The S-Mum, Maria, shares her top seven things to do with her children now that the summer holidays have finally arrived.
It’s here. And with summer, comes school holidays: when routine goes out the window, the fridge seems to have permanent bums waggling out of it, and we find ourselves wondering, once again, how on earth primary teachers deal with up to 30 of our little minions in one room. Of course the holidays are great, but they also bring their challenges. The biggest one?
Kids get bored, verrrrrrrry quickly. Kids need constant entertainment and fun. Entertainment and fun cost money, and while there are of course hundreds of things you can do with your minions, here are 7 of my favourite things to do right here at home. They range from absolutely free to the not so free but no matter how often we do these things or go to these places, the girls always enjoy them and feel like they’ve been somewhere special.
In no particular order:
Now those of you who follow my blog, know that Glenveagh National Park is a firm favourite in our little family. We go there 2 or 3 times a month and myself and The Him love it just as much as the girls do. It’s only a short drive from Letterkenny, has absolutely NO phone coverage and has THE most stunning landscape in the country. NOWHERE beats Glenveagh for beauty.
The best thing is that entry to the park is absolutely FREE. You can bring a picnic or try some of the insanely good cakes and food in the tearooms there. We walk the 4k to the castle every and usually take the bus back up as Mini-Me’s legs aren’t quite able for 8K just yet! Bikes are available to hire from Grassroutes in the carpark too and you can get one of the little buggy-trailers for the minions. The castle grounds are beautiful and while ours are too young to do the full bridal path, there is lots to occupy them (and their imaginations) in the gardens. (Tell your minions that the gates with the stag heads are the Gates to Santa’s summer house. Never gets old!)
We are so blessed to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps. Lisfannon Beach in Fahan is possibly my favourite place in the world. It’s not only where I often escape for some sneaky Mam-me time, (seriously, some life changing decisions have been made on this beach), it’s also where I take the girls if we want to have some good old fashioned free fun.
It’s only 15 minutes from my house, but the girls feel like they’ve had such a treat, even if we only stop for a 20 minute run-about. Over the summer, I keep a blanket and buckets in the car, so if we find ourselves nearby, it’s easy to stop here. I also keep a bag with a change of clothes and a towel in the boot, just incase it’s warm enough for a paddle. There’s loads of parking and in the summertime, there’s usually an ice-cream van in the carpark.
Mini-Me loves these. We live in the backend of beyond, so in fairness, even a play in the garden can be a learning curve, but if I really want to occupy them for an hour, I plop Princess in the buggy and off we go. Mini-Me is beginning to recognise some of the tree types (reminding me of things that I used to know!) and there’s a gate at the end of our farm where I once told her the fairy kingdom begins, so she loves to visit there. She stands on the side of the road talking to the gate, but in her head, she’s on a serious adventure! Fun fun fun and FREE FREE FREE!
We love Ballymacool Park. Just outside the town, it’s peaceful and quiet, even when busy. It’s easy to park, has lovely trails for walking and beautiful views. The little playpark is wonderful; clean and full of playthings for kids of all ages. The best thing about this little area is that it’s fully fenced off, and so no matter what direction Princess runs in, she’s safe (and enclosed!).
Some days, Soft play is the only answer isn’t it? Especially with the summer weather we get here! The most exciting thing about going to soft play, is going to soft play with OTHER minions. It’s win:win; A catch up for the mums, excitement (and a guaranteed successful bedtime) for the kids. Arena 7, Dizzy Rascals and Century Play are all wonderful and have different features that the kids love, AND they all serve good coffee. Keep an eye on their pages for deals and rates.
The Happy Camper
Now. Here is a secret that every parent in the area should know. The Happy Camper at Cooney’s is probably the ONLY place in Letterkenny where Mammy and Daddy Bear types can get to actually DRINK their cuppa. Not only are the pancakes incredible, they have a fully childproofed level with a brilliant corner full of toys and chalkboards and books for kids.
There is a stairgate so even your littlest ones are safe to wobble about. Now that Princess is at the stage of point-blank refusing to sit in a high chair, this spot is perfect for us. If I meet a mate, we can actually chat. And if I’m on my own with the girls, I get to drink my coffee and they’re in playtime heaven.
Again, we LOVE Oakfield Park. It’s only 10 minutes from where we live and great for famiy Sunday-fundays, but also for random afternoons over the holidays. There is a charge to get in of course, but what I love about this place is that every year when they reopen, something new and wonderful has been added to the park. They add to the facility constantly.
The new Buffers Tea rooms are lovely, but you can also bring a picnic along with you. We bought the annual pass this year and it’s great value if you use the park often. The park is stunning, so well kept and beautifully presented. There’s a play park and the Fairy tree is a favourite of Mini-Me’s. The steam train is a real novelty. Again, keep an eye on their page for events and activities coming up over the summer.
What are your favourite things/places to do over the holidays?