40 School Holiday Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank
Like most parents, with the summer break hurtling in at breakneck speed, I’m thinking about school holiday ideas and wondering how on earth I can entertain the kids for weeks on end without bankrupting myself and boring myself to death hanging out in the same two local parks and playgrounds.
Not having much faith in the ability of my knackered old brain to think up activities on the fly, I decided the best thing would be to prepare a list ahead of time. This way, although the summer hols will be full of doing, at least I hopefully won’t need to do much thinking 🙂
Of course there are a million clubs, attractions and activities you can sign up for – I always use Day Out With The Kids and Hoop to see what’s going on near me specifically – they’re ace, do check them out if you haven’t already. But for this particular list I’ve included lots of generic activities that can be done anywhere and that are either free, or super-cheap.
In an ideal world, all of these suggestions would be set to a dreamy outdoor backdrop of beautiful nature, blue skies and hazy sunshine… But as we all know here in the good old UK, it will most likely piss it down for a large proportion of the ‘summer’. So, I’ve come up with 20 outdoor ideas and 20 indoor ideas. Hope you find them useful!
SCHOOL HOLIDAY IDEAS: OUTDOOR
1) HAVE A PICNIC
This is a favourite of ours. So easy and fun. If you let the kids help make and pack the picnic too then it’s 2 activities for the price of one. No need to go crazy with expensive or fancy picnic food – even if it’s just some sarnies, some cheese and a few pieces of fruit, the kids enjoy it just as much. If it’s crap weather we sometimes have a ‘carpet picnic’ or a ‘bed picnic’ instead.
2) NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT
Kids love hunting for stuff – either make your own list of things for them to find (feather, stone, fir cone, flower, spider, petal, stick etc) or print out one of the many ready-made ones you can find on the internet – here’s a good ‘5 senses’ one for kids who can read and some pictorial ones for younger kiddos as well as scavenger hunt riddles.
3) FIND SOME WATER
They never tire of the stuff do they. Ideally find a river or brook for them to paddle and splash in, but failing that, a water sprinkler, paddling pool or buckets and bowls in the garden always keep them occupied for ages. My little one loves me bringing out loads of kitchen bowls, cups and utensils out for him to ‘make’ stuff with. Here are loads of ace back garden water play ideas.
4) GO ON A BIKE RIDE
Pretty obvious I know.. But I often I think to put the kids on their bikes in the park then don’t actually get on one myself. Take everyone’s bikes to a wood or big park and go on a family bike ride, or find somewhere you can hire some if you haven’t got your own or can’t fit them all in/on your car.
5) PHOTO SAFARI
Give the kids access to a camera – either a ‘proper’ one, or your phone, or a disposable one, and go on a photo walk. Give them a list of things to find and photograph, or perhaps decide on a theme or colour.
6) TEDDY/TOY HIDE & SEEK
Hide and seek can get a bit tiresome sometimes due to limited places for a big old adult to hide (and the kids’ insistence on always hiding in the same places!) Plus if you’re out in a public place, you can’t hide well enough while still keeping an eye on the kids. Instead, bring out a few favourite teddies or toys to the local park and hide them instead – you can be much more inventive with hiding places.
7) GO TO THE BEACH
Most of us have a decent beach within an hour or two away, and they never get boring. Sandcastles, paddling, crabbing, shell collecting… plus a picnic and it’s even better. Don’t let crap weather put you off, just wrap up warm and you can still do all the above, and the beach will be much less crowded.
8) FLY A KITE
You can buy really cheap ones from the shops (our last one was about £4 from Aldi), or you can make your own. It always amazes me how long they’ll play with these for – and older kids love them too.
10) FRUIT PICKING
Kids love collecting stuff, it gets them out and about in nature, plus you get to scoff them all afterwards.
11) DEN BUILDING
A perennial favourite, either in your back garden or out in the woods or park. Here’s a great den building resource with lots of ideas and tips.
