It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for families. No frantic school run, rushed breakfast or constant pleading for them to just put their shoes on, or accept that their ponytail looks fine. Instead, it’s eight weeks of quality family time, great memories and summer fun.

But eight weeks is a long time to keep them entertained, and to do it successfully can come at a significant cost. Many venues hike up their prices during summer, meaning summer days out can become limited. And while you may enjoy a week or two away on the family holiday you’ve saved for, how will you make the most of the remaining break without breaking the bank? Have a stress-free, memorable time this year with our 3 top tips for things to do in the summer holidays - the cost is reduced, but the fun factor certainly isn’t!

1. A picnic in the garden

We’re firm believers in food’s ability to bring families together, and there’s no better example than in the summer. Family BBQs, picnics, dinner parties – they all have a common theme. Eating al fresco is fun, laid back and exciting for youngsters, and if you do it right, a picnic can be a pretty cost-effective way to spend the day, too.  

A great picnic is often dependent on the right venue, but as Dorothy famously said, sometimes “there’s no place like home.” Save on any fuel costs or expensive picnic ware, just open the back doors and enjoy a picnic in the garden. There’s no thinking to do about packing, or avoiding squashed sandwiches and leaking lemonade. Instead, lay out a blanket, set up a few simple outdoor games, lather on the sun cream and get stuck in! They can even bring their favourite teddies or figurines along too…

Play some games

As well as keeping them occupied with their favourite sandwiches and snacks, you can play a few simple games in the garden - keeping them active, and away from any consoles or television is a great way to ensure they make the most of their free time.

Sports day: Skipping rope, swing ball, hula hoops. They’re all likely to be pieces of equipment you already have in your garden, and you can set them challenges or set them on a head-to-head race around the garden.

Big bug find: It depends how adventurous they are when it comes to creepy crawlies, but give them a list with pictures of ladybirds, snails, worms or other small and harmless critters that they can (gently) collect, or just point out and tick off their list. You could do the same with flowers, or birds too.

Get wet: Blow up a few water filled balloons, challenge them to walk along a line with a bucket of water balanced on their head, or bob for apples in the paddling pool. Make sure you keep them supervised at all times with water, but it’s sure to make for an enjoyable picnic side show!

Simple, easy and tasty food

A picnic in the garden doesn’t require any fancy food or extra effort, just keep the menu balanced and tasty! Head down to your local SPAR convenience store and stock up on sausage rolls, savoury eggs, vegetables and salad and other simple favourites. Entertain them in the kitchen beforehand, by whipping up some of these easy picnic food ideas for kids:

Ham and cheese roll ups – Take a sheet of pre-made puff pastry, spread with tomato purée and lay over ham and grated cheese. Roll up into a sausage shape as compact as you can, then slice into 1-inch thick portions. Spread with an egg wash and cook for 15 minutes at 200°C. Delicious hot or cold.  

Savoury carrot flapjacks - Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease or line a 25x20cm tin. Put 300g of porridge oats into a large mixing bowl, and add 200g of grated carrots, 200g of mature cheddar and 50g of sunflower seeds. Mix together, then pour in 200g of melted butter. Combine and add to the baking tin and compact down with a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes then cut into squares to cool and serve.

Healthy strawberry & chocolate blended muffins – Put 200g of plain flour, 50g of porridge oats, 200g of Greek yoghurt, a banana, a large egg, 2 tbsp of honey, 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 0.5 tsp of baking soda in a food processor and blend until smooth. Remove from the blender and add in 50g of chocolate chips and 125g of chopped strawberries and stir with a spoon. Add the mixture to 12 paper cases in a baking tray and top with a few extra strawberries and chocolate chips. Bake for 20 minutes at 180°C and leave to cool before serving.

2. Feed their minds: teaching kids about food on the farm or pick-your-own

As well as entertaining them with food, why not help them learn about food with a family trip to a farm or pick-your-own site? As summer days out go, this is one of the more budget friendly options, and the young ones will gain a better understanding of where their food comes from. Broach the subject of where meat comes from gently however – don’t point it out whilst they are looking into the eyes of a pig or cow!

They can enjoy feeding goats, watching cows be milked and be entertained by cute animals, all for much less expense than a day at the zoo.

Teaching kids about food is an important part of their development and after they have picked their own, they are far more likely to be interested in trying other fruit and vegetables. A pick-your-own is a lovely day out for the family and you can reward them for picking the biggest and juiciest fruit with some simple fruit kebabs for their pudding later that night.

Simply chop up the picked fruit and add to wooden skewers. Then provide a bowl of vanilla yoghurt and some crumbled up chocolate for the fruit kebabs to be dunked into and enjoyed.

3. Summer days out on a family dog walk

The best summer activities for kids are those that involve the entire family, and that includes the 4-legged members. A family dog walk can take you on some wonderful adventures, closer to home or further afar. It will keep the whole family active, the dog happy and the kids entertained.

If you are going out for a day’s hike across hills or just to the local fields or woodland, get the kids in the kitchen beforehand and make some healthy homemade dog treats. The kids will enjoy seeing their furry friend wolf down treats they have made and it will keep your dog nourished no matter how long you spend out.

Peanut butter and yoghurt treats – Melt 340g of peanut butter in the microwave, then combine with 900g of vanilla yoghurt. Pour the mixture into paper cake cases and add to the freezer. Simple!

Chicken delights – You’ll need 340g of diced cooked chicken (perfect if left over from the previous night’s dinner), 170g of cooked rice, 3 tbsp of rice flour, 1 tbsp of parsley and an egg. Mix together in a food processor and then add to silicone moulds in a shape of your choice – hearts, fish, whatever you like. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180°C until brown. Remove from the moulds and store in the fridge ahead of your day out.

Sweet potato chips for dogs – they need their fruit and veg too! Simply wash and peel a sweet potato and cut into chips. Coat with 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil and a tbsp of cinnamon in a bowl and ensure they are all covered. Lay on a baking tray and cook at 200°C for 15 minutes before rotating them and cooking for a further 15 minutes. Leave them to cool and they are ready to serve.

Have a great time with these summer activities for kids

Have a wonderful family summer with SPAR. You don’t have to spend a fortune to spend quality time together. Plan your summer activities and head down to your local SPAR convenience store for all of the ingredients you’ll need for the perfect garden picnic, show them some of the foods they have learned about at the farm or pick-your-own site and treat the dog to some homemade treats whilst out for a day of exploring.

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