Sunday 23 October 2016

20 ways to keep the kids happy this summer that won't break the bank (And many of them are free!)

Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30

Mary McGoey (5) from Ranelagh, Dublin, with Fritz the Robot at the Festival of Curiosity at Smock Alley Theatre. Photo: Frank McGrath
Mary McGoey (5) from Ranelagh, Dublin, with Fritz the Robot at the Festival of Curiosity at Smock Alley Theatre. Photo: Frank McGrath

Go on a teddy bears' picnic: Blackrock Park, Dublin, Sunday, July 10; 1pm-5pm FREE

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If you go down to Blackrock Park on July 10, you're sure of a big surprise… This annual outdoor event is the largest Teddy Bears' Picnic in Ireland and this year they're expecting a record turnout. Bring along your teddy bear and a blanket and expect music, face-painting and bouncy castles. Doctor Ted from The Dolls Store and the Teddy Bears' Hospital will also be on hand to do minor repairs and health checks.

Grace Flynn at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in Blackrock Park
Grace Flynn at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in Blackrock Park

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Enroll at Forest school

Castleruddery Organic Farm, Wicklow, Sunday, August 28; 11am-4pm

Admission: Adult €15; child: €10

The founders of Forest School believe that Mother Nature is the best teacher and the outdoors is the best playground. This summer they're teaming up with Heritage Week to offer a very reasonably priced family forest adventure. Children of all ages (with parent or guardian supervision) can look forward to shelter-building and fire-making in the rustic surrounds of Castleruddery Organic Farm, Wicklow. This is one outdoor adventure that they'll never forget…

Daniel Doyle takes part in the Dungannon Sand Sculpting Festival. Photo: Patrick Browne
Daniel Doyle takes part in the Dungannon Sand Sculpting Festival. Photo: Patrick Browne

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Build a sandcastle on Duncannon Beach

Duncannon Beach, Co Wexford, August 5 to August 7

FREE (with nominal fee for exhibitions)

The Duncannon Sand Sculpting Festival, now in its 27th year, has become a staple on the Wexford summer events calendar. Visitors can expect amateur sand sculpting competitions, magic and puppet shows and a nighttime fireworks display, along with an exhibition of professional sand sculptures created by various artists (nominal fee applies).

People enjoying street performers at Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular in Dublin’s Merrion Square last year. Photo: Collins
People enjoying street performers at Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular in Dublin’s Merrion Square last year. Photo: Collins

See the Facebook page for further details

Go behind the scenes at Croke Park

Croke Park, Dublin, Various dates

Admission: Adult €15; child (under 12): €9.50

GAA fans - both young and old - will love the Bord Gáis Energy Legends Tour Series, which takes place on five dates between now and August 27 in Croke Park. Attendees get to experience the stadium from a player's perspective and meet sporting legends like Michael Duignan, JJ Delaney and Declan O'Sullivan. Booking is essential as these tours sell out quickly.

Patrick Ryan (3) at last year’s Durrow Scarecrow Festival. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Patrick Ryan (3) at last year’s Durrow Scarecrow Festival. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Make and do at Airfield Estate

Dundrum, Dublin, Dates and times vary

Admission: €15 (€13.50 for members)

Airfield Estate, a 38-acre working farm and gardens in Dundrum, Dublin, has once again upped the ante with a series of two-hour weekend workshops for 8-11 year olds. Young gardeners can learn how to sow, grow and harvest crops; young farmers can get their hands dirty on the farm and young chefs get to handpick their own ingredients before cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Meanwhile, parents can relax with coffee and cake in the adjoining Overends Restaurant.

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Blow bubbles at the Festival of Curiosity

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24; 1pm, 2:30pm and 4pm

Admission: €4

Have you ever wondered why we can see rainbows in bubbles? All will be explained at this fun-filled, science-based workshop for children (5-11 years). The Bubble Show with Scientific Sue is part of The Festival of Curiosity, which takes place in locations across Dublin from July 21-24. Prepare to be enthralled by the jam-packed programme.

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Make your own Lego movie

The Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin, Wednesday, August 17 to Friday, August 19; 10.30am and 2.30pm

Admission: €16/€14 (member discounts apply)

Lego fans and budding movie makers alike will love this Brick Flicks workshop at The Ark. Children (8-12) just have to bring their favourite Lego character along and the experts will teach them how to cast it as the star of their own animated movie.

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Follow a secret fairy trail

Powerscourt Gardens, Wicklow, Sunday, July 10; 12:30pm-2:30pm

Admission: Adult €9.50; Child €6 (children under 3 go free; member discounts apply)

Dress-up is encouraged for this enchanted day of outdoor discovery in Powerscourt's Walled Gardens where the team at Imaginosity will be on hand to help little ones follow a secret trail and discover 'real-life' fairies.

