Low-cost kids’ activities and childcare for summer15 June, 2018
When summer rolls around, it can bring with it a lot of wholesome pleasures. Firing up the barbecue, heading to the beach, or just relaxing in the garden with the cold drink of your choice.
But what about the kids?
Even for stay-at-home parents, filling six weeks with fun activities for the little’uns can be a challenge. If you’re a working parent, you’ve also got to navigate the demands of your job and childcare.
Take a look at these low-cost options to keep the nippers entertained, and maybe bag yourself some peace and quiet in the sun while you’re at it.
Free summer fun with the kids
All of the above are great options, but you can’t be out at the cinema and soaking up culture every moment of the six-week holidays. Remember your own parents telling you how, in their day, they made their own entertainment? Maybe there’s something to that after all.
Why not teach them to cook? Simple recipes under close supervision, or even super-easy makes like Rice Krispie cakes let them get their hands dirty, have fun, and end up with something tasty. It could be the beginning of a lifelong foodie passion!
Encourage them to learn some gardening. Not only does this encourage a healthy respect for nature, it counts as exercise, and lays the groundwork for the day when they’ll be able to give you a hand cutting the grass.
You could go camping in the garden. All the fun and games of sleeping under the stars without the travel time and awkward bathroom arrangements. You can even set up a campfire and tell spooky stories.
Stage a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt around the house. Leave clues and prizes dotted around the place, or set a challenge to collect a certain number of items, maybe one starting with each letter of the alphabet.
Arts and crafts are a perennial winner. From finger-painting to kite-making, anything that lets them get messy and creative is great fun. Just remember to put some newspaper down first!
If the kids are creative types, help them stage a performance. Some old clothes as costumes, a creative use of props, and a few hours rehearsing are all they need to realise their budding dramatic ambitions.
Or what about a water fight? If the sun’s out, get the water guns out, fill balloons with the wet stuff and let rip. Be sure to keep everyone a warm, soft towel for when peace is declared.
Let them develop their minds with a trip to the library. Taking a break from technology and reconnecting with good old paper and ink can be a good chance for you to bond over your own favourite children’s classics.
Everyone loves mini-golf, so let them build their own crazy putting course around the house using everyday household items as obstacles, with a plastic cup for the hole. This DIY approach can also be applied to other sports like volleyball or badminton.
There’s also scope to get technology involved. Kids have smartphones nowadays – making videos and becoming a YouTuber lets them put those phones to good creative use. Comedy, sketches, or just musings on life as a young person all go down well with an online audience.
Low-cost summer activities with the kids
If you’ve got the luxury of time to spend with your children, here are some activities and initiatives being run across the UK, as well as some ideas to inspire your own plans.
Explore the great outdoors
The National Trust has been protecting and preserving the nation’s heritage since 1895, and they know how to have a giggle while they’re doing it. They run events for families up and down the UK, usually with a low entry cost.
The Woodland Trust offers downloadable activity packs which kids can use to become bona fide nature detectives! Coupled with a ramble in some of the UK’s gorgeous countryside, this is a fun and educational option.
National Rail’s 2-FOR-1 offers cover London and the South East, providing savings on hundreds of attractions, from zoos and historical landmarks to galleries and museums.
Geocaching is a relatively new phenomenon which uses GPS technology on your phone to host a giant global treasure hunt. Kids will love roving around the wilderness looking for caches, and with luck, their adventures will tire them out ready for a good night’s sleep!
Of course, there’s always a walk in the park, which is absolutely free and organising one is… well… a walk in the park. The Green Flag Award Scheme can help you find your nearest suitable green space for a relaxing time spent in beautiful surroundings.
Let’s not forget a day at the beach. Pack a picnic, a few towels, and you can have a classic summer outing without splashing out too much. We’re lucky in the UK to have a whole bonanza of beaches, from secluded coves to vibrant tourism spots, so you can pick a location that suits your tastes. The Beach Guide can help you make your mind up.
Seek thrills for less
A day out to a theme park is, for many kids, the ultimate summer treat. Parents, meanwhile, are burdened with the knowledge that entry doesn’t come cheap. Even once you’ve paid in, the cost of ice-creams, drinks and merchandise soon add up.
