Summer helladays, err, holidays

NS July 19th, 2010

It is upon us. That time of year when parents across the land look at the calendar and see nothing but late July and all of August yawning across the pages like a giant abyss, the depths of which no man (nor mother) can scientifically measure, for its impact is mental and emotional.

Yes, the summer helladays, err, holidays are here. And it won’t be over until 6th September for me. I’m cream crackered just thinking about it.

In a way, it will be nice. No school run twice a day and the stress that creates. We can do whatever we want in the morning. We can sit in our pyjamas all day. We can eat cereal for dinner and no one will be the wiser (except my husband when my children inevitably tattle on me for not giving them a proper meal). But what else can I do to keep them entertained, and cheaply? I’m not really one for Chessington World of Disappointments Adventures, or Lego Land or any place, really, where I have to be dragged round endless, stinking animal pens and through vast arrays of plastic tat.

So behold: Noble Savage’s ten ideas for keeping your sproglets happy on the cheap.

  • Take them to a garden centre. Wide aisles, air-conditioning, outdoor furniture to break test out and lovely plants and flowers to destroy look at. Stay for an hour and a half and leave having spent a couple quid on a packet of seeds and a drink from the vending machine. Then when you get home, give the children  a spade and a gardening fork and command them to dig up the weeds in the flower bed to ‘prepare the soil’ for the seeds they’re flinging around in the grass and each other’s hair. Open a beer and stare into space while they get covered in muck. This leads me to cheap activity number two…
  • Baths. Lots and lots of baths. Kids get dirty in the summer. The sand, the dirt, the Cornish ice cream dripping down their grimy faces and onto their hands…baths are the easy fix-all for the mess. Chuck ‘em in the bath once, twice, even three times a day. Not only does it waste 45 minutes each time but your acquaintances and friends will think your children are exceptionally clean, if not well-mannered.
  • Set up an obstacle course in your garden or living room and change it around every few goes so they don’t get bored. Flip through a magazine or Twitter away while they run themselves ragged crawling through tunnels, running around a designated object several times and jumping as far as they can, as many times as they can.
  • Go to the library. It’s free, it’s educational and if you walk there, it’s environmentally friendly. If that’s not reason enough to feel smug and self-satisfied, I don’t know what is. Though the smug feeling usually wears off at around the 5 minute mark, when the kids begin tearing around, screeching and throwing books aside, while you run behind them growling through clenched teeth about being quiet and sitting still and ends with you screaming at the errant child who keeps running for the automatic doors that lead directly into the car park. Just keep the ‘free’ bit in mind and it will all be worth it. Sort of
  • Buy a pack of dried spaghetti for 49 pence. Divide pack evenly amongst your rug rats and show them how to snap them so the pieces go flying. When they get bored of that, sweep the bits up, chuck them in a pan and cook them. Put them outside or in the bathtub and let them ‘swim’ in the pasta or make funny hairdos. When they are bored of that, tell them the spaghetti are sad little worms that miss their mummy and daddy and ask them to help collect the ‘worms’ into a bucket for transport back to their familial home. When they leave the room, dump the contents into the bin. Rinse bucket and pour a glass of wine. Speaking of wine…
  • If all else fails and it’s a choice between screaming obscenities at the children or having a cocktail or two, always choose the latter wherever and whenever possible. The trauma of watching you dance to ABBA at 4 o’clock in the afternoon will not compare to the trauma that would befall them if you told them to get stuffed in a variety of four letter words and gestures
  • Stockpile playdate favours. Grit your teeth and have some other people’s little wildebeests over for a few hours at a time. Then, when you are breaking point, text and enquire as to when they “want to get the kids together again” which is code for “Ahem! It is your bloody turn to have my devil spawn cherub over to your place so suck it up and invite her round.” We don’t actually say that though because this is Britain. You must be all subtle and passive-aggressive about it. Naturally
  • Dump all your clothes (including high heels, hats, hand bags and costume jewellery) onto the bed and let the children dress you. Then let them dress themselves up. Turn a blind eye when they put the cat in a choke hold and force a doll’s hat onto her head. Then, when your partner gets home, let them dress him up, too. Encourage liberal use of the sparkly hand bags and hair clips for him. Smirk while he gets his toe nails painted with a fake good-natured smile plastered on his face. Go downstairs and pour yourself a drink to congratulate yourself on your ingenuity
  • Go to the best, busiest and most exasperating playground or park you know, the one that makes you tired just speaking its name. Just before you get out of the car or turn the corner, put a fake brace on your foot or sling over your arm. Hobble in with one hand feebly pushing the pram. Struggle with everything. Bring tears to your eyes but do not let them spill just yet. Let your lower lip tremble momentarily but then stand up straighter and throw your shoulders back before crumpling forward again. When someone asks if you need help or if you’re okay, tell them you’re fine. Ten seconds later let one single tear slide down your cheek and choke back a sob as you hobble on your ‘bad’ leg or clutch your ‘sore’ arm to help Susie on the swings or get Johnny down off the fence. When the offers of help come pouring in, whisper “You’d do that for ME?” and look at them as if they are Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Mary Poppins rolled into one. Sit down and have a rest while your new helpers run after your children for you
  • Bribe them into good behaviour with the promise of an outing to their favourite restaurant. Look for sweet discounts and two-for-one deals on VoucherCodes.co.uk* (Pizza Express perhaps?), a service I have used many times before. Buy some cheap ice cream or biscuits to have for pudding when you get back so you don’t have to splash out on that, too. If your partner is working late and unable to assist you with bedtime, bribe them further by insisting they can have an extra helping of pudding after they’ve gone to sleep. If they are under the age of 5, they may be stupid innocent enough to believe this

