The-hurr-family-in-a-paddling-pool

7 ways to keep all the family entertained this summer

Six weeks and counting, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

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7 ways to keep all the family entertained this summer

Whether it’s half-term, or the long summer break, parents up and down the land are often left frazzled and out of pocket trying to keep their little ones (and bigger ones!) amused until that school bell rings again.

However, staying busy and having fun needn’t break the bank, as the Hurr family from Norwich in Norfolk discovered when Good Living challenged them to a cheap but very cheerful week of activities over the half-term holiday.

Full-time mum Rebecca, 37, 40-year-old dad Shaun, who’s a painter-decorator, and their six children, Jacob, 14, Poppy, 12, Gracie, 10, Neve, seven, Felix, five, and baby Milo, six months, threw themselves into our challenge.

Here, mum Rebecca reveals just what they all got up to...

We’re a tight-knit family and love to spend time together, but with six kids of different ages to keep amused, even a simple day trip can cost a fortune. So, if we can make memories without straining our finances, I’m keen!

Monday

It was raining in the morning, so we made ‘egg-box boats’. I had lots of egg boxes destined for the bin, and had stocked up on craft materials. The kids soon got busy – even Jacob, which surprised me, as I thought it might be too ‘young’ for him. Plus, as the brushes and paints were so affordable there were plenty to go around, and no squabbles over them. It ended up being a very calm activity and I was able to play with Milo at the same time, too. The sun came out in the afternoon and we all had a ball sailing the boats in our paddling pool – then splashing around in it as well!

Rebecca used: Asda Paint Brushes, Asda Paint Palette, PVA Glue, Crayola Super Fibre Tip Pens.

Fun rating: * * * * 

Tuesday

Boo! It’s raining today, and the kids are getting antsy so I take them to the Norwich Millennium Library for a free drop-in Board Games afternoon. I’d recommend checking out your local library or community website to find out what’s going on in your area. While I get stuck into chess with the mums, Gracie and the gang play a mammoth game of Monopoly with some kids they’ve just met. Neve spends most of it in jail, but is chuffed to make a new friend. My brood spend so much time together, it’s great to see new faces. 

On the way back, we make a pit stop at Pizza Hut, where on Tuesdays you can get up to two free pizzas for kids 10 and under. The kids crash into bed with full bellies and smiles all around!

Fun rating: * * * * 

Wednesday

Hurrah! The sun’s out today so we pack our water bottles and a few snacks and go on a nature walk. There’s a pretty lake nearby so we followed the route around it. Before we left home we huddled around and made a list of all the species we were hoping to spot on our stroll and the kids were all competing for who would see what first. With a fair amount of practice under my belt by now, I’ve learnt the kids need a distraction to keep them occupied – wherever we go. We’d anticipated bumble bees and dragonflies, which we managed to catch glimpses of, but what no one expected was a grass snake, which slithered past us… As you can imagine there was a fair bit of shrieking – mostly from me! 

It was a lovely walk with lots of twists and turns over some manmade bridges all around the lakes. We took the dog and everyone had a paddle at the end! We had such a fun, bonding time and the kids were talking about our day right until they went to bed. 

Fun rating: * * * * *

Thursday

Today the kids discovered a stack of bamboo poles in the garage, and had the idea of building a den. We used the poles to build a tent-shaped structure, then laid an old tablecloth on the ground to sit on. We hung up some bunting left over from a party and, hey presto – the Hurr Family Den was born. 

It didn’t cost a penny to make but seeing the children sitting in it today, reading and relaxing, was so heart- warming. Gracie even brought her pet rabbit in for a cuddle.

Later, while Shaun looked after Milo, I packed up the kids’ cossies and a picnic and drove them to Waterloo Park, a free water park for kids where they had hours of fun splashing about – there was even a band and we all had a dance to some funk!

Fun rating: * * * * *

Friday

Rain again today, so before they had time to get fidgety, I drove the kids to Norwich Cathedral for a free guided tour. The older ones are enthralled with their headsets as they’re taken on a journey through history to learn how the cathedral has survived riot, war, plague and fire. The little ones, meanwhile, are ecstatic with their free ‘Explorer Backpacks’, complete with binoculars, magnifying glass and torch! Afterwards, they all head out to the brilliant mini maze and play hide and seek. I even managed to have a miracle 15 minutes to myself to enjoy a cup of tea and a bit of headspace… To find free tours in your area, visit your local tourist board online. 

Fun rating: * * * * *

Saturday

Shaun works all week, so weekends are precious to him and he loves to get involved in family activities. He and Neve are both keen runners, so this morning they did a free 5km run at Holkham Hall, a National Trust property. To find runs and other challenges near you, visit timeoutdoors.com. It’s a beautiful clear night, and I download the SkyView app. We chill in the den with my phone pointing to the sky and identify the bright stars of the Big Dipper, otherwise known as The Plough. The kids are fascinated.

Fun rating: * * * * *

Sunday

Yay – the sun’s shining! In the morning, we made simple kites, using coloured card and wooden skewers. We live 20 minutes from a beach, so we drove there just after lunchtime to fly them.The kids loved running around and building sandcastles, too. It’s always a challenge getting an activity that works for all their ages, but this fitted the bill perfectly. And it cost virtually nothing, which was a bonus!

I also like the kids to get fresh air every day, plus bedtime is always easier when they’re all tired.  We got back late in the afternoon so, to make the most of the sunny evening, we went for a National Trust trail, to collect things for our nature scrapbook. We spied some deer and ducks. All the way home, the children were buzzing about the animals they’d seen and the leaves they’d found. For me, knowing we’d ended the week out of the house, being active and learning about nature, was fantastic.

Rebecca used: Asda Make Your Own Scrapbook Kit

Fun rating: * * * * *

The Verdict

Like many parents, keeping all my children happy when they’re off school can be daunting. But this week has taught me you don’t need to break the bank to do it. Being creative and doing simple things can be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than expensive day trips or hours in front of the TV.