Summer fun on a budget
Summer school holidays are nearly here and Olivia Willis has some suggestions for great things to do that won't break the bank
Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30
The countdown calendar is slowly ticking down to zero. Cue the panicked and frantic last-minute plans as parents everywhere realise they have to figure out what to do with their kids all summer long and the stress of how to pay for it over the course of the eight weeks. But you don't need to go broke keeping your kids occupied this summer. There's a ton of free and frugal summer fun to be had. Here are some great ideas for keeping your family and your wallet happy this summer. There's some tips here for rainy days, outside exploring and what to do as soon as the sun shines.
Go to the Movies
The movies are perfect for a morning or afternoon activity. Lots of cinemas around the country offer kids' movies for about €2 during the summer. While they'll likely not be the latest releases, they'll while away a few hours. Check out the cinema's website for what movie is showing each week.
Scour Deal Sites
Look for deals on all kinds of activities on daily deal sites - they offer massive discounts of 50pc-plus. Keep an eye on locations close to home and those you might fancy visiting nationwide.
Every year we buy a membership to our local theme park. It costs €140 for the year and it gives us annual unlimited access. The gate ticket price for a family of four is €40 so we only need to go four times a year to cover our investment. During the summer we might go once a week, so you can save a lot. Look at what's available in your area - research membership to a local museum or attraction and see what you can save.
Seek out local markets and make a day of it. You and the family can sample food, buy from local farmers and maybe even see a few animals that the kids will love. You can find everything from fresh produce and meats to ice cream and bric-a-brac.
Walk in the footsteps of history
This year is especially great for this as it's the 100th-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising. If you live in Dublin, or can get to Dublin, there's an abundance of sights to see on foot that won't cost you a penny.
Take the family on a picnic
There is just something fun about having a meal away from home and in the great outdoors. The food really does taste better under a shady tree. Keep it simple and affordable and pack items you'll have in the fridge and cupboard over the summer anyway. Think simple sandwiches and bite-size finger foods. Add a loaf of crusty bread or crackers and you're good to go. Don't forget the flask of tea.
Discover your local library
The Summer Stars reading programme is running in public libraries throughout Ireland this summer. Summer Stars is a free programme, open to all children. Kids can enjoy the pleasure of reading lots of exciting books during the school-free months. They'll will receive their own Summer Stars Reading Card to record their progress and fun rewards are provided along the way.
Whether it's going for a ride on your bikes, a hike, or simply a walk after lunch, it can be a great thing to get moving as a family and it doesn't cost a cent.
Make an obstacle course
Build an obstacle course in the garden or even your local park with balls, bats, and other gear you probably have lying around for some fun and exercise. Kids will love the fun of crawling under sheets, climbing over stuff, skipping rope or twisting with a hula hoop.
Plant a garden
It's a great way to teach kids about where food comes from, and if they have a stake in growing their own vegetables, chances are they just might eat them. Seeds are not expensive and you don't need green fingers to start a veggie garden, just a good patch of sunny land or balcony space.
Volunteer as a family
Volunteering teaches kids compassion and responsibility - it also keeps them busy. There's plenty little ones can do, like cleaning up at the park for example. Nothing brings a family together like helping others. Your kids will learn the valuable lesson of how good it feels to give something back and you'll all have the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference.
Olivia Willis is the co-founder of familyfriendlyhq.ie, an Irish family website with information for parents, things to do, daily blogs, reviews and expert family advice