Gráinne McGuinness offers consumer advice on planning holidays.

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Making Cents: Put the free in summer holiday freedom

Gráinne McGuinness offers consumer advice on planning holidays.

Making Cents: Put the free in summer holiday freedom

Gráinne McGuinness offers consumer advice on planning holidays.

THE secondary students are currently finishing for the summer and in a few weeks, primary school children will follow them to the freedom of the holidays.

What is a long-awaited treat for the young people can be a source of stress for parents, with eight or more long weeks to be filled. It feels like it takes approximately one nanosecond for kids to go from ‘yay, no school’ to ‘I’m boooored’ and expect mum and dad to provide entertainment.

With that in mind, this week I am looking at free or cheap ways to keep the family entertained in Ireland this summer.

If you haven’t already got your child involved in one or more camps, that is a great place to start.

Generally a week long, and equal to or slightly shorter than the school day, these give participants an opportunity to learn a little more about a chosen sport or interest while spending time in group activities with children their own age.

The best-known are the Kellogg’s Cúl camps organised by the GAA, and the FAI equivalent, Summer Soccer Schools. There are more than 400 FAI camps running nationwide over the summer months, and even more from the GAA. They offer excellent value, the soccer camp being €65 for the week, and Cúl camps €60, with reductions where more than one child in the family participates.

If you think your child will benefit more from general activities than a single sport, Let’s Go camps operate nationwide and offer a host of age- appropriate games. They offer two programmes, one for five to six-year olds (children must be attending primary school) and the second for seven to 12-year-olds. These camps are more expensive, at €100 per week for the first child, but there are discounts for multiple children and the camps are staffed from the teaching profession.

If you have a budding whizz kid on your hands, Let’s Go also offer iPad camps at some locations. These are designed to suit eight to 12-year-olds who love technology but they will also ensure physical activity during the day. Children spend 70% of the time working with iPads and 30% participating in sporting activities. Full details of all Let’s Go locations and dates are at www.letsgo.ie.

There are plenty of other camp options nationwide, both for general activity and special interests, two sites with good lists being www.familyfun.ie and www.schooldays.ie.

The family day out is a staple of an Irish summer and when planning your trips, www.heritageireland.ie is the ideal place to start. It contains details of all national monuments and historic properties managed by the Office of Public Works, broken down into seven regions.

In the South West region alone families can choose from a day exploring in Doneraile Wildlife Park, finding out about the farming traditions of rural Ireland at Muckross, discovering facts about Ireland’s island heritage at The Blasket Centre, and much more. Many OPW-managed properties are free to enter but if there are a few paid ones that you would like to visit it might be worth investing in a Family Heritage Card.

It is valid for a year and will provide two adults and up to five eligible children with admission to all fee-paying OPW heritage sites throughout the country for €90.

If the weather is not conducive to a day in the park, Irish museums have upped their game regarding child-friendliness in recent years and offer a host of activities for young minds. Some offer week-long camps for children but if you are planning a day visit, check ahead to find out activity times. In Cork, for example, the Crawford Art Gallery has free child-centred tours, art classes, and other activities every Sunday and bank holiday Monday.

The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin has similar Learn and Explore activities, and provides activity sheets on its website which parents can print off and use to keep children engaged as they explore the exhibits.

Admission to both of these and many other museums around Ireland is free.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

  • June 17 is Father’s Day and families looking for the ideal gift need look no further than Aldi this Thursday. I suspect the first items to sell out will be the range of books in the spoof Ladybird series. Choose from The Mid-Life Crisis, The Dad, The Shed, The Husband, The Hangover or The Hipster — all €3.99.
  • If dad is a music fan you can bring vinyl back into his life with the Suitcase Turntable for €49.99. The record player comes with built-in speakers and converts LP tracks into MP3/WAV files for phone, PC, and more. You can throw in compilation albums on vinyl for €9.99 each, choosing from 70s Disco, The Rat Pack, Country Music, 60s, Rock ’n’ Roll or At The Movies.
  • Golfers with a sense of humour will appreciate a set of novelty PGA Sports, Emoji, or PGA Slogan golf balls for €6.99 for a pack of six.
  • More traditional Father’s Day gifts are also available, with an electric shaver for €19.99 and novelty socks for €5.99 per pack.
  • June 17 is Father’s Day and families looking for the ideal gift need look no further than Aldi this Thursday.
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