Parenting vlogger Louise Pentland. Image: Supplied
Parents and carers, we couldn’t blame you for being, let’s say apprehensive, about the summer holidays. The weather is hot and humid, the kids need to be entertained and you’ve still got to work so there’s money in the bank.
We spoke to Louise Pentland, a YouTuber, author and mum of two, to get her top tips for surviving the summer. From tips on organising yourself to teaming up with other parents, she’s got you covered.
Get a notepad and start planning
Pentland’s number one tip for getting through the summer holidays is to get out the planner and start organising your time. It might not come easily to all of us, but Pentland says it’s a great way for combating stress.
“Even if you’re not a naturally organised person,” she says, “have a sit down meeting with yourself and a notepad and write down where you’re gonna be on what week.
“If you don’t, you find yourself just floating, and that gets very stressful very quickly, and then you end up trying to fill the gap and putting things in that you might not have done before.
“And it all becomes very expensive and you might miss out on things. So definitely, the first thing for a good summer is to be a bit organised with it – not too rigid, but you know, have a bit of a plan.”
This might include planning all your meals out for the week and sticking to a budget. There is plenty of help out there for families looking for affordable options.
Sainsbury’s has announced its “feed your family for a fiver” campaign, with meal ideas to feed a family of four for less than £5. BBC Good Food has a “budget recipes” section, featuring a wealth of tasty options.
Tesco also has a large selection of “cooking on a budget” ideas. This includes the “5 kids’ lunches for £15” series and “5 easy family dinners for £25”. Asda has its “good living” page, with recipe ideas costing less than a £1 per serving.
You might also want to plan out your budget for the summer holidays, when activities and childcare are likely more expensive than in term time. Money Saving Expert has a free, colourful and downloadable budget spreadsheet, where you can jot down all your monthly earnings and savings. It might be a chore, but the experts claim it could save you somewhere between £3,000 and £5,000 a year.
After that, you can plan fun activities for your children that don’t stretch the budget. Why not create homemade toys? Science teacher and writer Alom Shaha shared his tips for making toys from materials around the house with The Big Issue.
You could also plan to take your kids out for a cheap meal. We have a list of restaurants and supermarkets where kids can eat for less than £1 over the summer holidays on our website. This includes Café Rouge, YO! Sushi and the Real Greek.
Team up with other parents
Pentland says: “My next tip would be to team up with other parents. So if you can, arrange playdates with other mums or dads and their kids.”
Half of UK parents will be unable to meet their childcare needs over the summer holidays. Stress can make us feel lonely and, with so many of us struggling through the cost of living crisis, it is likely that our mental health will take a knock.
But it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and interacting with other parents could be a lifeline if you are struggling. While your kids are having much-needed playtime, you can have a natter with the parents.
You could set up your own parents support group in your local community. Young Minds has a guide on setting up a support group for fellow parents, including tips on how to source small scale funding.
For single parents, the charity Gingerbread has support groups across the country. You can find one in your area through their website.
Take it in turns when it comes to childcare
Teaming up with other parents can also be a great way to tackle your childcare needs. “Do swapsies,” Pentland advises. “If you’ve got cousins or friends, say I will have your kids on this day, and you can go to work or whatever you want to do and you have mine on that day. So collaborate a little bit!”
If that’s not an option for you, there is affordable childcare out there for families who need help. For children who are eligible for free school meals, the government has rolled out its holiday activities and food programme with free spots on holiday camps. Most local councils will also be offering affordable holiday clubs this summer, with additional financial support for low-income families.
Parents can contact their local family information service via their council to find out what support is available to children, young people and families. Other useful resources include Koru Kids and Yoopies to find local childcare services.
If the recent UK heatwave has taught us anything, it’s that hot temperatures can make life far trickier than usual (especially if you have kids’ moods to contend with).
“My fourth tip would be to stay cool,” Pentland says. “This is a very specific tip. But I have recently discovered this putting foil on your windows – and it seems to be working.
“You spray a bit of soapy water on your window and then put tin foil on them and it apparently reflects the heat. So if you’re having a really hot day, tin foil on the windows!”
Other easy actions you can take include closing curtains or blinds, drinking plenty of water, wearing loose clothing, switching off lights and using a wet flannel on the back of your neck.
Time goes quickly, and your kids will be grown up before you know it, so enjoy the summer holidays while you can! Pentland gets a little sentimental as she says: “Take so many photos because time is so fleeting. Unlike in my new book Time After Time, you can’t go back in time. So take all those photos for those memories. And then get them off your phone.
“We all have photos on our phone – I’ve got about 40,000 pictures on my phone – so put them in a photo book or have them printed out. There’s loads of apps where you can get really good deals on photobooks, or apps where you get 40 photos free a month and you just pay for postage. So take pictures, print them out. And enjoy.”
Here’s our Summer Survival Guide, which we will update regularly with new articles and tips on making sure your kids have a fun summer without breaking the bank.
Get involved with the conversation on social media and share all your tips and advice for families using the #SummerSurvivalGuide.