Personally, I can’t wait for the summer holidays to start so I can have my daughter around all day. As much as I know she loves and needs nursery school every afternoon, I miss her so much.
However, I know a few of my friends are dreading the summer holidays and having to entertain their children for six weeks. Especially as it’s likely to be another wet summer, and indoor activities are so expensive.
Here are some of my top tips for activities you can do for free (or very cheaply).
1. Enjoy the rain. Seriously! Pull on your wellies and raincoats, grab your umbrellas and make like Peppa Pig and jump around the puddles in the garden or outside your house. Who doesn’t love making a splash? Teach them the words for Singing In The Rain and make a little video for them to watch later.
2. Play restaurants. Make meal times an event in themselves. Get your children to create a menu from food you already have in the house; older ones can even design a menu. Encourage them to take your order and to help prepare the food to the best of their abilities and to serve the food. Remind them that waiters and waitresses also have to help tidy up afterwards.
3. Visit your local pet store. Granted, smaller independent pet stores may not like you coming in without buying anything, but it’s quite easy to walk around the bigger chain pet stores. Some of them even have summer activities for children. Talk about the different cages, tanks etc that the animals live in. Discuss the differences between rodents, reptiles, birds etc. Chat about when the animals sleep, what they eat and how their cages need cleaning. We have even been lucky enough to be in store at meal time and my little ones have loved helping out.
4. Head to your local museum. They are all free here in Wales and often have exhibitions curated with children in mind. Beans on Toast at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff is a family-friendly exhibition that will introduce the idea of responsible eating and how what we eat can have a global impact.
5. Give your day a theme. It could be, for example, the colour red. Dress in red, eat foods that are red, do a red painting, play with red toys. Having some kind of focus to your day will help you keep little minds entertained.
6. Create a project. My children kept a fruit diary for a couple of weeks where we wrote about all the different fruits they had eaten. They’re still young so they told me what to write – how it tasted, how it felt, what they ate it with. Older children can draw pictures or write about it themselves.
6. Build a den. Get out a pile of blankets, sheets and cushions. Move the furniture around and create a cosy den. Create a story around it – perhaps you are pirates lost at sea or bunny rabbits living in the woods.
7. Have an indoor picnic. The weather doesn’t mean you can’t picnic. Get a blanket, some plastic plates, picnic style food and even a few teddy bears and eat your lunch in style. You could always combine this idea with building a den, above.
7. Have a toy and book swap. Partner up with a friend with children of a similar age to yours and put together a bag of books and toys to swap for a week. New toys will fire their imagination and they will suddenly be interested in their old toys when they are returned. Make sure to write an inventory before you pass on your toys to ensure everything gets returned safely.
8. Have a treasure hunt. Use cryptic clues for older children and picture ones for younger ones, and get them trawling round the house looking for the hidden treasure.
9. Waterplay. You don’t need to invest in a fancy water table. Old plastic food storage containers, cups, jugs, a washing up bowl and bath toys will keep little ones enthralled for hours. Older children can “paint” the garden using old, clean paintbrushes and a bowl of water. Outdoor chalks are another good and cheap alternative on a dry day.
10. Get out the photo albums. Whether it’s looking at old baby photos of themselves, or even of you, flicking through your wedding album or the exotic holidays you had pre-children, little ones are fascinated with photos – especially the ones where you have a dodgy haircut or are wearing questionable clothing.
11. Host a recycled fashion show. Okay, I stole this one from my daughter’s school. As part of Recycle Week, the children had to create a costume out of household recycling. Use newspapers or magazines to create a ra-ra skirt. Use egg boxes and nappy boxes to create a robot. A couple of cereal boxes can become a sword and shield. The only limit is your imagination.
12. Create a memory box. Sticking with the recycling theme, use an old shoe box and get them to cut out pictures from their favourite magazine to decorate it, or add buttons, shells, old birthday cards and so on. They can put memories of their summer holiday inside.
13. Have an indoor disco. Put on your party clothes and devise a playlist of your favourite child-friendly pop. Get some inspiration from this article, which I wrote for Parentdish. http://www.parentdish.co.uk/kids/should-parents-censor-the-music-children-listen-to-lyrics/
14. Create a scrapbook. You can pick one up at any supermarket or pound shop. Every time you do an activity, write about it afterwards. Pick up leaflets and pictures from your outings and encourage your little ones to write, or dictate, their thoughts on what they have done. They can write about summer holidays, exciting trips, or even the more mundane ones, such as the above-mentioned restaurant game, pet store trip or puddle jumping.
What about you? Do you have any ideas to add? There are lots of parents who will welcome your suggestions gratefully.