Enjoy the Summer Without Spending a Fortune
There is something in the somnolent air of summer that conjures up childhood with a sharp pang of nostalgia. Hopefully, for most of us, that does bring back happy memories. We tend to forget the tears, the stings and the melted ice cream and remember laughter, sun and the vividness of it all – the blue sparkling sea, the green of the field where we built our "camps," the roughness of the trees that we attempted to climb.
Funnily enough, our most precious summer memories usually do not revolve around spending huge quantities of money. I come from a large family, so spending big money was not an option.
Fun With The Family
People tend to exaggerate when they look back on the austerity of their childhoods – this makes a good subject for comedy. But, there were differences. In my childhood, and for many of my friends, going on holiday meant swapping families with a cousin for a week. Exotic holidays were outside of our experience. But, children make their own memories and arguably, the simple exchange visit really was just as happy as the nowadays almost obligatory foreign summer holiday. Good memories can also include of bottles of squash, jam sandwiches and picking blackberries.
In order to have a good time, this summer as a family, it is a good start to ditch the competitiveness. You do what you do, not what you feel forced to do because of peer pressure (or your child’s peer pressure). This teaches the child important values.
If you have your own transport you are halfway there. Ireland is a blessed country in many respects. It is not over-populated and outside of the cities it is not over- industrialised or polluted. You have beautiful countryside and beaches on your doorstep. Offer to take your child’s best friend along too, as this makes it much more enjoyable for your child.
Sandwiches and drinks from flasks taste glorious out of doors. If there is enough to spare for fish and chips at the end of the day, better still. West Cork and Kerry are two places endowed with spectacular countryside and beaches. You can even drive onto Inch strand, should you have an elderly passenger, or one with a disability.
In recent years, hill-climbing, trailing, cycling and pony trekking and off-road cycling have become even more popular. Some of these activities are cheap. The hill-walking and trailing in particular may be organised on a local basis and you can find information in local newspapers, libraries, community centres and in the internet – particularly if you have a location in mind.
Forests and woodlands in Ireland are run by Coillte. Part of the conditions of their ownership is that they must allow public access. You may be quite surprised at some of these in your own area which you may not even have known about and which really do merit a visit. In total, Coillte owns 10 forest parks and more than 150 recreation sites.
Check out your own area on: coillteoutdoors.ie. While you are on the internet, also have a look at mykidstime.ie. This site is dedicated to getting children active, and, funnily enough, away from the computer screen!
Many local angling clubs have junior sections where budding fishermen and women are taught by older and experienced anglers. The fees are modest and your child may well develop a lifelong passion. The rivers in Ireland tend to be clean and are cared for well.
The Office of Public Works is responsible for looking after the many heritage sites, including National Parks. You can explore what there is to see in your local area on opw.ie. It may be surprising in a relatively small country that the OPW manages 780 sites. Then again, if you have any knowledge of Ireland’s rich history and culture, perhaps it is not so amazing.
What is probably more notable is that as the country continues to mature as an independent state, so more attention is being paid to preserving sites of interest. If you or your child is interested in history, have a look on the OPW website, where you can also find news of exhibitions and other events in your area.
Most towns and villages will have a GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association) club. Boys and girls can practice football and hurling – both good for fitness - socialising and developing a team spirit. A key element of Gaelic games is their amateur status, which is quite fascinating in this age of very well-paid sports people.
It may seem a very obvious suggestion but don’t forget your local library. These wonderful institutions are undergoing a really challenging period as some people, (even one well-known children’s author), question their relevance. Some people really disagree and think the library is hugely important, despite the proliferation of other attractions.
Children can easily down-load books and children’s TV channels also provide endless entertainment. For those running our libraries, this must present the need to constantly review what they do. You may have noted this in your own library. Many now provide a much more varied service than just lending books. This is not universally welcomed as some people do miss the quiet and the unthreatening sameness of the libraries.
Now, they tend to be brighter, noisier and have much more of a buzz. However, if you are thinking about free or cheap holiday activities for your child, this change can be a positive thing. Libraries are now places for doing and staying as well as visiting and using. Most run story-telling sessions and even sometimes provide activities for very small children. It is definitely worth checking this one out. You may, in addition turn the child into a reader and library user, something that will stand her in good stead for the rest of her life.
In Ireland, along with many other European countries, thrift has become cool. This may be making a virtue out of necessity, but nevertheless it can be quite a challenge – making a summer "on the cheap" a storehouse of memories.