While out with my friends, we all enjoyed a meal out at Pizza Express and as I’m sure we would have all experienced at some point the price you pay to occupy ourselves often seems financially quite high for what you get in return in terms of time spent…usually an hour and a half or so (max) some colouring book and a full tummy! To be fair the kids were well looked after and the dough balls there are yummy!!
But on the way home, I started to think about the inexpensive things we do that occupies the children and this is what my blog today is about. I’m going to focus on three particular things; a full day out, a cheap meal to have in a restaurant and something you can do in doors on a rainy day (other than baking cakes – see my last blog entry for that!)
So for me a cheap full day comes in the form of…wait for it…the National Trust! I spent many a time as a child being dragged around some grade II listed building and wishing that I’d rather be doing homework than being subjected to such boring torture!
Oh how the tables have turned! I cannot say enough how impressed I am with the National Trust and how for me their efforts to engage all ages has certainly made me their number one fan!
Check out their 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/50-things-to-do
Last year I was contemplating membership and for me and the kids it is one of the best things I have done. They are of course nationwide and there are so many places to visit and exciting things to do while there.
As I said, their focus towards children is commendable and my two haven’t yet to express any boredom. The good things about the NT is that you can spend as little or as long as you want and so many of them have fantastic gardens or woodlands attached to them, the children often find themselves half way up a tree or having a leaf fight!
The cost of an annual membership for me (one adult and 2 children) is currently only £5.95 a month – although technically Jospeh is still free as all under 5’s go free! When you break that down I think it’s a low price to pay for ultimately what is a full day out and I’ll explain more below. There always are offers and I believe some banks offer membership as part of being a customer of their too?
The last two weekends I have had the children we have visited two different sites – Dunham Massey and Gawthorpe Hall. Both were very different days in their own right.
When we visited Dunham Massey it was a hot sunny day last weekend and we ended up doing their controversial Easter egg hunt (just a quick google will tell you why it was controversial!), lovely gardens and a well thought out Easter trail for the children. Ok – the trail cost an additional £2 but it really was worth it. The children enjoyed learning how to try and read a map and at the end were rewarded with a chocolate treat. Most importantly they were playing outside and enjoying the lovely surroundings.
To keep costs down we decided a picnic would be a good idea. My two love helping prepare a rucksack full of food and for me it adds to the adventure, they can sit and eat and then run about without having to worry about the table next door!
Gawthorpe Hall yesterday was a bit colder and it was trying to rain. They had what I would describe as a ‘semi maze’ – what I would describe as lots of low cut conifers but again the children created their own adventure. The site wasn’t particularly busy but it had some lovely woodland where we did some den building! Connie quite enjoyed sitting down on a big wooden log while Jospeh and I created our ‘makeshift den’.
As I said the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t get to explore much more in the woodlands, nor did we get to use our bug hunting kits (another fun thing that my two love) and we ended up going into the main house there.
The way the NT help keep young children interested is great and all of the ones I’ve been to, they quickly swoop on the children and ask them if they want to do a fun hunt (find the chick this time) around the house. For me, this mixes the enjoyment of the hunt while almost inadvertently learning things. A clever way to teach some history to our children. And of course at the end, there’s a certificate! What child doesn’t want a certificate for their achievements, although we are starting to get quite a collection (in my car!!)
My next suggestion is for a cheap meal out. Most of the time we all tend to eat out for lunch or dinner (that’s dinner and tea to my friends in the north), but a lot can be said for a breakfast outing! Afterall, it is allegedly the most important meal of the day! I don’t know if you’ll find much cheaper than 99p per child but look no further than the Harvesters for breakfast. There is plenty for the kids to choose from, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, toast and crumpets! If you ask my two what their favourite thing is there, the answer will always be the same and it is the pancakes with syrup! It’s an inexpensive little treat and you don’t have to eat there either if you didn’t want to or are on a tight budget. You can always watch the children indulge while sipping on a cappuccino or whatever your beverage of choice is!
Finally, another inexpensive suggestion for a rainy day if you didn’t want to go out, is the magazine. With so many things online these days it’s no coincidence the volume of magazines and newspapers sold are on the decline. Of course there is a place for chilling out with a film, but in the interests of trying to mix it up a little than don’t overlook the power of a magazine!
Plenty of stickers are always included, just the makeover your living room needed! In all seriousness, I think they are great as it encourages reading, making crafts and doing puzzles. Let’s be honest, the children generally pick what the best looking gift is on offer stuck to the front, but it’s much more than that! Most seem to be in the £3/4 bracket and well worth it in my opinion.
The last thing I wanted to say was, today was an important day. Not only was it Easter, but all of us parents with children going into reception in September found out if they got their school of choosing. I do hope you all got what you hoped for.