Summer fun without breaking the bank


Whether you’re a working mum or not, the school holidays can either be faced with either excitement or dread.  Here we have some suggestions about how to fill the summer holidays with activities you and your children will enjoy without breaking the bank.

Let them be bored in week one

But before we give you the list, here’s a thought: helping your children get used to boredom could make your life easier: “Over the years I have learnt that the first week of the holidays is crucial. Don’t do anything much and don’t respond when they complain they are bored, other than to offer to help them clean their bedroom. Days one, two and three you will, I promise you, feel like killing them or yourself. After that a small and enchanting miracle occurs. They start to find things to do. Once they are in the groove – painting, making dens, digging, trampolining, dressing up the dog etc – then I start putting in some days out and activities. The more you arrange entertainment, the less children find their own reservoir of resources,” says Pagwatch on Mumsnet.

So when your children have become suitably resourceful in filling their time, here are some ideas for days out:

Check out local museums – a lot have special kids’ exhibitions and free kids activities on in the summer holidays. You might want to save museums for the wet days!

Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty and doing arts and crafts at home, as most children will be absorbed for a while. We love using Red Ted Art for inspiration, now with YouTube demos.

Libraries often have summer holiday programmes too, from ‘reading hour’, to special events. “Our school broke up last week and so far I’ve taken my children along to two events (one dancing and one crafts) that were held at our library,” says Anna. Some libraries run reading challenges too, that you can do with even the youngest children to encourage reading.

“We go to the woods a lot. I read a book, the boys climb trees and make dens. The baby pootles around and eats dirt.” Ask your children to create their very own obstacle course in your garden, using chairs, toys and brooms. They could even push toys around the course. You can time them and set them a challenge to try and beat their original time.

If your class uses Classlist, set up an event for other families from school. It’s a quick and easy way of finding people to spend time with when you don’t know who is and isn’t away. Your event could be simply meeting in the park or a pottery cafe. You may even enjoy getting to know someone better from your class who you haven’t spent time with before. At some schools, the mums arrange weekly meet ups over the summer. If there are new families joining the school who you see in your class on Classlist over the summer, inviting them along to something will be really appreciated, as they would generally love to get to know other families before term starts.

The National Trust have a list of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ which is full of wholesome, free things to do. If you don’t get your children doing this stuff you may look back one day and regret it! Don’t we all secretly yearn to have children who love nothing better than damming streams, cooking on a campfire and fossil hunting? 

By the way, don’t assume that the easy option is to put on the TV or hand over the iPad. “I find that my children become sluggish and don’t want to do anything else if I allow much screen time, even though it is tempting. I can’t bear the fights that break out over which channel to watch, or whose turn it is on the iPad next. Last summer I banned all screens until 6pm. I would get up in the morning and find my 11 year old son reading books without being asked for the first time in ages. It definitely paid off, and there were no complaints about it from my children actually, which was the biggest surprise of all,” says Emma from Buckinghamshire.

If it rains, encourage the children to go out and play anyway. In Scandinavia they say, 'there is no thing as bad weather, only bad clothing'. Check out this blog for tips on fun things to do in the garden on a rainy day.

And when you really need a day off, swap children for a day: arrange with a friend that you will have her children over for a full day to give her some time to herself, and then swap back the next week, so you get a day off too!

If you think the summer will be long, boring and stressful …… it probably will be. But with a bit of planning you can make it fun and exciting without spending much money. And you may even make some new friends too! 

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