It’s the start of October. The leaves are turning orange, there’s a chill in the air and the six weeks summer holidays feel like a distant memory. It’s taken me till now to get back on track after the summer holidays.
The house was chaos, everything on my to do list got put on a ‘till the kids are back at school’ list, there wasn’t a minute in the day where I wasn’t hearing the word ‘mummy’ from the mouths of one of my little darlings and by week three (ok ok day 3) the bribes of chocolate and ice cream were being used in full force (seriously why can’t they just get their shoes on the first time you ask?!)
In addition, I regularly questioned how my own parents survived the summer holidays without iPads and other technology that helpfully lulls your kids into a hypnotic state whilst you catch five minutes to yourself.
So, school has started and I can finally recover from what felt like a very long six weeks. One thing that hasn’t recovered quite so quickly is my bank balance. Keeping three kids entertained over the summer comes at a cost, as does the copious bottles of wine, bars of chocolate and the odd pair of shoes (new shoes help, they just do..) that I was purchasing to get me through till the start of September!
It got us thinking as a family about what our beautiful Island has to offer our kids, without spending a single penny. We are so lucky to live on an island so full of nature and areas of natural beauty right on our doorsteps. There is plenty out there that will keep our little ones entertained without having to bring any money along at all.
Here’s a list of ten things that won’t break the bank, will get everyone out in the fresh air and you can remind yourself that they’ve done something educational earlier on as you plug them into the iPad when you get home (or is it just me that works like that?!)
1. Look for Wallabies
We had heard about the famous wallabies. We went hunting for them on numerous occasions. We never ever saw any. Every time we came away disappointed. Until we changed the time we were visiting!
If you visit early evening in the summer or late afternoon in the autumn/winter and are relatively quiet you can usually spot loads of the little fellas hopping around. They aren’t shy either, they love standing and watching us as much as we like watching them!
Check out the Where’s Wally the Wallaby? guide and print off your trail map.
This activity has helped us discover lots of different places on the Island. Download the geocache app and get hunting. You can also make your own geocache and think of some way of hiding it really well. Some we found had been buried underground or hidden up trees!
3. IoM rocks
IoM rocks is a Facebook page which has gotten a large number of followers over the summer. Children (and adults!) have been decorating rocks and hiding them, then posting clues to the Facebook page. I love this activity as my boys aren’t always very interested in drawing and painting but they really went to town when it came to decorating their rocks! The idea is when you find a rock you’d to try re-hide it somewhere else.
Join the IoM Rocks Facebook group yourself and get exploring.
4. St Johns Arboretum
At this time of year, the Arboretum is beautiful. As well as feeding the ducks there are some sneaky characters hiding around and about. The Gruffalo and all the creatures from the Gruffalo book are hiding among the trees and bushes. We have done this a few times and my four year old never gets bored of it. Find all the characters then go home and get cosy under a blanket to read the book, perfect!
5. Manx Museum
The Manx museum (and all the other Manx heritage sites) is very interactive and appeals to children of all ages. And it’s free! There’s an area for dressing up and role play which my kids love. I was happy to see stickers saying, ‘do touch me’ on some of the items on display, which pleased the kids and meant I could relax a little bit instead of telling them to look but not touch! The aspect of learning through play helps the museum be fun but informative.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by some fantastic beaches and they are a great way to run off some energy if the kids need tiring out! Scarlett beach in Castletown is known for its volcanic rock and fossil remains so it’s perfect for dinosaur obsessed kids. Take a magnifying glass and get investigating!
We are also fortunate to have Beach Buddies helping to keep the beaches clean and safe. If you want to get involved in helping maintain our lovely coastline then check out their Facebook page.
7. Seal spotting
Before I had kids, my favourite place to spot seals was Port Mooar in Maughold. It’s a little tricky for little legs to climb over the rocks but for older kids, it’s well worth the reward to get as close to the seals as you can on this walk.
Another favourite place is Fenella beach. Even if it’s a bad day weather wise, park up to spot seals from the warmth of the car.
You could tie this in with a walk around the outside of peel castle.
8. Treasure bags
With so many glens and beaches on the Island, there are so many interesting things for children to find. We sometimes give the kids a little bag and let them collect anything they find that interests them. This always results in me having a car full of stones, sea glass, conkers and sticks but if your car is clean and tidy are you even a parent?!
On the odd occasion, we have used what the kids have found, to do things at home. Here are some ideas if you’re feeling crafty and are feeling up to cleaning up the aftermath!
- Painting with sticks instead of paintbrushes or using leaves and stones for printing with
- Making an autumn collage with leaves
- Rock painting (see no.3)
- Make a fairy garden out of small pebbles/shells
- Make a stick man
- Stone/shell rubbing using wax crayons
(a little collection in the back of my car, who knows what else lurks under those seats!?)
9. Archallegan playground
My absolute favourite plantation is Archeallagan because you can spend such a long time there. We do a lot of geocaching here, sometimes take our bikes and the kids enjoy the adventure playground and searching for the wooden spiders hidden amongst the bushes. I also found this to be one of the few plantations I could get a pram around when my kids were smaller.
10. Viking burials
Take the kids on a trip back in time to visit a Viking burial site. Visit Cashtal Yn Ard in Maughold which is the largest Neolithic tomb in the British Isles or visit Balladoole near Castletown where a Viking boat was discovered. Download the Viking of Balladoole child friendly map and discover some fun activities!
I hope this list has been helpful. I’m sure there are tonnes more free adventures to be had on the Isle of Man but hopefully, this list has some new ideas for everyone and you won’t hear the dreaded phrase ‘I’m bored’ as you’re working your way through it!