WOW! How can it possibly be time for another school holiday already?
Some schools are already out, but we have to wait until next week. If you have kids home from school and need a few ideas you can have a browse through our Staying Sane in the Summer series as many of those ideas are still valid, or I have few choice ones for an autumnal week here as well…
Go and check out WikiPlaces for Kids – we love this site as it is parent driven, and only supports positive reviews so you know if a place is on there it’s already good – you just have to check your particular needs. If you have a good day out yourselves during half term do add it to the site to help others (and you get included in a prize draw!). Listed on the site are some of the well known ‘big days out’, but there is also a section of walks and other free and frugal ideas.
Autumn is really the best time for a walk in the woods, the leaves are so great to run around in so grab your wellies and a waterproof coat and find your nearest woodland or park and have a few free hours of fresh air. The trickier bit of park loving in the colder weather is that picnics aren’t as appealing – you could try taking a thermos of tomato soup and some bread to dip or a batch of just cooked pasta will stay warm for a while in a good insulated cool bag. Timing may be more important than the Summer to go when you will only need a snack is best, and a thermos of hot chocolate. If you have any memberships remember to make the most of them during the school holidays, National Trust places often close over the Winter do this may be the last chance to get the benefit of your membership for a few months. We like to collect some leaves and then draw faces on them when we get home, and of course we must always have our pockets full of conkers… If you want to stay closer to home in case of changeable weather (and children) then there is lots of fun to be had in the garden still, you could make a bug hotel or become a nature detective.
Crafts galore! Rainy and cold days often call for indoor activities and crafts are pretty fun to do if a little messy to clear up… If you don’t feel confident at preparing your own activities then try Ready To Go Art, who have created a downloadable set of craft ideas that you can just print off with low ink options and simple instructions – super easy and educational too. We love to use up toilet roll tubes at every opportunity, they are just the right size for small hands and can be turned into so many things – check out our Frugal Autumn board for lots of autumnal craft projects, if you like to do the Hallowe’en thing then we also have a board for that! In all the school holidays we also have a Box Day – we collect up boxes from our shopping and the neighbours over a few days and then the kids can do as they want with them one day in the holidays, it’s fun to create all sorts of things from rockets, cars, houses for toys, submarines – their ideas are endless so you best make sure the sticky tape is too! Remember to recycle all the boxes afterwards for a quick clear up from lovely free fun.
Have a theme day – this requires a little bit of planning as you want to use things you already have at home; one evening put everything into a box or suitcase so the kids can open it up and discover all the exciting things inside – we have tried Dinosaur Day, Pirate Day, Fairyland Day, Pumpkin Day, Farm Day, Robot Day, any of their favourite tv shows or characters will have lots of things online to print off as well as more likely to have things already at home. If you have a mixed age range this needs a bit more management, we put some more advanced things like word searches or crosswords into an envelope with the child’s name on, and colouring sheets for the younger children. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt around the house with clues etc. This doesn’t have to be too daunting, the scavenger hunt could just be for different coloured items…
Things to put in the box/suitcase might include:
- masks to make,
- films to watch,
- colouring in sheets,
- books to read,
- dressing up items,
- cake/cookie making,
- List of things to find/Treasure Hunt
- Lego instructions to make themed items – or try the Lego family page for ideas
- pin the X on the X if you have the energy to make something
- balloons are always popular
Playdates – lots of parents are fearful of adding more children to the chaos, but I actually find it much easier if they all go off and play with friends – this does require a certain acceptance of the mess that will be made, and that you don’t have to clean every nook and cranny for a 6 year old to visit. Invite another family over, have a few ideas of things they can do (or use the theme day above) and let them just play. If you want to invite just the kids or the parents for a cuppa as well is totally up to you, but if you’re going to be stuck inside on a miserable day you may as well just embrace it! You will need to have some strategies for the inevitable disagreements, especially when different age siblings want to play with older ones etc. I try to have zones that have different activities in and circulate people e.g. crafts/colouring on the table, film in the living room, building bricks in one bedroom and a specific play item in another bedroom (we let our kids put ‘special’ things away if they don’t want to share them).
You also need to think about your food offering. If the kids can help make their meals that’s great – we like to make a trail mix, smoothies, or put pizza toppings on for example.
A week will go past pretty quickly, meet up with friends and make sure you have some quick meals already prepared as you will be tired in the evenings. Get a few treats in for the adults too! I really believe I will miss all this time when the kids have all left home, so I’m trying to embrace the stress and mess of really enjoying their childhood fully – the holidays for us have become really precious times and I now love them more than school days – really!
As our new series Staying Sane in the Summer continues, it’s made me realise just how much planning I do for school holidays – I’ve never written it down before and I was genuinely surprised that I could fill every day in July with ideas! I do find myself more able to enjoy time with the kids when I have a back up of activities, lots of ideas, know what’s available locally and some fixed points in the holiday for certain events. I don’t dread them like some families do (that’s not to suggest I don’t find them exhausting…). Today I mention some of the things we’ve had from school, the NHS provides brilliant resources via their Change4Life program to reduce childhood obesity – these ones are based on the LazyTown TV show that our kids have loved – so much free fun to be found.
Another aspect of planning the time is that you can see where busy and quiet times will happen, we like to have down time to just watch tv or play as it’s supposed to be a holiday… if you can see when you have free activities planned it’s nice to then just have days at home in the garden or making forts.
