I have to admit to disliking the school holidays. Not because I don't enjoy my children's company -- quite the opposite -- it's the guilt I feel, induced by copious articles about fun and expensive days out.
But with the economic climate as it is, more parents may need fun but cheap ideas to entertain their children, rather than visiting expensive theme parks or the television.
I'm always searching for inexpensive ideas. There is a fair amount of chilling out at home, arguing, reading, and generally relaxing during the holidays. There's also the occasional "I'm bored" but I don't stress about that, believing instead that being bored is good for them.
Here's some of my cheap and cheerful ideas to make this half-term holiday heaven instead of hell.
- Charity Shop Challenge: Our town, no doubt like many others, has an abundance of charity shops that are a great resource for parents looking for cheap materials with which to entertain their children. They are crammed full of potential dressing up clothes, games and toys. I gave my three eldest £3 each and told them to find something that would keep them occupied. We then met at a coffee shop to debrief and unveil their purchases. They predictably bought a pile of books but there are many other options lurking on the shelves.
- The Big Cook-Off: This is slightly more expensive but the pay-off is that you don't have to worry about dinner that night. My children were let loose in a supermarket clutching £20 and told to buy ingredients for a meal with dessert. There was some initial preparation, which actually proved to be as much fun as the shopping and cooking. Recipe books were pored over, decisions and discussions ensued and a meal finally concocted. I was in store shopping too, to help with the inevitable "we can't find" queries.
- Games Tournament: An idea that can be carried over several days and is great for wet holidays, a games tournament is ideal for children who seem to revel in competitions. Our tournament involved heated rounds of four-in-a-row, Boggle, Mastermind and Pass the Bomb. A large league table drawn up and pasted onto the kitchen wall allowed us to keep track of who won what. Prizes were given for being Most Giggley Player, Most Fun Competitor and Happiest Loser.
- Topsy Turvy Day: This is easy, requiring little money and effort on your part so is great for the days when you're tired. Announce the day before that when they wake up it will be an topsy turvy day and serve their tea for breakfast, wear clothes back to front and try talking and walking backwards. My children love these type of days.
- Papier Maché Mayhem: All you need is lots of old newspapers, balloons or something to use as a mould and flour and water. A bit of a blind eye to the ensuing mess probably wouldn't hurt either. Get the children to make piggy banks, masks, bowls or ambitious projects like islands. They'll love getting messy and you'll love the creativity and imagination it will, hopefully, unleash.