Column: Chris Howard has ideas galore to keep the kids amused this summer

Cambridge’s coast-walking dad Chris Howard is preparing for the summer of 69 (million activities to keep his kids entertained over the six-week holidays)!

Are you dreading it as much as everyone else? It looms ever closer, that long expensive six weeks of no school and hungry children at home whilst you work. What are their friends doing? What clubs can you get them into? Do you have a family holiday or trip booked? Are you feeling the guilt of juggling work and childcare and giving neither the attention they need? You’re not alone, we’re all in this together. . . (I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before).

Chris Howard and girls at play
Chris Howard and girls at play

Wouldn’t it be the best if we could all just take the summer off and go inter-railing in Europe for six weeks with our children to enrich them culturally, like so and so’s parents from Thing One’s class. Or perhaps take an extended tour of an African national reserve like that other family are doing the second school breaks? Sigh.

I can hardly think about affording the two-day dance club at 90 notes per child per day (and they won’t even get fed!). Family holidays are brilliant but affording them in school holidays is so often just a non-starter, so what are your alternatives?

For the last few years, we’ve drawn up summer holiday battle plans, and by that, I mean we make a list of all the things we (cubs included) want to achieve by the end of summer. Don’t worry though, you won’t need to take out a 15th mortgage to cover the cost. Six weeks is a long time to keep all three cubs entertained, clothed and fed appropriately, especially because when they’ve nothing to do they turn into ravenous locust goats that devour all but the lint in the tumble dryer.

It’s so easy to say yes to everything and get carried away and feel at the end that you’ve not achieved anything so having a plan gives you a tangible sense of accomplishment. Then you can say in the playground next term: ‘Oh yes! But, of course, we went to museums, and the theatre, rode on a crocodile and saw the birth of a new sun blinking into our galaxy at the foot of the Large Hadron Collider whilst crocheting our own family version of the Turin Shroud. . .

Well, look, don’t set the bar too high, and manage your expectations because you don’t have to do amazing super fantastic epic-ness every day. The first of every month the Fitzwilliam Museum does a family activity day and it’s free! In fact, Cambridge is full of interesting places to visit, things to see and parks to play in, with many either cheap or free. We are surrounded by beautiful National Trust places with woodlands for building dens and tree climbing – something Thing One, Two and Three are fiercely competitive over!

Do craft days at home on rainy days, play cricket at the rec on sunny days, go for long slow bike rides and listen to the younglings energy drain from incessant conversations started with ‘Daddy, did you know. . .’

Movie night with snacks and popcorn is a firm favourite for us and again far cheaper than the cinema now.

My cubs are growing up fast but they’re still kids and I hope to allow them to be so long enough to keep enjoying long silly summers with them. Really, they just want to play, so discover where you live again, help them find the secret places kids play with friends, the hedges they’ll hide in, the footpaths they’ll find connecting them to their BFF’s back gardens.

Have a sleep out in the garden or go camping, read a book together as a family, which is a simple but strangely satisfying way to connect with each other.

I know it’s difficult to do all the things they want over the summer when you’re a working parent and ordinarily I’d say something sensible like ‘oh you’ve got to strike the balance and do what you can but ‘Pah! Not today my friends!’. Today I implore you to lay waste to the man and reclaim the summer for you and your family! See all the things, go to all the places and climb those trees just like you did at their age, enjoy all of it and love where you live this summer.

Read more about Chris’s adventures at

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