So, today is the first day of the summer school holidays here in Northern Ireland. Most families now have 8 or 9 weeks stretching out in front of them. I’m at home full time with the boys (although Daniel has been out to nursery school most mornings this year) so am used to entertaining young children through the days. But even those of us at home full time normally have a choice of mums and tots groups to go to. And the playparks and libraries are quiet during school time. So I thought I’d write a short post with some ideas of what to do each day – indoor activities and free and paid options too. I’ll do another for outdoor activities including my Top Playparks recommendations (as requested by one of my readers!)
Rainy day at home
This is where an arsenal of goodies will reap rewards. On a rainy day we often will drive to a shopping centre and I let the boys run around to burn off a bit of energy. For friends in East Belfast, you can’t beat Connswater. Awful shopping centre but half the units at the back are closed so it’s quiet and plenty of room for running about. Mine love those paid toys – you know the bus or rocket that you pay a £1 to light up – although they are just excited to get on them, no money required!
Then we come home and do some of the following:
Orchard Toy games – you can’t beat the favourites like Shopping List or Red Dog Blue Dog. We’re moving on to Dotty Dinosaurs and Little Bug Bingo these days.
Fine motor activities. Some things we do are putting clothes pegs onto pieces of card, using tweezers to move cotton wool balls from one bowl to another, rolling playdoh by hand and poking pennies into the snake we make, doing jigsaws and playing with peg boards.
Kim’s game. [Fact – it is named after Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Colin and I may have had a discussion about whether or not it was. He was right!] – I normally just get a couple of small toys, Schleich animals are great for this, a small toy car (two different colour cars if you can!), a shoe, a sock things like that. Cover them with a tea towel and then remove one or two and get the boys to tell me what’s missing.
Watch some TV. I only let my boys watch live action programmes so no cartoons. CBeebies has some great programmes like Topsy and Tim, Our Family and Where in the World.
Dance party. We have dancing playlists on Spotify that come in useful for a boogie!
Paid indoor activities
Soft play. We actually don’t generally do soft play, but it is a good option for many families. I just get nervous as Daniel can get intimidated easily so I can’t see him or protect him, and with Rory’s allergies I’m terrified he’ll pick up something another child has dropped in the depths of the soft play.
W5. We used to have membership but we didn’t use it enough to maximise our value from it. It is expensive though and without a membership I guess you feel the need to make a day of it. Bring a snack or lunch with you and save some money that way as there is a great picnic area overlooking the boats! Plenty to do even in the toddler area. https://w5online.co.uk/
Bowling. We held off until this year to take our boys bowling but they love it. If you’re anywhere near the North Coast, the Jet Centre have mini bowling for children which is more like skittles for adults. The ball is small and lighter and the lanes are much shorter. It’s great!
Ards Paddling Pool. This is open most days (check their website though as it closes for parties) from early to late so it’s a great option. Only £2 a child, the water is about a foot and a bit deep, so technically you can get away with not changing into a swimsuit (but I always end up fairly wet!) – just shorts or a short skirt.
Salto Gym. This gym has sessions for pre-schoolers every morning over the summer from 9.30am – 11am. It costs £1.50 per person.
Free indoor activities
Libraries. Some are closed on Wednesdays or have a morning or afternoons off so just check before you go, but a great way to kill half an hour, read some different books and do some colouring in.
Ulster Museum. Closed on Mondays. Lots of people forget this!
IKEA. Seriously. Just spend an hour running around the showroom, climbing in and out of beds, on and off sofas etc. And a kids’ breakfast is only £1.15 and coffee is free so you can also sit down and watch the planes at the airport and have a cheap eat too!
MAC family room. If you’re in town and the children are getting fed up with shops, head round to the MAC and have a play in their family room. It opens at 10am each day.
Mossley Mill. I’ve only been once but it was great, a wee corner of the mill that had toys and activities for the children to get involved in. We parked about a mile away and took a lovely walk along a towpath that came out near the train station. Have no idea what it was called but made a lovely day of it!
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