Summer holidays needn't be hell

THE bell has rung, the gates slammed shut, and children throughout the Lothians are now out of school for summer . . . which for their parents means the nightmare of how to keep them amused for six-and-a-half weeks has finally becomes a reality.

According to surveys, parents find the summer holidays at home with the kids more stressful than being at work. And no wonder when just a few days into the interminable break, the thrill of baking fairy cakes, planting seeds in yoghurt pots or sticking bits of glittery stuff onto other stuff which was headed for the recycle bin leaves the kids cold.

But those are parents who don't have the Evening News' cut-out-and-keep guide of what to do this summer to entertain a recalcitrant teen, a seven-year-old with ants in his pants and a pre-schooler who just wants to watch Peppa Pig.

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And while it's true that children need to relax during the holidays as much as parents do, it's always much easier for the latter to do so when the former are occupied. So here's the only list you'll need to get through the next 46 days - you'll be spoilt for choice . . .


There's nothing a parent likes more than packing the kids off to bed knowing they will sleep well . . . from utter exhaustion. And this summer there's no excuse not to get them active every day.

In East Lothian, children up to 16 can swim for free from 11am to 4.30pm daily, until August 13 at all Enjoy Leisure swimming pools, while in West Lothian all youngsters aged 15 and under are able to swim for free Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm at nine WL Leisure pools.

In the Capital it's only the under-fives who can swim for free, but Edinburgh Leisure is running Aquavator for those aged between five and 14 who are confident swimmers to give them a chance at snorkelling, water polo and raft racing.

Other sporting events in the city include the organisation's Olympic Holiday Camps, giving children a chance to try new sports and dance and learn about the Olympic Games. There will even be an opening ceremony and a mini-Olympics sports day. Taking place from July 26 to 29 the Olympics are on at five venues throughout the city.

There's also the usual sports camps and sessions available with everything on offer from tennis at Craiglockhart to gymnastics at Ainslie Park, climbing at Ratho and trampolining at Gracemount. Visit for more information about all events.

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Meanwhile, in Midlothian there is a whole host of sporting activities on offer at the council's leisure centres, but for something different why not try snowsports at Hillend - five-day courses are available from August 18 and booking is essential - or even fishing at the Leadburn Manor Estate.Children aged 12 and up can learn how to cast off and land a fish in two two-hour sessions for just 20. Call 01968 664089 for information and booking.


Britain's Got Talent may well be over for another year, but if you're convinced that your little 'un has more talent in his or her pinkie than Simon Cowell has shown in his whole career, then there's plenty of opportunity to find out.

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The Russian Ballet Society is hosting a dance camp at Loretto School in Musselburgh of five classes per day and a choice of one or two weeks' tutoring, with an end of camp performance in the Brunton Theatre. Call 0131-334 2031 for more information.

Also at the school, Love Drama is running classes for four to 11-year-olds and specialist theatre classes for the 12-16 age group from August 9. Visit for information and booking.

At the Myreside Club, though, it's more about sparkle than the splits, with a mix of performing arts classes "designed to help little personalities shine". Suitable for five to 12-year-olds, call 07717 706 778 or visit


If they are of a creative bent, then rather than having them cover the kitchen table in paint, glue and glitter for the whole holidays, get them to make a mess somewhere more suitable.

Try Doodles in Marchmont Crescent where kids can go wild this summer (well from July 19 to August 6 anyway) with week-long themed modelling and painting events around Africa's culture and animals. Call 0131-229 1939 for prices and booking.

Across town at Kiss the Fish in Dean Park Place, Stockbridge, there are workshops in mosaics, ceramics and the ancient Japanese art of origami. Call 0131-332 8912 for pricing and booking information.

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The National Museum of Flight in East Fortune is running Make and Take sessions almost every day throughout July and August, where kids can take along an everyday object and turn it into a toy to take home. And don't forget the air show on July 23. Visit for more details.


It might be the last thing they want to do, but rather than have their brains rot watching reruns of Phineas and Ferb or Barbie movies, why not keep their little grey cells working?

