I always love the summer holidays with my children and this year we’re heading off to Italy for our family holiday….however that leaves several weeks left to fill!!…
So I asked my children to write a list of things they would like to do during the summer to help us all to stay occupied, happy and sane! Obviously the list had to be realistic, so I suggested they put ideas that were a mixture of activities ranging from free, to more expensive. As a parent and a business owner, the 6 week break is a juggling act between keeping my children busy, spending quality time with them, but also keeping my business running.
So I thought I’d put together some of the ideas my children had, for parents who are in the Stone area, of things that might keep their children busy and happy. (well for a bit anyway!) Please let me know of any other tips, places or ideas that you think would be good and I’ll add them in.
1. Walking and Nature
With living near the canal, an obvious free activity for us is always a walk along the tow path. My son likes to take his binoculars and ‘Insect’ identification book, to keep the walk interesting, along with snacks and drinks to avoid moaning! There’s also the beautiful Stone Common Plott which is great for footpaths leading off and around the countryside of Stone. An obvious favourite local place to walk and picnic is The Downs Banks https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/downs-banks which we love, and if you take the right path, you can end up at The Upper House https://www.theupperhouse.com for a lovely refreshing drink or afternoon tea. A bit further afield there are two excellent Staffordshire Wildlife Trust reserves and Visitors Centres. The Wolseley Centre, near to Rugeley, is a fantastic place to visit (For FREE! Just pay for parking!) with a lake, sensory garden, board-walk, river walk and visitor centre, it’s well worth the trip and it’s accessible for wheelchairs and prams.
https://www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/wolseley-centre The other great reserve is Westport Lake https://www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/visitor-centres/westport-lake-visitor-centre which has a lovely flat circular walk around it’s lake, a well equipped park and also a visitor centre with a cafe over looking the lake. (Again FREE and FREE PARKING!)
2. Bike Rides
The tow path in Stone is perfect for bike rides with children as it’s flat and car-free, my ideal way to cycle with my children (even though they are far better on their bikes than I am!) Heading both north and south along the tow path is a great ride. North involves a small amount of road cycling (200 yards on a country lane) then it’s a gorgeous peaceful ride through the Staffordshire countryside. We like to stop at The Plume of Feathers http://plumeoffeathersbarlaston.co.uk for a drink and pit stop by the canal. If you continue heading north you will eventually reach The World of Wedgwood https://www.worldofwedgwood.com which has a fabulous museum, cafe and play with clay studio. The tow path south heads through town, passing the Boat Yard and The Star pub which is great to sit and watch the boats going through the lock. If you continue south, you will eventually reach Aston Marina https://www.astonmarina.co.uk which has a fabulous bistro, cafe bar and lovely outdoor space to sit and relax and watch the boats coming and going. Cannock Chase is always a great destination for cycling, whether it’s a leisurely family ride (which I like) or a more adrenaline packed ride on ‘The Dog’ which my husband and son love! https://www.forestry.gov.uk/birchesvalley Again it’s free to visit the forest, which has a fantastic adventure playground, cycle paths, picnic areas, toilets and a cafe, all you pay for is the parking!
My kids love a picnic, and what better way to spend part of the day, by firstly preparing a picnic, but then eating it at a gorgeous location! There are many perfect picnic spots in and around Stone, such as Stonefield Park https://www.staffordbc.gov.uk/stonefield-park which is a gorgeous little oasis in the town, with a small play area, aviary, tennis courts and toilets. Another hidden gem is the Crown Meadow https://www.staffordbc.gov.uk/stone-meadows which has a lovely walk by the river and also an outdoor ampitheatre which is great to sit and have your picnic! One of my favourite places for a picnic is Trentham Gardens http://www.trentham.co.uk/trentham-gardens We have annual passes to the gardens, which is great value of the 12 months, as we visit it a lot!
Swimming is a great activity for a rainy day, which also tires them out! Alleynes Sports Centre https://www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/centres/alleynes-sports-centre/#timetables is handy for a bit of swimming fun during the holiday, and they have ‘open swims’ most days, along with ‘float fun’. A child swim is only £2.30 so a cheap way of keeping them happy! Please check for times, adult-child ratios, etc
5. Baking, making and craft
My children are never too old for a spot of baking, so I always make sure that I have plenty of baking ingredients in the store cupboard during the holidays, so on those rainy days, when a little sugar kick is needed, we can create our own cakes etc. If you’re after some simple cupcake recipes, then Liz of Simply Scrumptious Cupcakes has some excellent recipes in her book! https://simplyscrumptiouscupcakes.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/blueberry-lemon-buttermilk-cake/
It’s still great to get out the craft kits or lego to get them busy on a rainy day, and often mine love to spend some time making a lego creation or some ‘scoobies’!
7. Having a sort out (Not for the faint-hearted!)
This is on my children’s list as they want to have a sort of their playroom and my daughter has a very ambitious idea that we are going to decorate it too. So we will start by having a clear out and take it from there, as I know that there will be many a toy/book etc that when it comes to the crunch, they won’t want to part with! However, it’s a good activity to try if you have quite a lot of time on your hands! The incentive can be to sort out some items to maybe sell to earn a bit of extra pocket money!
8. Play Dates
I will be checking my diary with several friends to organise days where they come along with their children for a play date and vice versa. This is a great way to occupy the children and you get to have a chat and cuppa with your friend whilst they play! Great for rainy days or sunny days as the paddling pool can make an appearance (only if we have spare water!)
9. Train Journeys
Living in Stone is great for rail links, so hopping on the train at Stone Station means you can be in Stafford in 8 minutes and straight into Stafford Park, which has an amazing play area for all ages and cool skate park (for my son!) https://www.staffordbc.gov.uk/stafford-play-areas-victoria-park Staying on the train south, you can get to so many great destinations if you fancy a proper day out; Birmingham, London and going north you can get to Stoke, Crewe and Manchester.
10. Reading a book
I love just sitting and reading a book, but often it’s interrupted with ‘Mummy’ ‘Mummy’ ‘Mummy’ so during the holidays we will have a trip to the library and borrow some books and take time out during each week, where we have some quiet time to sit and read for pleasure. https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/librariesnew/branchlibraries/StoneLibrary/StoneLibrary.aspx# They can also sign up to the Summer Reading Challenge to read six books during the holiday, which is a fantastic way to get them motivated. https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk