It can be difficult to keep the kids busy during the summer holidays, and it’s tempting to simply switch on the TV and leave them to the digital babysitter.
However, there are plenty of ways to keep them occupied while engaging their brains, without breaking the bank.
If you’ve got a brood that enjoys roaming around museums, why not plan a day out in one of the National Museum of Ireland’s four locations, each of which has free entry?
The Archaeology branch on Dublin’s Kildare Street is home to artefacts dating from 7000BC to the 20th century, including a collection of gold, treasures from Ancient Egypt and an exhibition on Viking Ireland. On nearby Merrion Street, the Natural History museum explores the natural world through ‘lifelike zoological models, geological samples and engaging activity areas’. The Decorative Arts & History museum in Collins Barracks, handily accessible on the Luas Red Line, explores Ireland’s military history alongside interesting exhibitions on jewellery, clothes and ceramics.
Finally, the only National Museum branch located outside Dublin is in Castlebar, Co Mayo – Country Life is home to the National Folklife Collection, showcasing traditional ways of life in rural Ireland between 1850 and 1950.
For a number of great free activities across the National Museum of Ireland over the coming weeks and months, check out museum.ie.
Fancy a stroll through lavender fields and beautiful woodland? Get your kids out and about in the fresh air on Wexford Lavender Farm. Donations are accepted, and parking is €2 during the peak season of June, July and August, but access to the main site – lavender fields, woodland walks and the Visitor Information Centre – is free.
Located near the village of Inch, the working farm grows both organic lavender and barley, with walks of varying distances to suit those with long or short legs. See wexfordlavenderfarm.com for more information.
The free Laya City Spectacular festival returns to the streets of Cork on July 15-16th, promising over 300 shows, workshops and activities for all ages. Held in Fitzgerald Park on the banks of the River Lee, Ireland’s biggest summer festival will feature jugglers, magicians, science shows, family yoga, playgrounds and much more!
Kids are often fascinated by prehistoric creatures and it’s not hard to see why – cool, often huge and mysterious creatures that lived long ago, such as the Brachiosaurus with its exceptionally long neck or the fearsome Megalodon, an extinct species of shark and one of the largest vertebrate predators to ever exist.
Fuel that excitement in long-lost creatures with a trip to Valentia Island in Kerry, home to fossilised footprints that are believed to belong to a tetrapod from the Devonian period millions of years ago, one of only four examples in the world. Access to the site is free via a track leading down to the rocks near the Valentia Radio Station. And if you’re not into fossils, the scenery is still spectacular!
The island is accessible by road bridge at Portmagee, via car ferry or via bus (quite cheap at €5 day return, €2.50 for those under 12, and free for kids under three).
Northern Ireland has plenty of fantastic attractions, including Colin Glen Forest Park on the outskirts of Belfast. The park is home to the country’s only Gruffalo trail (the monster protagonist of a children’s book by Julia Donaldson), where kids can meet their favourite characters from the books in sculpture form.
Though guided tours are available for parties of 10 or more, the experience is free to enter on your own.
Kids go free
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Kevin Moran has recently announced that children under the age of 12 will be able to visit OPW heritage sites for free until the end of the year. OPW sites are already free to enter for children under six, and a number of sites offer free admission on the first Wednesday of each month on a first come, first served basis.
For a list of sites that are featured under this initiative, see opw.ie.