What To Do In Essex With Children This Summer

Six weeks (or more) of school holidays looming can be intimidating. After a few weeks we usually find we get into a groove and soon we are preparing for going back to school, but at the beginning those days feel a long way a way. A great way to help you plan for the summer holidays is to have a list of ideas: what to get up to and places to go. The ideas don't need to be big or expensive, but having that list can help provide some structure and make you all feel more excited about the weeks ahead.

I’m not a fan of calling this wish list a “bucket list” for summer activity plans, because the term originally meant as list of things to do before you die. Whatever age your children are it is not your last summer together. Instead I call ours a "Summer Holiday Wishlist", this keeps the pressure off as you don't need to do it all, but it will give you some ideas when deciding what to do each week.

I also think it’s important to not over plan the summer holidays. Have the list of ideas as inspiration, but make sure you have down days too, it’s good for children to have time to play at home, time to get bored and explore so don’t feel pressure or guilt if you need to take time out to work, do housework or just for a bit of headspace.

A child writing a wish list of ideas for what to do over the summer holidays in Essex
Your children will love making plans for the summer with you

Ideas Of Things To Do With Children in Essex This Summer

1. Pick Fruit Direct From The Farm

Growing your own is a great way to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables, but six weeks can be a little short to grow fruit at home so taking children to pick their own from a farm is the next best thing. Whether it’s strawberries, sweetcorn or plums check out where you can pick your own in Essex here.

Bonus activity for older children is to make jam with some of the fruit picked, this can then be used to make sandwiches for a picnic. Make sure you keep old jam jars as these can be reused for homemade jam (put clean jars in the oven to sterilise them before filling with hot freshly made jam).

a cardboard punnet holding strawberries in front of rows of strawberry PYO plants
PYO strawberries and so much more this summer

2. Make A Splash

Whether it’s a paddling pool in your garden or at one of Essex’s splash parks running around in water is a great way to cool down on a hot day. You can have fun in a small pool, a sprinkler system or visit one of the splash parks and paddling pools in Essex on this list.

children splashing about and having fun in a paddling pool
Cool off and have fun

3. Get a Medal for Reading

Essex Libraries Book Challenge is back. Between 15th July to 2nd September children can sign up to the free challenge and receive a sticker each time they read a book. After reading six books children can get a medal and certificate. If your children can’t read independently yet then there is normally a version for preschoolers too. This year there are a limited number of free books available when you sign up so it's worth signing up early in the summer.

a toddler in front of lots of picture books in a library
Children of all ages can join the free Summer reading challenge

4. Climb a tree

Children need to explore, to have a little bit of risk in their life, to work out how to accomplish things on their own. Climbing trees is one way they can do that. It doesn’t have to be high, it just needs to give them a chance to find their feet. Head to the forest and find a fallen tree for them to walk along, tree stumps to jump along or a strong tree with low branches to see how high they can get. Let them work it out and be there to brush them down and give them a cuddle if they stumble. 

A bonus activity while you are surrounded by trees is to build a den with logs. Many of Essex’s country parks have areas where they bring fallen logs so children can easily build dens eg next to the far playground on the Stickman Trail at Weald Country Park. You might also want to keep an eye out for a rope swing, so much more fun than swinging in a playground.

children exploring a fallen down tree in Epping Forest
Explore the forest and climb trees this summer

5. Go on a Picnic 

You can have a picnic on an adventure in the park, in your garden or even in the living room if the weather isn’t so good. There is something about eating on a picnic blanket that makes food extra special and my children love it. If your children are old enough they might enjoy helping to plan the food and making sandwiches too. 

A bonus activity to enjoy while having a picnic is rolling down a hill (this doesn't work so well if the picnic is in your living room though). I used to love this when I was a child, although I could never roll straight and my children loved it just as much when they discovered it recently. Here are some other classic play ideas children will enjoy.

a child on a picnic blanket eating food
Whether it's at home or at the park a picnic makes lunch more fun

6. Go Camping

As an adult I love to stay in luxury hotels (not that I get the opportunity very often), but my children absolutely adore a couple of nights away camping. Even when the campsite is only a few miles from home they feel a freedom to explore and try new things. They get to stay up late, have different food and toast marshmallows on a camp fire (when the campsite allows them). If you are new to camping then I recommend borrowing a tent and going with friends for your first time, but if you want to go all in then check out my post on what to look for when buying a family tent, my camping packing list and how to make packing for camping less stressful. 

Bonus activities to enjoy while camping that are simple, but great to experience are: walking on the grass barefoot (obviously check the ground is suitable first) and making a daisy chain.

a child pulling on a guide rope of a tent
camping is a great way to have an adventure

7. Head To The Beach 

Essex has some beautiful family friendly beaches which are perfect for a lazy summer days out whether you fancy the cheesiness of Southend or the more sedate Frinton there is a beach for everyone. 

Bonus activities while near the beach are: jumping over waves, burying your legs in sand to make a mermaids tail, crabbing (Southend and Brightlingsea are popular spots) and investigating rock pools (try Canvey Island). You could also make the most of being by the coast and trying some fresh seafood, or if not feeling so adventurous there is always fish and chips.

Children in swimming clothes heading towards the sea for a splash
Essex has some great beaches to explore

8. Go On A Bike Ride

There is so much to explore and if you want to go a little further than walking might take you then a family bike ride is a great activity. You can easily avoid roads by taking the bikes to investigate Epping Forest, Hadleigh Country Park, The Flitch Way or along the coast between Frinton and Clacton (try looking at traffic free routes in the East of England that are part of the National Cycle Network here).

If you don’t have bikes you can hire them from a number of locations around Essex including at Thorndon Country Park (home of the Gruffalo Trail), Thames Chase and Hadleigh Park (prebooking advised). If you have younger children you can get child seats or trailers so they can enjoy the view while you do the hard work.

A child on a bicycle
There are lots of car free cycle routes in Essex which are great for a family bike ride

9. Go To An Outdoor Concert

Going to a theatre or cinema with children can sometimes be a bit stressful because sitting still for long periods isn’t a natural thing for young children, but when you are outside a concert or film is more relaxed and moving around doesn’t matter so much. There are lots of free festivals in Essex this summer, some concerts and outdoor cinema at Hylands Estate. So grab a picnic blanket, some snacks and enjoy. 

If this gives you the taste for going to a festival with your family then check out these recommendations for family friendly festivals. 

An outdoor stage with performers on
Enjoy music and more outside at a free festival or outdoor cinema screenings

10. Send A Postcard Or Two

With emails, text messages and posting on social media, postcards could soon be a thing of the past, but they were once synonymous with holidays. Look out for them in shops when you are out and about (even if you aren’t far from home) and encourage your children to write some for family or friends. It will be a happy surprise when they land on their doormat and it’s a great way to get your children to do a little bit of writing over the summer holidays.

Postcards in a rack, from canva pro
Whether you are going abroad or staying at home why not send a postcard?

What else will you be adding to your families summer wish list?

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