Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness
PARENTS facing into a long summer with their school-age children may be worried about spending a fortune keeping them occupied. It is easy to let spending get out of control when being relentlessly asked what the next day out/entertainment is, but there are options available that can occupy days or weeks without breaking the bank.
There’s a summer camp for almost every conceivable interest children may have, from sports to programming to languages — you can check out a comprehensive list at www.mykidstime.com. They vary hugely in price, but it is hard to beat the main sports summer camps for value. Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps cost €55 per week and the FAI Summer Schools €65 — with a backpack and gear for the participants included in the price in each case. Both offer discounts where more than one child in a family is attending and also for booking more than one camp.
If you can’t find a camp for the interest your older child or teen has, or it’s outside your price or geographic range, there may be a solution online. The world of Massive Open Online Learning (MOOCs) has made learning on a huge range of subjects accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Have a budding coder in the house? Try Udemy’s This Is How You Make iPhone Apps course, with 23 lessons showing beginners how to create apps and submit a fully functional one to the App Store. In July www.futurelearn.com have Film Production: Behind the Scenes of Feature Filmmaking — a three-week course that offers a guided tour through the process of making a feature film. In addition to the sites already mentioned, try Coursera, edX and Udacity for thousands of free courses available to all.
If you would like your child’s schoolwork to get a boost over the summer, Irish online learning provider ALISON.com should be your first port of call. Their Maths Hub has short courses specifically aimed at topics on the Junior and Leaving Cert curriculum. They also offer courses in languages and the sciences. Www.khanacademy.org is another fantastic resource, with courses available for children just starting school right up to exam students.
There are a whole range of apps to help entertain on the inevitable rainy days. Younger kids will enjoy adding their voices to cartoons with Toontastic while ColAR Mix cleverly mixes animation and real world colouring in. For geography fun try Stack the Countries, which combines a quiz on countries, cities and flags with an entertaining balancing game.
Camps and courses are all very well but family days out are still central to Irish summers. Entertainment, exercise and possibly some education wrapped up in one bundle, it’s all good except for the cost. Even when going to supposedly free locations such as the beach, hot and hungry children can still burn a hole in your wallet. The key to keeping the costs down is to plan ahead. A decent cooler box, some food containers and a set of picnic tableware will pay for themselves very quickly when you don’t have to take the entire clan to a cafe or chipper for grub. Depending on the age of your children, you can make planning and making the picnic food part of the fun. Www.bbcgoodfood.com has a ton of recipes suitable for kids to make, including both savoury snacks and healthy sweet treats.
No matter what part of the country you are living in, you should consider purchasing a Heritage Card. This provides admission to practically all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sitesd throughout the country for one year from the date of first use. A family card costs €60 and can be used by two adults and up to five children (u 18). From Kilmainham Gaol to Donegal Castle, the card gives freedom to explore our country’s rich and varied heritage. You can get a list of sites at www.heritageireland.ie, many of which are located in parklands. If you think your family will get value from it the easiest way to purchase one is to buy it at the first site you visit. For more check out ‘Thirty free things to do in Ireland’ at www.ireland.com.
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