The great British summer as we all know will inevitably have rain in it and for us here in lovely Wales we can get it by the bucket load.
But what can we do when it's coming down in torrents? And how can entertain the kids without spending loads of money?
Now obviously the main aim of Pirates and Paperdolls is to get kids active, outside, playing and using their imagination (ok, thats a few aims but it makes for an interesting challenge).
So today we want to take you off down a slightly different path however it will cover one of our aims and that is 'imagination'.
Imagination doesn't cost anything and neither does encouraging creative thinking. We've found over the last few years one way to kick the boys imaginations up a gear is one of the cheapest and stress free things that anyone can do and we would say that there is a certain amount of physical activity tied in too.
What is it?
A trip to your local library, no really and unless you're not physically able or live miles away get yourself out the house with the kids and either take a walk or a cycle ride to your local library.
So many libraries in recent years have been forced to close with many down to lack of use, but these are a great starting point for getting kids thinking creatively.
In the county of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales where we live there are five libraries across the county, plus a home-links service (for those who are predominately housebound) and our local library is approximately 1 mile down the road but you don't have to go to your nearest library, you can call into any of them or even if you have a library near where you work you can still register with that one even if you don't live in the same area.
Reading can lead to some really imaginative play and creative thinking for both children and adults alike and what's more, during the school summer holidays libraries across the UK run a reading challenge for children.
It's free to take part in, the children have to read a total of six books across the summer (and this can be either fiction or non fiction books). They get stickers and activity bits as they go along plus a medal and certificate at the end.
So we took ourselves off to see one of our lovely local librarians at the start of the summer and Michael signed up straight away, although he's been pretty much taking part every summer from the point he could read a basic sentence. Alex however is now too old for the reading challenge however he is an avid bookworm and if he could turn his bedroom into a library he would!
But both the boys came away laden with armfuls of reading material and free bookmarks.
We also discovered recently that by using your library card you can also access an app called BorrowBox - it's designed for tablets, phones and kindle devices and allows the user to download both books to read or to listen to - again free of charge with other added benefits of features to help people who may struggle with reading; such as those with dyslexia. So if you really struggle to get your kids to put their phones or tablets down, perhaps a little redirection to the BorrowBox app could help instead?
Oh and we should also mention that quite a few libraries run a variety of activities throughout the school holidays as well which are definitely worth checking out so why not pop along to your local library this summer with the kids and see if you can get everyones imagination flowing .
After all there's nothing quite like spending an afternoon with a good book and maybe find a shady tree to sit under while you get whisked off down a rabbit hole for adventure.
The summer holidays have begun and of course holiday prices both at home and abroad have sky rocketed.
For the first time this summer we booked a mini break and with a little planning it worked out really well. We decided to stay in the UK although Alex our 12 year old had other ideas and persuaded us to send him on a water sports trip to France with his school which then left our nine year old, Michael disappointed that he wasn't having a holiday so with a bit of clever planning here's what we did.
We chose Torquay in Devon as our 'holiday destination' and if you've never been there it is a beautiful part of the world. Now we always try to make the best of what we have and that means if you have memberships to things such as National Trust, English Heritage, Scottish Heritage or in our case Cadw (the welsh equivalent to English Heritage) then use them! The National Trust now has a very handy app which you can download and tells you your nearest properties or sites to your current location.*
So with Alex packed off to France Michael and I left Dad in work (he joined us on the Friday after work) we packed up the car and headed off for our mini break - four nights (Wednesday to Sunday) in a lovely B&B. (Now I will admit that I pulled Michael out of school for the last three days of term but we are quite fortunate that his school doesn't fine you for taking your children on holiday.)
Now car packed with clothes, cool box, books, body board and music we headed off from the Pirates and Paperdolls HQ in South Wales. We a decent drive and stopped twice on our way down; the first time at a service station and the second was at one of my favourite stops on route to Devon; Killerton House (NT). We reached Killerton by lunchtime so sat on the edge of the boot in the car park and ate a packed lunch before heading off to explore the house, hunting for little well dressed mice and to see this years fashion exhibition (always a favourite of mine). The house is set in wonderful parkland and gardens which you can explore to your hearts content and dogs are welcome in certain areas too. They also have a great secure play area for little kids and a good cafe which serves great ice cream.
After our trip around Killerton we hit the road again and headed to the B&B we were staying in. Now for an up market family friendly stay in Torquay we can highly recommend the Cleveland House B&B which has beautifully decorated ensuite rooms and a delicious cooked breakfast which is made using locally sourced produce.
Thursday morning we were woken up by some crazy seagulls having a party outside and after breakfast we jumped in the car and headed up the coast a short way to Paignton for our main day out and that was on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. Now there are various trips you can do and all cost different amounts but we chose to take the steam train from Paignton to Kingswear and then take the foot passenger ferry to Dartmouth. We had such fun on the steam train and having bought Michael a camera a few months back (to stop him stealing mine all the time) he got some amazing shots. The ferry - which was included in our steam train ticket cost was a five minute ride across the river to Dartmouth.
