Cheap kids activities for summer holiday fun

Caroline Cassidy
B3FAW1 Family walking on path holding hands smiling
B3FAW1 Family walking on path holding hands smiling

Pic: Alamy

It won't be long before it's back to packed lunches and pencil cases, but for some parents, the school summer holidays might already be taking their toll. If you're strapped for cash or stuck for ideas, here are a few tips on how to keep the kids entertained without spending the earth.

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Free entries
For those with a large family or a very tight budget, there are plenty of opportunities for free entertainment that everyone can enjoy. Museums up and down the country, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the National Museum Cardiff, all of which are completely free and will keep the kids occupied for hours, so check out your local area and see what's available.

Also look for nearby stately homes or estates that might offer free entry to parks and gardens, or city farms that are perfect for little ones. And if you're really stuck or need something last minute, get creative at home. Encourage the kids to get outdoors if the weather is nice, by making a tent or den, camping out in the garden, or organising your own treasure hunt or nature walk. Geocaching, which is free to join online, is another great way to keep them entertained in the great outdoors. You can get started by going online and entering your postcode for the nearest real world treasure hunt in your area - simply use any GPS device, pack a picnic and get searching for hidden treasure.

Discount days out
Theme parks, wildlife parks and other activities can work out hugely expensive if you're taking the whole family, but there are discounts available if you know where to look. If you're a Tesco shopper, you can cash in your Clubcard points in return for Rewards vouchers, which offer up to three or four times the value of your points, to be used against a visit to the likes of Colchester Zoo, Longleat Safari Park, Diggerland, the Eden Project, Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, and a whole host of others. It could save you a bundle.

Alternatively, browse the web for sites such as or, which also offer cheap deals on activities and days out. And if you need to eat out during one of your family days, check out restaurant deals where the kids eat free as long as you buy an adult meal from the menu - Beefeater Grill, Crown Carveries and Slug and Lettuce all regularly run such offers.

Teen adventures
If you're concerned that your teenager spends the majority of their summer in front of a computer or TV screen, why not encourage them to try a little adventure? The National Citizen Service runs three-week adventure courses (two weeks away and 30 hour of work in the community) for 16 and 17-year-olds, which include outdoor activities such as canoeing, rock climbing and hiking, skills workshops like cooking and budgeting, and designing and carry out a social plan to effect positive change in their own local communities.

In many cases it's free, but it should cost you no more than £50 and that includes activities, transport, accommodation and food, so it's well worth a visit to the NCS website to find a scheme near you.
Take in a movie
Cinemas up and down the country are offering cheap and (hopefully) cheerful kids' tickets. Sign up for a free myCineworld account and children can see a film for just £1.35 on a weekend or school holiday morning (or £2.70 if it's a 3D movie). Vue Cinemas have a similar deal where kids aged between two and 12 can pay just £1.75 with the Kids AM offer (selected mornings), and Odeon kids' screenings, again on weekend and school holiday mornings, offer tickets for £2.50.

How do you keep the kids entertained on the cheap? Leave your comments below...

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