As the summer holidays approach for those already at school, the wallets might start to moan with the potential strain that six whole weeks can impose upon it. We have a teacher in the house who likes to relax, but like a child she also likes to have a plan and an activity. These don’t have to be activities out of the house sometimes an afternoon of crafting can be enough to entertain her, but sometimes Mrs View From A Daddy wants to do a something outdoors but we both know we have to make sure that the budget will stretch for six weeks and cover a holiday. This year is a bit different for us as the teacher is on maternity leave so we’ve made ourselves quite skilled at finding activities that don’t cost the earth or are even free here in Staffordshire. I thought, I’d share them with you to make the future weeks seem easier, maybe more manageable or at the very least fun.
No. 1 One of our favourites is getting out to the park. We have been really fortunate that our local park has had a complete overhaul. Launched in spring this year, there are at least two hours of fun contained within the park. We have a sandpit, zip wire, slides, swings, an exercise track, basketball courts, mini tennis courts and now even a skate park too (not that we can skate). Sometimes we take a picnic; sometimes we have some pocket money for an ice cream in the new parlour. Whatever your budget, the park is a quick and easy one to let the wild ones run free. Yes, it is weather dependent but with your fingers crossed and a sun dance or two, it’s likely we’ll have a day or three of sun. Most parks have free parking or are even within walking distance so this should be a cheap option even on a semi- sunny day.
No. 2 Next up is a visit to the library. This is definitely free. We like a good theme week and our past week has been about the seaside so we have read Julia Donaldson’s ’The Singing Mermaid’ over and over again (damn you Old Sam Sly!). You don’t have to spend lots on books (any supermarkets have a good range of well priced reads but even better the library is a free resource waiting for you to make a visit and loan some reading books or even audio books. I appreciate that many libraries have experienced cuts – our own town has been a victim of the spending cuts but the colourful welcoming carpet, bean bagged seating area and children’s section with its many many books is still open on specific days throughout the week. Some libraries offer free holiday activities, others might just offer no fines for late children’s loans – it’s worth checking out what is available to you and your youngsters. With the tennis well under way and the Olympics just about to burst onto the screen, you could pick a sports theme or explore some geography with the countries and nations or even indulge in some history and the origins of the games.
No. 3 Get your history on. Many museums are free to enter. We have a local museum which narrates the history of the local area and its mining heritage as well as displaying some of the work of local artists. There is enough here to keep us entertained for half a day with plenty of outdoor space to enjoy a run around, play some games and munch on a picnic (do you spot a theme?). We also have Cosford Air Museum on our doorstep, which is free to enter too. It’s worth checking out which museums are local to you and what events they have on over the summer. Our local museum also hosts a baby and toddler group once a month,, which we take full advantage of to meet others and enjoy an afternoon of learning and crafting.
No. 4 Enjoy an open space. We are on the doorstep of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and with the exception of a parking charge (although some spots have parking without a fee) you can pretty much enjoy a whole day out without needing to spend a penny (so to speak). Cannock Chase is our local AONB which has a number of wonderful family friendly spots including a play area and a nature trail around the Gruafflo and Stick Man trails of Julia Donaldson fame. If you wanted to avoid the spots that can get that little bit busier, then you could grab a map and go exploring. We have ventured into streams (shallow ones I might add) and over stepping stones to make the most of the beautiful outdoors. We have hunted creatures and waited to spot deers (who sometimes make an appearance – those fickle fellows). Obviously having the sunshine makes this a little bit more enjoyable but even with the rain that is set to loom over the summer donning your wellies and rain suits can be just as much fun. Pack your towels and wet wipes and you’ll be set.
No.5 This one isn’t really free but it can be cheap; go and pick some fruit. The season is ‘ripe’ for picking soft fruits such as strawberries and raspberries and who doesn’t remember doing this as a child. We popped out to do this on a blustery day this week and one of us was even dressed as a fairy! As we wound our way up and down the rows of sweet scented strawberries, we discussed the process of ripening and how the cycle of sunshine and rain assisted the growth of plants and fruit. The Little Lady was pleased with her haul and was very keen to weigh in her ‘whoppers’ as she called them. They were delicious and a generous punnet only cost us £3.50 – the cost of an ice cream or two. You can Google your local fruit farms to see what’s available. We are going to raid Grandad’s garden to see what he has on offer next week.
There will be lots of freebie activities that you have planned this summer. Why not share them in the comments section below? These are just five of those we have planned for the summer weeks to come.