The summer holidays are a magical time, especially for children. The chances are that many of your best childhood memories are summer memories: long, blue days, picnics at the beach, late evenings at the park or in the garden. When you’re a parent, you’re desperate for your own kids to have those experiences. It makes it doubly frustrating when the sun comes out, school’s over, and reality bites. It’s boiling. The kids are bored and sunburnt. There are still weeks to go.
The summer can also strain your budget. School might not be your kids’ favourite place to be, but at least it’s free. Although you don’t have to pay for the sunshine, most of the traditional ways of enjoying the sun will set you back a bob or two: food for a picnic, petrol for a drive to the beach.
We’re already on course for a record-breaking run of sunshine this year, so you shouldn’t feel bad if you’ve begun to run out of ideas for cheap, fun hot-weather activities. Here are a few suggestions to get the beach ball rolling:
Take up a sport
This year has already seen two great sporting tournaments. France won a second World Cup after a goal-filled competition, and Novak Djokovic won his first Wimbledon since returning from a long struggle with injury. Why not draw a little inspiration from these achievements? Summer is the perfect time for your kids to get into a new sport. Not only will practice and playing keep them outside all day long, they’ll get fit, make friends, and maybe acquire a lifelong hobby.
Start by researching local teams and facilities. Most towns will have a football team or two, plus rugby and cricket teams—and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. You might be raising Team GB’s next handball star or long-distance runner. Lots of sports complexes have discounts for young children or families, while others offer special classes or cheaper access at certain hours.
Once your kids have caught the bug for a particular sport, it’s not just practice and matches which will keep them busy. Find out when your local football or cricket team is playing (it’s usually on the weekends) and take your kids down to show their support. It’s certain to be appreciated!
A treasure hunt (or scavenger hunt) is a great way to get outdoors, use your brain as well as your legs, and explore a new place. A quick google search will tell you if there’s a professionally-run treasure hunt near you. Chances are there is! But if there isn’t you still have a couple of options. First, you can buy treasure hunt books online, which will take you around a designated location clue by clue. Most treasure hunts are themed, so you can pick something that will appeal to your kids, whether it’s a spy mission, a murder mystery or a search for pirate gold. Between the several companies that produce these books, thousands of UK locations are covered, at different levels for all ages. The second option is to make your own. You can find step-by-step guides online. The beauty of a homemade treasure hunt is that you can tailor it to your kids’ particular interests, and encourage them to discover things in their own neighbourhood. Make the clues tricky enough, and you can keep them occupied for hours!
Many museums in the UK are free, and many more offer cheap admission to kids or families. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve already visited every museum in your area. Small, specialist museums are often out of the way, and may not be able to spend as much on marketing as the big museum in the town centre. It’s often the smaller museums that offer the most for kids.
Even better than visiting a museum is to become the museum! Lots of places in the UK have local re-enactment groups who recreate the lives of people from long-gone eras. Your kids can flex their muscles as Viking raiders in training or learn to cook over an open fire. Re-enactment is a great way for families to spend time together, and if you’re lucky you might inspire an interest in history that will see your kids through an exam or two down the line.
Check Google Maps and your local council’s website to see if there are any outdoor playgrounds in your area. You can build a whole day out around a playground. Many playgrounds are based in parks, where you can have a picnic or barbecue (check that it’s allowed before you light your charcoal!)
Safety guidelines are always being revised, and public playgrounds are held to a very high standard. Injuries and accidents are rare, but in the unlucky event that your child is injured while playing in a public playground or other outdoor playspace, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step is to consult a legal expert, who will be able to advise you about your options. You can find more guidance at AccidentClaims.co.uk.
Cycling might not seem like a budget option, but it can be. There are more ways to get into cycling now than ever before. If you don’t own bikes, you can rent them. Bike rental is cheap, and rental providers can usually provide you with insurance against accidents or damage to the bike. In many towns and cities, cycling apps allow you to rent public bikes by the hour or even minute, and lots of public parks provide rental bikes at a low cost.
If you can get your kids into cycling, you’ll have a great family hobby which will keep you all fit. In the long run, you’ll save on petrol if your kids can cycle to school or to meet friends. If you can afford the initial cost, your kids’ bikes will ultimately pay for themselves. Lots of independent shops now specialise in renovating second-hand bikes, which can be an incredible bargain.
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