*VoucherCodes.co.uk sponsored this post. Though I don’t usually accept these, I did this time because I had used the site before and think it’s a good resource for people looking for a bargain. Saving money for parents is always a bonus!

Photo credit

10 Responses to “Summer helladays, err, holidays”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Netmums and Noble Savage, CleverMumUK. CleverMumUK said: And the alternative (and very funny!) guide to keeping the kids entertained this summer: http://tinyurl.com/3yy9ajn [...]

  2. Expat Mum says:

    You lightweight – mine have been out since June 9th and don’t go back till September 9th. And they’re too big to be fooled by most of your suggestions. Pah!
    Expat Mum´s last blog ..Easy Peasy way to win an I-PadMy ComLuv Profile

  3. Yes, as Expat Mum says – if you were back home in the US, school would have been out since JUNE. Luckily we have summer camp to sort them out. Still, the 4pm cocktails sound like a good idea. And we always go to the library – they have lovely air conditioning in there….
    nappyvalleygirl´s last blog ..Suburbia- US-styleMy ComLuv Profile

  4. andrea says:

    you forgot to list webcamming with long-distance family members who act like idiots on command, talk in crazy voices, make ridiculous faces and tell inappropriate stories about sad grapes whose only goal in life is to be picked from the vineyard for the next batch of wine. that’s good for at least 30 minutes of time when you can sit back, run minimal interference between the kiddos and the computer, and have a glass of wine while the relatives do the entertaining for a bit. cheers!

    love all the other suggestions, as well!
    andrea´s last blog ..tee hee heeMy ComLuv Profile

  5. Capital Mom says:

    I would be lost without the park. Lost. And the pool is open so all is good.

    I hope you make it through. :-)
    Capital Mom´s last blog ..WorkMy ComLuv Profile

  6. God yes, I dread this time of year. We’re resorting to summer camp for one week and theoretically, a couple of weeks of trading playdates with another mum. Except it looks like she’s letting us down. I’m also draining most of my annual leave – how couples where both work fulltime manage I have no idea.

    Do I have any suggestions? Tooting Lido! That’s supermum’s secret weapon. Battersea Park, the Diana Memorial park with the pirate ship…The National Army Museum (seriously) has a fabulous soft play area and its free – just get there early.If you can handle the long trek over to East London, the Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green is pretty good and never crowded.
    Dad Who Writes´s last blog ..No God- just nothingMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Well told! I like your ideas and will def keep them in mind for the future.
    Tanya (Bump2Basics)´s last blog ..“One Baby in the Bed and the Little One Said…”My ComLuv Profile

  8. amy says:

    loooove all of your tips!! a fab post hun xx
    amy´s last blog ..10 weeks alreadyMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Anji says:

    I love this post and am filing it away for myself. Orion attends preschool throughout the school holidays, but he’s only there three days a week and of course eventually when he starts school (this September, eek!) I’m going to have all those long holidays to entertain him in!
    Anji´s last blog ..Completed the Race For Life!My ComLuv Profile