all gets eaten up!
- There are lots of village halls that run cheap activities for children such as arts and crafts, table tennis, etcetera.
- Soft play.
- Swimming pools – check out the family fun times where they might have large floating objects and the wave machine switched on. Our local one even plays music and has a disco light!
- Cinema – some cinemas have greatly reduced films on early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. They’re old films but great for very young children.
- Science Centres.
Those are just some of my ideas. You know your children and your budget and your local area – feel free to add ideas in the comments.
Enjoy your holidays – your children aren’t children for long 😊 xx