A CHURCH group is offering hard-up families advice on getting through the long summer holidays without putting too much strain on their finances.

Christians Against Poverty, which has centres in Southend and Basildon, says parents often struggle to keep children amused all through the long break without overspending.

It is highlighting free and inexpensive activities which can help make a different this summer.

The charity’s Southend centre manager, Richard Leadley, said: “When the weather is good, the options are more obvious, but when it’s wet, you have to be more inventive.

It helps to have some good ideas to hand.

“Councils have children’s activities in parks, libraries and sports centres, while most museums are free and may have summer events, too.”

Mr Leadley suggests parents should find out what’s available in advance and then make a plan.

He added: “Decide how much you can afford each week and create a ‘treats fund’ – however small. Also, talk about it with your children.

“Involve them in how you are going to spend it and they’ll appreciate what happens so much more. It can also be a great lesson for them.”

10 tips 

1. Make sure you get other parents’ phone numbers before the end of term. A play date is the easiest way to entertain kids and if parents return the favour you might even get a day to yourself.

2. Remember treasure hunts? Geocaching, using a smart phone, is today’s version. Download a free app such as c:geo For details, visit geocaching.com.

3. Avoid the ice-cream van by making your own lollies with cheap moulds and squash or fruit juice.

4. If you’re going out for the day, take a picnic so you don’t need to buy food in cafes. Refill mineral water bottles with squash.

5. Get crafty with papier-mache and card making, or find someone who knits or paints and can share their expertise.

6. Get baking. Buns, flapjacks and biscuits are all fairly easy to make and will brighten up a dull afternoon. If it’s hot, search the internet for fridge cake recipes.

7. Visit someone – a relative, friend or neighbour – who would like some company. It’ll make their day – and give the kids a change of scene.

8. Avoid shopping as a pastime. It’s expensive for you and can get your children into bad habits

9. Become a nature detective. You can download free sheets with ideas to try and places to explore from the Woodland Trust at naturedetectives.org.uk/summer.

10. Don’t feel bad if you can’t afford an expensive family holiday. The most valuable thing you can do is spend time with your children.