Schools out

School’s out, and the summer holidays have begun. For some families it’s a welcome release from routine, and a chance to enjoy long lazy days together. But many parents worry about how to fill the time and keep their children entertained, especially if budgets are tight. To help you enjoy a stress-free summer, family blogger Actually Mummy has put together a list of ten low-cost activities to keep kids happy and parents relaxed over the next few weeks.

Top 10 things to do with the kids that won’t break the bank

 1. Go fruit picking

One of the first activities of our summer break is a trip to the local fruit farm. In fact, it’s so popular that often we go straight from the playground on the last day of school. Released from sweaty classrooms to run through the sweet aromas of berries and currants, pausing to fill a tub with the juiciest, brightest fruits. This is best done early in the holidays, as the fruits are more plentiful, but the challenge of finding the last few strawberries is strangely addictive, and we’ve spent hours at a time cheering each other on to fill a punnet. And did you know that jam made from the tiny strawberries that no-one else wanted is the absolute best? One sticky strawberry on every bite of toast makes for the perfect breakfast! Find your nearest pick-your-own fruit farm here.

Cost: £2-10 depending on your appetite

2. Take a bike ride adventure

You don’t need to go far to find something new on a bike ride. Pack up some sandwiches and head out to explore somewhere new. Most local councils have suggested routes, often stopping at points of interest in your area so the kids (and you) can learn something new; or the National Trust and Forestry Commission websites both have suggestions for family friendly cycle routes. And if your children aren’t proficient at cycling yet, make this the summer they learn – for the price of a family bag of fruit pastilles we spent five happy mornings in the park learning how to ride (ok, they were hard work, but the sense of achievement was amazing!).

Cost: £0-5 (depending on how many fruit pastilles you need!)

3. Make a nature-trail garden

Kids generally tend to grumble about going for a walk, and who can blame them? Where’s the fun in walking? The trick, I’ve found, is to distract them with a purpose. This one is brilliant: go on a nature trail to collect items that might look good in a miniature garden. Leaves, flowers, twigs, bark, little fallen tree fruits – my children will spend hours exploring a local park or woodland area, thinking up plans for their garden, and once home there’s another hour of fun creating a unique miniature garden on a tray.

Cost: £0


4. Visit the library

A good book will keep both my children busy for hours, but even before they could read alone, a trip to the library was something they enjoyed. Flicking through unread books is a lovely way to pass the time, and sharing a book is relaxing and bonding for children and parents. The library is free to visit and borrow from too.

Cost: £0

5. Have a garden picnic

The long summer holidays can sometimes leave parents floundering for ideas to keep mealtimes interesting. A fun way around this is to liven up a simple tea by turning it into a picnic. Just pack up some sandwiches and favourite snacks, spread a picnic blanket out in the garden and let them eat al-fresco. I like to put ours into an old wicker basket while the children pitch a small pop-up tent for extra fun. I’ll always include a surprise treat in there, and sometimes even an old-fashioned bottle of lemonade for a Famous Five feel. And if it rains, there’s always the option of a carpet picnic indoors!

Cost: just the cost of your tea

6. Sleep out in a tent

Do you remember how exciting it was to sleep under the stars as a child? Snuggling down in a sleeping bag, alarm clock set for a midnight feast, and giggling until you’re too tired to stay awake? Pitching a tent in the garden is a fun activity for the afternoon, and when the sun sets, cosying up as a family under canvas is sure to feel special for the whole family. It’s also a great trial run for the real thing – proper toilets, and a comfy bed in case anyone gets fed up with the adventure. But if you make it through till morning, a quick bacon sandwich in bed is a fantastic reward. Proper coffee for Mum and Dad too.

Cost: £0 (if you already have a tent, or you can buy a basic one for around £20)

7. Make an obstacle course

This one never fails to liven up a dull afternoon. Simply drag out everything lurking in your shed (think cricket stumps, tennis racquets, broomsticks) and turn them into an obstacle course in the back garden or the park. Time everyone to determine the winner, or award a prize for the most inventive activity. Running round a broom handle makes for hilarious dizzy consequences; skipping is great for exercise; and filling a bucket with water from a tablespoon is sure to get some laughs on a warm day.

Cost: £0

8. Homemade ice-lollies

The promise of warmer weather always makes kids want to eat ice-lollies, and mine love to make their own. Supermarkets and cookshops sell cheap lolly moulds, and it’s easy to whizz up something healthy for an ice cold treat. Blend bananas with yoghurt, add a few slices of strawberry for decoration, and freeze overnight. Or for more indulgence try a milk-shake base with pieces of your favourite chocolate bar. Check out this Banana Milkshake Crunchie ice-lolly tutorial on YouTube. And if you can’t stretch to a lolly mould, use an ice-cube tray for miniature treats.

Cost: £2-£15


9. Chocolate biscuit cake

There’s nothing easier to make – or more delicious to eat – than a chocolate biscuit cake. No ovens involved, so there’s no risk to small fingers. Try this chocolate biscuit cake recipe, or invent your own. All you need is 100g butter, 400g chocolate, and digestive biscuits – though you can throw in anything you like for this easy treat. We used marshmallows and popping candy for ours.

Cost: Around £5

10. Upcycle crafts

My children love nothing more than a bit of messy craft, but sometimes it can be difficult coming up with new ideas, and craft items are often costly. But Pinterest and YouTube are full of suggestions for revamping items you already own into something new and fun. We enjoyed making a pretty photo-frame using nothing more than a tube of glitter, some glue, and a few shells we’d collected from the beach. You’ll also find simple craft ideas designed for younger children on Red Ted Art.

Cost: £0-£10

There you have it – ten low-cost ways to keep the kids busy over the summer holidays. We’re sure you have some we haven’t thought of too so why not pop over and share them on our Facebook Page?





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