Dartmouth itself is a lovely town full of character and quirky shops, we made a stop in the RNLI shop/museum to have a look at their rescue speed boat and we bought a light lunch of sausage roll and water from a little bakery and ate it sat by a bandstand in the public gardens by the river before heading back to catch the ferry and steam train.
Now of course I know what you must be thinking that all these things cost a lot, but this was our treat day and that evening we spent we friends on a beach in Torquay before heading back to our B&B for the night.
Friday morning; the rain hit, and I was asked by Michael if we were going to stay in the B&B all day and watch TV as it was raining? Uh? No.
Raincoats and umbrellas out, we headed up to the lovely little village of Cockington where they have an artists centre. We saw glass blowing, a blacksmiths and not to mention a rather yummy chocolate shop. Traditional crafts are being kept alive in this little village and it's well worth a visit as it's really quite educational.
We spent about two hours in Cockington then headed over to Kingswear to the National Trust property of Colton Fishacre a beautiful 1920's manor house set in picturesque grounds overlooking the sea, where despite the wet and gloomy weather we wandered the grounds, did a kids spotting quiz (which earns them a sticker), visited the house where we got to listen to a visiting art historian talk about what the art deco movement was and had cake in the cafe before heading back to Torquay to collect Dad from the train station and have dinner at our cousins beach hut by the sea at Broadsands Beach.
Saturday was actually quite a relaxed day compared to the two we'd had so far. The three of us took the train from Torre to Totnes, had lunch at China Blue which is an amazing aladdin's cave of homewares and gifts plus it has a restaurant, pottery painting studio and a hair salon, we then wandered around Totnes, visited the Totnes Bookshop (where they always have something to grab our imagination) and had gelato from the award winning Delphine's Gelato Parlour and our day was finished with dinner back in Torquay at Chelston Manor, a great family friendly pub, which has a good menu and really big portions.
Sunday; oh we were so sad to leave Torquay after four amazing nights away but we packed up the car and instead of heading home, drove two hours further south to Cornwall and to St Michael's Mount. Now St Michael's Mount is another National Trust property (and as you may have guessed by now we have a family membership). We had a lunch of traditional Cornish pasties from Philips of Marazion before walking across the man-made corse way to St Michael's Mount which is just the most stunning place visit, just beware that it is a very steep climb up cobbled paths to the castle but it's worth the walk and the kids can do an activity trail which earns them a special St Michael's Mount medal at the end.
It was then time to head back home, which we did only with a slight 8 mile detour to the lovely seaside town of Looe for dinner at our favourite restaurant Kelly's - it's a fish and chip restaurant (and take away) which we were recommended 14 years ago by a taxi driver as we were off on our honeymoon to the area and if I'm honest the fish and chips at Kelly's were as good as they were the first time we visited all those years ago.
Now ok, this hasn't been a cheap week necessarily and there was an awful lot of driving involved but this was our summer holiday hurrah but we've made some different memories, ones that only we can share with Michael as Alex was off making his own memories in France but I wouldn't change it for the world.
And rest assured the next few weeks of our holidays won't be dull, not by any means, we're still got lots of adventures yet to come!
*at the bottom of todays blog you'll find links to many of the places we visited.
Places to stay:
Places to visit:
You can find Totnes Bookshop and Delphine's on Facebook
Introduction to the author
Most of the blogs written for this page will be by Lizzie, the owner and creator of Pirates and Paperdolls. Lizzie is passionate about getting children outside and away from so much screen time or virtual babysitters as they are thought of in the studio.
The summer holidays are literally right around the corner. Six weeks of entertaining the kids is often baffling even for the most organised of parents.
I was sat at the beach last weekend, one of the largest, free spaces for kids to run, explore and learn. I was sat not too far from a family, a mother with a young daughter and slightly older son. The daughter quite happily played with a bucket and spade, collecting shells, the son played with the sand and a spade for about twenty minutes dropped the spade and declared he was bored and wanted his iPad, in fact demanded his iPad.
The boys mother told him to just play on the beach and enjoy the sand. The boy just stood, yelled and stamped his feet until the iPad was produced, he then sat on a picnic blanket and his attention was immediately sucked away from the outside world into the virtual reality of a nine inch screen.
So how do we get our kids active, get them engaged, using their imagination without letting them get glued to screens for the summer?
Well it's never easy, some parents have extensive funds and the ability to travel to amazing places, for other parents cash flow is limited and I'll admit that since having children I have been part of the latter but hopefully this summer I can share with you some of my experiences and maybe give you some ideas for entertaining the next generation this holiday.
So over the next six weeks, join me on my summer adventure of highs, lows, sunny days and rainy ones and see if the Pirates and Paperdolls Crew can inspire your holiday adventures.