Summer Holiday Advice & Tips

For many children, the summer holidays can be a very exciting time of the year providing a sense of freedom and opportunity. With the usual routine on hold, and school and homework a distant memory, the summer holidays present an opportunity to have fun, get out and about and spend quality time with friends and family making new memories. Whilst the summer holidays can be one of the highlights of the year for children, it is important to acknowledge that the long school break may not bring everyone infinite joy, particularly parents and caregivers who have to juggle work, life and all the practical challenges the six-week holiday presents!

CHALLENGE: Arguably the biggest challenge of the summer holidays is childcare! Trying to source suitable and affordable childcare and keep everyone happy for the duration of the summer can feel like a very daunting task. Add to the mix a bit of parental/ caregiver guilt and it can quickly feel very stressful and overwhelming! For our families based in Scotland, we are mindful that the school holidays start in June and end in mid-August. Therefore, managing childcare can be particularly difficult as most holiday periods in Naval establishments will follow the English school holiday system.

TIP: PLAN AHEAD. It may sound simple, but preparation and teamwork are key!

  • Utilise some of your annual leave in the summer to allow you to spend some uninterrupted quality time with your children. If you are a two parent/ caregiver household, it can help to split your leave to reduce childcare costs although we acknowledge that this can impact on spending time together as a family.
  • Speak to family and friends in advance of the summer to see if you can help one another out with childcare.
  • Be proactive in looking for summer clubs and camps (e.g. Kings Camp). These are often in very high demand and places go very quickly as such, it is crucial that you start proactively looking in advance of the summer! It is of note that often your local authority will run groups and clubs throughout the summer some of which will offer provision for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND). Local churches will also run groups through the summer. However, these may not be clearly advertised so you may have to do some digging! In addition to this, your local naval base may run some groups throughout the summer.
  • It is always worth speaking with your child’s school to see what provisions they offer throughout the summer.

CHALLENGE: Keeping your children entertained and yourself sane! Regardless of how much you love and adore your children, there is no disputing that the summer holidays are long and can be an emotional rollercoaster for both you and your children. Some days you will thrive, other days you will just survive and that is ok! For our serving families who may not have local family support or may be facing the summer with a deployed parent, finding the motivation and enthusiasm needed to entertain your children day after day can be very difficult. For children with special educational needs disabilities, we are mindful that the summer holidays can be a challenging and overwhelming time. Lots of provisions now run SEND sessions which can reduce some of the external stresses and make activities more accessible and enjoyable for children with additional needs. These sessions are worth looking into and utilising if they apply to your family.

TIP: Plan ahead, reach out and do not be hard on yourself! Even a quick trip to the park can be enough to break the boredom and let your children burn off some energy and if you are struggling, do not be afraid to reach out. We understand that the demands of service can exacerbate the stress of the summer holidays so do not suffer alone. Reach out to friends and families or, if needed, speak to one of our caseworkers who are always at the end of the phone!

CHALLENGE: The summer holidays are costly! Whether you are having to fund additional childcare, pay for days out or spend more money on groceries, your finances often take a big hit! Parents and caregivers often put a lot of pressure on themselves to give their children a “summer to remember” and these feelings can be exacerbated by the echoes of blissfully unaware children shouting, “I’m bored” or “it’s not fair that we can’t do…”! Social media can also add on additional pressure with parents/ caregivers feeling they are not living up to a perceived expectation.

TIP: Keep things simple and manage your children’s expectations. You cannot do it all and it ok for your children to feel bored at times!

  • Ask your child to tell you one or two things they would like to do over the summer. Their answers may surprise you and it always helps if you and your child can be on the same page when it comes to activities!
  • Look into and make use of any voucher schemes that may be on offer in your area. Often supermarkets and brands will run voucher schemes which can be used to fund what can be very expensive days out, this is a handy way of keeping costs down.
  • Often food, drink and parking can really increase the price of a day out. Taking your own food and drink and parking slightly further out can help reduce costs.
  • Utilise the perks of the Defence Discount Card – if you don’t have one, get one!
  • Look at online resources – the money saving expert website is a great resource and provides lots of information about how to maximise your money throughout the summer. Local authority websites are also a good resource and will often list what activities they have on throughout the summer and will also list where children can get free or heavily discounted food and drink, so this is also worth a look.
  • For our families in Scotland, you have some beautiful scenery and historic sites to explore, including but not limited to Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, Edinburgh, and Glencoe. All of these are accessible via public transport and with Scots Rail’s “Kids for a quid” ticket, up to four children can travel for just £1.00 return each with an adult. This is available all year round and can make exploring with your family great value for money. In addition to the discounted train travel, all young people aged 22 years and under who reside in Scotland can travel on the bus free of charge with their Young Scot of NEC card, both of which can be applied for online. The Young Scot card also enables young people to access discounts on days out, food and drink so is worth looking into if you haven’t already!
  • The Edinburgh Fringe is held annually in Scotland’s Capital – this year’s event runs from 2nd August – 26th August and features a variety of performances which are suitable for the whole family, some of which are free/ low cost. This event can be a great day out for the family but be warned, it does get busy, and Edinburgh is known for its cobbled streets and hilly terrain!
  • Check out our website for information on our life chances programme. We have various activities running throughout the summer for a range of ages and abilities which may be of interest to your child!
  • Follow local social media accounts for inspiration as to what is going on in your local area but remember, social media accounts only give a snapshot of someone else’s life so don’t put additional pressure on yourself.

