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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Your ideas for kids' summer fun
The school holidays are supposed to be fun for parents and young 'uns alike. But when the novelty wears thin for the kids, so can an adult's patience. So tell us your top ideas for cheap and fun summer activities.

Author JK Rowling is not short of hero-worshippers. But if she had wanted to win the affections of as many parents as children, she should have done one thing with the release of her latest Harry Potter book - delayed it by a month.

As it is, just as the long school holidays are kicking in, any serious young Potter fan who hasn't already polished off the Order of the Phoenix, is probably preparing to turn the final page about now.

Then what?

From the safe distance of 21 June, when Rowling's newest tome hit the shelves, some parents - admittedly those given to bouts of wild optimism - were actually looking forward to the long school holidays.

CURING THE SUMMER-TIME BLUES
Museums - national museums are now free and local museums are often cheap
Car boot sales - fun and lots of cheap toys, books and videos
Prepare for bad weather - it's inevitable, so think about jigsaws, modelling, painting and cooking
After all, it offers a welcome break from the laborious morning ritual, the school run, packed lunches, gym bags and the vicarious stress of homework and exams.

But just as you can set your seasonal clock by the first cuckoo of spring, so you can adjust it to summer with the first cry from your offspring of "Mum, I'm bored".

Summer holidays have a tendency to be a headache for all but the most patient, creative or, let's be honest, well heeled mums and dads out there.

A survey of parents by financial services company More Than found nearly half expected to spend 250 on entertainment for their children this summer.

More than one in 10 planned to spend double that on day trips, eating out and sporting activities and nearly half said they expected to spend a minimum of 1,000 on their summer holiday.

"Although people look forward to the summer, for many parents it's a time they get anxious," says Gill Loughran, of charity Parentline Plus.

Children watching TV
It's not as easy to keep children quiet these days
"A lot of the calls we get in the summer are about these sort of issues. Parents struggle to keep their children busy and they feel isolated, perhaps because the school network is not there."

For lone parents, the problems are only magnified.

Unlike two-parent families, where mum and dad can divide their annual leave to cover the period, single parents often have to juggle their work with their children.

Gill Loughran suggests planning activities across the summer, which gives parents peace of mind and children something to look forward to. But consultation is key - high handed decisions are bound to cause friction.

And simple, inexpensive things can be as much fun as pricey days out, she insists.

Picture by BBC News Online user Rob Green of Caleb and best friend George
When the weather's good, head for the park (Pic by Rob Green)
The support of other parents is crucial, for single and two-parent families, in helping to share the burden.

So, we want to harness that collective spirit, by gathering your ideas for simple, cheap and effective activities to keep children occupied over the summer.

The best ones will be published below.

To give you an idea of the sort of thing we are after, some of the parents at BBC News Online have contributed their own suggestions.

    Some parents at my daughter's school have organised three "madness in the park" days - no big deal, just three consecutive Thursdays on which people can turn up in three different local parks just to get together and have a picnic and let the kids let off steam with their school chums.

    Between four neighbours last year we bought one of the big bouncy castles (12 each including electric pump). We drew up a rota and had it for week-long stints during the summer. It means none of the children got bored with it and parents did not have the hassle of assembling the castle every day.

    Get out your CD player and a good collection of pop CDs (or a karaoke album) and invite your kids to play Pop Idol. My girls will flounce about for hours giving renditions of classic J-Lo and Britney tracks.

    They always want money to fund their chosen hobby so car washing round the local estate keeps them occupied.

Some of your ideas so far:

I play a game with my daughter called 40 winks. We each have a grid with 40 squares and in each square you write a thing that the other must do.These can be as simple, diverse or funny as you wish. Every day you pick a number & have to follow the instructions. Very simple, not expensive & great fun. It's a summer tradition with us now.
Chris, England

A shallow, stony river, preferably with some tiddlers wins out over the most high-tech playpark everytime.
Pauline, UK

Get them tidying up bedrooms and/or playrooms. Make them bag up all old/unwanted items for a car boot sale. After the sale split the proceeds and let them loose in a toyshop to buy what they like
Bob, England

Built my son & friends a pair of 7 foot long by 2.5 foot high ramps in the back garden , for use by skateboards and skates , usage is heavy ..
Mike, England

Organise a day to meet with other school chums and parents for a picnic. The day before bake cakes, buns; make jellies and such like. Two days solved already! My daughter and I go to the local garden centre, where the bedding plants are now half price and I let her choose which ones she would like and let her plant them in her part of the garden.
Kirsty, Wakefield, UK

