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The Christmas adverts have begun in earnest, the clocks have changed, the lights are up, the supermarkets are filling up with chocolate oranges and mince pieces and you’ve had that hopeful wish for a White Christmas at least once in the last week – yes, Christmas is 100% on the way now. While this brings with it considerations of what to buy for everyone, turkey ordering and how you’re going to get a 6ft pine tree on to the top of your car, for parents there’s another dimension to the festive season: the Christmas holidays.
Keeping children happy and occupied during the Christmas holidays is an enormous challenge, particularly for anyone who is also trying to balance a job at the same time. No matter what the time you have available – or the budget – there are plenty of ways in which you can keep everyone entertained and inspired throughout the holidays so that they return safely back to school when it’s all over, raring and ready to go for the new year.
In the UK we are incredibly lucky in terms of the range of cultural entertainment and activity on offer – and much of it is free. If you’re in London then there’s a huge number of museums and galleries that offer free entry, from the Tate Galleries through to the Science Museum. Free gigs, theatre performances and classes are available at most locations throughout the country – just do an internet search for your locality to see what’s on offer.
Share your kids.
Children love playing with other children so if you have a friend, neighbour or family member (someone you trust, obviously) who is also dreading the festive school break why not combine your efforts? Agree that one of you hosts all the kids one day and the other the next – with others to play with, children are more likely to be able to entertain themselves and you will get long stretches of time in which you aren’t constantly in demand.
Getting out and seeing everything that this wonderful country has to offer only requires the price of a tank of petrol or a train ticket. Pack your own sandwiches for lunch and steer clear of novelty (and costly) mementoes and tacky souvenirs and you can take your kids to see castles and coastlines, historic sights and epic architecture all over the country for very little cost. Look out for family deals on train tickets and ticket discounts for groups at locations like National Trust properties.
Invest in a crafts cupboard.
With just a little outlay you can set up a creative hub in your own home that will keep kids entertained for hours. Be a bit adventurous in the products that you buy and provide a new concept every time you distribute the materials to be used. You can buy easy jewellery and model making kits, for example, plain cards to turn into Christmas cards with a selection of stickers and glitter, and felt, glue, coloured paper, playdoh, stampers, cutters, natural materials from the garden and printed tapes and fabric swatches can all come in really useful.
Take a winter break.
If you’ve got the time and the money to whisk everyone off to exotic shores this year then it’s a great way to stop complaints about boredom during the festive break. For a winter city break head for Vienna or Berlin, Marrakech or Rome and if you’re looking for sun and culture, why not take the family on a trek through the Andes. This is also, of course, a great time for skiing and snowboarding and that can be a better option as there are some fantastic ski locations right on the doorstep of the UK, many of which are still not that expensive. Head for Klosters for a luxurious experience or try destinations such as Cauterets (France), Ellmau (Austria), Sestriere, (Italy) or Vogel (Slovenia) for a more budget friendly experience.
Sign up for courses.
Perhaps the idea of learning during a holiday period doesn’t appeal to children but there’s such a huge array of courses and camps available in the UK (or overseas) that it won’t feel anything like school. Learning circus skills or how to ballroom dance, taking a course on trampolining or something like DJing or digital music making will appeal to everyone from excitable youngster to even the coolest teens, and for the very young craft classes can be a great opportunity to start making friends outside of school and exploring creativity (as well as giving parents a break).
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley
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