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How to survive the summer holidays

Daunted by how to fill your children's days during the long school summer holidays? We've put together some of Mumsnet users' best survival tips for holiday fun and games, come rain or shine.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 30, 2023

Kids Playing in Garden

Things to do outside

When the sun's shining

If you have a garden, the easiest thing to do is to let the kids run free. Here are some fun, simple ideas to keep them entertained.

  • “Acquire several supersoakers and water pistols from a pound shop and stand well back.”

  • “Install the biggest paddling pool you can reasonably fit in your garden. It'll get used rain or shine – and wear them out nicely.”

  • “Get them doing some 'proper' gardening for you, such as clearing a bed of weeds or cleaning a patio. It will be taken on with pleasure by younger kids or can be a way of earning spending money for older ones.”

  • “Do some survival training (good ol' Ray Mears): get them to pretend they're shipwrecked and give them a few random items with which to make a bivvy.”

  • “'Challenge' them to wash the car.”

  • “Even the tiniest of gardens can support a den – whether it's a teepee made from garden canes or a blanket slung over the washing line.”

Related: Relax in the shade this summer with our pick of the best garden hammocks

Watch the video below to see how you can make a quick and easy den using minimal supplies.

When it's raining

If the heavens are about to open, don't worry – there are still plenty of things you could do (or places to escape to) when it's pouring outside. Also, summer rain is possibly the optimal time for allowing some raucous splashing through puddles.

  • “Put on raincoats and wellies and do some puddle jumping.”

  • “If you're near a big city find out where the free museums are. In London, we're spoilt with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, the V&A, the Horniman…” Check out our guide to cheap family outings in your area.

  • “Go to the library. Most have loads on.” You can sign up your child to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge at your local library – it's completely free.

  • “Contact your council to see what events the local museums and sports centres are holding for kids – there's often lots on for free.”

  • “Thrill them with a 'muddy walk'. Put on old clothes and waterproofs, jump in all the mud and get as dirty as possible. Hose down before entering the house if necessary.”

  • “Check if you can visit your local fire station (always a favourite destination of mine!)”

  • “Just go for a ride on a local train or take a bus trip round town – smaller kids love it.”

Things to do inside

Watch the video below for five games you can create with your child's favourite toys to keep them entertained.

Here are a few more activity ideas you could suggest to help them burn off that energy without tearing down the house.

  • “Make and ice fairy cakes. Or just decorate plain biscuits with writing icing.” 

  • “Make forts and castles with furniture and sheets.”

  • “Invent 'fun' games that involve using Mummy's big vacuum cleaner or dusters.”

  • “Use your camcorder to make a 'film' of a favourite book.”

  • “Have theme days. We did an Egyptian one, where we read some Horrible Histories stuff, did some hieroglyphic messages (code), made paper, cooked some vaguely themed recipe, and danced like idiots to Walk Like An Egyptian.”

  • “Get them to organise a play. Stock the dressing-up box with a load of silly hats and clothes from charity shops or Freecycle – the sparklier the better. If they are older, they can write the play themselves; little ones can act to you reading out a favourite book.”

Easy craft ideas

You can also try to get their creative juices flowing with some easy arts and crafts. It just might keep them occupied (and quiet) for a while.

Kids Crafts
  • “Make life-size portraits. Use either a large piece of card or lining paper (joined together, if necessary). Draw around your children and let them cut up old clothes and cloths to dress their portraits.”

  • “Make fluffy slime. My DD has been trying to make this for ages and finally cracked it yesterday. She used shaving foam, PVA glue and contact lens solution. I think the contact solution has to contain boric acid for it to work though.”

  • “Spend a day making all those craft things that they get for birthdays but are currently languishing under the bed!”

  • “Empty a bag of rice or lentils into a plastic/cardboard box to make an indoor sandbox for trucks. Keeps small children occupied for ages.”

  • “Let them do their own face paint (then take photos for perusal at 18th birthday parties).”

  • “Pretend to be writers. Staple about six pieces of A4 paper together into a 'book' for them to write and illustrate.”

  • “Decorate (cheap) terracotta plant pots – or paint and varnish stones you collected on a sunny day.”

Sanity savers

Kid Flying Kite
  • “Have a picnic at the ready at all times, so, if the sun does come out, you can go and have a picnic somewhere pretty and fly a kite.”

  • “Plan the next day's activities the night before. If you leave it to the last minute, it's not as likely to happen.”

  • “Get a family pass for one of your local attractions (theme park/farm/bowling/whatever), so that you can head there for an hour or two whenever you want.”

  • “Watch the weather forecasts. If a week of cool, rainy weather is forecast, phone round friends and arrange a few play dates. If there is a guest child or two in the house, rainy-day boredom is much less of an issue.”

  • “Only attempt painting/gluing/baking in the afternoons for an hour before tea, so you can dunk them in the bath straight after.”

  • “Don't over-schedule. Sometimes it's nice just to see where the day leads.”

Give yourself a break

Kids Playing Football
  • “Dispatch child to a summer scheme for at least one week of the hols. And get your partner to take them camping and fishing for one night on their own (ha, ha, ha).”

  • “Book in a 'lazy day' each week where they have to pretty much entertain themselves and you can get things done.”

  • “Introduce them all to some age-appropriate daily chores, such as sorting or pegging out the washing.”

  • “Have a friend over at least once a week for each child. Chances are he or she will get an 'away day' play date out of it in return.”

If you're running out of ideas, you can always find more inspiration and advice on the school holidays Talk board.