Friday, 9 August 2013

10 Cheap or Free Summer Activities

Despite not having school age children myself, as a teacher I still have the 6 weeks holiday to enjoy with my gorgeous boys who don't stay in childcare over the summer. What I have found is that a lot of the toddler groups that we would usually attend during term time stop over the holidays, and also some of the places that we may pay to go to as a treat become very busy during the holidays - also, if we paid for them regularly it would soon add up! So here is my list of things we do week to week during the summer - all free or very cheap and great fun for little ones!

1. Picnics
Pretty much every morning I make our lunch whilst the boys are eating breakfast and it gets packed into a coolbag. With two under 5s, it can feel like I spend half my day sweeping up and cleaning in the kitchen - picnics are a fun way to avoid this! We love to visit our local parks - sometimes the large central one, but remember that there will be lots of little play areas hidden around your town, and it can be great fun to discover somewhere new. Try looking on Google maps to spot where there might be somewhere new to visit!

2. The Library
We are lucky enough to have a fantastic library with a huge children's section. We can spend a whole morning there (with a picnic on the way home!) we read, research and join in with any activities they might have - we have a Bookstart 'passport' with which we gather stamps each visit. Our library also keeps running its Rhyme Time sessions throughout the holidays, unlike some of the toddler activities which stop over the summer break.

3. The Museum
Museums have a very unfair reputation of being boring. Remember, you don't have to look at every exhibit, and you don't have to read every plaque. I've found that my 3 year old now asks me questions about the exhibits, and it's great to chat about them. Check out your local museums, ours has a treasure trail, castle, blocks for building, school, fire engine, shop... it's a great place to spend some time and they also run free craft activities for older children during the holidays.

4. Fly a Kite
This comes under the 'cheap', as you do require some materials to either make a kite or some pennies to buy one. A basic one is fine for little ones and they can be got for less than a fiver. Stunt kites are great fun, but rather tricky to get the hang of. Remember to follow all safety advice - find somewhere high, windy and clear of obstacles and give it a go!

5. Water Play
To be honest, my boys don't much like the paddling pool even when it's super hot. Besides, buying a paddling pool isn't exactly 'free', although my 3-ring pool was £3.99. However, water play doesn't have to mean paddling pool. Buckets, pans, plastic cups, bath toys and washing up liquid will all do the job. Set up the water play in an area of the garden that is suffering from lack of rain and your watering is done too! Mine really enjoy sticking foam letters onto the patio doors, giving H the chance to practise his phonic too!

6. Road Trip
I haven't yet done this, but it's on my list of things to do. This will cost you a few pounds, but it's a small cost compared to a day out at an attraction. Find a bus stop and jump on the bus! If you live in a city, take a trip to a different area - or if you're in the country perhaps to the next town. Even better if you have scoped out a new play area/park and have your picnic with you. If your little ones are younger enough you'll just be paying the price of any adults in the party so it shouldn't be too costly. A train trip might cost more but is even more exciting!

7. Field Trip
Give your child a sheet of paper and write or draw some things for them to spot as you take a walk around your local area. Perhaps a spider, a buttercup, some lavender - or for more urban areas a mini, a bus and a motorbike. Your little ones will get a great sense of satisfaction as they find the items and the longer the list, the longer you can keep them entertained for. This is also a fantastic trick for shopping - pictures on a sheet of the things that your pre-schooler can safely grab off the shelves themselves and pop into the trolley.

9. Beginner's Orienteering
Orienteering is perhaps a bit ambitious here, but if you have an older pre-schooler they might enjoy following a simple map (hand drawn or printed off the internet) or directions that you can read to them. Take them on a little journey around the area you live in, using landmarks to help them find their way, do your best to let them take control - they can tick off each step as they follow it.

10. Collections
This can be done in the garden or out and about. You'll need to change the parameters depending on where you are. If you're lucky enough to be near the sea, try collecting shells of a certain type or colour, pebbles or seaweed. In the park, pinecones, flowers and interesting leaves. In the garden you might be able to find beetles and snails (they are easy to return to their home), or perhaps a treasure hunt of some of your child's toys (remember where you've hidden them! We've all tried Easter Egg hunts only to find some of the precious eggs in the undergrowth much later)

I'd love to hear any of your ideas of things to you with little ones below - what do you get up to in the summer months?

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