Image by RichardBH
What are your kids going to do this summer? School holidays are on the horizon, so for many it's time to come up with a cunning plan to avert the I'm bored battle cry.
Staying at home to watch TV or play computer games might seem an easy option, but we all know kids really need something else to keep them stimulated. And that's where your finances can be stretched, particularly if you have to fork out for the cinema or shopping trips to keep them amused.
If you're thinking about how to save money but still want to entertain the kids, why not get organised and check online for free events? The best place to start is your local council website which is bound to list kids' events. Then check out museums, galleries, council leisure centres, tourist boards, libraries and sports clubs too; venues like these tend to favour outreach programmes especially for kids, which are either free of charge or well-subsidised. Youth clubs, churches and girl guide/scouting organisations can have a lot going on as well. The key is to plan ahead and make sure your kids can make the most of all the drama workshops, painting classes, sports training or story telling groups that are up for grabs. At the same time, there's nothing to stop you creating your own entertainment. Here are some ideas and there are many more to be found online at sites such as summeractivitiesforkids.co.uk and activityvillage.co.uk.
- Go retro: Play skipping, hopscotch, pig in the middle, clock in the tower, rounders, swingball, Monopoly, Cluedo, draughts, battleships the list is endless
- Get creative: Make sock puppets and put on a play; help the kids write a song and record it; tie dye old t-shirts; start a scrap book or diary; show them how to bake; play with papier mache.
- Head out and about: take the children out for a long walk or cycle, with a packed lunch; go nature spotting and have a competition; fly a kite; arrange a scavenger hunt with a list of odd items to find inside and out; or why not pitch your tent in the back garden and let them camp out?
- Encourage them to garden: help your children plant herbs, veg and fruit, and then watch it all grow; make a rain catcher from an old jar and measure the rainfall; make a wormery; make a ladybird house; and learn about bugs and insects. There are great resources at thekidsgarden.co.uk.
Of course, if you're dealing with "Kevin the Teenager" it can be a whole different ball game. If you want to lure your teenagers away from Facebook and boredom, why not see if you can get them interested in sport, work experience or volunteering? Work experience and volunteering can open many doors in the future. For volunteer programmes, check with local churches, schools, youth clubs and scouting groups, along with specialist organisations such as Worldwide Volunteering and CSV (Community Service Volunteers) which can find placements in the UK. And don't forget the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, which is open to 14 to 24 year olds, and can keep them really busy. Finally, when it comes to family days out, look at sites such as vouchercodes.co.uk or promotionalcodes.org.uk before you book, to see if there are any discounts. And try to group together with other parents to help share the costs involved. Even with free events, the cost of chauffeuring everyone around can all mount up, so it pays to join forces.