It’s not long until the summer holidays kick off, and the thought of planning six whole weeks of entertaining can feel daunting.
We spend our summers at home in Nova Scotia, Canada, but don’t worry – I’ve pulled together a list of eight cheap and cheerful – and often free! – things you can do in the UK to keep your little ones busy over July and August.
What are your top tips for keeping your little nippers happy?
1 For nature lovers
If you are like me and the thought of a wander through the woods is your idea of good fun, check out the Woodland Trust which offers 100 activities on its website. Activities include downloadable guides for outdoor fun making squirrel-proof bird feeders and more, and if the weather lets you down, there are craft activities such as colouring sheets.
Or, my go-to “keep-them-busy-in-the-great-outdoors” activity is to print off a scavenger hunt. I’ve used this one in the garden, our local park, or a longer walk in the woods and it’s brilliant.
2 Free tourist attraction tickets for train travellers
Get two-for-one entry to over 150 top London attractions, restaurants, theatres, exhibitions and more, when you travel by train to London. Simply download a voucher and present it with your rail ticket when you visit the attraction.
But make sure you print it out before you leave the house. I tried to use this on a family trip to the Tower of London and was refused the discount because I had the voucher on my phone rather than old-fashioned paper. Not reading the small print cost me an extra £28. Ouch.
3 Farm fun that doesn’t cost a penny
Hackney City Farm has a range of farmyard animals including goats, sheep, chickens and donkeys as well as some small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
The farm is open from 10am–4.30 pm every day except Monday and entrance is free.
While Mudchute Park and Farm, located in the middle of the Isle of Dogs, is also free to get in. Here you can find a large collection of British rare breeds, with over 100 animals and fowl on the farm.
Or if it is free play sessions you are after, visit the farm during term time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3.00pm – 6.30pm and over the holidays on Tuesday and Thursdays from 2.00pm – 5.30pm.
4 Days out on shoestring
Save on days out at theme parks by buying their little-advertised “pre-school” tickets. At Chessington World of Adventures, for instance, an adult and child 5 and under can visit during term time for just £21 – a saving of £73 off the normal price paid t the gate. Read more about these types of deals here.
Did you know that any child between the ages of 6-15 that has had some sort of achievement could apply for a Blue Peter Badge? With it they get free admission into a huge number of attractions such as Alton Towers, Legoland and Longleat Safari and Adventure Park.
Or reduce the cost of your National Trust membership and join the National Trust for Scotland to save £25 on the cost of an annual family membership. Thanks to a reciprocal agreement, you can pay to join a sister organisation north of the border and slash your membership costs by as much as half – and it is completely legitimate. Here’s how I did it.
The English Heritage Society looks after over 400 historic places, but few people realise that 250 of those are free to visit. From remote stone circles to ruined abbeys, and Norman castles to Roman temples, you can explore thousands of years of history for absolutely nothing.
5 Make the most of free post
If you have a budding engineer in the family, sign up for the free LEGO Club magazine to put a smile on their face. Arriving several times a year, these mags are packed with cartoons, model plans and competitions aimed at children aged 4-11.
Fancy a free £8.95 craft box for your kids? The Weekend Box is a subscription service that delivers arts and crafts kits to children aged 3-8 years old, either fortnightly or monthly. I’ve got a code that means you will get your first box for free (and I get one too!) – after you get your freebie then you’ve the option to cancel at no cost.
6 Green fingered fun
The Dobbies Little Seedlings Club is a free-to-join gardening club where youngsters aged between 4–10, learn about plants, wildlife and the environment. The Little Seedlings Club has more than 15,000 annual attendees and meets on the first Sunday of every month in every Dobbies Garden Centre throughout the UK (times vary per store
Bear in mind that this free event is popular, so advanced booking is required.
7 Bargain films
For parents of young movie lovers, why not check out special Odeon Kids, screenings every Saturday and Sunday morning, from just £2.50. The films are chosen especially for little ones to enjoy and change every six to eight weeks to make sure you never miss out on the latest releases. You can now also pre-book your tickets to Odeon Kids up to four weeks in advance, making it easier for you to plan what you want to watch.
8 Free kids meals in your favourite restaurants
If the thought of packing another lunch box fills you with dread, why not enjoy a meal out for the adults and feed the kids for free? With some offers, you can walk in – with others you’ll need to register and print a voucher off first.
For instance, all weekend at Giraffe, you can get one free kids meal deal (main, selected drink and dessert) per full price adult main purchased.
At Gordon Ramsay restaurants, kids under 12 can dine free from our delicious children’s menus whenever they eat out with you. That’s all day, every day.