24th August 2015 at 4:06pm
For kids, the blissful freedom of the school holidays seems to stretch forever – and it can sometimes feel that way for parents, too, faced with the ongoing challenge of keeping little ones entertained for the duration of the break. Luckily, there are plenty of fun, inexpensive ways to keep the kids occupied during summer or half-term holidays (or on weekends, or rainy days, or any other time you need some family activity inspiration) – here are a few of our favourites, with options suitable for a range of ages and budgets.
Craft day at home
Spread out some newspapers or an old sheet and make this a creative zone where kids can exercise their imagination and design skills with a variety of crafts. Paint, glitter, glue, coloured paper and other arty materials can be picked up inexpensively at your local pound store or craft shop, or you can source materials from nature or around the house. Try making papier-mâché masks or sculptures; mix up your own homemade play-dough; or build “robots” and other creations out of materials found in your recycling bin. A quick web search will turn up a mass of other crafty ideas for kids.
Head out on a treasure hunt
This can be as simple as hiding objects around the house or back garden for your toddler to find, or giving older kids a list of items they need to source themselves. If your family is keen on both technology and adventure, why not give geocaching a try? This increasingly popular pastime involves using your smartphone’s GPS system to find hidden caches of items and logging your results online.
Alternately, if you’re visiting a new city (or want a new perspective on your own), why not try downloading a themed walking tour, or using an app that points out places of interest along your route? The Museum of London, for example, offers several apps that superimpose historical images on your present-day view of London, providing an intriguing glimpse into a previous age.
Grow your own vegetables or herbs
If you’ve got a garden, patio or other outdoor space, or even a sunny windowsill, you can help your kids develop their green thumbs by planting flowers, veg or herbs from seeds or cuttings. This helps teach children about the food chain and natural world, and also helps build a sense of responsibility. Even better, you can eventually harvest your “crops” and use them in the kitchen! Which brings us to…
Bake or cook up a storm
Kids love to bake, so try making biscuits or a cake from scratch and letting them decorate the finished product. Or, have a “design your own pizza” night, where you provide the base and sauce and then let each child apply their own toppings from a selection. Older children may wish to try their hand at making bread or other more complicated dishes – it’s never too early for kids to start learning their way around a kitchen! Board game challenge Set aside an afternoon for a big family board game competition – or play cards, dominoes, charades or anything else that takes your fancy. Organise teams, and maybe even provide a prize for the winner – this could be as simple as getting to choose what’s for dinner. This is a great way for family members of all ages to spend some time together.
Camping holidays can be an inexpensive way to experience a new region and help your kids foster a love of the great outdoors – it’s certainly cheaper than staying in a hotel and eating at restaurants for a week. Even if you can’t get away during the school holidays, consider setting up a tent in the back garden and let your kids “camp out” – older kids in particular may relish having their own space.
Check out free activities and discounted attractions in your area
Many local museums, art galleries, parks, libraries and other establishments offer a programme of free (or cheap) activities for kids during the school holidays, ranging from storytelling and craft workshops, to sports days and special tours. The Woodland Trust, for example, features a range of free downloadable activities on their website designed to help kids learn about the natural environment, while ParkLives organises everything from free outdoor games days to tennis, football
and golf at destinations around the country.
Also, if you are planning to visit theme parks, cinemas or other visitor attractions, it’s worth checking in advance for discounts – many places offer special deals for children or families during the holiday period that could save you a bundle on admission, food and more.
Create a home cinema
Pull down the blinds, make some popcorn and settle in for movie night with your kids. Online streaming services are a great source of family-friendly films that they haven’t seen, as well as old favourites everyone likes to watch again and again. Or, try picking up older films (often available online for only a few pounds) that you enjoyed as a child and introducing them to a new generation.