Free half term days out and ways to entertain the kids that won't cost you a thing

From museums to movies and make-believe, here's how to treat the kids for free

Updated: 

Free half term days out and ways  to entertain the kids that won't cost you a thing

Keeping the little ones entertained this half term can easily become an expensive business – but it doesn't have to be that way.

"Our research found that last half term parents planned to spend £276 per child, including toys, treats and the latest gadgets to keep children entertained," said American Express director Jenny Cheung.

"Big ticket" purchases such as Alton Towers or Legoland could make a big dent in the family finances - with days out costing £74 a child according to American Express figures - but there are plenty of options which won't break the bank.

See also: February half-term: Fun-filled family breaks

See also: The top 50 free attractions in the UK

"The half-term break is great for spending some quality time with your children," said Anita Naik, lifestyle editor from VoucherCodes.co.uk and mother of two.

"But activities and day trips could leave a big hole in your wallet. With a bit of pre-planning, it's easy to keep costs down – and even do things for free."

Here we take a closer look.

Explore a museum

Credits: Getty

Getty

There are more than 180 museums spread across the UK which you can visit completely for free.

Many will also run extra free events over the school holidays, so it's worth checking their websites to see what's on offer.

Why not try the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, the Science Museum in London, or the Scottish National Gallery, all of which have an extensive schedule of events, talks and activities throughout the year – including February half-term.

And remember to pack a picnic to make the day even cheaper.

For an extensive list of free options, visit Moneysavingexpert.com/deals/free-museums-and-art-galleries .

Search VisitEngland

A simple way to find free family events is by heading to VisitEngland.com and using the filters to select "family" and "free."

Your search should return almost 40 results nationwide, including "becoming a butterfly expert" at the tropical paradise at the Cumberland House Natural History Museum in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and outdoor fun at Bath's Skyline woodland play area in Somerset.

Head to a festival

During February half-term, York holds a celebration of its Viking heritage where children can play with Viking toys and games, and enjoy singing and story-telling events. Visit jorvik-viking-festival.co.uk .

From February 11, Blackpool hosts a four-day festival of circus, magic and live performance called Showzam, Visitblackpool.com/showzam/ . For each of these festivals there are both free and ticketed events.

Head outdoors

Credits: Getty

Getty

Even if the weather is a bit wet and windy during the school break, it's still worth heading outdoors.

"Why not organise a game of 'treasure hunt bingo' where you write down certain flowers or items in the garden or park or local woods, and get your little ones to find them," said Jody Leggett from Bargainbuysforbusymums.co.uk .

"There's also a wide range of totally free activities for children aged from toddler to six-plus years available on the Woodland Trust website, including a mini-beast hunt and giant-nest build from sticks."

Visit Woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives.

Get down with the donkeys

Credits: Getty

Getty

You can get free entry to the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth in Devon not only during half-term, but all-year round. This site has more than 500 donkeys, farm trails, a maze and play centre.

While the Devon location is the main site, there are also donkey sanctuaries in Birmingham, Derbyshire, Manchester, Leeds and Belfast, all of which are free, too (although donations are welcome).

Take a trip down the high street

Credits: Manchester Evening News

Manchester Evening News

It's worth checking out what's on offer on your local high-street stores, as some offer dedicated events for children.

For example, Pets at Home runs free workshops for little ones at stores where they can pet animals and learn about how to care for them. Visit http://community.petsathome.com/workshops/ .

Dobbies Garden Centres run the Little Seedlings Club, a free-to-join gardening club where youngsters between four and 10 can learn about plants, wildlife and the environment, visit Dobbies.com/events/little-seedlings/ .

Elsewhere, Waterstones often runs author talks and story-time sessions from child novelists. Visit Waterstones.com/events .

Sign up for a free skateboard lesson

Skateboard fanatics and BMX lovers can enjoy a free two-hour session in London at the Skateboard School in Waterloo. Visit http://houseofvanslondon.com/book-skate-session .

Bag a free cinema ticket

Credits: Getty

Getty

If you fancy seeing a film for free at the end of half term, you can do so by signing up to cashback site Topcashback.co.uk . From February 17 until February 26, the site is offering a free cinema ticket worth up to £10 to all new members.

Some of the top family films at the moment include The Lego Batman movie, Storks, and Disney favourite, Monna. For more information visit TopCashback.co.uk/snapandsave .

There's also free popcorn up for grabs at Empire Cinemas throughout February, visit Hotukdeals.com/freebies/free-small-popcorn-empire-cinemas-2611206 .

Arrange a movie night

Equally, rather than fork out on cinema tickets, why not arrange your own movie night at home for your little ones and their friends? Arrange sofas and bean bags with lots of cushions and blankets and settle down in front of a family favourite.

You could even get crafty and make your own ticket-shaped invites and bake some treats – or make some popcorn for your guests," said Naik.

Play make-believe games

Credits: Getty

Getty

Why not create an imaginary world out of things you have lying around at home?

"There's nothing more magical than creating a den out of sheets, pegs, chairs, cushion stacks or a big cardboard box," said David Pugh from finance site, Lemonade Money .

"You and your little ones can then concentrate on sailing seas, conquering kingdoms, and rescuing princesses."

Set-up some simple science experiments

Alternatively, satisfy your children's curiosity by doing home-made science experiments.

"Make a tornado in a plastic bottle using just water, glitter and washing-up liquid, or create a fizzy drink geyser. There are tonnes of ideas on YouTube, and you don't have to purchase any kit," Pugh added.

Take part in "national random acts of kindness day"

Credits: The Berry Company

The Berry Company

You might not know it, but February 17 is a day devoted to doing good deeds for other people.

Naik said: "This is a great opportunity to get the children involved and to do something for your local community. You could, for example, donate old toys to a local charity shop, send a letter or drawing to an old friend or relative, pick up rubbish at a local park, or make a 'thank you' card for someone who deserves it, such as a teacher, librarian – or even the postman."

50 free UK attractions

50 free UK attractions



Related video: