The school bags and uniforms are cast aside and the long summer break has begun for primary school children.
No more classes, homework, or getting up early in the mornings. Long summer days and bright evenings stretch ahead full of fun and opportunity.
Parents enjoy the break from routine but wonder how they are going to keep little ones occupied during the lazy days of summer.
With cash in short supply the summer holidays can put an additional strain on family finances.
So, how can you keep your children entertained on a restricted budget and still have lots of fun and create great memories?
Here are some ideas to get you started:-
1. Draw up a plan. It is important to help children have a structure to their day. Otherwise one will run into the next and they will seem vast and endless. This applies to older children too who may be tempted to sleep late or lounge around the house watching television or playing computer games.
2. Keep in touch with friends. Having their friends round or visiting them is a fun and easy way of keeping your children entertained.
3. Enjoy the great outdoors. Make a list of life’s simple, free pleasures and decide to do one or two of those every week. Go for a nature walk, feed the swans, go to the bog or make hay if you live in the country, or go cycling or picking berries. A trip to the park is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Fresh air and exercise are ideal ways to combat boredom.
4. Have fun at home. Smaller children love dressing up and getting dirty so be sure to have a supply of old clothes at the ready. If it is wet outside they can play dress-up games at home. Baking is always a favourite. Find a child-friendly recipe book or let them try out your firm favourites. With a little guidance and patience they may be Jamie Olivers in the making. Simple activities such as this will boost their self esteem and give them a lot of pleasure. Be sure to praise their efforts and give plenty of encouragement.
4. Visit the library. A love of books is one of the greatest pleasures and riches we can pass on to our children. This is both a fun and educational activity. Local libraries have good selections of books available for all ages. Many also run reading-based activities. This is ideal for children who like reading and the perfect way to introduce reluctant readers to the world of books. Try not to influence their choices of reading material too much because children develop at different paces and their choices vary greatly.
5. Nurture hobbies. Are your children interested in art, history, music, sport, coin collecting or pottery for instance? If so, aim to encourage those interests during the long summer months when they have more free time. Many also discover the benefits of volunteering even in simple ways, such as doing the shopping for an older neighbour, helping out in the community by taking part in a “clean-up the neighbourhood” project or raising funds for charity through collecting unwanted items of clothes for a charity shop.
6. Go to the beach. Ideally, the sun should be shining before you pack up your smaller children and their buckets and shovels and head off to make sandcastles. This is an ideal fun way to spend a day and will take you back to your own childhood.
7. Help them give their bedroom a makeover. This is the perfect time to get them involved in giving their room a new look. It need not cost a fortune, in fact you may be able to achieve it without spending a euro, and is a fun thing to do. Moving around existing furniture, borrowing unused items from other rooms and decluttering will soon change the appearance of their room. If you want to splash a little cash allow them to buy some cheap and cheerful cushions, duvet covers or lamps to update it.
8. Have a party. If you do not have a special occasion to celebrate then come up with one! Maybe you and the children want to mark the end of the school year or that the rain has stopped or that you have a nice holiday planned so celebrate with a party. Get the children involved in preparing the food and invite all their friends.
9. Have a family night in each week. Plan to do something fun and new and see what great ideas they have. Even something as simple as watching a DVD together (complete with popcorn and treats ), playing games, using facepaints or looking through old family photo albums can be entertaining.
10. Encourage them to keep a summer diary. This is a perfect way to keep track of what they did during the holidays and will also prompt them to do more so they will have activities to record. Get them to list the things they did each day/week in a copy or journal in words or pictures or both. Mementoes from a trip to the seaside, the zoo, a visit to relations or to the local park can be included. This will build a memory bank for the future.
11. Get to know your area. Whether you live in the city or county no doubt there are many landmarks and attractions which you know little about. Start researching and make plans to visit them all over the coming weeks. There are many free events taking place so avail of these. Use free time too to visit family, especially relations you may not see very often. Children will enjoy getting to know their extended family and it may help foster relationships in the future.
12. Camping is always fun (for children, mostly! ) and if you have a tent and an adventurous spirit you can explore new areas together. If the idea of moving far from home seems a bit daunting or if the bad weather is a deterrent consider pitching your tent closer to home. How about the living room for novice campers or the back garden? As their confidence grows you can move further afield.