The school summer holidays have started, which means you probably fall into one of two camps. Camp one is the mums who love the summer and having time off with their children, no rushed morning school runs, less structure and more spontaneity. Camp two are in panic mode for pretty much all the same reasons, no school, less structure, no plan and children to keep entertained for six whole weeks. Perhaps like most of us you are somewhere between the two. One things for sure however you feel about the holidays it can be an expensive time for parents.

I have three children under six and am a little nervous about how I’m going to fill the holidays so I’ve made a plan. I have literally drawn a calendar for the next six weeks and planned how we are going to fill our time. This also works well for my budget because I know what my costs are each week and I can plan accordingly. Also I have found as many cheap or free activities as possibly to keep the costs of the holiday period manageable.

I bring you cheap or free activities to keep your little ones entertained this summer.

1.The Park – visiting the park is a great way to keep children entertained for free. I have six parks all within short walk or drive from me so I will ring the changes and visit different ones throughout the summer. Pack a picnic to take with you for lunch, take a ball and spend the whole day at the park.

2.Cheap children’s movies at the cinema – my local cinema does Kids Am where they show reasonably recent children’s films every morning of the holidays. The best bit is the price, for £1.50 a ticket its a cheap way to take the children out for a special treat. My top tip is to pack a snack bag, fill a sandwich bag with raisons, a drink, small packet of sweets and crisps. This will work out much cheaper than cinema priced snacks and the children still feel like they are getting a treat.

3.The Play Day – Every year in the summer there is a nation wide play day. This year it is on August the 1st. Free events are held throughout the country and they are usually a really good day out. My local play day in Bristol usually has art and craft workshops, bouncy castles, circus skills workshops, music and more. Its a brilliant day out and it costs absolutely nothing.

4.Stay at home – don’t feel like you have to put on entertainment every day of the summer. Children want and need time off to be resourceful, use their imagination and enjoy their toys. Also there are so many things you can do at home, here are a few ideas;
-Home cinema, hire a movie, make your own tickets and snacks and then sit back and enjoy some snuggles with your children.
-Build a den out of chairs, washing lines and sheets, children love it.
-Chalks – buy a box of chalks and take to the street (or your garden) and get creative. Don’t worry about the mess, the next time it rains (which lets face it is never far away in the UK) it will wash away.
-Wash your toys – fill a washing up bowl with water and soap and let your children wash their toys. Don’t worry if they get wet it’s all part of the fun.

5.Go for a walk- head for your local woods, beach, or public trail and go on an adventure. For younger children take a picnic and their teddy bears and go on a teddy bears picnic. For older children take a big box or nature book and see what you can spot. Even if it’s raining head out anyway, put on welly’s and waterproofs and splash in puddles.

6.Visit the library – local libraries are a great free resource and if we don’t use them we are going to lose them. Spend a few hours choosing (and reading) books. Also lots of libraries run craft activities throughout the summer so check online to find out whats happening near you.

7.British Gas Free Swims – British Gas are offering everyone in Britain the chance to swim for free. You don’t even have to be a customer. What a bargain.

8.Arrange swaps with other parents – I will be doing swaps with other parents from Super Kid’s school and Robo Boy’s preschool. This way other children will come to my house, which is entertainment for my children and my children get to visit their friends houses and play with different toys.

So there you have it , some great ideas for saving money during the school summer holidays and keeping your children entertained. I would love to hear from you about how you keep your children entertained, after all there is a whole summer to fill and I’m always interested in new ideas.