Smart Parent's Guide to Shrinking Summer Holiday Spend

Six weeks of summer and the media is reporting a £600 spend on entertaining the kids. That's up 50% on 2012 figures and doesn't include childcare.

Six weeks of summer and the media is reporting a £600 spend on entertaining the kids. That's up 50% on 2012 figures and doesn't include childcare.

Given that schools are open for an average of 195 days a year and there are 253 working days in the same period, we're battling a deficit of 58 days that must be covered with some kind of childcare and entertainment.

Even if you can arrange free childcare with friends or family, it's rare that there are no costs involved when it comes to entertaining children during the summer holidays.

Arranging a fun and fabulous day out for the kids that's cheap, cheerful, educational and engaging is possible with a little preparation and inspiration. So here I offer a quick-fix guide for a great summer holiday on a budget.

Fun, free activities for kids

The local park can offer endless fun for kids of all ages. Take a ball, frisbee or skittles and the kids will develop games of their own. Good old fashioned tag (or any variation of tig, stuck in the mud or chase) are utterly exhausting, engaging and fun for all the family. Plus, completely free!

If the park seems like a dull option, run a scavenger hunt around the neighbourhood, stopping in at friendly neighbours and relations. Ready-made scavenger hunt games are relatively inexpensive and can be bought to save you the trouble of thinking up all the clues.

Hunt out your local nature reserves and areas of outstanding beauty. We live in an incredible country and the summer holidays are a great time to explore it. Take a picnic, towels, suncream, swimmers, hats, those all important wet wipes and a toy or two, and set off for fun and adventure.

Nearby woods, rivers and bridges will provide lots of creative ideas for kids. The costs of petrol, parking or the bus fare are considerably less than a trip to an adventure park, and the opportunity to connect with nature is second to none.

Always take a packed lunch

Everyone knows this saves considerable cash. Even at short notice, it's possible to muster up a sandwich, piece of fruit, snack and drink. Get super sorted this summer and ensure packed lunch and picnic essentials are on the shopping list every week.

Take it to the next level with a touch of home baking and you've got two budget-busters in one. Baking is a fun and educational activity for the kids, plus you can make some healthy, home made snacks for future outings.

Baking with children works across the core educational spectrum. Measuring for maths; reading instructions for english. Discuss where food comes from and you can cover biology and geography; and there's the baking for chemistry. Plus, mixing and measuring develop dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

Often, things will get messy, but the sense of achievement is worth every crumb. Invest in a plastic tablecloth to make the clean up a little easier.

Fairy cakes which are simple to make, freezable and pack well for day trips. Ready-made pizza bases are a fun option - let the kids choose and make their own scummy concoctions. Fruit-filled jellies in mini containers are good alternative to pricey ice creams. Even more complicated options like quiche and bread rolls can involve the kids when you're measuring. Plus, they're also freezable and super tasty too.

Budget, budget, budget

Before any of this starts, it's a great idea to build a budget for your summer holidays with the kids. I discuss why this is such a valuable activity for kids on my blog, The Toy Hunter and give you step by step instructions for making it happen. This inclusive activity develops confidence, decision-making and ownership in kids of all ages. It's a must-read if you want to take budget-busting to the next level!

See the full article on The Toy Hunter.