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Best things in life are still free

London - The stress of keeping children entertained during the holidays is enough to leave many parents feeling frazzled and their finances strained.

But it seems they needn’t bother with the expensive days out and summer courses – for it is the simple pleasures, such as water fights and building dens, that children enjoy the most.

Spending time outdoors, in the company of family and friends is valued most highly, a study found. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Spending time outdoors, in the company of family and friends is valued most highly, a study found.

Children aged five to 11 were asked to rank their favourite holiday activities according to criteria such as how much fun it is, how happy it makes them feel and how memorable it is.

The results were then tallied with the cost to provide a “pleasure per penny index”.

The top three activities in terms of pleasure versus cost were playing in the garden or park, water fights or building a den, according to the index compiled by Sainsbury’s.

Other simple pleasures such as feeding the ducks, berry picking and eating ice-cream also featured in the top ten.

More expensive activities such as trips to the zoo, ranked 20th, or theme parks, ranked 21st, were much lower down the list.

Many parents feel under enormous pressure to entertain their children during the long summer break, often spending a fortune on trips out and courses in sport and the arts.

Research suggests parents spend on average £366 (about R4 300) per family and £183 per child on summer activities, with 41 percent admitting they worry their children will be bored.

Almost three in ten – 29 percent – said they worried their children wouldn’t have a fun summer if they didn’t book trips to theme parks.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a child psychologist, said: “In terms of pleasure per penny, it’s the everyday outdoor fun, which takes little time or money to organise that far outweighs the more orchestrated expensive excursions.”

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