Summer solutions to survive the school holidays on a budget

Ruth O’Connor asks three of Ireland’s creative mums how they survive the holidays without breaking the bank

Is this the clarion call of every modern child over the school holidays? The last few weeks of the summer holidays draw in and many parents breathe a collective sigh of bittersweet relief. Because,

although the tedious prospect of endless lunches and homework is on the horizon, so too is the uniformity and regularity of schooldays with occupied (and hopefully tired-out) children and consistent childcare arrangements for many parents.

As a parent of two young boys, I’ve experienced the difficulty of juggling deadlines and “dead-bored” over the school holidays. This summer has been a combination of organised
football, drama, and sports camps interspersed with free weeks as well as a glorious three days at Earth Force Education’s forest school at the
Elbowroom Retreat.

Keeping kids occupied while you try to get on with your work inside or outside the home can be a costly business — free trips to Dublin’s Science Gallery, Natural History Museum, and events such as the Festival of Curiosity have provided welcome relief to both boredom and wallet.

In the last month of the summer holidays, we ask three of Ireland’s most creative mums how they survive the holidays with kids in tow without spending a small fortune.

Tanya Grimson

Tanya Grimson and her son Jacob.

Tanya is co-founder, chief executive, and editor of maven46 and m46Create, a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle online magazine and content-creation studio. Before setting up maven46 in late 2014, Tanya was a
recognised fashion editor, stylist, art director, and TV contributor. Tanya now leads a team of 10 creatives and has one son, Jacob, 6.

“Growing a media start-up company this year has been hard for me in terms of juggling my work commitments and my attention to my son, so summer holidays were a concern before they’d even begun.

“Jacob is very happy in his after-school which is a brilliant facility, however I was conscious of him being there during the holidays with the summer having no special meaning. When I was a kid summer holidays meant everything. Living in the country it meant being outdoors acting out The Famous Five — as a city kid Jacob doesn’t always get to create these type of memories.

“I take every Friday afternoon off when I can so that we can visit the cinema or library together. Every three weeks we organise a few days away. We were lucky this summer as his cousins were home from Australia; we organised a mini-break in Dungarvan and he hung out with his cousins in the countryside while we worked guilt-free.

“Luckily both sets of grandparents are still very much alive and kicking and he has spent time with them over the holidays. I got to work remotely from my parents’ home while Jacob experienced life outside the city, much to the joy of my dad.

“A holiday favourite is arts and crafts. Shops like Dealz are brilliant for their materials. Pinterest gives us inspiration. Jacob is into art so we visit Dun Laoghaire Library for its children’s books and exhibition space.

“For those living in Dublin I recommend the Science Gallery and Makeshop on Lincoln Place near the National Gallery (which also runs free workshops throughout the year) where children get to build a “colouring robot” (from €10 per workshop).

“Another favourite is the National Museum of Ireland, with the bog bodies being a favourite and the mummies in the Egyptian section — the more gruesome the better! Dublinia (€6 per child, €9.50 per adult) is also fun as kids can dig for ancient artefacts, dress up as knights and see how the Vikings used to live.”

Orlagh O’Reilly

Orlagh O’Reilly and her daughter Keira enjoying beach life.

Creative director of Ossociates creative brand consultancy and author of TheMiniPost which has 19,500 followers on Instagram. Orlagh produces her own range of slogan t-shirts for both adults and kids and has collaborated with brands such as Stella McCartney, Nike, and Asos. Orlagh has two children — Keira, 6, and Dillon Blu, 2.

“I’ve the best memories of childhood summers in Ireland. But for any parents trying to juggle work commitments it’s a double-edged sword. I try to carve out dedicated time for each, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

“I think there are most definitely activities that are a rite of passage and unique to Ireland that every Irish kid has to experience. Who doesn’t remember being brought to the beach to play in the freezing cold water and shivering afterwards with a bag of Tayto?!

“There’s nowhere like our stunning Irish beaches. Vast, wild, and glorious — we are so lucky. I think there is definitely something intrinsic to Irish childhoods and summer days on the beach, regardless of the weather. On sunny days, though, there’s nowhere quite like it. The beach can be a treasure trove of
activity for kids on holiday and the fresh air usually guarantees a good night’s sleep, which is an added bonus.

“My kids are still young and quite happy to dig and build and carry endless buckets of water to fill moats. When that wears off they love to explore the dunes and beach-comb and create little collections of the things they find. Paddle-boarding, canoeing, and surfing are brilliant at keeping older kids happy.

“My favourite trick is to create a pirate treasure hunt. I map it out and leave a trail of arrows in the sand which the kids follow until they find their way to the “treasure” buried under a skull and crossbones. I’ve buried all sorts of things from toys to books but it always includes Tayto crisps.”

Susannagh Grogan

Susannagh Grogan with her son Gabriel Murphy, 11, at Dalkey Rowing Club in Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Picture: Moya Nolan
Accessories designer best known for her colourful printed scarves and leather gloves which are stocked in Brown Thomas, Arnotts, and House of Fraser.

Accessories designer best known for her colourful printed scarves and leather gloves which are stocked in Brown Thomas, Arnotts, and House of Fraser. Susannagh lives in Killiney, Dublin with her “soccer-mad” son, Gabriel, 11.

“I love school summer holidays. During term time we have a fabulous child minder but my son Gabriel equates her to school life so I have kept the holidays just us. Life feels more relaxed and informal, however I am a single mum running my own business so despite the excitement, the start of the holidays can cause concern about how, without
spending lots of money, we can
both enjoy them whilst I get my work done.

“While the last few years we’ve marked the start by going to the RHA summer exhibition and the Solomon Gallery and eating cake they don’t always continue in such a virtuous vein. Summer tends to be a day-by-day plan punctuated by my work schedule.

“We have a mini-dachshund called Messi who needs lots of walks with the occasional promise of Scrumdiddly’s ice-cream parlour afterwards. There is quite a lot of pay-offs: “Help with this”, “Bear these few hours in my studio” and then can we go swimming in the sea, Gabriel gets to watch YouTube or a movie, go to the astroturf pitches for football, or ask a friend over.

“In the summer holidays he
probably watches too much TV
but we both row skiffs with Dalkey Rowing Club in the evening so if
TV has been used in desperation, a row and swim in the evening with a bit of chat afterwards assuages any guilt.

“Gabriel usually does a couple of weeks of camps, this year it’s been soccer and Kung Fu (KungFu4Kids). Afterwards we go to the beach or have a walk with Messi.

“Being near the sea has been the greatest entertainment and occupier for him. For the past four years
we have gone glamping in Kenmare for five nights. We tend to do the same things — lots of swimming, kayaking, cycle rides, and ice-
cream. The fresh air and freedom is perfect.

“Then suddenly it’s September and I don’t know how the holidays have gone by so quickly.”


More in this Section

What are kids putting on their Santa list this year?

Toy story: 10 toys guaranteed to bring out the kid in all of us

Dishing out the chores

Making Cents: Black Friday is an opportunity - but be careful


Lifestyle

The 40-year-old charity that ensures no-one dies alone and poor

Equal treatment is at the heart of a healthy society

Pussy Riot perform in Ireland five years after making headlines

More From The Irish Examiner