Summer Holidays 2017: Weeks 1 & 2

The last two weeks are not exactly how I pictured our summer holidays. I had visions of Penny and I spending long days outdoors, walking in parks and along seafronts and through woods. I had researched a whole catalogue of new picnic recipes to try.

So imagine my dismay when the forecast predicted clouds and rain just about every day.

Our holidays began as soon as Penny left school. We headed to Starbucks for our traditional end of term celebration. It was raining. Never mind, I thought, six weeks of school-free fun are ahead of us.

At the beginning of our first full week of holidays, Husband’s Mum and Nan arrived for a three day visit. We went to Cardiff Bay with them (a rare day of proper sunshine!) and took the Aquabus tour around the Bay, Penarth and the Barrage. Here’s a video I made of it:

We all went out for dinner together that evening. For their last day in Cardiff, we went for a shopping day in the city centre. It made for a good start to our holidays, even if the weather was mostly a bit grim.

Penny and I went to our local library in that first week too. Penny always takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme is Animal Agents and the reward for each book read is a set of clues to work out the mystery in the library. To complete the challenge, a child needs to read 6 books over the course of the summer holidays. As an overall reward, they’re presented with a medal at school when the new term begins. It’s a great scheme and I highly recommend it as a way to get the kids reading some new books over the holidays.

Last week, I was ill for several days. I’m rarely physically unwell, at least not more than a minor cold. This wasn’t serious but I ached all over and felt generally crap. By Thursday, Penny was clearly getting fed up with being indoors, however much I tried to occupy her with baking and crafts and DisneyLife. So we went back to the library as it’s close by. Just being out in the fresh air seemed to cheer her up and getting some new books and a set of stickers as reward for the ones she’d already read helped a great deal too.

On Friday, I was feeling quite a bit better and we had a bit of sunshine (along with the clouds and rain that never seem far away at the moment) so we went to Penarth for a walk along the beach and an ice cream on the pier. It did rain on us a bit but we both needed a proper day out. I felt just about entirely recovered by the weekend.

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Penarth Pier

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Penarth seafront, looking towards the Devon coastline

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Writing our names in the Sand

We had a bit of a lazy day at home on Saturday then I had to work on Sunday. Penny had a lovely day at home with Husband, playing board games.

I’m hoping for better weather and no more sickness for the next four weeks!

How’s your summer holiday going? Has the poor weather affected your plans?

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Our Summer So Far…

We are three weeks into the summer holidays and it’s been a very fun (and busy!) time.

There was a visit to the National Museum in Cardiff, partly to see the newly discovered Welsh dinosaur.

NOT the new Welsh dinosaur, which was a little too crowded to get a good picture of.

NOT the new Welsh dinosaur, which was a little too crowded to get a good picture of.

We’ve played football and tennis in our local park.

We’ve been to our local library a few times. Pip is taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge.

There was a trip to the cinema to see Inside Out, which we all loved. I was very impressed with the representation of the human mind in such a easy to understand concept. The short shown before it, Lava, is now my favourite Pixar short – we’ve been listening to it ever since!

Pip’s been to a holiday club for a few days. This was mostly to fill our childcare needs but it also gave her some time amongst other children and trying out new activities. It also gave me a little bit of time to myself before and after work shifts!

We had afternoon tea in our favourite cafe. Little sandwiches, mini yorkshire pudding filled with coronation chicken, mini prawn cocktail, Welsh cakes, little sherry trifles (for the grown ups only, obviously!) and infinite amounts of tea, all served on gorgeous vintage china and with lovely 40s & 50s music playing in the background. Fabulous.

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Myself and Pip had lunch in La Tasca, taking advantage of their offer of free children’s food throughout the summer holidays.

We’ve discovered and started collecting LEGO Mixels. I think these are a great idea as, aside from the instructed build which look a bit quirky and cool, there’s so many other ways of building your own little monsters out of the sets, especially once you can combine them together.

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Our growing project has had mixed success. The carrots have been harvested and taste lovely. However, the tomato and courgette plants have produced nothing edible, despite looking healthy enough. Still, we can try again next year and I’m currently on the lookout for some seeds that can be planted and grown over the autumn and winter. I know there are some types of lettuce and cabbage that can be grown in colder weather.

Lovely homegrown, oddly shaped purple carrots

Lovely homegrown, oddly shaped purple carrots

There’s still plenty to look forward to for the rest of the holidays. Pip has yet to complete the Reading Challenge so we’ll be going back to our library at least once. I really want to visit the Cardiff Bay Beach. I also want to go to Heath Park and possibly Roath Park too – both have brilliant playgrounds and lots of wildlife to see. We’ve also still got plenty of home activities for days when the weather’s not so good – there have been a fair few rainy days so far and only so many times I can coax a five year old into her wellies and waterproofs. She loves the outdoors but she absolutely detests being cold or wet.

