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Summer holiday survival tips


The summer hols are 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...


Things to do outside | Things to do insideSanity savers | And finally... 


Things to do outside

When the sun's shining

  • Acquire several supersoakers and water pistols from a pound shop and stand well back. cremolafoam
  • Let them 'garden'. Give them a 'plot' and some trowels and forks and let them dig for worms, plant twigs and rocks and generally make a mess. PinkTulips
  • Install the biggest paddling pool you can reasonably fit in your garden. It'll get used rain or shine - and wear them out nicely. ChippyMinton
  • 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. filthymindedvixen
  • Do some survival training (good ole Ray Mears): get them to pretend they're shipwrecked and give them a few random items with which to make a bivvy.(Barnical
  • Take out bath toys or make paper boats to float in paddling pools or water-filled bowls - or even in puddles on rainy days. Porpoise
  • Get them doing some 'proper' gardening for you. Setting tasks, such as clearing a bed of weeds or cleaning a patio, will be taken on with pleasure by younger kids or can be a way of earning spending money for older ones. Sophable
  • Eat in the garden. It saves a lot of clearing up and 'picnics' are always more exciting than eating indoors. Sophable
  • Buy some sensitive shaving foam and let them go mad in the back garden. When they have finished, hose it all away. McDreamy
  • Take them on a woodland walk. Give them a 'search and find' list: for example, 'find a tree that has red leaves with five fronds on each leaf'. osmosisbanana
  • 'Challenge' them to wash the car. serin
  • Give your children a paint brush and a bucket of water and get them to 'paint' the outside of your house. McDreamy
  • Hand them some (craft) scissors and send them out into the garden to 'cut the grass'. Porpoise

child putting feather in puddleWhen it's raining

  • Put on raincoats and wellies and do some puddle jumping. tortoise
  • 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... TheMagnificent7
  • Go to the library. Most have loads on - including Team Read, a great summer reading scheme - and they have DVDs for a pound. Ihavelayers
  • Contact your council to see what events the local museums and sports centres are holding for kids - there's often lots on for free. ChippyMinton
  • 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. JackieNo
  • Visit a charity shop and give them a budget so they buy whatever takes their fancy, or hold a swap-shop with friends. ChippyMinton
  • Check if you can visit your local fire station (always a favourite destination of mine!). foxythesnowfox
  • If you have rackets and a soft ball, go to your local leisure centre and play some form of tennis on a squash court. If it's anything like our one, they won't be booked up in the day, so you can probably get away with not paying. Scarletibis
  • Just go for a ride on a local train or take a bus trip round town - smaller kids love it.  tortoiseshell

Things to do inside

Child with painted fingersGet creative

  • 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. 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
  • Make a scrapbook of the summer holidays. Stick in photos and drawings of places they have been to. The ITgirl
  • Make people out of catalogues - the ones that show clothes without people in them. Your kids can then put together outfits and draw faces/feet onto them. Prufrock
  • Raid the recycling for boxes and cartons and see who can build the best robot. ChippyMinton
  • Spend a day making all those craft things that they get for birthdays but 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
  • Stick some blank paper on a wall somewhere and turn it into a 'graffiti wall'. McDreamy

Chocolate cupcake with pink icingGet domestic

  • 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
  • Give them a bin bag and ask them to sort through their toys, putting any they no longer play with in the bag. They'll discover toys they've not played with for ages, making the task last hours instead of minutes and, at the end of it, you should have a bag full of toys to give to charity! Rhubarb
  • Decorate (cheap) terracotta plant pots - or paint and varnish stones you collected on a sunny day. osmosisbanana

Get dramatic

  • 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
  • When I'm feeling enthusiastic, we have theme days. 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
  • 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. cremolafoam

Get imaginative

  • Set up a tent indoors. Let them picnic in it, throw in some teddies - keeps them happy for ages. morningpaper
  • Make forts and castles with furniture and sheets. PinkTulips
  • 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
  • Let them do their own face paint (then take photos for perusal at 18th birthday parties). TheMagnificent7
  • Pretend to be writers. Staple about six pieces of A4 paper together into a 'book' for them to write and illustrate. tortoiseshell

Get competitive

  • Fill a bowl with soapy water, hand out straws and see who can blow the most bubbles. Micci25
  • 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
  • Lay a treasure hunt round the house with easy clues leading to a prize. osmosisbanana
  • Get them to hide treasure and make a map for you to find it. Eulalia
  • Put on music and make up a dance competition. Micci25

Get chilled

  • 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. UnderRated
  • Buy a bottle of cheap bubble bath and some cheap shaving foam and stick the children in the bath for an hour. Ihavelayers
  • I have a tall-sided paddling pool that I fill with warm water and put in the conservatory on rainy days. They play in it for hours and hours and absolutely knacker themselves out. morningpaper
  • YouTube is great for whiling away an hour or so on a wet afternoon (under close supervision of course). My two boys have recently enjoyed The Muppets, the old Charley Says info films, a load of silly symphonies and Pokemon characters dancing to Crazy Frog song. fithymindedvixen
  • Go on the internet and just research something. For younger kids, you can find colouring-in sheets. My son likes fast cars and there are plenty of sites with pics and short videos. Eulalia
  • Get out the board games, if they're old enough. Most kids love a good Monopoly session: invite a few friends around, provide them with snacks and they'll be entertained for hours. PinkTulips
  • Declare one night Family Night. Get everyone in their pyjamas, then let them bring their mattresses downstairs. Then you all pile round the telly and watch DVDs. The only rules are: everyone can eat as many sweets as they like, and everyone can stay up as long as they like. You can imagine how exciting that is! We usually all end up sleeping downstairs in a lovely snuggly heap. Dashy

Sanity savers

alnwick castlePlan ahead

  • Plan the next day's activities the night before. If you leave it to the last minute, it's not as likely to happen. McDreamy
  • 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. cremolafoam
  • 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. GrowlingTiger
  • Make an 'I'm bored' box. The children write activities down on scraps of paper and put them in the box. Then, when they're bored, they do a lucky dip. Whatever's on the slip of paper, you do it. nkf
  • Watch the weather forecasts. If a week of cool, rainy weather is forecast, phone round friends and arrange a few playdates. If there is a guest child or two in the house, rainy-day boredom is much less of an issue. Tigermoth
  • Only attempt painting/glueing/baking in the afternoons for an hour before tea, so you can dunk them in the bath straight after. cremolafoam
  • Don't over-schedule. Sometimes it's nice just to see where the day leads. yeahinaminute

Give yourself a break

  • 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 his own (ha, ha, ha). cremolafoam
  • Book in a 'lazy day' each week where they have to pretty much entertain themselves and you can get things done. PeachyHidingInTheShed
  • Introduce them all to some age-appropriate daily chores, such as sorting or pegging out the washing. Pigleto

DeckchairEase the strain

  • Get together with a friend and swap some children. One has the boys, perhaps, and the other has the girls. ChippyMinton
  • Have a friend over at least once a week for each child. Chances are he or she will get an 'away day' playdate out of it in return. cremolafoam
  • One week, allocate one day to each person: a day when he or she gets to choose what you do all day (within reason) - and that includes you! There'll be minimal moaning if they know they'll soon get a chance to dictate a day, too. BBBee
  • Always take public transport on days out: it takes twice as long as the car, and trains and buses are always more entertaining. Go with another mum and children if possible. cremolafoam


And finally...

    ...Relax. Let your kids take the lead. Let them do nothing. Don't expect too much. Beetroot

Oh, and...

    ...If you're running out of ideas, get on Mumsnet! cremolafoam


Last updated: about 3 years ago