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A little girl draws on some wooden decking with chalk

Posted 11 July 2017

Want a few seconds of kid-free summer? Our parent bloggers are here to help

Spending time with the kids can be fun, but every mum and dad need a bit of downtime, especially when the sun is shining. Mum-of-two Shannon Kyle talks to top bloggers for their tips on how to enjoy the precious summer months, while juggling the parenting stuff.

  • How to get a precious five minutes of peace
  • The childcare challenge and holiday play schemes
  • Make sure you know the rules when it comes to childcare

With the summer holidays almost upon us, it’s time to think about how to keep your little ones entertained. Whether you’re going away, looking forward to relaxing in the garden or juggling work, anything is possible with savvy planning.

Journalist Shannon Kyle (@ShannonDotKyle) asks parenting writers and bloggers how they occupy the kids for an afternoon so they can get a little peace and quiet.

1. A few ideas for five minutes of peace

‘There are a few activities that can buy me a good half an hour’s peace,’ says Rachel Tompkins (@rachtompkins), parenting writer for mum’s network mush, who has sons aged one and four. ‘I let the kids draw in chalk on the walls – my eldest loves drawing a target for ball practice.

‘They both love ‘magic potions’, which is food colouring in different plastic tubs. I’ve even bought turkey basters to act as pipettes!’

Mum-of-two Louise Baty (@loubaty), author of The Do’s and Don’ts of Pregnancy, also allows the kids to get creative.

‘I take child-friendly paints outside and let them go wild with an easel – lawns are easier to clean than carpets,’ she reveals. ‘I also put two paddling pools next to each other so the kids can jump between them.’

Mummy blogger Julia Houston who runs blog Rainbeaubelle (@Rainbeaubelle‏), says her kids aged six and three love ‘painting’ the fence, although it’s not all as it seems.

‘I get a big bucket of water, a brush and let them paint the fence and the paving slabs,’ explains Julia.

2. Some sweet ideas

‘My eldest son Sam also loves to make fruit juice ice lollies, which are cheaper and healthier than shop bought ones,’ continues Julia.

Ice lollies were actually created by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, who left his stirring stick in a cup of soda on a frosty night. For more healthy treats to enjoy on a sunny day, read our kid’s recipes article.

Fran Taylor who runs the award-winning mum blog Whinge Whinge Wine (@WhingeWine) agrees that food is a good distraction.

‘For my two, I make a teddy bear’s picnic, involving real food, like tiny cut sandwiches, pieces of strawberry and lollies,’ she says. ‘They love feeding the toys and themselves and I can relax for a while.’

3. Small tasks for a big imagination

‘When pot plants have died, I have used the old earth to bury ‘treasure’, which is smooth coloured glass,’ says Rachel Tompkins. ‘The digging keeps them occupied so I can relax.’

Kate Dyson, CEO of The Motherload, a supportive network for mums (@TheMotherloadHQ‏), says freezing small plastic toys like dinosaurs in blocks of ice then telling her two kids to ‘chip them out’ works a treat.

‘We also fill balloons with water, hang them on a clothes drier, and then give them a wooden spoon to bash them like a piñata!’ she says.

Bridget McGrath who runs Bridie by the Sea (@bridiebythesea) collects Ella’s Kitchen baby food sachet lids and keeps her two-year-old occupied by sorting them into different colours.

‘It helps with her colour recognition too,’ explains Bridget. ‘Emma also loves messy play and likes playing with shaving foam in a bowl outside – this keeps her entertained for ages.’

4. Tackling child care costs

Aside from asking grandparents and friends, and alternating time off between mum and dad, where else can busy parents find childcare? To begin with, all local councils list registered childminders, or try the Family and Childcare Trust.

There are strict rules on how many kids childminders can look after. For example, one adult can care for a maximum of six children under the age of eight. Also, be careful if you’re swapping childcare with a friend, as Ofsted rules say that if you look after a friend’s child for more than two hours per day it could mean by law that you have to register as a childminder.

Alternatively, you could plan ahead by looking into summer play schemes. Many offer all kinds of activities from football to trampolining, ideal for school-aged kids. Check your local council’s website, school boards and ask for recommendations from other parents.

Check with your employer to see if you’re eligible for childcare vouchers too. Parents who work and have at least one child aged up to 16 years-old can put in a claim, but be aware that they can affect child tax credits. Unfortunately, the government is yet to make childcare vouchers available to self-employed workers.

In the sunny weather, there are plenty of interesting ways to keep the kids occupied during the summer so that you can have a few moments to relax. If you want a little longer to yourself, make sure you know of all the savings opportunities and rules before searching for childcare.

If you want to create an extra level of protection for your family finances, consider life insurance products.

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