School summer vacations are a mixed blessing. Jane Stephenson offers ten top tips for summer activities with the kids – from toddlers to teens.
School summer vacations are a mixed blessing. There is a welcome break from the daily scramble to get everyone up, dressed, fed and out to for school or work; there is our own summer holiday to enjoy; but there are weeks of inventing fun things to do with a bored child, when school friends are vacationing with their own family. Without a plan, I’d be slowly ground down by the inane laughter of Spongebob Squarepant’s, and the insidious bleeps and tweets of the Nintendo DS.
There are parks all over the city, and they have amenities to suit kids of all ages. Take drinks and biscuits and you are set up for a few hours of play for your pre-schoolers. Add a football, skateboard or inline skates, and your older kids have space to do their stuff without trampling over the toddlers, or wrecking the living room.
Join in the fun on Dutch waterways. You and your kids can hire all types of craft. Try canal bikes in the centre of Amsterdam, or give older children the independence of their own canoe in the Amsterdamse Bos. Take a day trip to Giethoorn in Overijssel and hire an open motor boat to potter around the thatched cottages in this village built on a series of islands.
Summer is the perfect time for cycling. When cycling with kids, take short trips with a specific goal. If you want to go further afield, there are lots of places with bike hire. The National Park De Hoge Veluwe has a supply of white bikes available free at all the entrances. For other day trips, many train stations have daily bike hire, which you can reserve by phone.
If your kids like animals, pay a visit to your local city farm. Many organise summer activities for kids. For small children, the organic goat farm, De Ridderhoeve, in Amsterdamse Bos, is a great experience. The kids can bottle feed the baby goats, or give corn to the chickens. There is an organic restaurant serving sandwiches and snacks, or you can try a goat’s milk ice cream.
The beach is a must do, and there are miles of golden sand in the west of Holland, find your nearest beach and enjoy. Scheveningen, Noordwijk, Zandvoort, Castricum, Egmond aan zee, and Schoorl are a few. Be warned that some beaches are not directly accessible by car, so plan your trip, especially if you have small children.
If you car has a satellite navigation system then a great way to discover new places is to join the geocaching craze. This on-line treasure hunt is great for kids of all ages. They love helping to plot the co-ordinates and searching for the caches. Geocaching started in the USA, but a global positioning system is, well, global and there are over 5000 geocaching sites in the Netherlands. See the link www.geocaching.com to find out more about it.
Artis Zoo has a summer program. On Saturdays from June the zoo is open until sunset; a chance to see nocturnal animals become active. In Friesland Zeehonden Creche Lenie ‘t Hart is a sanctuary for abandoned seal pups. Over the summer months these babies are nursed back to health for eventual release into the Waddenzee. Along with the pups wide eyed appeal, environmental issues are presented in a simple and informative way.
If your family go in for spills and thrills, a trip to the Efteling could be just the thing. With its fairy tale theme, it has something for everyone, but there are height restrictions on some of the bigger rollercoasters. Through almost all of July and August the park is open daily until 9.00p.m., and midnight on Saturdays, giving more time for the rides, and to catch the shows in the Efteling theatre.
At tulip time perhaps you think of the famous Keukenhof, but at other times of the year there are other gardens. Take a trip to the botanical gardens in your city; it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam, Fort Hoofddijk, or Von Gimborn Arboretum in Utrecht or Leiden Botanical Garden are a few of the historical plant collections open to the public for a minimum fee.
Dig into the recesses of your memory for any scientific knowledge you can find and take the kids to Science centre NEMO in Amsterdam. Be prepared for lots of questions, and a hands-on approach to the exhibits. Or visit the Tropen Museum and let your kids explore other cultures, countries and customs.