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The summer school holidays are looming on the horizon and parents up and down the country are seeking answers to the big question: how do we keep the kids occupied today?

Taking them to the cinema or ten-pin bowling every other day will break the bank and the eccentric Scottish weather means outdoor activities are a lottery.

So here are our top 5 free things to do with kids during the school holidays:

#1 – Build a castle or a fort

Remember all the cardboard boxes in your garage you keep saving for ‘coming in handy’ one day? Grab them plus pens, pencils, some sheets and anything else colourful and build a castle or fort with the kids.

They love nothing better than decorating their own spaces and finding a wee ‘secret’ corner of their castle or fort. Use the sheets for a roof and get building.

make a castle for kids out of cardboard boxes

Draw on windows, turrets, flags and whatever else they can think of. Cut out a portcullis and wrap in tin-foil for an authentic look. If there is cardboard left over, make some shields and swords for your little knights or magic mirrors for princesses.

For kids that like their superheroes, create a superhero headquarters or a pirate ship for little ones that prefer to walk the plank.

Ideal for indoor or outdoor, we think you’ll have trouble getting them out of their castle for bedtime!

#2 – Create an obstacle course

Kids + school holidays = loads of excess energy to be burned. Put that to good use by building an obstacle course.

If it’s wet outside, build it inside. Use cushions for hurdles and obstacles to be run around. Arrange chairs to be crawled around or under. Get their favourite cuddly toys and have them pick them up at one ‘checkpoint’ and drop them off at another.

Creating lots of different challenges will fill up their day: time them through the course to see who can be fastest (or slowest!); see who can crawl through it quickest, who can do it backwards.

Relay races are a great way to get brothers and sisters working together as a team if competition usually ends in tears. You can even design and make winners/participants medals with the kids before the racing starts.

#3 – Visit your local library

Even in this age of iPads, Netflix and the Xbox, kids of all ages still love sitting down with a good book.

Your local library will have a big collection of kids’ books to suit all ages and interests. From picture books and children’s classics, to reference books on everything from animals to Star Wars, libraries are a great place to spend a few hours.

kids reading at library

Libraries often provide free or low-cost activities during the school holidays. Check your local council website for details.

#4 – Camp in the back garden (or inside if the weather is rubbish)

All the fun of camping without the hassle of travel, shared bathrooms or cooking on a stove!

For kids, camping in the back garden can seem like the biggest adventure of their school holiday. Help them ‘pack’ for their camping trip picking out cosy blankets, books to read and games to play. Pitch their tent and let them arrange how they would like it inside.

#5 – Write a story with your kids

Put their great imaginations to good use by writing a story together. It is unlikely to win any literary awards but it’s a fantastic way to harness their creative minds.

Let them come up with the characters, who they are and what kinds of adventure they are going on. As well as getting those creative juices flowing, writing a story provides an opportunity for older kids to practice handwriting and all ages will love drawing pictures to animate their story.

kids in tent

Use the idea of chapters and set a maximum number for the story – to prevent it from becoming a never-ending tale.

Where siblings are doing a story together, let them pick a character of their own each and let them come up with a new chapter of the story in turn. Once the story is complete, read it together as a family at bedtime.

Children And Young People, Parenting, The Spark, Tips, Topical