Jane McKenna shares an honest account of what it's like keeping kids entertained throughout the summer months, along with some practical tips on what to do with them, without driving yourself insane in the process...
Ah, those long hazy days of summer, where you can relax outdoors, kick back with a beverage, loll on the recliner and - ah who are we kidding? Those looong days of summer can be anything but relaxing if you have kids looking for daily action. Forget Don Henley, Pharrell Williams and Omi's ?Cheerleader?; ?Mummy, I'm bored? Mum, there's nothing to dooo. Dad? MUUUUUUUUUUUUUHM? will be the soundtrack to your summer if you fail to prepare. Here are a few of my own personal failsafe destinations to keep the bored brigade at bay.
Choo-choo choose the train? Sounds a bit idyllic, especially since most carriages are currently crammed with exuberant youths attempting to find a beach, or you live nowhere near a train - but if you do, use it. Kids LOVE the train (assuming they don't take it to school every day?) Obviously time one you know won't be rammed (generally around 10 am) and set off somewhere you know has an open area, or toward a playground. Also, if you happen to spot somewhere for lunch, Mum and Dad can indulge in a small glass of wine should the whimsy take them.
Old McDonald had a People's Park Farmers? Market... It's the worst kept secret in South County Dublin. Every Sunday, the farmers' market brings a world of food, art, craft, coffee and did we mention food (and coffee) to the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire. There's space to sprawl on the grass and a wonderful playground. Check out the Fallon and Byrne restaurant that does a decent early bird. Winner. Directions: Dart to Sandycove and pop across the road, or get one of the many trains to Dun Laoghaire and walk along the seafront.
A Country House... Killruddery House and Gardens, Wicklow: Activities for all members of the family every day of the week this summer. On Saturdays they have the regular Farmer's market from 10 am - 4 pm. There's Squirrel's Scramble Tree Adventure Park (age gauge 5+) every weekend; there's?'Claphandies' - for babies, wobblers and toddlers - every Monday morning; there's ?Petite Pilates? - pretty self explanatory, art classes and so much more. Or you could just loll about their beautiful gardens munching on a picnic.
Crispy Craic... Tayto Park, Meath: You don't have to be a fan of mammoth wooden roller-coasters to appreciate a stint at Ireland's only spud themed park (take that, Potato City!). There really is something here for everyone thanks to honeypot rides for the little ones, 40-foot zip-wires for the adventurous, a menagerie of animals to wave at, and a rake load of coffee pit stops and restaurants for those looking for some sustenance.
Simples!... The Meerkat Cafe: If it's raining, there are cafes around that cater for kiddies. The Meerkat Cafe in Dun Laoghaire (70 Lower Mounttown Rd) is one place that mum and dad can have a nice cup of coffee/tasty toastie while watching their little darlings run riot in the ball pit. As a bonus, there's WiFi, free magazines, and plenty of parking (age gauge 1 - 5 years).
Back to Nature... Airfield House and Farm: You're on a farm, complete with sheep, cows, foals and chickens, only a stone's throw from Dundrum Town Centre. You can sign the kids up for one of their Summer Camps (age gauge 5 - 8 or 9 - 12), or there are daily activities for the whole family to enjoy: watch staff collect eggs at 10 am. Witness the Jersey cows get milked at 10:30 am. There's gardens, woodland, cafes, a restaurant, heritage centre, guided tours and the centrepiece of it all - the gorgeous Overend country house.