CHALLENGE: The Weather! The good old British weather has a reputation for ruining the best laid plans and this can cause headaches during the summer holidays! For our families based in or visiting Scotland, I am reliably informed by Allison, our Scottish outreach worker, that Faslane Naval Base located in the West of Scotland is indeed the wettest part of the UK and therefore a brolly is always essential!

TIP: Always ensure you have a “wet weather plan” that you can fall back on. A craft box is always handy to have within easy reach during the summer. Sensory play, board games, puzzles, fort and robot building out of old cardboard boxes can also provide hours of entertainment on a rainy day with children. Play dates, sleepovers with friends and movie nights at home can also provide some much needed joy on rainy days!

It is important to remember that days out do not always have to be costly and extravagant. Of course, it is nice to treat your children to a day of fun at the zoo or the theme park. But often for children, the uninterrupted quality time they get to spend with their parents/ caregivers and friends is what makes the summer holidays priceless.  With this in mind here are some fun activities our caseworkers have done with their children during previous summer holidays:

  • The paddling pool is always a winner – no matter what the age, and it doesn’t have to be huge or expensive. Just be aware of safety and don’t leave the little ones unattended. An umbrella over the paddling pool for sun protection is vital. All the bathroom and other toys are great in the paddling pool, and I often used a combination of water balls, water guns, buckets and the hosepipe also provide hours of endless fun for free.
  • My daughter and I used to go for a walk in the woods. I used to take a picnic with us and we would build a den out of branches. Once the den had been built we would have a picnic in it with her teddy.
  • My children and I would visit the beach to “skim stones” trying hard not to hit the submarines underneath! We would also keep a diary of what we did and send Dad an email or family gram to keep him updated on the fun we were having.
  • We would often go to the beach. We would park further away and walk to the beach to avoid car parking costs. I would take food and drink with us – I would freeze a bottle of squash which not only kept food cool, but also meant we had a cold beverage to drink throughout the day! We wouldn’t go to the ice-cream van because it would cost a fortune. Instead, I would stop on the way home and get us a McFlurry.
  • We would make miniature pizzas and regularly bake – for the pizzas I would buy savoury muffins. I would cut them in half and put tomato puree on them. My daughter would then chop up all the ingredients and make the pizzas and I would them grill them.
  • I would take my son to the cinema. Often the cinema would have offers on tickets during the summer which I would make the most of. I would take sweets and popcorn with me to keep the costs down.

Other activities:

  • Bike rides
  • Go to the local park/ adventure playground – take a picnic
  • Join the local library – they often have reading challenges for children to get involved with
  • Geocaching – children can partake in treasure and scavenger hunts using their mobile phones.

Most importantly, remember to have fun!


Art from Waste Competition

The Art from Waste Competition invites naval children and young people to turn everyday waste materials into extraordinary works of art. It’s an opportunity to showcase how sustainability and a little creativity can produce treasures from trash.

Looking to keep your young people entertained this summer holiday? Get then to create a masterpiece inspired by recycling. They are welcome to use any art technique, be it painting, sculpture, textiles or collages, as long as they are using recycled materials.

There are three age categories: 0-6yrs, 7-12yrs and 13yrs plus, and prizes with Amazon gift vouchers.

1st Prize – £100

2nd Prize -£50

3rd Prize -£20

Entries are to sent to: Naval Children’s Charity, Castaway House, 311 Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw, Portsmouth, PO2 8RN.

The closing date for this competition is Monday 2nd September and unfortunately, we will not be able to return entries.

Happy Crafting!