Mumsnet tips for family fun - sun or no sun

The summer hols are well and truly upon us and we can already hear the faint stirrings of a million, pint-sized 'What can we do now?'s. So, in true Mumsnet share-the-parental-pain spirit, we've put together some of your best tips for family holiday fun and games.

Fun on the move | Fun on the beach | Fun in the great outdoors | Fun in the rain | Fun in the house | Fun in the garden


Fun on the move
Lovely as it is to get away, it's the getting of the away you've got to get through first. To make it less of a chore and more of a chortle...

  • Take Playdough. It's great on a plane - and quite easy to contain on an airline table. lapsedrunner
  • Do bingo. Prepare a sheet of words (or pictures for the younger ones) that describe things your child will see as you travel. So, church, red bus, cyclist (or runway, air steward, trolley) and get the kids to tick off each one when they see them. First one to find all wins! Gillsa
  • Count roadkill. Gruesome fun for the car. The rarer the animal, the higher the score: a muntjac deer gets 10 points; badger 6 points; fox 4 points; pheasant 3 points (as it's seasonal, it scores higher than rabbits); rabbits 2 points; any bird 1 point. helpivegottogivebirth
  • Play 'Sausages'. One person is the 'Sausager' and can only say, 'Sausages' in answer to anything. Everyone else has to try to catch them out. JuliaB
  • Let them dress up. Makes any waiting around at the airport/port more fun. Plus, if you lose sight of them, you can always ask someone if they have seen Spiderman/a cowboy/a pirate! Grumpalumpa
  • Give them a pile of 10p bits. Every time they say, 'Are we there yet?', they have to give one back. Clary
  • Play car snooker. First child to spot red car gets a point, then it's yellow, green, brown, blue, pink or black. You'll get stuck on pink for ages, which is always a bonus. Lizzer 
  • Get out the reusable stickers. The sort you get on a folding picture/scene. Great for arranging on the window of the car/aeroplane/cabin. MotherofOne


  • Whatever you do, don't teach them I Spy in the car. I guarantee within 15 minutes you will be wishing they were whining! bratnav

Fun on the beach

Sprout a sprog (or three) and your lazing-on-a-sunlounger days are well and truly over. But it can actually be rather jolly getting silly in the sand with small people (honest)...

  • Build sandcastles. Take some toilet roll tubes along with the bucket and spade to make turrets – also great for diverting water into the moat! Deeceeha
  • Play beachball football. Slightly under-inflate your beach ball if you have toddlers. It slows it down on the sand and makes it easier for them to kick it. Ruhu
  • Put on the Beach Olympics. Our events typically include Best Sandcastle, Dig The Largest Hole, Find The Prettiest Shell, and so on. Points are awarded based on who looks most likely to cry if they don't win, and the prize is a flake in the top of the last ice cream of the day. Snickersnack
  • Get buried. Let the children cover you with sand. This will take them some time - and you get to lie down! VinoEsmeralda
  • Have a sea race. Get everyone lined up so they're standing knee-high in the sea (lower for smaller ones, higher for bigger ones). Pick a finishing point and then run for it - hands above your heads. Trickier - and funnier - than it sounds. Porpoise
  • Go artistic. Draw a person in the sand (stick man is fine; we're not all Tony Hart) and get the kids collecting shells/seaweed for the hair and clothes. Don't forget to take a photo of your efforts before he/she is washed away! Housemum
  • Make like Makka Pakka. Find a pebble beach and spend ages collecting stones and putting them in piles. giveloveachance
  • Beachcomb. Give everyone a 'search and find' list: for example, 'find a long thin shell' or 'find some pink seaweed'. JuliaB

Fun in the great outdoors

Of course, not every family holiday comes with a beach attached. Maybe you've opted for a countryside cottage, a farm break, a hillside villa - or even packed up your Primus and pitched the whole brood under canvas. In which case, you can brew up all sorts of al-fresco family fun...

  • Cloud-guess. Lie on your backs, looking up at the clouds and describe to each other the pictures you find. EccentricaGallumbits
  • Bring on the traditional games. Kids' croquet, Frisbee, football and hula-hooping. KnickKnack
  • Count the daisies. Then make a daisy chain. FabBakerGirlIsBack
  • Roll down a hill. MrsWeasley
  • Fly kites. Jump on each other's shadows. And play games of Chase where you can never quite catch them. SuperBunny
  • Golf. Put a small ball on a pile of grass clippings and whack it with a child's baseball bat/golf club. SuperBunny
  • Forage in hedgerows. And when you're tired, send them to find a four-leaf clover: they'll be ages while you sit back and relax! Wanderingsheep
  • Set up Swingball. We have family tournaments! GooseyLoosey
  • Give it some stick. As in stick-collecting, stick-piling, stick-building, stick-poking, stick-eating, stick-breaking and, of course, the obligatory stick-wielding round heads. LupusinaLlamasuit
  • Race like animals. Draw start and finish lines (or use something to mark the line like a jumper). Children all have to be the same animal (crab, horse, dog, slug etc) and have to move like that animal to the finish line. We have staggered starts for the younger ones. AttilaTheHan
  • Teach them the water-bottle game. You need two empty plastic bottles, two kids and a football. Fill the bottles with water (no lid) and position them a few metres apart. Each kid stands by one bottle. Kid 1 rolls football towards Kid 2's bottle. If it hits the bottle, then Kid 2 has to get the ball before he can right his bottle and stop the water flowing out. The winner is the person who keeps the fullest bottle. Squidward
  • Build fairy villages. Under the trees - and then go behind the trees to 'watch' the fairies move in. spudmasher
  • Acquire several supersoakers and water pistols. And stand well back. cremolafoam

Fun in the rain

Yes, it is possible! Even when it's tipping down, you can turn the merriment up - indoors or out...

