Skip to main content
Scottish government logo

School’s out and the summer holidays are here. But if you’re running out of new ways to keep the kids entertained, here are some ideas you can try at home – including a few they can get on with themselves, giving you some peace! Plus we’ve some top tips on saving on days out with the family.

Jump to a section in this article

Ideas for young kids

Alternative sports day

If the weather’s dry (or even if it’s not), how about heading to your nearest park for a family sports day? You can have lots of fun coming up with some alternative sports. How about a triathlon of sack race, egg and spoon and wheelbarrow? A relay race carrying a plastic cup of water that you mustn’t spill? Sumo wrestling wearing dad’s T-shirts stuffed with cushions? You can even get the kids to make medals for the winners as well, with tin foil and cardboard.

Read more

Pitch a tent

Photo of a girl reading with her mum

You don't need a garden or even a tent to go camping. The kids can have lots of fun building their own tent the living room. A sheet and two chairs are all you need! Don’t forget to pack some books to read, a few healthy snacks and their favourite toys to share the space.

Read more

Get closer to nature

Father and son outside in the woods, the boy is on the dad's shoulders

Getting up close and hands on with nature is great for kids’ development and wellbeing – and of course it’s fun too! You can find nature anywhere – from pigeons in a town square to woodlice under a stone. But if you fancy heading out and about, this map from Ordnance Survey will help you find green spaces near you to explore. 

The National Trust and Scottish Wildlife Trust have lots of ideas for ways to get closer to nature, from snail races to creating wild art. Fancy a bit of forest bathing or tree hugging? You can find a wood near you on the Woodland Trust website.

Read more

Scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt is a great way to keep the kids occupied in the garden or park. Maybe you’ll even get a chance to soak up some sunshine while they’re at it! How about searching for fluffy dandelion clocks or feathers? You can find lots more ideas on the Woodland Trust website.

Read more

Messy play

Yes, we know parents hate messy play, but it’s a natural part of play for kids and great for helping them working through their emotions. If the weather’s nice, take the opportunity to move messy play outside. How about spreading out an old sheet or a big piece of paper and letting them go wild with paint? Try painting with sticks, hands, feet, knees – whatever! Or how about having a go at making paper mache?

All done? Then it's straight into the bath or paddling pool to clean up. If it’s raining, they could always have fun splashing in puddles and making mud pies. 

Read more

Try fruit picking

Want to get the kids out in the fresh air and eating healthy fruit? Heading to a local ‘pick your own’ farm is a great way of ticking both boxes at once. Some farms even run family-friendly activities over the summer too – another win! Search online for a farm near you and get picking!

Read more

Make a festival bracelet

This video from CBeebies shows how to make a simple but cute festival bracelet – why not encourage your child to have a go, and then make bracelets for all their friends?

Read more

Borrow a dog

Boy running through woods with a dog on a lead

Looking for ways to keep the kids active outdoors and help them learn to be responsible, caring and kind? Then you could consider signing up to a scheme that connects dog owners with trusted local people who’d like to look after a dog but aren’t in a position to own one. If this describes your family, try searching online to see who needs walkies in your area. 

Read more
Back to top

Ideas for older children

Get arty

Photo of a teenager drawing

Getting creative is a great way for young people to relax and feel better about themselves. It even helps boost their concentration, problem solving abilities, confidence and communication skills. That’s a lot of wins! If your child’s in need of inspiration, Your Art World from National Galleries Scotland has lots of interesting challenges to try.

Read more

Send them on a photograhic scavenger hunt

Two teen girls outdoors, looking at their phones. One is in a wheelchair.

If you’re having trouble unsticking your teens from their screens this summer, here’s one way of getting them out of the house without needing to part from their devices. Set a theme for a photographic scavenger hunt in your area and send them out to see what they can snap. How about ‘things that are yellow’ or ‘stripes’ or (a particularly fun one) ‘objects with faces’.

