How to keep your kids entertained during the summer holidays

Children are counting the minutes to the start of their long summer break. But for parents, summer school holidays can be a nightmare of trying to keep the kids entertained, whatever the weather. So let Sandra Dick ease the pressure with her guide to a child-friendly summer holiday season, whether your little ones are sporty or arty, drama queens or nature lovers . . .


Apparently, there is a small sporting event taking place in London this summer. But, of course, the big sports stars will be signed up for Edinburgh Leisure’s popular summer holiday camps. Olympic-themed holiday camps, gym challenges and other sporty events run at locations around the city. Go to for the lowdown on where to find everything from tennis sessions and kayaking to ballet or trampolining. For budding Tom Daleys, sign up for Summer Dive Camps (e-mail [email protected] for details).

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If sports addicts want a more flexible approach, invest in the Junior Summer Holiday Fitness Pass (under-18s), a £30 pass that gives unlimited swimming, gym visits and climbing at EICA Ratho. For golfers, the Junior Summer Holiday Golf Pass entitles under-18s to play as often as they like on all six Edinburgh Leisure courses for £35.

It may be summer, but they can still ski at Midlothian Snowsports Centre. Ski and snowboard schools operate throughout the holidays. Details are available from Midlothian Council.

If they prefer sport on wheels, help them release their inner Tony Hawk – one of the world’s best skateboarders, in case you didn’t know – at Transgression Park in Peffermill Road, inset above right, the city’s only indoor skatepark. The venue kickstarts the holidays with a hip hop BBQ tomorrow at 3pm with music from rap duo Too Many Ts and skills from local skateboarders and BMX and scooter riders. On Sunday, the Vans Young Guns Series – the 2012 national unsponsored competition – hits the park from 2pm. Two-hour sessions cost from £8. Check out Or head to Saughton Skatepark, where the thrills are free.


If they enjoy getting in touch with their creative side, head to the newly revamped Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, where every picture really does tell a fascinating story. Join the Portrait Gallery Olympics, form a team, complete a series of art tasks and claim a medal. Or peruse the colourful winning entries in the Tesco Bank Art Competition for Schools, 53 in total, 12 of them from Edinburgh.

Head to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for quirky sculptures outside and, inside, Eduardo Paolozzi’s Transformers-meets-Robocop type sculpture, Vulcan. Look out for “Meet the illustrator” events at the Scottish National Gallery at the Mound.

Jupiter Artland at Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston, is a fascinating outdoor sculpture park which runs art workshops from July 6 to August 24. Beware though, there is an entrance fee. See


Kick off the holidays with a high kick and a jig . . . this weekend is Big Dance Edinburgh, a series of free dance events around the city. More than 100 performances are planned, including Castle Rocks Park Jam on Saturday, when St Andrew’s Square sees DJs and MCs overseeing a free open jam session of hip hop dance. Go to for details.

For those who want to develop their theatre skills, Brunton Theatre runs youth theatre summer schools, a week of drama sessions culminating in a performance on the final day. Go to The Royal Lyceum Theatre also runs youth courses in performance, costume and behind scenes technical wizardry during summer. Visit

The Drama Studio runs summer classes in Fairmilehead and Wardie – – and workshops are also run by Stagecoach,


Today’s libraries are thriving hubs of activities and story sessions, sometimes even the chance to meet a favourite author. Libraries across Lothian have a packed programme that includes juggling, puppet shows, crafts and author events.

Children can register to take part in Story Lab, the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland initiative – read six books during the holidays and collect rewards along the way. Details on, the fun kicks off tomorrow at Blackhall Library when award-winning children’s author Lari Don reads from her newest novel Maze Running.

It continues across the city with Olympic-themed craft sessions, Winnie the Witch birthday parties, puppet shows, visits from Zoo Lab and facepainting. Go to for details of Edinburgh events.

Similar sessions are planned at libraries in West Lothian, East Lothian and Midlothian. Check individual libraries for details.

If young ones prefer to listen to a story, the Scottish Storytelling Centre celebrates the Olympics on July 12 with a day of sporty stories.

