Stress Free School Holidays
The school holidays can seem very long if you have children to entertain on very little money; but if they are happy then you will be too.
So where do you start?
Get as much information as you can on what is available locally: Visit your local tourist information centre and ask about free things to do in your area, such as community festivals, children’s activities and events in parks, community centres, youth clubs, city farms. Your local council will also have leaflets available, and if you look in your local papers too. You can often find money-off vouchers (if it says ‘one child goes free with two adults’ ring them and ask what they offer single parents).
Visit your local library - On rainy days the library is great! Most kids will be more interested in using the computers than looking at the books. Do both, look at the computers and take some books home for the holidays. Libraries often have notice boards that detail local events so look there for other interesting holiday ideas.
Many museums are still free and offer things for children to do as they go round. Don’t try and see everything – just focus on the parts your kids are most interested in. Museums and libraries often run special events and workshops for children in the holidays, such as story time, fossil days, craft activities, meet the animals. You may need to book for some of these. Castles are great places for kids, especially if they have dungeons and towers to climb.
Swimming is good for all ages if you have a local pool – many local authorities offer cheaper entry to this, and other activities, for local residents through a Leisure Card or similar scheme.
Visit the cinema – It's often cheaper in the day and early in the week. Or get out - take a bus out of town, go for a walk somewhere nice and have a picnic.
Picnics with friends and balls, bats, nets, so the kids can get on with it, while you lay back for a chat with a bottle of wine (!) - you can even do that in a local park, so you don't need transport. Feed the ducks - there isn't a kid alive or (admit it) an adult that doesn't enjoy throwing bread at the ducks.
Explore your local area. Many areas now have a community forest – you can get a guide from your local authority. Choose a walk and branch out for the day. Or see the city you live in. Buy unlimited travel bus tickets and visit parts of your town you’ve not visited before.
Planning with the children
Make more of your day out, whether to a museum, zoo or local walk. Get the children involved in planning it and in buying and preparing food. Take photos or make drawings and collect things when you’re there so they can put together a display or scrapbook later. They could follow it up with some research to find out more about what they’ve seen. This way a day trip can become a week long activity.
Take some friends to play rounders or cricket - Someone must have a bat and a tennis ball. Once you get into it you'll be amazed how it comes back, you'll find that competitive streak and be determined to bowl every kid out or whack it so hard you can get round all four bases without collapsing.
Organise a mini sports day - Invite friends and neighbours and hold egg and spoon races, obstacle courses in the garden, ball games, with lots of running and jumping to wear the children out!
Even more ideas
Save washing-up liquid bottles - all you need is a few clean, empty washing-up liquid bottles and a bucket of water and on a hot day they can soak each other for hours. Who needs a super-soaker when you can get a good long shot with a liquid bottle.
Organise a treasure hunt - In the house, park or garden, you just give them a list of items they need to find and they then bring them back to you. This could include a daisy, a stone, a leaf, sheet of paper, a saucepan in fact anything you can imagine! This can be adapted for children of all ages.
Camping in the garden - If you don't have a tent put a sheet over a clothes horse (or any other household item that will make a frame) and let the kids have their marmite sandwiches in their tent. If it’s wet, kids love to make dens – give them some sheets or blankets and they can build them around the furniture.
Buy chalk (less than 50p per packet) and make hopscotch on the pavement, or a treasure hunt - following the arrows - or have a street poetry competition (older kids could organise these for younger ones). Kids love chalking on the pavement and once you've helped them the first time they will be able to do it again on their own.
Ready, Steady, Cook - Organise a competition, with the children having to buy the ingredients, cook a main course or pudding and everyone can then sit and eat it together, this could be done with family members or invite friends too.
If you can’t afford a holiday try a couple of day trips. Coach companies offer trips to theme parks and other popular places which include admission. Or take the train and book into a Youth Hostel for the night and have a two day break somewhere new.
Single parent top tip - Take your own food as cafes in zoos, theme parks, etc are expensive! Save some money on lunch and splash out on an ice cream! You may also want to read our Day Trips on a Budget article.