Keeping Children Entertained on a Budget during the Holidays

Whether you look forward to the summer holidays with excited anticipation or a groan, every parent agrees that it’s an expensive time of year. With simple days out costing in excess of £100 for a family of four, it’s quite easy to get into debt as you try to keep kids entertained.


There is the bonus of lower utility bills, but if you work, you may have to also fork out on childcare. On top of all this, you know that when you do that first school run of September, everyone will ask where you’ve been on holiday.

Some will boast Florida, others camping, while those of us on a budget wonder how on earth they can afford the August prices on top of everything else!

I have 3 children, aged 2, 9 and nearly 13. We were going to go away this summer, however work commitments prevented it. As a freelancer when I book a holiday (which is rare), I must add extra to my workload in the weeks beforehand to ensure I cover the week off. No one pays holiday pay and this on top of the cost of the trip can add up to quite a lot.

As many of you work from home I’m sure you’re familiar with this yourselves.
I’ve now made a compromise, booking us a week away in the autumn, while taking a few long weekends off work during the summer. A few weeks in and it seems so easy to let the older two play on their laptops all day but my husband and I have found cheaper ways to keep them entertained.

Make a Movie

The older two adore anything media and should have square eyes by now. We do limit their time on “Minecraft” (don’t mention Dr Sparkles) but we also find it can be a great tool for getting them playing together.

Smart phones have camera facilities, as do cheap webcams, so we set them a task to make a movie. One of Lego characters, one of themselves.

It’s a project that’s still ongoing but we’ve already uploaded a minute of it to YouTube. We found we could get YouTube on the TV through the DVD player, and now they think they’re superstars! (They are!)

Teach Life Skills

I happened upon this one by accident last week. It’s amazing. Usually when I ask my 13 year old to help around the house I’m met with groans and grunts, my nine year old is the same. We were chatting about our ideal houses and they told me what their houses would look like. I asked what they’d cook and wear and who would clean. They said they needed to learn how to clean and cook. Hey presto. Out comes the iron and a master class with my daughter, out come the pots and pans and a lesson on how to boil an egg. The list is endless. They’re so proud of their new skills, they bring me coffee regularly!

Create and Build

A parent child project is always a good idea during the holidays, whether you give your child their own gardening spot or you help them build a Go Kart. If the project is ongoing you can do as much or as little of it as you want to or according to funds available.

Summer Reading Challenge

Every library across the UK has a summer reading challenge for children, schools also participate allowing your little ones to be awarded with a certificate at the end of the holidays.

If you haven’t been to your library for a while you’ll be surprised at what’s on offer. They’ve come a long way since the libraries we knew as children.

Lego Jar

My friend has a jar that she fills with Lego creative ideas at the start of the holidays. When the children are bored they pick out a piece of paper and make whatever is written on it out of Lego. They’ve even built a maze for their pet hamster!

Be a Local Tourist

Recently my home city asked the question, “Where would you advise tourists to go here?” My city is not known for being a tourist trap so it really got me thinking. Ask yourself the same question about your local area. For example, it’s amazing how many residents of London haven’t been on the London Eye or had a picnic in Hyde Park, while those in York have never walked the city walls. You’re bound to find plenty to see and do.

Another tip is to consider how you entertained yourself in the school holidays as a child before the age of iPads and Nintendo DS’s . You may find that your own children would like to try some of the games you played or see some of the places you visited!