I’m trying to enjoy this process of planning – rather than looking at it as a chore I’m focusing on having precious time with the kids, we’ll have about 18 Summers with them before they don’t want to be seen with us (probably less than that!). When I thought of it like that it didn’t seem enough time at all, as they saying goes the days are long but the years are short… enjoy this Summer xx
The Staying Sane in the Summer series is a gallery of tips, ideas, links and downloads to help you plan and manage the long School Summer Break. I really hope it helps you to enjoy feeling more in control of the time and to have fun with your family without worrying too much about the cost as most of the things you will be doing are going to be free or very frugal. Kids really don’t need much money spent, they like fairly simple things – it’s often adults that go for the most expensive options as they may have lost confidence in their ability to stay sane with the children home for that long.
Welcome to our new series Staying Sane in the Summer – every day in July I will share an idea, task, download or suggestion to get things going for the Summer Break.
Today is a download of a calendar to help plan for July and August. Whatever you do planning is really essential to make sure you take advantage of all the free fun to be had, and also to make sure you have a good mix of activity and downtime. It’s also nice to tick the days off!
Remember EVERY DAY there will be a useful item here on the website – so stay in touch.
June is Family Finance Month on our frugal planner…
We are finishing off our look at insurances, and as I start writing the next batch of ideas about how to balance the books at home (cleaning – ugh), I was saddened to learn of a family at our school that have a poorly little one, I gave our best wishes etc – and it struck me that our little family is in no way financially covered for needing to be off work if the kids have a long term illness or hospital stay… Critical illness cover usually means that if the person earning is too ill to work a payment will be made – but what if the person earning is ok, but needs to stay in hospital with their child?
I’ve been speaking to the lovely, helpful and well-informed Louise at AJProtect about what parents may need to think about when discussing the insurance needs of the whole family. It was an eye-opening conversation!
- Families need to have some Life Insurance so that if one parent dies, there is enough money for the surviving person to care for the children, pay the bills and keep the house running. This means that even non-earning parents need cover – as without them so many tasks would have to be paid for!
- Critical Illness cover CAN include your children up to age 17. Any payout will depend on what’s wrong – but the main ‘core’ illnesses are usually covered. For example, in the Vitality Life plan, a payout of between £5000-£25000 would be included.
- There is also something called Income Protection, when you are signed off from work you can claim 60% of your gross pay as a monthly income until you are fit to return to work. As the illness of a child means you may well be signed off with stress – this cover is also worth considering for parents. It would also be an important one to consider should a parent become ill as the bills still need to be paid…
Looking carefully at your family finances isn’t always a very comfortable conversation – but is certainly one of the most important ones you can have as a family. We have tried to share our experiences and research in the Finances section – we haven’t completed all the work ourselves yet, and working out how to much we can pay for monthly insurances is our next task. When you are responsible for children it suddenly seems so much more important to have a backup plan.
I’ve been talking to Louise as I’ve found her to be on my wave-length, it’s a good option to discuss things with a professional when you’re ready. You can find someone via your bank or building society, via your employer or look online. If you are in the UK and want to talk to Louise you can contact her at AJ Protect 01473 35 15 85 or tweet her @ajprotectltd.
Following on the recycled theme, and seamlessly matching it to the Christmas theme, I came across these beautiful recycled coffee sack Christmas stockings from Fern Cottage Crafts.
Buying gifts that have a recycled element can be done in all sorts of ways. There are lots of homemade ideas for gifts from children, or you may have a piece of jewellery from a relative that would make a great heirloom piece for another family member. Christmas shouldn’t be about the money we spend, but the thought we put in.
We’ve tried a few ways to extend Christmas spirit for more than just one day of present frenzied chaos and eating ourselves into a stupor. We like to wrap all our Christmas books and DVD’s and have them as treats all through December (re-using last years wrapping paper of course, if you wrap them before they go back in the loft with all the odds and bits you have left, or saved from the big day it’s a doddle!). We also like to make Christmas Eve a special day… take a look at Jam Jar Craft Studio for some great recycled paper ideas. Just a thought 😉
We do the elf thing at Frugal HQ – somewhat of a rod for our own backs to be honest, but it’s fun too and the kids love it. We got our Elf several years ago so it’s now free fun! Sometimes silly is good for adults as well, especially at this often stressful time of year…
It’s been a much calmer week all round, and so ‘we’ have started to consider what we are buying for Christmas and lists have been created – presents, food, cards etc. One strategy we use is to stick to one supermarket and use their points scheme, this means we have a nice sum to use for our Christmas Treat Foods.
A new strategy is to use TopCashBack for items we buy online (we also order things via this for family and friends). I am totally amazed by how much we have saved over the year by using TopCashBack and when I was checking how to actually get the money out I realised that you can get an extra 6% more money FOR FREE by having your money on a shop card instead of straight to your bank. This could be used as a gift card for someone, or in a shop we are likely to be getting presents from anyway – with four kids every penny counts.
Everything is more exciting when it’s made into a funny shape- I even got away with emergency ‘pizza’ made from a slice of bread because I cut them into Halloween spiders 🕷
That a gift ‘we’ve decorated the mantelpiece for you’ is one of the most genuine expressions of love you will ever receive – no alterior motives. It’s a beautiful thing even if it’s not what you wanted, it may be all they have to give, like the daisy they pick for you. Be gracious and thankful. They may not always want to please you…