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Five free ways to entertain your children

School holidays are expensive – even if you’re not heading off to the Canaries for a week. The expense is inconsistent too:  a day at Legoland will sting you for at least £70 even if you have collected your cereal packet vouchers; two hours at the cinema will cost you close to £30 for an adult and two children; but one of the local ‘holiday clubs’ near me (why aren’t they called ‘play schemes’ anymore?) charges only £11 per child for 5 hours: but whichever way you turn it’s usually going to cost.

So, in an attempt not to hemorrhage money this holiday, I thought I’d rack my brains for those times when my children have enjoyed themselves, and it hasn’t cost me a penny. Here’s my top five:

1. Let them make a ‘potion’

Give the kids a bowl or jar and (almost) free rein to put what they like into it. When it’s complete, decant the potion into a used water bottle and, voilà – your very own ‘marvellous medicine’. It will be disgusting but you will get at least 30 minutes peace.

Warning: Before you attempt this, make sure you’ve put the good stuff away or your favourite hand cream will go missing…

2. Funny face drawing game

Get a sheet of paper, fold it in three and take it in turns to draw parts of a face.

Warning: can be addictive and you may need a ream of paper.

Double warning: this can get very silly, very quickly – watch out for the addition of “wee and poo” to the character that you’ve worked so very hard to render accurately.

3. Tickets Please!

This is a much loved game in our family. We play it using our slide – but you don’t need a slide to do it! Here’s how it works:

  • You are the ticket inspector and it is your job to inspect your child’s ‘ticket’ (real or imaginary, either will do) and decide whether they are allowed to pass (down the slide in our case).
  • You never, ever allow your child to pass on the first go. You must inspect the ticket, then explain in outraged voice why you cannot let them pass because their ticket is out of date, for a different mode of transport, poo-stained etc.
  • Once you decide to let them pass, you must let them think they’ve got away with it before exclaiming “Hey! That ticket is for Mickey Mouse, is a used chip wrapper, is poo-stained!” etc.
  • You then chase them around the house/garden/park until they are back at the start.

4. Shout at your children in a foreign accent

This game started in our family when we found ourselves stuck in a caravan with no TV on a very wet day. Having become frustrated at the children’s failure to listen to me shouting at them not to play with the pull-out bed, I thought I’d give it a go whilst using a German accent (and the handful of German words that I know). It resulted in unexpected hilarity and gave us a welcome respite from playing Uno for the 130th time.

Note: You don’t need to speak a second, third or fourth language to succeed in this game but you do need to shout it like you are absolutely fluent in your chosen language.

5. If all else fails…give them an Argos catalogue

I reckon Argos could compete with serious publishing houses for the amount of print that they produce and the popularity of their free doorstop-sized shopping bibles.  This seems not to have waned with the advent of the digital generation – my kids absolutely love them!   And far from turning my children into mad consumers it has made them aware of how much things cost, given us the opportunity to discuss saving, plus it comes with the extra bonus that there is absolutely no risk of them clicking a link and adding twelve Lego Death Star kits to my basket.

Warning: You need one per child or all out war will start. No-one wants to be given the furniture section whilst the other one gets the toys….

Well, those are my tips: perhaps not quite enough to get us all the way through the holidays but it is a start. If you’ve got any mor, let me know!

Toni Kent

Like this blog? For more do visit my Reasons to be Cheerful blogspot and check out the books I have published

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