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The Royal Museum of Scotland reopens at the end of July, affording all sorts of opportunities to get their brains engaged, but in the meantime head for your local library.

The Summer Reading Challenge - with a Circus Stars theme - encourages children to read six library books of their choice over the holidays, with incentives for doing so. Visit www.summer for more information.

If that's a little too sedate head down the coast to the Scottish Seabird Centre for some seaside science.Kids from the age of three can get hands-on at workshops including Eggs-plosion (testing the strength and design of eggs), Satellite Tracks which looks at the tracing of migrating species, and the Power of Nature which even gives them a chance to create a mini wind turbine.

The scientific stuff is on from 10am to 6pm daily until September 4 - and even Professor Egghead will be there in the afternoons for a Tern Around the World. For more information visit

But if computers are more their thing, you could always challenge them to do more than just play the X-Box or Playstation. Whizzkids, based in Morningside, is running computer courses from July 5 until August 6 including computer art and desktop publishing. For full details visit


The Lothians are not short on the great outdoors and if the weather is good it makes sense to take advantage of what can be a great, free, day out.

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There are parks galore from which to choose, but if you head for Vogrie Country Park in Midlothian there's also a soft play area, a nine-hole golf course, an adventure play area and toddlers' play park and even a miniature railway.

Also in Midlothian there's Dalkeith Adventure Park, where the kids can hurtle down a flying fox, walk through the treetops and scare their parents while they shoot down the death slide.

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In Linlithgow the Beecraigs playpark has recently reopened offering new climbing and playpark equipment - but also on site there's the Go Ape treetop experience. Rope bridges, Tarzan swings, zip slides - all 12 metres above the forest floor - will have them catching their breath. However, the minimum age is ten. For more visit

Of course you could also go to Edinburgh Zoo and check out the new entrance and cafes as well as the animals, or for something lower-key - and free - there's Gorgie Farm. The goats, pigs, horses and other animals will keep youngsters amused for hours. If all else fails then walk them up and down the newly opened Scotsman Steps that connect North Bridge to Market Street. There are 104 different coloured steps to count.

Head for the open sea on one of the Scottish Seabird Centre's Puffin Safaris (trips run every day) and once back on dry land enter East Lothian's sandcastle competition. Open to anyone, all you need to do is build it, photograph it before the tide comes in or a sibling demolishes it and send it to [email protected]. A winner will be chosen after September 30.


Nothing thrills a child more than a slight shiver up the spine - safe in the knowledge that it's not real - so why not treat them to a Friday at the Edinburgh Dungeon, which will be going by the delightful name of Plague Day for the duration of the hols. There's pus and pestilence galore as you are transported back to 1665 and Edinburgh in the time of the Great Plague.There you meet the plague pit digger and hear gruesome tales of how victims of the Black Death tried to rid themselves of the disease, are introduced to live leeches and can come face to face with black rats. More information is available on

Magic is also a little spooky, and with the Edinburgh Magic Festival now in its second year, that means the return of the Magic School from tomorrow until next Friday. Kids aged between seven and 12, will learn, create and perform their own magic during the 90-minute workshops at Sandeman House in Trunk's Close - and they'll even get their own magic set to keep practising at home. Cost is 12 and it needs to be booked in advance so check out

But if there's one thing sure to freak them out it's the idea that their parents were once children, so take them to the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile with its weirdly staring china dolls and ancient oddities which once passed for toys.

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The major plus is that it's free - but there are also workshops on July 30 and August 27 where they can make robot collages and paper cupcakes. See for more details.


Most parents can't possibly take six weeks off work, so what to do with the odd week that a relative, spouse or childminder can't step in? Well, if you can afford it there are plenty of private activity camps filling the gap left when the council's Play4It and Go4It sessions were scrapped.

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Broomhill Camps is running a multi sports camp from July 5 for four weeks at George Heriot's Goldenacre Sports Ground (call 0845 234 1111); EAC Edinburgh's camp for five to 15-year-olds is on at the Royal High, which along with sport also offers play and creative activities (tel 0131-477 7570); and King's Camp at James Gillespie's High has more than 30 different activities from which to choose (call 0845 643 5272).