Top Tips for Surviving the School Holidays

See also: Outdoor Outings with Children

School holidays can be a difficult time for parents, especially working parents. Balancing work with childcare is hard and often expensive.

Even if you are home, keeping children entertained can be tough, especially in autumn and winter when the weather is bad and going out is more of a challenge.

But get it right and the holidays can be a lovely time for everyone, including you. Here are some tips for surviving, and even enjoying, the school holidays.

10 Ways to Manage the School Holidays

1. Involve Other People

Your friends, particularly those with children or the parents of your children’s friends, will also be trying to find ways to entertain their children during school holidays.

Using each other as entertainment is mutually beneficial, so you do not need to feel bad about it.

Doing things together will provide ready-made entertainment for the children, and adult conversation for you.

In summer, you can meet up somewhere outside, including the park, or go to a café with some outdoor play space. In winter, you can go to each other’s houses, to soft play areas or even to museums. The children can play together while you can have a cup of tea or coffee and a chat.

2. Use Community Resources

Community resources, such as churches and libraries often have craft activity sessions or days during school holidays and, better still, they are likely to be inexpensive.

Even if you have to stay, it will still keep your children occupied and busy, and you will probably get a cup of tea or coffee.

To find out more, look at ‘What’s On’ websites, or noticeboards at local community centres, libraries and churches, and ask other parents for ideas.

Libraries are also good places to spend time because they are a source of free books. You can sit there and read to your children if you like, or they can read books to decide if they like them. An hour or so choosing books, followed by a cup of coffee at the café, can be a good way to spend a morning at any time of year.

3. Look Out for Sports and Other ‘Camps’

Schools and sports centres are well aware that parents work, and that children need entertaining.

Most schools will run some kind of holiday clubs, many of which are open to the wider community and not just to children at the school. Some run very specific sports clubs, or coaching sessions, which can be good if your child is into sports.

Many camps offer either daily or weekly rates, so you can either send the children for a few days, or just a day as a taster if you really need to get something done.

Top Tip!

If your child is worried about attending a club or session by themselves, try arranging for a friend to attend with them. You can even arrange to meet up outside first so neither has to go in alone.

4. Use the Rest of the Family

School holidays are a good time to draw on family resources.

Look on it as giving your children a chance to spend time with cousins/grandparents/other relatives. You may be able to do this on a day or overnight basis, depending on distances and also your children’s ages.

Alternatively, consider a ‘child share’ with other family members, where you take their children for a few days and they then reciprocate.

5. Use Free and Subsidised Resources

Many museums, particularly in bigger cities, are free or heavily subsidised, making them cheap options for entertainment.

It also makes them busy so, if you can plan your visit for days at either end of the holidays when other people are at school, this may be better.

Top Tip!

Use the venue’s website to plan your visit, and save having to look at maps and guide books while you are there.

DO NOT try to do too much, especially if it is free as you can always go back. Looking at just one or two galleries and then going home or for lunch will be a more positive experience than trying to cram in more.

6. Plan Ahead

If you have four, six, or even more weeks of holiday ahead of you, it pays to plan ahead. In particular:

  • Mark out when you are planning to be away on holiday together, and make sure that you give yourself enough time to do some packing beforehand and washing afterwards;
  • If your children are going to be spending any time away with grandparents or other family members as well as on holiday with you, try to space out their time away so that they do not feel they are being rushed from one thing to another (and you have time to wash their clothes and repack their bags);
  • Try to arrange to do at least one or two ‘organised’ things each week, such as days out with friends, or craft activities, so that the expectation on you for spontaneous entertainment is less;
  • Space out your spending, especially if your budget is limited, so that expensive things do not all happen in the first week of the holidays leaving the rest as a bit of a let-down.

7. Go ‘Out Of Season’ on Activities

‘In season’ activities can be very busy. The best option is to do things at the ‘wrong’ time of year.

For example, in summer go to soft play and indoor activities, or to the local swimming pool. In winter, wrap up warm and go and explore your local park.

The idea is to avoid the crowds, but still give your children a chance to experience these activities.

8. Check for Special Offers and Events at Local Venues

Because so many people go away in the summer holidays, local venues like leisure centres and swimming pools often have special offers, especially midweek. You can therefore do more with your children within budget.

Plenty of venues, including museums and art galleries, also have special family events during school holidays. In the UK National Trust properties are particularly good at this.

9. Stock Up on Craft Activities or Equipment

Make sure that you have plenty of indoor activities in hand, planned and ready to go, especially for wet days, or if you unexpectedly have to do some work for a few hours.

Look out for shops having sales of craft activities or kits, and stock up for emergencies, and use your local library or the internet as a source of ideas for craft activities that can be put together easily.

For some ideas about this, see our page on Craft Activities with Children.

10. Plan a Treat for the End of the Holidays

For example, plan to take your children out somewhere special, perhaps a museum or theme park, or somewhere that they have wanted to go for a while.

This has two main purposes:

First, it acts as a milestone that the holidays are over and that everyone will be going back to school or work.

Secondly, it acts as a reward for good behaviour during the holidays (or a gentle threat in the event of poor behaviour).

Furthermore, it gives everyone, including you, something to look forward to, especially if you have any period of time without much planned.


…remind yourself that boredom is educational for children.

You really do not need to entertain your children all the time. Some boredom is good for children because it teaches them self-reliance and to entertain themselves.

This is a good concept to embrace wholeheartedly during the school holidays as it may save your sanity more than once.