So, we’re well in to the summer holidays and I’d wager a good number of us are thinking, ‘How to entertain the children tomorrow without spending oodles of cash?’
One excellent way of spending less on days out is to take a packed lunch. I find there’s two key things to ensure this part of your day goes well, or at least without hearing things like, “I want to go to a café/McDonalds/a restaurant”.
- Get organised the evening before (or early in the morning before you leave) with making the food.
Anyone with children knows how hard it is to actually leave the house for a day out without it becoming stressful*. So stressful in fact that it’s a good ten minutes before the whimpering from the back seats stops and you forgive your wife for forgetting something that was really your job to pack in the first place!
Option one is; While one of you struggles to clothe two excited children and pack the car while the other one makes sandwiches that’ll get smeared on the grass anyway.
Option two is; If you simply pick up the cool bag full of the lunch you made last night, leaving you free to wipe faces, find clean clothes, pack the car and remember the cuddly toy that they ‘Have’ to take with them!
- Pack a lunch that feels exciting and special for them, or at least one you can convince them is special.
Include a real treat that they wouldn’t normally have and promise them that they can have it if they sit nicely and eat the healthy, wholesome stuff first. Maybe include a fun drink for them that is normally banned for being too unhealthy? Something like a juice carton or a fruit shoot. Again, it encourages them to get excited about the lunch, eat it nicely and not wish they were having a happy meal!
With the lunch sorted, the other thing that I find helps to entertain them without the house needing to be re-mortgaged is to take advantage of the nice weather. Let’s face it, during all the other half terms and holidays it’s difficult to say, “Let’s go and build a den in the woods” when sleet is coming in sideways! I know the British summer is famous for being more like early spring, but as long as it’s dry, which it is a fair bit in June, July and August, we should get out and enjoy this beautiful country we live in.
If you go for a picnic, think of some games you can play.
If you go to the woods to build a den, remember that they’re going to get dirty, so take some spare clothes and some wet wipes and let them go crazy! (I took the title picture on Saturday morning in the New Forest)
If you go to the beach, make sure you pack all the things to make it interesting, like buckets, mini-tents, wetsuits, kites, etc.
Maybe get yourself a ‘What nature can you find and tick off’ type book to get them involved and broaden their knowledge?
Take an old towel and a carrier bag to put it in afterwards, then when they paddle in the stream, run in the sea or build a den you’re ready for it without thinking, ‘There’s no bloody way you’re getting in my car looking like that!’
I can’t emphasise enough the feeling of happiness you’ll get from sitting in the car/train/bus on the way home with a child that’s either exhausted from the days exploits or enthusing about what fun they’ve had and not once have you heard, “That’ll be £34 for the four of you and it’s £9 for all day parking”!
*I’m sure you’ve all seen the Michael McIntyre sketch when he explains what getting ready and going out with children is like, but it perfectly sums up what goes on in this house and houses across the land, so it’s worth another look:
Food tip of the week
It’s a really obvious one, but if you serve baby versions of food to small children, they’re likely to be enthused by it more than the big boring version that you eat! Here’s some examples that I’ve found successful:
Chantenay carrots. Could I get my boy to eat normal carrots, no matter how I cut them up? No. But baby carrots: Straight down!
Chipolatas. Way more interesting to let them much through a whole sausage, all be it a baby one, rather than eat bits of a grown up one. My local farm shop does packs of 9 farmhouse chipolatas for approximately £1.40. The only reason I mention this is, like with all sausages, it’s so important to get decent ones.
Broccoli. Cut them in to smaller florets. They cook quicker and serve them as ‘Baby trees’. Job’s a good’un!
Baby corn. As with the chipolatas, maybe it’s because they can see what it is they’re eating rather than just bits of something? Either way, it seems to work.
Mini babybell. Yes, not the cheapest option, but with the cute little packaging, more likely to be eaten than a slice of cheese? Absolutely!