Theme parks, the seaside, cinema – you name the obvious ways to entertain children over the school summer holidays, and most involve parents putting their hands into very deep pockets.
Indeed, new research has found that families spend an average of £440 per year on days out, and two thirds say the high cost of activities simply stops them from going.
That means having to think of something cheaper and more imaginative to head off the calls of “I’m bored!” – and as a result, a study by Fab ice lollies has determined that nearly half of parents are dreading the six-week break, as they desperately search for new, purse-friendly ways to keep the kids entertained.
But there’s no need to despair. The Enid Blyton Estate, for example, is urging children to simply get outside and be more adventurous over the holidays as part of its Summer of Adventure campaign.
The campaign found that today’s children spend much less time outdoors having adventures than their parents did as youngsters. Indeed, 41% of parents say they’re worried their children are missing out on the great adventures they experienced while growing up.
Anne McNeil, publishing director of Hodder Children’s Books, which publishes Enid Blyton stories, says tips on everything from getting creative in the kitchen to taking great pictures of children’s adventures, are available on the Enid Blyton Summer of Adventure campaign website Enid blyton Adventure Day, which also lists events taking place throughout the country over the summer, and competitions.
She suggests kids try building a den in the garden and camping out for the night, telling stories and star gazing in the evening, pointing out that the Perseid meteor shower is a great opportunity to see shooting stars this summer, peaking around August 11.
“Having fun and being active needn’t be expensive or complicated, and Enid Blyton’s adventure stories, like The Famous Five, are great for inspiring children,” she adds.
Another adventure kids will love is a real-life treasure hunt, in the form of geocaching.
It’s an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices, where children and/or adults navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache container hidden at that location.
There are two and a half million geocaches worldwide, and in their simplest form, a cache always contains a logbook to log your find.
Larger caches may hold a logbook and any number of items – you never know what the cache owner or visitors may have left. But if you take something from a geocache, you need to leave something of equal or greater value in return.
To start your hunt, simply create a free account on your phone or GPS device at Geo coaching, then enter your postcode or location to establish the rough locations of geocaches in your area, and use GPS to find one.
Karen Letten, schools and families engagement manager for the Woodland Trust, says: “Geocaching is great as it gives kids the chance to take part in a real-life treasure hunt, and explore woods at the same time.
“There are a few hidden in our woods – so why not trade nick-nacks with treasure hunters this summer?”
But if the kids don’t fancy treasure hunting and are nagging to visit expensive attractions, there are still ways of cutting the costs, says Rachel Burrows from the parenting site Netmums.
She advises checking for deals and discount codes before booking attractions like theme parks, and says many food brands and newspapers also issue money-off coupons, so if you cut them out and collect them, you’ll have a ready-made money-off stock when needed.
“If you have a loyalty card like Tesco Clubcard or Nectar, see if they’re doing a points swap on days out. And sign up to cashback sites too, as they can have great deals,” she says.
“Combining these tricks means you’ll rarely have to pay full price again.
“You can’t put a price on family time together, but luckily there are lots of creative ways to make your money go further and ensure even those families on the tightest budgets can join in the fun.”
For even cheaper entertainment, she suggests teaming up with another family and hosting picnics at each other’s homes, planning a themed dressing-up day, or getting out the hose and sprinkler to create a back garden water park.