It's that time again. Parents are starting to break out in a sweat and it has nothing to do with the weather.
School's almost out, and that means one thing: a hefty bill to keep the kids entertained over the holidays – £2,274 per family, according to a recent poll.
That's the average amount we shell out on our little darlings during the school break according to a survey, carried out by Freesat. Oh, and that doesn't even include actually taking them on holiday.
The research claims that parents spend an extra £379 a week trying to keep the kids happy in the school break, with days out at the seaside, entrance fees, eating out and petrol topping the list of expenses. And we're so determined to give them a good time that more than a quarter of us will go up to £600 into the red to fund it. Yet, despite all our efforts, the vast majority (77 per cent) of the children questioned say they still get bored during the long break, regardless of how much is spent on them.
Time for a rethink, then. If you're going to bore the kids, you might as well do it for free. So, may I suggest that you put your money away and take advantage of some of the complimentary things happening across the country this summer. That way, if the kids complain, at least it hasn't cost you.
I challenge them to mention the "B" word with some of these activities. For a start, there's free cinema – perfect for children who need to be glued to a screen. Take them to one of the open-air screenings around the country, such as the Big Screen at Canary Wharf in London (viewlondon.co.uk/whats-on .aspx) or the brilliant Screenfields events in Manchester (spinningfieldson line.net), both of which have free family-friendly screenings this summer.
Parents of more energetic offspring should visit the brand new website Where2Walk.co.uk, which features hundreds of ideas for exploring the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. For families, there's a "shorter walks for all" section with helpful notes on places to stop and fill up on ice cream en route. And then there are the brand new Big Skies Bike Rides – a series of one-day cycle tours created for families. These self-guided tours have been designed for kids of all ages – you simply download them from visithullandeastyork shire.com and off you go.
For more family freebies across the UK, check out: visitengland.com; visitscotland.com; and visitwales.co.uk. You'll find lots of things guaranteed to keep the boredom, and the bank manager, at bay. Free events and happy kids: that's my idea of a great summer.