Express & Star

'Send help!' – School's out for the six-long weeks of summer

Send help! School's out for the six-long weeks of summer and there's no money in the bank, writes Emma Walker.

Getting ready for the school holidays - Emma, Andrew, Alice and Ada, five and two

Six weeks off may be daunting for some of us and we certainly shouldn't presume that all families are looking forward to it.

Times are hard, childcare is expensive and many of us – those of us who don't work in a school but still work full-time hours – are limited to the amount of time off we can take with our youngsters.

By the time all the parents at work have grappled over what weeks off they want (and can get approved), saying you already feel frazzled is an understatement.

The summer holidays are tricky to navigate for busy parents on a budget, but experience has told me that the key is to be organised (and to stay on the good side of any willing grandparents).

Firstly, make sure the kitchen is well-stocked – don't forget the cookie baking ingredients – the craft cupboard is refreshed with PVA and all the toys you've secretly shoved in the garage are dusted off.

Save yourself some money and make sure there's plenty of snacks for days in and days out, including the stash of lollies for the freezer and a handy phone screenshot of the 'where kid's can eat for free or £1' list.

There's plenty of options which don't break the bank. Bike rides, walks, parks, 2 for 1 offers etc - but let's face it considering the times we are living in you all will probably have this budget parenting mastered by now.

Probably, and not least importantly, is to remember your hidden stash of parent goodies. The coffee supply needs stocking up, get that bottle of wine hidden away for those nights when you want to tear your hair out and any other treats just for emergencies. You'll be happy you did.

Be prepared with activities for all weathers. Paddling pools are a must or even a plastic sheet with the hosepipe if you have a hilly garden.

Pinterest is good for some craft or Lego ideas. My kids love playing in the rain so coats and wellies must also be at the ready.

For those who can afford it, a holiday in the UK or abroad may be on the cards. We all know a holiday as a parent isn't a relaxing experience, whether it starts with a long flight or a long drive.

We have decided to completely punish ourselves with an eight-hour drive to Scotland with two kids under six (I know, I know, it's insane!).

Colouring, tablets, snacks, and all those little fiddly games they find just fascinating will be our saviour, along with lots of stops along the way. But however much we prepare it's not going to be easy.

Do not fill the entire holidays up with too many days out and planned activities - organised fun can only go so far to keep the tantrums at bay. For me I try to remember that my little ones just want to spend time with mum and dad.

Make plans for some days but also leave some days free – what's better than being being spontaneous or just playing at home?

And finally, preparing for school can become an activity. We always make it a day out based around uniform shopping. Don’t start this straight away though, this is a rookie mistake that I've fallen for before. Uniform tried on and purchased and six weeks later – it doesn't fit! But also don’t leave it until last minute and remember bags, lunchboxes and other things you might need. Don’t forget about labels for your kids’ clothes too.

What are your plans for surviving the summer holidays? Let us know at