Having just returned from my family’s home in Yorkshire last week, I could see in my sister’s tired eyes just how hard it is to keep kids entertained at the tail end of the school holidays. The big family holiday has long since passed and they are getting bored and restless now. Days out to museums and theme parks are an easy option, and we went on a few lovely trips, but I was very surprised how much they can cost once you’ve paid the car parking, then the entrance fees, bought some ice creams and finally a couple of pencils from the gift shop.
What I also noticed, much to my sister’s annoyance after she just drove for forty-five minutes and paid a small fortune, was how simple it is to keep kids enthralled with more old-fashioned fun and games, even if it’s just outside in the garden.
Maybe I have the benefits of being an uncle and can offer fresh ideas since my sister is with them nearly 24/7, or maybe it’s just that I’m a big kid at heart, but she was very thankful for the suggestions and moreover, the money she saved. I’d like to pass on my knowledge with you below. These are my top three money saving ideas for keeping the children happy in the final days of summer.
1. Turn your garden into your own water park
This one is a great for the hot summer the UK is currently enjoying. Kids just seem to have a love affair with water and will happily splash around for hours on end. Swimming pools are not nearly as expensive as they once were and many stockists have great deals now the summer is almost gone. Plus, they can easily be rolled up and stored for next year in the garage, already giving you a good saving on next year’s summer. Add a few water toys and water guns for the more adventurous and before long, you’ll have the jealous neighbour’s kids wanting to come play at the Water Park Maximus. And like with the swimming pool, store the toys away for next year and you´ve already got your next summer’s fun ready to go. I’m a big believer in reusing stuff year after year, rather than just throwing things away after only a month or two.
2. Hold a sports day in the local park
This was always my Mum’s go to when I was young. Pack up some sandwiches and some homemade lemonade and hold a fun sports day in the park or even your garden. This is a great money saver as the best thing about the sports day is you really don’t need that much (you may even have half of it already). The trick is to keep it diverse so the kids can’t get bored. Start with a football and some small cones or even jumpers, time them dribbling in and out and see if they can beat their best time with each go. After a few goes, switch to the classic game of skittles, then back to the dribbling, then one more game of Skittles. Break for lunch and recharge. After the sandwiches are all gone let them try their hands at lawn darts (this is a really fun throwing game and can be drawn out a little longer than the rest) and finally finish with a run around the park, maybe hopping on one leg for thirty seconds then swapping leg, then on their knees etc). The constant changing from kicking a ball, to rolling a ball, to throwing a dart, then running in funny ways will keep their body and minds active, burning off energy ready for a good night’s sleep.
3. Nature Hunt
If competitive sports are not your thing, then you can take it down a level and have a both relaxing and stimulating day of enjoying the wonders of nature. Whether you use your own garden or go to a local park or nature reserve (most are free or cost just a donation), our green spaces are teeming with life and natural beauty. Why not have them look for bugs and insects in the hedgerows (this was my favorite thing to do as a child) and learn more about the life below their feet. Or another easy thing to do is to invest in a kids camera and ask them to take photos from a list ten things like “a blue flower” or “a bird eating off the bird table”. This will not only keep them quiet for a few hours, but it gets their creative juices flowing as they think about how they would like to capture the item on camera. Also, unlike our phones, these things are pretty hard to break.
So, there were my ideas, tried and tested. Be careful of days out to posh houses or farms, they are the easiest option, but certainly not the cheapest. Just buying ice creams for the kids and a bottle of water cost me a number of bank notes (oh, and when did ice cream vans start taking Visa!)
I´d like to finish by wishing you a safe and happy rest of the summer and hope the kids are looking forward to the new school year just as much as you are!