Read more

Get them to create their own escape room

Set everyone’s minds whirring by getting the kids to create an escape room in your home – and then seeing if the adults can escape it! They’ll need to pick a theme – zombies? fairy tales? Harry Potter? – and create a storyboard and puzzles. This may sound a bit complicated, but complicated is good if you want to keep older kids occupied for any length of time. The Escape Kit website shows you how to get started

Read more

Festival fun

If your family loves music, why not hold your own mini festival? Pick your dream line up to suit the whole family (we can’t wait for the festival that has Ariana Grande, the Wiggles and Deep Purple all on the same bill), get the kids to design a poster and start playing those tunes.

Want to dress up festival style? You could make flowery headbands from paper or tissue and dig out those sunglasses. You could even go the full Woodstock and introduce the kids to the art of tie-dying – the perfect way to liven up old T-shirts and add a bit of hippy chic to your wardrobe. These instructions from WikiHow even include recipes for making your own dyes. And don't forget your festival bracelets!

And speaking of recipes, you’ll find burgers to suit every taste in our recipe section – the ideal food for any festival. Peace!

Read more


Scotland is a great place for stargazing, so why not pick a dark, clear night and have a go? Bring blankets and jumpers and a flask of hot chocolate (even in summer it can be cold outdoors at night) then lie back and see what you can spot in the skies. How about creating a space-themed playlist to listen to as you wait for the stars to come out? The National Trust has some good tips if you fancy giving this a go. The night sky is never exactly the same two days on the run, so if it goes well you could try it again later in the summer and see what’s changed.

Read more

Make a magazine

Trying to drag the kids away from their screens? Making their own magazine is a fun (and secretly educational) activity that can keep them occupied for hours. First up, what kind of magazine will they make? A football fanzine? Music mag? Fashion? Animals? Manga? Then they can decide what to put in it – they can write stories, draw pictures and take photos as well as cutting things out from other magazines. Then it’s time for you to put your feet up while you read it! 

Read more

Go on a treasure trail

Want to liven up a walk in your local area, or explore somewhere new? The Global Treasures app has hundreds of trails, quizzes and treasure hunts in towns, cities, country parks and tourist attractions around Scotland – you can even win rewards like Young Scot points. The whole family will learn a lot solving clues and answering quiz questions – but no need to tell the kids that!

Read more
Back to top

Days out on a budget

We all love a day out during the summer holidays, but we don’t love the cost! Here are our top tips for getting out and about on a budget.

Tip #1: Save on travel

All young people and children aged 5-21 years can apply for a card to access the Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel Scheme. If your child is aged 16-21 they can apply themselves, but if they’re younger then you’ll need to apply on their behalf. You can find out more about the scheme and how to apply at

If you’re travelling by train, Scotrail’s ‘Kid for quid’ offer means that for every paying adult, up to four children can travel for £1. This all year-round offer, including school holidays, and is valid on off-peak and weekend travel. To find out more visit the ScotRail website.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to save on travel too. The Transport Scotland website has information about other free or discounted travel schemes here.

You can use the Traveline journey planner to plan your journey.

Read more

Tip #2: Look for deals and vouchers

If you’re planning a trip to a paid attraction like an adventure playground or theme park, it’s always worth checking to see if you can save on the cost of entry. Keep an eye on voucher websites like GroupOn, and check the Money Saving Expert website for the latest deals.

If you collect supermarket points you may be able to exchange these for tickets as well.

Read more

Tip #3: Find out what's free in your area

Photo of girls running in a castle courtyard

Lots of visitor attractions don’t charge for entry, run free events in the holidays or let kids go free with a paying adult. Check out the Visit Scotland website to find out what’s happening for free near you.

Read more

Tip #4: Bring a picnic

One of the biggest expenses of a day out can be food, so why not pack a picnic instead? Preparing the picnic in the morning or the day before can even be part of the fun if you get the kids involved making sandwiches and snacks. You can find lots of snack ideas in our recipes section – how about trying something a bit different, like turkey and pepper pittas or banana dippers?

Read more
Back to top

You might also be interested in