And don’t forget the Edinburgh International Book Festival when, from August 11, everyone from Alexander McCall Smith and Gruffalo creator Julie Donaldson to the prolific Joan Lingard, Jacqueline Wilson and Jeremy Strong will be in attendance. Details at


Of course, you can’t avoid a trip to Edinburgh Zoo to see the pandas – a summer must-do for most families. And the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh provides acres of space for little legs to run around in.

For a change, try the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, where a range of events and activities are included in the entrance fee. Sea Quest is a fun trail around the Discovery Centre. And head along on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm for Professor Egghead’s Aqua Adventures to discover the ocean’s most dangerous place to live. On Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, the Professor hosts a game show, and there are different activities every Friday. Adult tickets are £7.95 and children (from four to 15) are £4.95. Go to

Get even closer to nature at Gorgie City Farm, where hands-on farmer’s helpers sessions for eight to 12-year-olds sound like messy fun. Details from The farm’s annual fun day is on July 29.

Or take a boat trip on the Forth from South Queensferry or Britannia Quay. Prices start from £11 for adults, £4 for children. Go to and for prices and details.

For a more out-of-this-world nature experience, Our Dynamic Earth has unveiled two new “show dome” films in its repertoire – for more information.


Kids, perhaps surprisingly, love history. And with the Museum of Edinburgh having undergone a facelift in recent months, this summer is the perfect time to venture inside. Various child-friendly and free craft activities are planned for the holidays. Diary in August 11 for a living history performance by four Old Town characters who will bring the past to life.

Lauriston Castle runs a series of fun craft sessions and living history events, inset left, during the holidays too. Search for details of what’s on and when. Likewise, Craigmillar Castle is where you’ll find alewife Agnes on Wednesday, July 11 and Sunday August 5, revealing the castle’s darkest secrets.

Historic Scotland has lots of summer events at its properties, including jousting at Linlithgow Palace, and living history sessions at Edinburgh Castle. Annual family membership of Historic Scotland costs £6.84 a month when paid by direct debit, which provides free entry to properties and events around the country.


Children can be expensive, and summer lasts a long time, so make the most of Edinburgh’s free attractions.

Hike them up Arthur’s Seat – they’ll moan all the way up, feel like kings and queens of the world at the top then run, squealing with delight, all the way down. Finish the day by feeding the swans on the loch.

Take them to the Museum of Scotland, just avoid the word “museum” before you set off. Once there they’ll love the interactive displays and may even learn something.

Sand and water are often all a child needs. Whether it’s Portobello, Cramond or North Berwick – if you don’t mind the prospect of East Lothian’s beach car park charges – scorching sunshine is not a necessary requirement for a good day out.

Take them cycling along the Union Canal, look out for the play area at Harrison Park and take bread for the ducks.


Kids generally loathe shopping but Cameron Toll has a timetable of free events which will chase away holiday boredom and give busy parents a chance to shop.

There are pirate treasure hunts, fitness bootcamps, magic, crafts and puppets along with giant board games, a Wii Sports challenge, pre-school dance and movement sessions and even birds of prey.

At Ocean Terminal in Leith, the beach has been brought indoors. Sand, deck chairs, buckets and spades – even palm trees – have arrived at Ocean Kitchen on the first floor. And at the Gyle look out for messy play, magic shows, a visit from Deep Sea World, balloon modelling and football.

Five summer 2012 ‘must-dos’

1 She’s Scottish and she’s Pixar’s latest creation – what more reason do you need to take the kids to see Brave, pictured, at the cinema?

2 Get your skates on for Starlight Express at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Kids will be thrilled by the skaters’ amazing moves. From July 3.

3 Take them to Luca’s in Musselburgh for the biggest ice cream they can possibly handle.

4 Or push through the tourists to see Fringe acts on the Royal Mile from August 3.

5 Pluck soft fruits straight from the plant and eat them during “pick your own” at West Craigie Farm near South Queensferry, or at Belhaven Fruit Farm at South Belton Farm, Dunbar.