Sunday, July 31, 2016

Free and Inexpensive Activities in the First Week of the Summer Holiday

Pool, Summer, Child, Dip

I can't believe the first week of the children's summer holiday (in the UK) is over! We've had lots of fun this week and most of our activities have been either free or very cheap. Here's a round-up of what we've done this week.

Summer Reading Challenge at the Library

My 8-year old son signed up for the summer reading challenge at the library. This year, the summer reading challenge is Roald Dahl-themed to celebrate the fact that it's 100 years since he was born in 1916. It's called the Big Friendly Read which has the same initials as Roald Dahl's famous book, The BFG.

My son was keen to sign up for the Reading Challenge because he loves Roald Dahl books, especially Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He's also taken part in the Summer Reading Challenge each year since he was four.

The aim of the Summer Reading Challenge is to read 6 books in 6 weeks. You borrow each book from the library and, once you've read it, you let the library staff know and it's recorded on your progress card.

It's totally free to sign up and there are also other free activities in libraries associated with the challenge. When we visited the library this week, my son signed up for the challenge and then took part in a treasure hunt in the library, during which he made friends with another boy of his age. He also guessed the weight of a jar of sweets, which I hope he doesn't win because it was huge!!

I would highly recommend the Summer Reading Challenge. It helps children to improve their reading skills during the summer and helps keep them away from screens.

Painting Canvases and Colouring at Home

My daughter and I started painting 2 blank canvases that I bought some time ago. We also painted some wooden letters that spell LOVE and a heart shape which we plan to use to make an original wall decoration.

My son's not really into arts and crafts but he did do some colouring today! I'd been colouring butterflies in an adult colouring book and he picked it up and coloured one in. I was pleasantly surprised!

I've decided that I won't buy any new art or craft materials over the summer. We'll use materials we already have so that we don't spend anything on our creative endeavours.

Swimming at the Local Leisure Centre

I took my son and his friend swimming at the local leisure centre. We all had a fun time and it only cost £2.50 per child.

Tennis at the Local Outdoor Tennis Court

I bought a tennis set (2 racquets and 2 balls) in Poundstretchers for £5 and we went to the local council-owned tennis court and played for an hour for £3. It was good fun and great exercise in the fresh air. I'm sure we'll go again during the summer.

Activity Day at a Youth Centre

I took my son to an activity day at a local Youth Centre. He had great fun, going on the buckaroo, boxing with giant gloves, and playing football, table tennis and pool. The activity day was free. All we bought was 2 cakes from the cake stall for a grand total of 40p!

A Day Out in the City

Each week, I budget for one activity that costs more than free or inexpensive! This week, I took my daughter for a day out in the nearest city to us. Even though we spent more than we spent on the other days, we still saved money by:

  • using a Friends and Family railcard to reduce our train fare to about £5 return for both of us
  • having lunch in Greggs bakery - sandwiches and a drink for about £6 total
  • spending gift cards that we'd both received for our birthdays
We've all had a fantastic week on a low budget. How did you spend the first week of the summer holidays? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Five Free or Inexpensive Things to Do With Your Children in the Spring

The weather's getting warmer, the days are longer and lighter, cute little animals scamper in the fields and beautiful flowers come into bloom - spring is the ideal time to go out and explore the world with your children. There are also many free or inexpensive spring-themed activities you can do together at home. Here is a selection.

Make a Spring Collage

Gather together magazines, advertising brochures, packaging and old Easter and birthday cards. Cut out spring-related pictures, including:
  • flowers
  • lambs, bunnies and other young animals
  • eggs
  • cakes
Ask your child to choose the images he or she likes best and arrange them together on a large piece of card. The pictures can either be placed side-by-side or they can overlap. When your child is happy with the design, glue each picture to the card. 

If you wish, you can add finishing touches to the collage, such as strips of Washi tape, spring-themed stickers or ribbon.

Once the collage is finished, pop it in a frame and proudly display it on the wall.

Go for a Waters-Edge Walk or Bike Ride

Going for a a walk or bike ride along the bank of a river or around the edge of a lake is the ideal way for both children and adults to slow down, relax and enjoy the beauty of nature in the spring. Look for bluebells and other wild flowers growing in the grass, and listen to the birds singing.

Admire the beauty of the sun glinting on the water and see if you can spot fish swimming in the water or frogs, toads, ducks and swans. Your children will enjoy looking at the boats passing by.

If you have time, bring a picnic with you and find a bench or patch of grass to sit on and eat a simple meal while enjoying the beauty and stillness of the spring day.

Bake a Spring-themed Cake

If you normally just bake cookies or cupcakes with your children, have a go at making a more spectacular cake inspired by the season. Some ideas include:

Set aside a whole morning or afternoon to make the cake so that you can enjoy the process of baking with your child without rushing. You could then organize a little tea party with the cake displayed on a cake plate as the centerpiece. Invite family members and friends to admire and enjoy the cake.

Turn the Back Yard Into an Adventure Playground

Tempt your children away from their screens by turning your back yard into an exciting adventure playground. Set up a trampoline, slide and swings. Add other things that will be fun to play with, such as old tires, a basketball net or soccer nets. For younger children, sand pits, play houses and play kitchens can all be set up in the back yard.

If you already have some of this equipment, bring it out of winter storage and set it up outside. To buy inexpensive used equipment or perhaps even to get it for free, look on Freecycle, Craiglist, Gumtree or eBay.

Play Board Games Together

On a spring day when the weather isn't so good, spend a family afternoon playing traditional board games. Fun board games that have stood the test of time include Operation, Buckaroo, Guess Who? and Scrabble. 

If your children need to work off energy, physical games such as Twister or The Kid's Yoga Deck will get them moving. Charades is also a popular game that involves some movement.

For older children, Cluedo is an excellent choice because it stimulates the development of logical thinking skills in a fun way. 

Choose games that are suitable for the ages of all the children in your family so that everyone can join in and have fun. 

Whether you choose to go outside and enjoy the warm weather or stay indoors and take refuge from spring rain showers,  there are many things to do with your children without spending a lot of money. Choose a few different activities and have fun together as a family this spring!