15 free (or cheap!) summer holiday ideas
Last time on the blog we extolled the virtues of being bored for wellbeing and creativity. There’s a lot to be said for seeing what happens when kids have nothing to do.
That said, it’s always a sanity-saving idea to have some tricks up our sleeve when the days and weeks are stretching ahead.
So here’s our list of how to make the most of the outdoors this summer, for free or at low cost, whatever the weather…
1. Build a den
It’s a classic, but good whatever the season or age of your kids. Use chairs and clothes driers as a frame in the garden, or go completely natural and use sticks. If you feel like a challenge, see whether you can waterproof your den with tarp and stay dry while it pours down outside (we all know there’ll be rain at some point this summer…)
2. Explore the local train network
The friends and family railcard is a bargain, even if your kids aren’t old enough to pay for yet. This card bags you 1/3 off adult rail fares and 60% off children’s fares. At the time of writing there’s a promotion on, so it costs £27 for the year. Going on the train is an adventure in itself, and a great way to reach new woods, parks and museums.
3. Build a bird’s nest
You might be lucky enough to find an abandoned birds nest and see how clever the birds are in constructing their home. Have a go at making your own – challenge everyone to create a nest with any natural debris they find on the forest or park floor: twigs for the structure, leaves, feathers and moss for the lining.
4. Follow the phases of the moon
Summer holidays are an opportunity to ditch early bedtimes and enjoy the summer night sky. The lunar month is around 29 days, so take the chance to spend time outside with binoculars each evening seeing how the moon changes shape, and keeping a journal of what you notice. If you do this over August 12/13 2017 you may spot the Perseid meteor shower too!
5. Go butterfly spotting
As well as having fun spotting theses beautiful creatures among the flowers, you can help Butterfly Conservation monitor butterfly levels by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count
6. Make your own ice cream
OK, you may have to do some of this indoors, but it’s a fun way to see science in action and you can enjoy the results outside! Did you know it’s possible to make ice cream just with ice and salt, without a freezer? To see how and read up on the science, take a look here!
7. Have a puddle jumping competition
Another rainy day one – please don’t let wet weather put you off from going outside. Challenge yourselves to get as wet as possible (either put on waterproofs first or make sure you’ve got access to a warm bath and dry clothes afterwards!). Who can make the biggest splashes or get the muddiest?
8. Have a fastest finders challenge
Write down a list of 10 things to find in the park or garden: a daisy, a blade of grass, a twig… you get the idea. Split into two teams (or all work together if you’re feeling collaborative). The fastest team to bring you all the objects on the list, or point to where they are, wins.
9. Paint the fence and decorate the paving
You probably don’t want to let your pre-schooler go to town with the paint or weatherproofing chemicals, but they can have lots of fun with a large paint brush and water. Or create big, colourful pictures or hopscotch on paving outside with chalks, then wash them off again.
10. Create perfume (or a witch’s brew)
Invite your kids to use ingredients harvested from the garden (point out what’s ok to use and what’s not, to avoid the prize dahlias being destroyed!) and anything you’re happy to share from the kitchen (turmeric’s a great one for its vibrant colour) and brew up their own lotions and potions. Remind them they’re not allowed to drink their creations! George’s Marvellous Medicine is a great read to accompany this activity… which brings us to the next idea…
11. Get inspired by books
There are lots of trails and activities created to celebrate some favourite children’s books – there’s a handy list here. But if you’re not local to one of those, create your own: recreate the hungry caterpillar’s adventure with a fruity treasure hunt around your garden, find a Stick Man and help him get home, or simply take your books to a local green space and enjoy reading in the sunshine.
12. Have a waterfight
Let off steam and get as soaked as possible. Hot chocolates all round afterwards to warm up.
13. Grow your own lunch
Lots of leaves are quick to grow, so children can plant and harvest their own crop during the summer. Try spinach, cress, cut and come again lettuces or radishes for quick results.
14. Paint pebbles
Painting pebbles is lots of fun, plus you’ll have some presents to give to friends and family. Use plants and trees and summer sunshine to inspire you.
15. Go to the park
Going to the park’s a good idea whatever the time of year, but especially now. It’s national Love Parks Week from 14-23 July 2017. Get involved by sharing your photos with, find out what’s going on in your area and make the most of any free green space on your doorstep.