Guest Post: Author, Nicola Baird

Nicola Baird with dogHomemade Kids front cover

This week I am delighted to welcome my first guest poster: Author, Nicola Baird, who is going to share with us some ideas for getting the most out of the school summer holidays. Nicola is a writer with two daughters (11 and 14 years), three hens and a dog. She lives in London where she blogs about low-carbon family UK travel and thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children, Nicola has written seven books, see her Amazon page here: and her website here:

Over to you Nicola…

5 ideas for getting the most out of the summer holidays

When the school term ends everyone in my house takes a turn suggesting about 10 things they’d like to do during the holiday. Lists may include big wishes like going to see a show, eating ice cream every day or getting a new-to-you outfit (i.e, in a secondhand shop or from Ebay). By the time there are 40+ ideas it offers loads of choice about what might be fun to plan, or do “spontaneously” on a free day when the sun’s out (or rain’s coming down!).  We pin this list on to the fridge, knowing our youngest will keep reminding us if something still needs tackling.

Holiday activity list

We try to adapt the ideas to fit into the thrifty and eco-friendly way we try to live our life (mostly one long staycation), so no mini-breaks which need an aeroplane get added. With imagination these travel restrictions are no problem at all, see my family travel blog at

Generally this family wish list can be bundled into categories –
•    Have fun
•    Learn/practice a skill
•    Stuff with animals
•    Trips
•    Time with friends/granny

Chores (eg, gardening, jam/chutney making, mending/sewing and cooking) don’t make it on to the list but I try to work improved life skills into daily acitivites without us really noticing.

Here are some ideas about how this summer you too could turn a family wish list into inexpensive, memorable treats or a full-day extravaganza – which don’t break the bank or damage the planet.

My guess is that climate change is going to have a big impact on my children’s adult lives. That’s why I’d love them to have a heap of survival skills, and ideally the ability to be generous too. To build up these skills, see if during the summer you can use the garden/balcony for a night sleeping under the stars. Try it in a hammock (can you borrow from a neighbour/friend?).
£-saving tip: Start or join a neighbourhood e-newsletter so you can get to know your neighbours and local area even better. This also makes it much easier to lend/borrow equipment that you might only want to use occasionally.
Eco-friendly skills learnt: Weather nouse, plus cooking and sleeping outside.

See more Shakespeare – this was on my list (as a nod to the 2012 Lots of Edwardian and old-fashioned children’s stories include shows at home (e.g, Christmas with the Savages). If you can act out some of the best scenes or start using dramatic phrases around the house before you go it makes the play much more memorable. Here’s a full list of your nearest Shakespeare this summer:
£-saving tip: Joining The Globe, in London, being a family member lets you book tickets early (important if the talented Mark Rylance is in the cast) and also allows you to go free around the Shakespeare Exhibition – a wonderful exhibition and a great way to be a histronaut (explorer of past times).
Eco-friendly skills learnt: Worst case scenario, it’s time away from Facebook and gives a GCSE leg-up. DIY entertainment is a big part of green-living – could this fire up your kids’ imaginative play? Theatre is also something to look forward to, important in an age of instant gratification.

Animal training seems to be a new craze – from dancing dogs (Pudsey on Britain’s Got Talent) to rehoming hens. It’s also a great way for children to learn bravery and responsibility. Improve your child’s animal know-how by visiting friends with pets, talking to dog walkers, playing “spot the dog” with toddlers in the park, offering to pet sit when a neighbour goes on holiday, visiting or volunteering at a city farm (or equivalent country set-up), going to a county show or maybe adding a sheepdog training day or llama trek into the experiences you have during the school holidays.
£-saving tip: Learning to ride (or even to keep a dog in food, vaccinations, worm and flea treatments for a year) is more expensive than you might think. Is there a granny who’d be willing to subsidise lessons/pet-care expenses? This might make a great Christmas present, but would need some explaining now.
Eco-friendly skills learnt: Low-carbon ways to get around (riding) and planning (caring for a pet).

My kids love ice-cream, so where better to eat a cone than by the sea? Our dog loves it too (though many beaches ban dogs from Easter – September). Before you go, find an i-spy seashore guide (in a charity shop), check when it’s high tide and have a go making your own ice-cream (perhaps by borrowing a machine or getting a friend with the equipment to demonstrate).
£-saving tip: Go by train using a Family & Friends railcard. Or set yourself a challenge: could you bike to the beach?
Eco-friendly skills learnt: How far you live from the sea, tides, DIY cooking and learning how to cook a recipe with a friend and possibly bike maintenance.

Could your child make a trip to Granny on their own? Or could they invite Granny to their home and be responsible for all the catering from the first cup of tea to the last spoonful of pudding? Or could they devise a treat grandparents or a favourite relative/godparent might enjoy?
£-saving tip: Not sure there is one, instead spend time making sure your children know all the travel methods they can reach their grandparents/relations (not just in the back of a car). Study maps, look up train times and even cycle routes and see if they can turn it into an adventure?
Eco-friendly skills learnt: Empathy, local knowledge, travel skills.


Thank you very much to Nicola for guest posting today, and sharing her great ideas. Do you have any ideas for low lost, eco-friendly ways to entertain the kids over the summer?


9 responses to “Guest Post: Author, Nicola Baird

  1. Great ideas, Vanessa. Since I’ll be with my grandkids about half each week this summer (and all day long), thiese give me a head start.


  2. You’re always teaching me something. You need an award for it.


  3. This is great, love it, Vanessa! As someone who is now on holiday, sans enfants, I still appreciate having suggestions for how to spend my time! 🙂


  4. Love these suggestions. I especially like that she provides the long-term effects from decisions you wouldn’t normally think would matter that much.


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