12) MINI GOLF
Aka ‘gravy guff’ as my youngest used to call it. Never particularly expensive, kids of all ages love it and it keeps them occupied for ages.
Such a satisfying and rewarding thing to do with the kids – if you combine it with a trip to the garden centre first to get supplies then you get two activities rolled into one. A simple herb garden, vegetable patch or container garden are all relatively easy to tackle.
14) GO GEOCACHING
I’ve never actually tried this and definitely want to give it a whirl with the kids this summer – it’s basically a digital treasure hunt so should appeal to the gadget-addicted little squirts. Here are some tips to get started.
15) OUTDOOR ART
I know that indoor art activities can strike fear into the hearts of many parents, but outdoor art is much less stressful and easier to clean up (or doesn’t even need cleaning up at all). Either do normal painting outside, use chalk to draw on flagstones or paving, or even just do water painting.
16) MAKE A MUD KITCHEN
Of course you can buy ready-made ones, but it’s also fairly simple to build your own DIY one. Kids bloody love them, the filthy little grubs 🙂
17) HAND-WASHING CLOTHES
Kids love doing ‘chores’ and clothes washing can keep them occupied for hours. Plus, it’s the ever-favoured mucking around with water. Give them a bowl of soapy water, a bowl of clean water for rinsing, then get them to wring them out and peg them up on a low-strung washing line. They can wash their own clothes or teddy/doll clothes. Especially paired with den-making, they’ll feel like they’re running their own ‘home’.
18) TREASURE TRAILS
Of course you can make your own treasure trails, but we often use this ace website for ready-made printable ones. They’re really inexpensive and they have them all over the country. It’s a brilliant way to explore your local area and you always notice so much that you’ve never seen before, even if you walk past it all the time.
20) GO CAMPING
Our absolute favourite. Either go away somewhere for a night or two, or just set up your tent in the back garden. You could even have a back-garden camping sleepover with one or two of their buddies. If you put the tent up during the day and let them help you construct it, that’s another activity in itself, and they’ll probably play in it all afternoon too. If you’ve not got a large family tent of your own, you can buy really inexpensive pop up tents from supermarkets and online.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY IDEAS: INDOOR
1) GO TO THE LIBRARY
Curl up and read books in there (most have a cosy reading corner for families), then borrow books, audiobooks and DVDs to take home. Libraries are also a real community hub and often have noticeboards etc letting you know about fun activities and summer projects going on in the local area.
Get cooking or baking, whatever you all fancy making the most. You can even have a competition if you like – who can decorate the best cupcake etc. There are loads of easy kid-friendly recipes on the internet. Kids can also love designing menus and serving dinner as the ‘chefs’.
It’s really inexpensive and the kids love it. I can never really gather much enthusiasm for going – all I can think of before going is the freezing ‘dunk’ when you first get in, ‘fragrant’ changing rooms and the soggy chilly process of getting out… But every time I go it’s just wonderful seeing how much the kids love it – those screeches and massive grins, it’s magic. I’m always glad we went afterwards.
4) CREATE STORY STONES
A lovely activity and you’ve got a new game to keep afterwards.
5) BEDROOM MAKEOVER
My youngest loves doing this at the moment. They get to redesign their bedroom – furniture gets moved around and they reorganise all their toys. As a bit of a control freak when it comes to home décor, I always have to restrain myself with this and let go of caring how jarring the end results are. Last time we did this Huey had his bed right in the centre of the bedroom for 2 nights. Feng Shui experts they are not.
Pretty obvious but the kiddos love them and they can be a welcome break for you. Find a child of a similar age whose house you can descend on or who you can invite to descend on yours. You can either chill with the other parent for a bit while the kids play, or you can do a swap where you take it in turns for one to have both sets of kids for a day while the other has some time off. Sometimes more kids are easier to look after than fewer kids as they entertain each other… ‘Sometimes’ being the operative word…
There are lots of kid-friendly versions and they’re so satisfying to make.
