Discover family fun days out this summer

Whether it's the long summer holidays or weekend getaways, here are some ideas to add a little magic to your family outings.

When you make the effort to have a big family day out, the reality of your destination sometimes just doesn't live up to the expectation of over-excited kids. We've all trudged round castles looking at portraits of some aristocrat's ancestors, or sat on a bleak beach wondering when you can pack up and go home.

But with a little bit of prep - and a lot of enthusiasm - your family outings can become your kids' favourite future memories, as well as helping them learn new things and discover subjects that really excite them. You could even be nurturing a historian or architect of the future!

There are lots of online resources for kids' events around the country, as well as apps such as Hoop, but classic family activities work just as well - here are four, and the little tips that will make them sparkle.

Make history with the family this summer

Even if you don't enjoy history, kids love finding out about medieval knights, exploring ruined castles and trying on 'old days' costumes to boost their imagination, so start visiting your nearest local stately homes or Roman sites and work your way around the country.

BEFORE YOU GO: have a quick read about the history of the site, and start feeding your kids little stories about where you're going, to get them excited about the day and give them something to look out for when they're there.

WHEN YOU'RE THERE: look out for any special events, such as jousting tournaments, or release your own inner actor to tell them stories around the building. Children especially love funny stuff like how weird the toilets were in the Middle Ages, or what horrible food they liked to eat. Let them treat themselves to something small in the shop, too, so they can collect souvenirs of their days out.

WHEN YOU'RE BACK: encourage them to draw and write stories about their memories from the day, or the characters they found out about there. They could get crafty building castles, or even try cooking some medieval bread. Our article Creative crafts for kids has some great ideas for crafts that can bring their memories to life.

Explore nature

What we, as grown-ups, take for granted can be endlessly interesting to the curious little minds of children. Get them off their tablets and out into nature at one of the most beautiful times of the year.

BEFORE YOU GO: get the kids involved in choosing the location, looking at images online that might give them a sense of how magical it could be, whether it's a forest, a lake or the coast. Work out what wildlife you might see there, and get them to plan a 'safari' map, with their 'big five' wildlife they'd like to see.

Also, take a look at sites like the RSPB, which have resources of activities to get kids excited about wildlife. Our article Five family days out might give you some ideas for outings.

WHEN YOU'RE THERE: take some wildlife resources so that when they spot a bird, a tree or an animal, you can identify them. Give them baskets to collect their finds, from shells and pebbles to leaves and acorns.

You could also forage for mushrooms and other edible plants like brambles. Be absolutely sure you're picking the right ones, as some berries and mushrooms are highly poisonous, but if you find edible ones, they taste better than anything in the supermarket. You could also take them to a pick-your-own farm if it's the right time of year - strawberries and raspberries are available all summer.

WHEN YOU'RE BACK: ask them to draw the creatures they saw, and encourage them to use the internet to find out more about them. They could also organise their finds into a mini-museum, or if you can get some cheap box frames, they can create art collages with them. If you did go foraging, let them cook up their finds with you. And then ask for a wish list for their next outing.

Get arty

There's nothing most kids like more than getting messy with clay or paint, and art has something for everyone, whether they're science geeks who like precision-drawing or wild ones who like to splash colour around. Most local museums and art galleries do children's workshops, and if you have a local college have a look at their summer and weekend courses to see if there's anything suitable.

BEFORE YOU GO: get their imaginations flowing with books and magazines to see if they can have a think about the sort of things they'd like to draw or make. It can be hard for children to just turn up without any immediate ideas. Maybe get them drawing ahead of the class, so they feel more comfortable with their skills, and be encouraging!

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: easy - just leave them to it! You can happily read a book or go shopping for a while, safe in the knowledge that they're at a class designed to keep them occupied for hours at at time. And then at the end you just need to be suitably amazed by how brilliant their creations are!

WHEN YOU'RE BACK: have a think about whether they can continue any new techniques they might have tried. For example, if they've been making stuff with clay, go and get some cheap Fimo to encourage them to keep making. If you can set up a little corner with a desk where they can get messy without getting into trouble, all the better!

Discover sports

This is your chance to get them into your team, whether it's football, rugby, tennis or cricket that floats your boat. Or even boats for that matter! There's nothing like the atmosphere at a match to get their excitement levels up - but maybe go for lower-league teams at first rather than the big stadiums, as they can be very noisy for little ones!

BEFORE YOU GO: you probably need no encouragement on this, but try and get them excited about the teams beforehand. If you have a family history of supporting a team, this can really help, and teach them the (clean!) chants so they can get involved on the day.

WHEN YOU'RE THERE: make it as stress-free as possible, but also use it as an excuse to indulge in some otherwise-forbidden treats, like a bag of chips or sweets, or a pie. Buy a scarf for them if you can, too, and see if there's one player they support above all others, so you can shout encouragement with them. Remember to take lots of water too!

WHEN YOU'RE BACK: this is your chance to encourage them to play sports themselves, while they're still full of excitement and enthusiasm! Getting them into a team sport early is one of the best things you can do both for physical health and their social interaction, and if they can talk to team mates about the matches they've been to it will help their social standing in the team. For more ideas on how to inspire your kids to play team sports, read our article Ball games for kids.

TOP TIP: whatever your family day out involves, you're bound to end up with a big pile of muddy or paint-splashed clothes at the end of it. Luckily Ariel 3in1 will make it an absolute breeze to sort it out, so you can spend even more time enjoying the memories.

How do you make family days out special for everyone? Share your ideas in the comments box below.