A parent's guide for a (relatively) stress-free summer
With parents often taking time off work to look after children, it's great to go on adventures as a family, which gives busy families the chance to spend some quality time together without breaking the bank.
Readers of a certain age will remember the BBC's Why Don't You? This legendary TV show encouraged us all to 'switch off your TV set and go and do something less boring instead'. Apart from the fact we'd have missed the show if we'd followed their advice, they always had lots of ideas to keep young people entertained during the holidays, with the majority not costing a lot.
Things like ant houses and wormeries were always high on the list, but they'd also follow young people who rode horses and went on cycling trips. Some of these may seem a world away from today's hobbies, but their enthusiasm was inspiring - take a look at www.thekidsgarden.co.uk for more.
If you have teenage children or grandchildren and can tear them away from video games and social networking websites, there are some real adventures to be had. All over the country you can now find people who are paid to share their knowledge of the great outdoors - where to sleep, what to eat and how to survive in general. It's great to take young people out of their comfort zone, and a bush tucker weekend could be just the ticket.
Growing your own produce from seedling to dinner plate can be an equally inspiring holiday activity. By starting with something relatively straightforward, such as tomatoes or chillies, youngsters can do their bit for family mealtimes and learn something about how our food is produced.
The South Downs, that stretch across Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex, recently became the UK's 15th National Park, and joins an impressive list of Britain's protected mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands (https://nationalparks.gov.uk). There are year-round activities and events at each of the parks, with people willing to share their love and knowledge of these wild places.
Some of the games that used to be popular when we were growing up are still found up and down the country. Hopscotch, french-skipping, kick the can, 20-20, marbles - all games that provoke fond memories for parents, and with a little encouragement these games can inspire a generation once again!
Although feeling the squeeze due to government cuts, youth clubs are a sure-fire way of keeping the kids amused. They can be found in almost every town, and give youngsters the chance to mix with other young people and use the equipment at the centre.
Many have facilities such as recording studios, musical equipment, drinks bars, pool tables and so on, and tend to charge no more than 50p for entry - a bargain!
Villages, towns and cities often stage festivities during the summer months to promote tourism. From tiny, local festivals to city extravaganzas, these events give you and your family the opportunity to see what's great about a place, while mixing with locals keen to show off their home. And while visiting towns and cities across the country, it's worth noting that museums and art galleries also put on lots of events, mostly free, over the summer months.
Finally, make sure you look at sites such as www.vouchercodes.co.uk or www.promotionalcodes.org.uk before you book up any trips, to see if there are any discounts available. Try to group together with other parents to help share the costs involved, and remember to make a packed lunch before you go. Even with free events, the cost of chauffeuring everyone around can mount up, so it pays to join forces.