Cheap and free ways to entertain the kids at half-term
When half-term arrives, parents all over start wondering what to do with their little darlings - and how to keep it cheap. But there are loads of things to do if you keep your ear to the ground, and much of it is free.
When half-term arrives, parents all over start wondering what to do with their little darlings - and how to keep it cheap. But there are loads of things to do if you keep your ear to the ground, and much of it is free.

Rain or shine fun

The February half term fun can be a tricky one to plan thanks to our unpredictable weather.

But National Trust sites have a whole host of indoor and outdoor activities planned for the half term, which are cheap or free after normal admission charges.

For example kids can try den building in the woods on the Penrose Estate or have a go making Tudor trinkets and treasures in the King's Room on the Godolphin Estate in Cornwall.

Go to the movies

Most kids love films and new releases like Big Hero 6 and Shaun the Sheep are sure to entertain, but with some cinemas charging up to £9 per ticket it can be very expensive.

Vue Cinemas has a saver scheme called Kids AM where you can see children's films on Saturday and Sunday mornings and over the school holidays for just £1.75 per child. The accompanying adult pays the same price, while 3D films are £3. Meanwhile teens aged between 13 and 18 can 20% off the adult ticket price, though this offer applies all year round.

Most Odeon cinemas have Odeon Kids, which includes films on Saturday and Sunday mornings and over the school holidays, with prices starting from just £2.50 - adults pay the same price as the child.

Meanwhile, Cineworld runs Movies for Juniors at many of its cinemas on Saturday and Sunday mornings and during the mornings over the school holidays, where adults and children pay £1.50 a piece (or £3 for 3D movies). If you're a My Cineworld member, you'll only pay £1.35/£2.70 and no booking fee.

And if you're an Orange or EE mobile phone or broadband customer, you can take advantage of its two-for-one deals every Wednesday at most cinemas. It also usually gets you a two-for one deal at a nearby restaurant chain before or after you've seen your film. The cinema offer, which has been available for ten years, is being withdrawn from 25th February so time is running out to take advantage of the discount.

Alternatively, you could hold your own cinema event. Download a free film (legally!) from one of many free movie websites, get the kids to draw some tickets and posters, buy or make your own popcorn and snacks and settle down to watch the film!

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Find a free local event

If you fancy getting out of the house, but money is a real issue, there might be something going on near you that's free to attend. and are great for finding brilliant free events right on your doorstep!

There's sure to be some sort of pancake themed event in your area for Shrove Tuesday (17th February) or events to celebrate the Chinese New Year (19th February).

Also check out Enjoy England, Visit Scotland, Visit Wales and to find local activities and attractions, plus loads of two-for-one offers.

The List has a terrific kids' section encompassing events around the UK. If you live in or near London, Time Out has a great list of kids' activities on its website.

The Imagine Children's Festival, for example, is on over the holidays at the South Bank Centre in London and features a whole range of fun activities, which are free like Rug Rhymes and the Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave.

Get creative

Loads of fun can be had making things.

Visit Britain has a great list of free art galleries on its website that are sure to be holding some affordable or free workshops.

At the National Portrait Gallery for example there are various sessions on during the holidays including a few on mono prints where kids can experiment with making self-portraits.

Elsewhere at some B&Q stores there are Kids Can Do It classes on the weekends and during the week over the school holidays for those aged 7-11, where children can learn basic DIY skills. These normally cost £5 but you can get them free if you join the free B&Q Club.

And at some Ikea locations around the country there are free half-term activities. In the Warrington branch for example there are craft activities, face painting and balloon modelling throughout the half term.

Don't forget to check out your local council's website for details of any creative activities being put on for families over the half term too!

Do something educational

Don't rule out that museum in town you've probably ignored for years – most hold activities or exhibitions that children find fascinating.

If you want to visit the big hitters in London, most of which are free, Visit London has a guide. Visit Britain also has a great list of free museums on its website. Meanwhile, National Museums Scotland has a list of family activities at its museums here.

If you 're in London you can go see the images from the Wildlife Photography of the Year exhibition for a small fee (£6.30 children, £12.60 adults) at the Natural History Museum.

Get active

If you've got a budding footballer in the house, why not see if you can sign him (or her) up for some free football coaching with the Tesco Holiday Skills Sessions (in England only, sadly).

There's also free tennis two-hour coaching sessions available nationwide. See if there are any near you on the Tennis For Free website.

Or you could take them to the free National Football Museum in Manchester, where for a small fee you can also try challenges like scoring a penalty at Wembley.

If you live in Wales, children 16 and under can go to your local swimming pool for free during the school holidays – there's more details at the Sport Wales website. Some local councils in England and Scotland also offer free swimming – check your local council's website to see if it's one of them.

In fact, even if you're not up for a swim, it's a good idea to check out your local council's website anyway as many will be running reasonably priced half-term sports courses.

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Do something expensive (but bag a big discount)

There are plenty of discount vouchers and daily deals sites with cut price offers on exciting activities for the kids you might not normally consider because of the price.

Take a look at family friendly deals on Right now you can save 50% off two laser games at Basildon, Oxford or Stevenage Laser Kombat centres, meaning you pay £6 instead of £11.90, a saving of £5.90.

Don't forget there might be something the whole family can enjoy on general daily deals sites like Groupon, Living Social and Wowcher as well as discount sites like

Try a bus or train adventure

While it may sound dull to you, young kids that travel mostly by car find bus or train journeys unbelievably exciting.

If you live somewhere (such as London) where kids under 11 can travel by bus for free this can be a very reasonable day out.

Pack some lunch, drinks and snacks, hop on a bus and buy an adult day saver ticket – you can choose to hop on and off as often as you like. If you pick up a route map (or print one off from your council's website before you leave) you can all choose a few places to visit.

Energetic grannies and grandpas aged 60 or over and on babysitting duty could find this a good way to entertain as most are entitled to free bus travel anyway.

If you fancy hopping on the train, don't forget that children under the age of five travel for free and those aged five to 15 get a 50% discount. If you're travelling in and around London or the South East, your train ticket can open up a host of two-for-one or money off offers via the Days Out Guide website at attractions, theatre shows and restaurants.

Cadbury World and Madame Tussauds are just a few of the attractions that are included.

Get lost in a book

Check out your local library as most will hold at least one storytelling and/or music session during half-term which, of course, is free (you may need to book in advance).

Let the kids choose some books while they're there, use the free internet provided and hire a DVD or two and the morning or afternoon will fly by.

Don't forget to check out your local bookshop as most are also geared up for half-term. Or browse a book swap site like or and get some new books you can enjoy together for free.

Grab a cheap meal

Eating meals out can quickly add up over the holidays. But some restaurants offer to ease the pain for families.

At Slug and Lettuce for example kids can eat for £1 on Sundays when an adult dines from the main menu.

Meanwhile at Beefeater up to two kids can eat breakfast for free when one adult orders a full Premier Inn Breakfast. Alternatively one child can get a free meal every Saturday between 12pm and 5pm for each adult that gets a main meal (offer applies to up to six adults and six children in a party).

Or cook up a feast

A great activity that many kids love is cooking, so why not keep them busy in the kitchen?

Depending on how old they are you'll have to be prepared for some serious mess, but it'll be good fun. Check out the CBeebies' site for recipe ideas for younger children.

As it's Shrove Tuesday on 17th February, so why not try making some pancakes? There's loads of pancake recipes to try from our sister site lovefood, which also has some some handy tips on children's cooking.

Do you have any other ideas for great free or cheap activities for children? Share them in the Comments section below.

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