Little kids love chores and cleaning the little weirdos. Wiping stuff seems to be a favourite – windows, tables etc – plus hoovering is always a winner. Make the most of it before they get a bit older and realise it’s actually really boring.
9) VISIT A MUSEUM
Most are free and most are ace. You never see everything at each visit, they’ll always race past chunks of it – so don’t be put off revisiting one you’ve already been to. Different things interest them at different times too. Most also have temporary exhibitions on to supplement the permanent stuff.
10) SORT OUT STUFF FOR A CAR BOOT SALE
One of my fondest childhood memories is sorting out stuff for a car boot sale and then the joy of the actual car boot sale itself. It’s handy for you to freshen up the house by getting rid of crap you don’t want, a good way of earning a bit of extra pocket money for you and the kids, plus the kids absolutely LOVE it – it’s ‘playing shop’ with an actual REAL LIFE SHOP.
11) HAVE A DANCE PARTY
Grab Spotify or your CD/record collection and have a dancing competition. You can make playlists for the kids while you do it so they have their own favourite music to easily listen to in future.
Make a summer holiday scrapbook – they can include things they’ve found, photos, drawings, paintings, things they’ve cut out, writing, stickers, anything. Use a combination of pages and envelopes. Here are a few ideas to get started – you can easily make them with craft stuff you’ve most likely already got, but you can also buy inexpensive scrapbooking kits online.
13) MAKE AN INDOOR OBSTACLE COURSE
Indoor obstacle courses have the added bonus of being two activities in one – fun for the kids to design and build in the first place, then fun to actually use afterwards.
14) BOARD GAMES
I bloody love a good board game. Favourites of ours (dependent on ages of kids) are Dobble, Pass The Bomb, Monopoly (as well as the kids’ version and Monopoly Deal), Cranium Junior, Ticket to Ride, Machi Koro and Pictureka.
15) CREATE YOUR OWN ‘SALON’
Although this can appeal more to girls than boys, I’ve found that boys still often love doing stuff like this. Massages, hair styling, nail painting, face masks, face painting, head rubs etc.
16) MAKE A TREASURE MAP
As a kid I used to get stupidly excited about just making the paper seem like an old scroll by staining it with tea/coffee and burning the edges (supervised!) Help them make their paper look old and knackered like this, give them a ribbon to tie it up with, then they can draw their own treasure map on it. You can even make it relate to the inside of your house and hide ‘treasure’ in it for them to find and mark on their map.
17) VISIT AN ART GALLERY
Loads of art galleries now are really kid-friendly – they often have activities and areas specifically for kids, and are usually free. Visits can often also spark ideas for art and craft activities when you get home – recreating or doing their own versions of things they’ve seen in the gallery.
18) CREATE A WEBSITE
One summer my son and his friend spent days on end creating a website just about ‘mermaids’ purses‘ haha. They had found some on the beach and it spawned a gargantuan project! They wrote about them, took pictures of them, decorated them and even created a ‘shop’ on there to sell them. There are lots of simple and free website creation platforms for kids such as Wix and Weebly, and it’s at least putting their screen obsession to creative use! Here are some ideas to get started.
19) SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS
You can of course buy fairly inexpensive science experiment kits for kids, but there are loads you can do at home just using stuff you’ve already got lying around the house.
20) MAKE A DEN!
Finally, the oldie but goodie. They literally never get bored of this. Another one that doubles up – fun to create but then fun to play in afterwards. Try to see how many ‘rooms’ you can create – there are lots of tips here. I have to admit, I’m still quite partial to a good den myself nowadays. They have the added bonus of making EVERYTHING else more exciting for the kids – won’t eat their dinner? They’ll eat it in a den. Won’t go to sleep? They’ll do it in a den. Dens rule.
So there you go! Lots of ideas for stuff to keep the imps (and you!) occupied and relatively sane during those chaotic weeks. If you’ve got any favourite suggestions of your own I’d love to hear them – please do post them in the comments!
Happy holidays everyone!
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