The summer holidays are upon us with eight weeks of freedom as far as school kids are concerned but for parents two long months that need to be filled with activities and entertainment. And costs can soon add up. However, there are low and no-cost ways to keep children entertained.

Museums can make for a perfect family day out, and in recent years have made themselves family friendly and cost-efficient.

The four museums of the National Museum of Ireland are all free to enter and are open seven days a week. Families can explore natural history, archaeology and decorative art and history at the various locations in Dublin or head to Turlough Park in Co Mayo to experience a bygone way of life with Ireland’s National Folklife Collection. Each museum has activity areas, information sheets and other interactive elements for young minds.

In Cork, the Crawford Art Gallery is free to enter and has put considerable effort into becoming an attractive destination for families. Its Seen And Heard Playspace has a full calendar of activities for the summer, with Dowtcha Puppets and animators Fantasmagoria among those hosting activities. Sundays and bank holidays are fundays for families in the gallery and well worth a big day out.

In Limerick, the Hunt Museum is free to enter on Sundays and two for the price of one on Mondays. There is a discovery trail for families as well as workshops and one-off events.

With some sunshine hopefully to come over the next two months, some outdoor activities are a must. If you want options other than beaches and parks, it is worth considering an OPW heritage card. A family card costs €90 and gives free admission to fee-paying state-managed OPW heritage sites. Check out www.heritageireland.ie for the full list of sites, divided by area.

Many of the sites have dedicated activities and trails for children and some have play areas. For the upfront cost of the card, which covers two adults and up to five children, a family can plan a year’s worth of days out. It is worth noting that at many of the sites children under 12 go free, so depending on your family and the number of trips planned, you may not even need the card.

When it comes to activities that will also cover childcare, camps are far and away the most popular. Normally set to roughly match school hours, you get the security of knowing your children are getting plenty of activity, and learning, with their own age group. For value, it is hard to beat the camps offered by the two largest sporting organisations.

Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps are taking bookings between now and the end of August, with reductions for more than one person from the same household. It costs €60 for the first child, €55 for the second and €45 for third and subsequent children.

Your child will attend a week-long camp and get kitted out with Cúl Camp gear, including a training top, jersey and backpack for each child. The organisers also recognise that some families would like their children to attend more than one week of camps. If so, your child does not get duplicate gear you can pay a reduced fee of €45 for the week.

The FAI Summer Soccer Schools are more expensive, at €70 for the first child, but offer a €10 discount for siblings, and also have reduced rates for families who enrol for more than one week. There are other options for children less interested in team, or any, sports.

Athletics Ireland Summer Camps have camps at a number of venues costing €60 for the week. There is a kit for participants included and a reduction for more than one child.

For something different, Whizz Kids run very popular tech-based camps for ages 8-15, often based on college campuses. These are far more expensive, €165 for a full-day week, but offer a huge range of activities, including web design, app development, game-making, 3D design, graphic design and animation.

■ For more options, and a way to search for camps by location, check out www.schooldays.ie

DEAL OF THE WEEK

With the sun (hopefully) shining, it is hard to think about your winter-heating needs. However, Bord Gáis have a current deal worth checking out if you rely on a gas boiler for your heat.

The company is offering 20% off its 365 Boiler Care package if you complete a service by August 31. The package includes parts and labour cover of up to €1,200, 19 tests and checks as part of the service

and then breakdown assistance within 24 hours for the year. If you pay up front, the package costs €144, down from the normal price of €179.

You can also choose to pay by monthly direct debit which will cost €9 per month with this offer, as opposed to €15. As an additional benefit, existing customers who sign up for the service can avail of 14% off gas.

Get full details and sign up at www.bordgaisenergy.ie.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie





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