A Treasurehunt. Write down clues, which can be questions, riddles, puzzles, etc. and make the first clue give the location of the next and so on, eventually leading to a simple reward such as sweets. For young children this can all take place in your home and/or garden.
Rob Simons, UK

Baking buns: 1 pot of fruit yoghurt - keep this pot it's the measure for the other dry ingredients; 2 pots of caster sugar; 3 pots of self-raising flour; 1 pot vegetable oil (eg. sunflower); 3 large beaten eggs. Put all ingredients into one bowl, let the kids beat the living day lights out of it until blended into a smooth batter. Spoon into bun cases (3/4 full), bake in preheated oven at 180C (or equiv) until golden and springy when pressed in centre. They can be simply decorated or eaten plain.
Freda, UK

Paper puppets. Fold a piece of A4 paper into four. In each space, the children draw and colour a figure from a favourite story using felt tip pens. Cut out the figure and attach a straw to the back with tape, so that the child can use it as a handle. We've had endless puppet shows from behind the sofa. Also, the children's character list is endless... They keep drawing more and more.
Victoria Holdsworth, UK

For long wet spells, go camping indoors. If you have a room big enough you can actually pitch your tent in it if it's a freestanding one. Otherwise, just arrange chairs and blankets into a tent and let your imagination go - have picnics there, "explore" the rest of the house with binoculars, etc. and then let them sleep there overnight.
Lynn Fortin, UK

For older children, my local recreation centre offers a 'fit ticket' which costs around 25.00. this allows unlimited use of the pool in public swim times for the whole holiday, also use of the gym and aerobics classes. Very useful.Others might do the same.
Nicki Scammell, England

During the summer my mum would take me round the market and buy me a few cheap tshirts and some buttons, sequins, feathers, glitter and fabric paints to make my own designs. I always loved that.
Helen Corner, England

Write of list of things to be found in the garden; ie: a flat stone, a pointed leaf, a pink petal and get the children to go out and find them.
L. Birch, UK

Our local university (York) runs a sprorts camp throughout the holidays so we let our children go there for 2-3 weeks which then allows us to have the other 3 weeks off as a family either on holidays abroad or just days out. The sports camp is relatively cheap and allows children to play 3 different sports every day
Nigel, England

Contact your local authority and see if they have any subsidised activity or sports schemes for the holidays. Ours have lots of activities and sports coaching for 3-4 a day. Or they can put you in touch with charities or others running playschemes which are often free or of minimal cost.
Mrs. M. McKeever, UK

Aim to really tire them out during the morning, eg. park trips, swimming, bike rides, walk to the shops (not drive) with a treat at the end. Then sit them in front of a video mid to late afternoon and have a break yourself. By then they'll be tired and more amenable and you will get a well deserved rest.
Anne, UK

I bought each of my three early teenage children a disposable camera for the summer holiday. I asked them to look for images that really interested them, and arranged for a family friend - a photographer himself - to choose the 'best' image without knowing who'd taken what. This project kept them thinking and looking all summer holiday and raised visual awareness.
Laurence Vulliamy, UK

Try the Krypton Factor in your garden, it gets the kids thinking the idea is to lay a course such as a plank, bricks, as stepping stones around the garden then get the kids to follow the route without touching the grass and retrieve several objects around the course, such as a bucket, a toy etc.
Bruce Grant, England

Write down a list of challenges, award stars for completed ones. They can be a mixture of indoor and outdoor things, eg. collecting wild flowers, making a model from junk, writing a story, throwing and catching a ball with a sibling. Prize at the end of the summer for the child who has completed the most challenges.
Kath, UK

Get cheap fabric bags/t-shirts/old clothes and let the kids loose with glue, feathers, buttons, glitter and other bits and bobs so that they can create their own designs. Cutting up old jeans and decorating them used to be a favourite hobby of myself and my sister during the holidays!
Joanna, Scotland

check out local press many local authorities and charity groups run holiday play schemes in local parks which are often cheap or free.
Maggie O'Neill, UK

Get your children to join the scouts or guides. Most scout and guide groups take off for a week to camp during the summer holidays, as well as all the other activities they do throughout the year.
Paul, England

How about a drink stand? It costs very little for the drinks, and kids will be entertained for hours mixing the juice, setting up the table, and recruiting customers. Plus they feel great when it is all over and they have earned some money of their own (even if it's not very much).
Emily, USA

Tell us your top ideas for children's cheap and fun summer activities.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.




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