  • Puddle-jump. In raincoats and wellies. tortoise
  • Start a scrapbook. Stick in it photos and drawings of all the places you have been to so far this summer. The ITgirl
  • 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 afterwards if necessary. JackieNo
  • Go to the nearest leisure centre. With rackets and a soft ball, and play some form of tennis on a squash court. Scarletibis
  • Play cards. Snap for the littlies, UNO for the middlies - and everything from Rummy to Beat Your Neighbour for older ones. Our favourite is a family game of Cheat: the kids love the idea of having to cheat - and catching Mum and Dad red-handed. Gnashertastic
  • Just go for a ride on a local train. Or take a bus trip. Smaller kids love it. tortoiseshell
  • Have a carpet picnic (cover the carpet well first). Or a non-birthday birthday party. Or a very early Hallowe'en party - with lots of scary dressing up. Psychomum5
  • Find the local (indoor) pool. It knackers them like nowt else, thus, on return, you can leave them to gawp at the TV, while you lounge about/sip wine/peruse papers with a clear conscience. Also doubles as a good wash. moondog
  • Raid the dressing-up box. And help them put on a play. If they are older, they can write the play themselves; little ones can act to you reading out a favourite book. cremolafoam
  • Let them scribble. Stick some blank paper on a wall somewhere and turn it into a 'graffiti wall'. McDreamy


Fun in the house
The beauty of a 'staycation' is that you get to do all the comical/creative/crazy stuff with your children that you'd never have time to do on normal 'home' days - and you're not paying a travel agent through the nose for the pleasure. For tip-top diversion on the domestic front...

  • Play caves. Close the curtains, find a torch and muck about under a duvet or some cushions. mathshoneybunny27
  • Create 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. Barnical
  • Make slime. Get a pack of cornflour, mix it with water so it's gloopy but not runny and then add green food colouring. Ihavelayers
  • Build a robot. Raid the recycling for boxes and cartons to use as robot parts. ChippyMinton
  • Get crafty. Spend a day making all those craft things that they get for birthdays but that are currently languishing under the bed! tortoiseshell
  • Have a tie-dye day. Use stained T-shirts (or buy cheap new ones), some Dylon cold-water dyes and string. Make one for yourself too. Dragonstitcher
  • Make and ice fairy cakes. Or just decorate plain biscuits with writing icing. Giraffeski
  • Invent 'fun' games that involve using Mummy's big vacuum cleaner or dusters. Micci25
  • Use your camcorder to make a 'film' of a favourite book. We did The Tiger Who Came to Tea, using a toy stuffed tiger, shots of our table set up for tea, empty food packets, and a homemade cardboard claw peeking round the front door. You can do lots of voiceovers to explain what is happening, or do it documentary-style and interview the Mummy, the child, the cafe owner, Daddy, the Tiger etc. Blu
  • Have a theme day. We did an Eygyptian one, for example, 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. filthymindedvixen
  • Turn your house into a cinema. Decide which DVD you want to watch (bought or borrowed from the local library) and get older children to make tickets, posters etc. Invite friends if you've got the space and then make popcorn, close the curtains and enjoy. biza
  • Try blind-tasting. Take it in turns to blindfold each other, then feed the blindfolded person random things, like a square of jelly, a piece of banana, and see if he or she can guess what it is. Dalrymps
  • Put on music. And have a dance competition. Micci25

Fun in the garden

Drooping on the inside? Reboot the laughs outside. With a bit of fresh air and a dose of the green stuff, you can all...

  • 'Cut' the grass. With craft scissors - obviously. Porpoise
  • Invent 'perfume'. With petals you gathered in the garden or park. Somehow this always seems to involve litres and litres of water and eight million different sized receptacles! RosieMac
  • Blow bubbles. Fill a bowl with soapy water, hand out straws and see who can blow the most bubbles. Micci25
  • Run through the sprinkler. RosieMac
  • Chalk the patio. My 2.5yr old DS loves this. We now have a rainbow, a bus, some trees and five cars on our patio. pooter
  • 'Redecorate'. Arm yourselves with paintbrushes and a bucket of water and get 'painting' the outside of your house. McDreamy
  • Make slidey-paint pictures. We tape big bits of paper together on the patio, mix up some paint and let the children run through it and use hands or whatever else to paint with. Then hose them down (you can only do this on a hot day). whomovedmychocolate
  • Get 'hosepiping'. Which basically involves anything using the hosepipe: filling up watering cans and watering the plants/pouring it all out; me standing up a ladder and squirting them, and so on. midnightexpress
  • Dig it. Give everyone a trowel and get digging for worms, planting twigs and rocks and generally making a mess. PinkTulips
  • Buy a paddling pool. The biggest one you can reasonably fit in your garden. You won't regret it for an instant. ChippyMinton
  • Make a den. With sticks or garden canes or a blanket slung over the washing line. filthymindedvixen
  • Do the washing. Clean the car or the bikes. Or put wee toys in the paddling pool or a washing-up bowl. tassisssss
  • Lather up. Buy some sensitive shaving foam and go mad squirting it at each other. When you've finished, hose it all away. McDreamy

And finally...

Just relax and don't over-organise. Follow your children's lead - they're masters of the art of fun and games. Porpoise

Many thanks to all who posted their tips - you can find loads more ideas here or you could start your own thread in Mumsnet Talk. And, when the day's fun needs kick-starting with a change of scene, don't forget you can ask for Days Out Recommendations in Talk or read our new Days Out Reviews...

Last updated: about 3 years ago