How’s your summer going?

Top Ten Free Activities for Summer Holidays

Along with Christmas (yes, I’ve said the C word in July), summer holidays are one of my favourite times of the year. Lots of time to enjoy with my daughter and loads of fun activities going on everywhere. However, six weeks of big days out can start to get a bit pricey, so I try to balance it out with activities that are free of charge. I really believe that you don’t need to spend lots of money to have fun as a family. So here’s my top ten free activities for the summer holidays:

1. Parks. Here in Cardiff, we’re very lucky to have so many great parks. Brilliant for outdoor exercise, meeting new children to play with, learning about nature and for picnics. We’ll be spending plenty of time in our local parks over the summer.

2. Libraries. Not only for discovering new books to enjoy, there are often fun activities going on at libraries over the holidays. In the UK, children can sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge, giving plenty of motivation and rewards for reading.

3. Arts and crafts activities. Ok, so it could be argued that this isn’t really free, as you’ll have to buy at least a few things for any craft activity. However, if you get maybe a set of paints, some glue and scissors, hours and hours of creative fun can be had by recycling household items such as kitchen roll tubes, cereal boxes, washing up bottles etc.

4. Printables. There are loads of free printables on the internet. Colouring pages are great for keeping the kids occupied for a bit while you get boring grown up stuff done. There are also lots of learning worksheets and activities to do together. Try looking at Twinkl or the Cbeebies website.

5. Board Games. Again, this is entirely free since you would have to actually buy the board games. But once you have, they’re always there, ready for an hour you have to fill. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that we as a family are huge fans of tabletop games. If you’re put off by memories of Monopoly fights, please look around at the games available today. There are such a huge variety, I really think anyone could find something that they and their children can enjoy.

6. Museums. We have several museums within easy reach and they’re all free entry. As a bonus, they’re all running activities over the summer. A great hands-on educational activity.

7. Movie day. While I only do this a couple of times over the six week break, it is nice (especially perhaps the day after a really exhausting day out) to cuddle up on the sofa with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy some films.

8. Geocaching. A great way to explore the outdoors, searching for hidden caches in parks, around town centres and pretty much anywhere. Pop on the Geocaching website and find caches near you.

9. Visiting the coast. Notice I didn’t say the beach. Yes, the beach is a great, fun and free day out. But there’s plenty more to do at the coastline than making sand castles. You could search rock pools for sea creatures, hunt for shells and even fossils!

10. Historical sites. Castles, ancient ruins, churches and other historical sites are often free to visit and offer a fun way to learn about national and local history.

What other fun free activities do you and your family like to enjoy during the holidays?

Top Five Items to pack for days out

For us, the summer holidays are very nearly here and I know that for many of you, they already are. I’ve got lots of fun days out planned and it should be a great summer.

Of course, especially with a small child, you always need to be prepared for every eventuality. I carry a backpack on days out. It’s much more convenient than a handbag as you’ve got hands free and it can carry much more comfortably. Here’s my list of things to keep in your bag on a day out:

1. Suncream and sun hats. So, so important. Even if it’s a cloudy day, I always keep suncream and hats with us so that if the sun does peek out later on, we’re ready for it and we don’t need to hide in the shade or, even worse, go home to avoid sunburn. I also try to dress Pip in clothes cover her shoulders. I know that I can burn really easily and, given that she has the same very pale skin as me, I imagine Pip would too – hopefully we’ll never find out!

2. Waterproof jackets. I’d recommend waterproofs that fold away into neat little bags, making them really easy to carry around without taking up much space in your bag. They come with us even on sunny days because the British weather is famously unpredictable. Just as with the sun cream & hats, it means that if the weather changes, the day out doesn’t have to end! Plus, it provides a clean and dry place to sit on grass in the park.

3. Water. In hot weather, it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially if having an energetic day outdoors. Keeping a bottle of water handy prevents this and also means that you won’t be spending money on extra drinks while you’re out!

4. Spare clothes. Food mess, travel sickness incident or jumping in muddy puddles (Peppa Pig has so much to answer for), clothes get ruined easily on a day out. I always at least take a spare top for Pip.

5. First Aid Kit. I keep a small kit just containing antiseptic wipes and plasters in my bag every day anyway but if we’re having a whole day out, especially for something like a walk in the woods where getting medical attention isn’t going to be quick or simple, I pack a slightly larger kit. Here’s an NHS guide to what should be in your first aid kit. You can also buy pre-prepared first aid kits but make sure they contain everything you need.

What else would you keep in your bag for a day out?