Thankfully, there are various schemes out there which might help lower the cost:
Kids Pass is a membership scheme which offers discounts on theme park entry, as well as a bunch of other kid-friendly activities like cinemas, bowling, and family meals. Best of all, they offer a trial month for as little as £1. This is a subscription service, so remember to cancel if you end up not using it.
Days Out Guide, in association with National Rail, has a range of offers for all the family when you travel there by rail. The offers and attractions included vary wildly and they change from time to time, so it’s worth keeping an eye out to see if anything pops up which might tickle their fancy.
The Merlin Annual Pass is a little pricier, but if you’ve got a full summer lined up packed with locations covered by the pass, you could unlock quite a saving on entry, and discounts on food and drink.
Sheltering from the Great British summer
If your kids aren’t the outdoors type, or the weather isn’t playing ball, what about the cinema? Chains like Vue, Cineworld, and Odeon provide cheap tickets for kids on certain days of the week. You might need to plan this option in advance to make sure you arrive on the right day. Here are some other ideas to keep them busy.
Maybe you prefer a spot of culture? Museums and galleries up and down the UK offer free entry year-round, and some run special events during the school holidays. TimeOut has a list of museums in London which are perfect for kids, while highlights from the rest of the country include:
If you’re not located near any of these picks, a quick google will reveal something going on near you. Be aware of things like accessibility if you need easy pushchair access, and keep an eye on timings. Not all museums run their flagship events all week long.
Do you have a favourite family show you all sit down to enjoy? Why not become an audience member? The Applause Store is an interesting variation on a ticket booking site where you apply to be part of the audience in some of the UK’s biggest hit shows like Britain’s Got Talent. Best of all, some of these tickets are offered completely free of charge on a first-come-first-served basis.
Low-cost childcare options
Of course, it might not be viable to spend every waking moment of the holidays taking care of the kids. Work doesn’t stop just because the sun is out, and maybe you might want a little time to yourself as well.
If that’s the case, take a look at these childcare options which can get you through summer without breaking the bank.
Your childcare rights
It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to childcare, you do have some legal rights which could make life a bit easier. You’re entitled to four weeks of unpaid leave each year (up to a total of 18 weeks per child) to take care of the kids if no other options are available to you.
This has to be requested with 21 days’ notice, but your employer can’t deny or delay the request without a good business reason to do so. The GOV.UK site has more detailed info about this.
Another solution might be flexible working, especially if you work part-time. With this option, it could take a little longer for your employer to reach a decision, they have three months to decide, so factor this into the timing of your request.
Kids’ summer holiday clubs
Local authorities around the country run holiday clubs, which can range from one-day activity sessions to ongoing schemes lasting the entire holiday. They could be subsidised for those on lower incomes, but this will depend on the local authority in question, as well as the nature of the activities on offer.
The GOV.UK site lets you search for holiday clubs in your postcode and make your selection from there.
Another summer childcare option could be a church-run holiday club. Religious groups often use their community spaces to host kids’ clubs throughout the summer.
These typically don’t cost much, and you might not need to be a regular church-goer throughout the rest of the year to send your child there. Of course, whether this is suitable for your child will depend on your own religious leanings.
The Church of England has an extensive network of holiday clubs, since they run many of the country’s religious spaces. You can search for your nearest church with a kids’ club on their site. Similar spaces run by other denominations are only a google away.
Let’s not forget the Scout Association and the Guide Association. These national institutions have something for boys and girls of all ages:
- Beavers and Rainbows are for younger kids.
- Cubs and Brownies take care of the pre-teens.
- Scouts and Guides look after them up to 14 years old.
Your local chapters of these organisations could offer camps for members, often at a lower cost than other kids’ holiday camps. Lower-income families might also be eligible for grants to subsidise the cost of sending them away for a week or so.
Be aware, though, spaces for these activities may be limited, and will only available to kids if they’re already members of the local troop. If you feel like your child would benefit from a week in the great outdoors, check as early as possible with your closest Scouting group or Girl Guides chapter, which you can locate via their respective sites.
Protect what’s important with Beagle Street
Enjoying the good times with your nearest and dearest is one of life’s great pleasures. But you also want to know they’ll be protected if the worst should happen.
With low-cost Life Insurance from Beagle Street, you can secure a cash lump sum which your loved ones could use to protect the lifestyle they’ve come to enjoy.