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Make Viking jewellery

The National Museum of Ireland, Dublin 7, Tuesday, July 12; 2-3pm

FREE (pre-booking required)

It's worth signing up to the National Museum of Ireland's mailing list as they always have a jam-packed calendar of free family events. This month's schedule includes a jewellery-making workshop with a twist. Participants will learn about Viking silver ringlets from the Cushalogurt Hoard before having a go at making their own bracelet with artist Lisa Fahy.

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Visit a toddler jam session

The Elbow Room, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, Fridays at 10.30am

Admission: €10 (covers both parent and child)

The Mini Jam music and movement classes at the Elbow Room yoga and wellbeing hub are a fantastic way for toddlers (up to 3.5 years) to let loose and socialise with other little ones. One for budding musicians.

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Discover the wonders of electricity

Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31

Many events are FREE (pre-booking required)

The Spraoi International Street Arts Festival will once again play host to a dedicated SprÓg Children's Festival. Details are still being confirmed but word reaches us that 'Danger! High Voltage', a show about the wonders of electricity from the London Science Museum, will be headlining the children's programme.

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Visit a kids' comedy show

Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co Wicklow, Saturday August 6; 11am & 3pm

Admission: €10 (€9 for Killruddery members; 'babes in arms' go free)

Give them a belly laugh by bringing them along to the Punchlion Kids' Comedy Club in the breathtaking surrounds of Killruddery House & Gardens, Wicklow. Expect silly songs, funny faces and lots of knock-knock jokes.

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Go down to the farm

Leahy's Open Farm, Dungourney, Midleton, Co Cork

11am to 6pm (until the end of September)

Admission: €9 per person (under 2s go free; diggers and crazy golf cost €2 per go)

Leahy's Open Farm in Midleton is chock full with adventures and activities. Children can play in the Digger Park, negotiate the adventure trail or pay a visit to the Jolly Barn to help milk and feed the goats, pet the rabbits and hold Houdini the Snake.

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Make a day of it at the Laya City Spectacular

Merrion Square, Dublin, July 8-10, Fitzgerald Park, Cork, July 16-17


The Laya City Spectacular is arguably one of the best free family-friendly events in Ireland - and this year it's better than ever. Children can look forward to Titan the Robot (one of the most in-demand acts in the world today), live science shows and a Children's Court which allows kids to administer justice using custard pies and buckets of iced water.

See and for further details

Go on a nature trail

The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, Saturday, July 23; 11am-12pm

Admission: €5

The Hugh Lane Gallery runs a year-long programme of reasonably priced - and sometimes free - children's workshops that are especially designed to get the creative juices flowing. Their July events calendar includes an Early Years Nature Play workshop for 1-3 year olds, which will be led by artist Ashleigh Downey.

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Discover the Musical Menagerie

Holy Family School Hall, Ennis, Co Clare, Thursday, July 7; 5pm

Admission: €5

Puppeteering has come a long way since the days of Punch & Judy… The Musical Menagerie, which features the story of two zookeepers reminiscing about their first days in the job, is an imaginative tour de force that will delight both children and adults. It's part of the Ennis Street Festival, which runs until July 10.

See for further details.

Spot a scarecrow

Durrow, Co Laois, July 24 to August 1

Admission: Adults €2; teenagers €1 and children go free

Hundreds of scarecrow creations will be competing for an overall prize fund of €3,000 in the All Ireland Scarecrow Championships at the Durrow Scarecrow Festival. There's also a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, a Teddy Bears' Picnic and many more activities designed with children especially in mind.

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Visit an Enchanted Forest

Slieve Aughty Centre, Loughrea, Co Galway, Noon-6pm daily (during the summer)

Admission: €5 per child (additional pony ride for children 5 and up, €10 per child)

The Enchanted Forest experience is part of the Slieve Aughty Centre, a nature resort in Loughrea, Galway. Each child receives an Enchanted Forest Pack including forest map, wishing tree hanger and fairy dust before setting off in search of fairies, gnomes and trolls. There's also an arts and crafts room and organic café in the centre should the weather not comply.

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Create your own artwork in the Lewis Glucksman Gallery

Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, Sundays: 3pm-4pm

Admission: FREE (suggested donation €5)

The free Family Sunday art workshops at the Lewis Glucksman, have just finished for the summer season. However, it's worth marking the new season, which starts in early September, in your diary now. Led by practising artists, these interactive workshops explore various art forms including painting, sculpture and drawing, and are the perfect way to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Loughrea Medieval Festival

Various locations, Loughrea, Co Galway, August 26 to August 28


The medieval town of Loughrea will be going back in time in August when it plays host to Ireland's largest Medieval festival. Expect battle re-enactments, craft demonstrations and a children's archaeological dig.

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Irish Independent

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