If you can’t jet off and travel in the summer holidays or afford expensive days out to attractions then you might be wondering how you can entertain the kiddies for so long, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Read this blog post to discover 50 cheap and free things to do with kids in the summer holidays that don’t require a passport!
Whilst we dream of packing up for the summer holidays and jetting off in an RV and travelling the USA, Canada or doing a European road trip for six weeks, the reality is we’re hoping to pop to Germany to visit Ben’s Gran for a few days if we can save enough money in time or we may go camping in the Lake District for a few nights. Nothing is set in stone and we might even be staying at home for the one week we have planned to spend together as a family.
The rest of the six weeks will be pretty normal as both Ben and I are self-employed and will continue to work as much as possible. The children will spend a large amount of time at a local holiday club with the odd days at home. Whilst I hope we can have a few days out adventuring or visiting nearby attractions if we can find discounts on days out with kids, we will also be watching our pennies as Ben embarks on his first ever self-employed career in July and we have no idea how much money he will make!
Luckily there are lots of ways to entertain the kids for free in the summer holidays. Fingers crossed for sunny weather as then it’s even easier to get out and about to stop them climbing the walls at home! There’s nothing worse than the kids getting bored and ratty, so it’s always good to have a plan of action for rainy days too.
I wrote this list of 50 cheap and free things to do back when my daughter was five and my son was two. Now they are seven and four but it’s still a great list that we can refer to whenever they are bored in the summer holidays or we’re struggling to think of things to do.
One day we will go travelling in the six week school summer holiday. That’s our plan and a big part of the reason Ben wants to join me in being self-employed. We’re hoping that in time, when both our businesses are a success, we can use the school summer holidays to go travelling and adventuring with the kids without the restrictions of annual leave and an employed job each. It may just take a few years and a lot of saving!
A list of 50 cheap and free things to do with kids in the summer holidays
1. Junk modelling
I save as much of our clean and non-dangerous recycling from punnets to empty loo rolls to foil in a big craft box for the kids. Just add some glue sticks, coloured paper and felt tips.
2. Jumping in muddy puddles
I’m pretty certain there will be some rainy days in the UK. Taking the kids out to jump in muddy puddles when the downpour has stopped is always a winner!
3. Play parks
Another free way to keep the kids entertained on dry days. Mix it up and visit a different play park each day. Find parks with concrete areas so you can take the kids scooters and rollerblades with you. Some parks even have tennis courts you can use for free, so take some racquets and balls and have a game of tennis, badminton or even volleyball. Find some cheap racquets at Badminton HQ for the kids.
4. Make the most of your garden
Sometimes we feel like we need to take the kids out here, there and everywhere, but simply getting them out of the house and into our own garden is sometimes all they need! Lots of people spend a lot of time and money in making their garden look great, so make sure you use it! My kids can happily play for hours in the garden with garden toys, finding bugs, a bucket of water or some patio chalks.
5. Hide and seek
Simple and so much fun! Plus it can be played indoors or out.
6. Walk in the woods
Many woods have free car parks and provide so much entertainment to kids. Often mine whinge and don’t want to go, but once there then they don’t want to leave! There’s so much to play and explore from hide and seek, hunting for bears, spotting wildlife and collecting sticks or wildflowers.
7. Neighbourhood walk
Super simple and anyone can do this one, even if you don’t have a car. Go for a stroll around your own neighbourhood; get some fresh air and exercise, spot things along the way. If you know there are certain things to spot then make a list to see who can find them all first.
8. Self portraits
Set up some mirrors on a table and pens and paper and draw yourselves! Or even better, sit opposite each other and draw each other!
9. Read a story
Share a book together and enjoy snuggling up for story time. Set up rugs and cushions in the garden and share stories in the sunshine.
10. Watch a Disney film
Or any kids film. Make popcorn, turn out the lights or shut the curtains in the day and have a kid-friendly movie day.
11. Go to the beach
If you live near to a beach then lucky you! Our closest beach is almost one hour away and it’s not a great one, but it’s not too expensive a day out with petrol costs and of course the obligatory chippy chips on the pier!
12. Walk up a hill
Climb a hill. This is one that the kids might need persuading to do, but once there they always enjoy it! It’s so satisfying to reach the top of a hill and admire all the views.
13. Feed the ducks
Just don’t feed them bread! Make sure you get proper bird seed. Some of the parks in our hometown now have bird seed machines.
14. Do a jigsaw puzzle
If the kids are older then make this into a challenge. Get two jigsaws with the same amount of pieces and see who can complete theirs first.
15. Play catch
In the garden, in the park or even with a soft ball inside!
16. Go to the soft play
An easy pleaser for young children and even better if you can find one with no time limits!
17. Get books from the library
Not only can you get books from the library for free to entertain kids of all ages, but many UK libraries put on free events for kids throughout the school holidays such as craft days and story times.
18. Make cardboard box cars
Or simply just give your younger kids a cardboard box and watch them be entertained for hours. Just recently I had a cardboard box from a delivery and the kids were quite happy turning it into a boat, den, bed, car and more for over one hour! Ask local shops if they have any spare cardboard boxes to get them for free.
19. Have a picnic
Can’t travel? Then have a picnic in your garden! Don’t have a garden? Have a picnic on your living room floor! Get the kids to help make the finger food.
20. Camp in the garden
Older kids would love to have a camping sleepover with their friends in the garden! With younger kids have a family campout under the stars in the garden.
21. Make an obstacle course in the garden
Create your own sports day with races, obstacle courses and make a medal for the winner.
22. Try a cheap letterbox craft box
Get a ToucanBox discount code and try this fun letterbox craft activity with your kids.
23. Pick and press flowers
Use a flower press to press and dry out flowers to make pretty pictures. If you don’t have a press then pop the flowers between two pieces of paper and flatten under some heavy books.
24. Make a bug house
Follow an online guide to make a bug hotel using lots of natural materials you can find in your garden and home.
25. Spot butterflies
Go on a nature walk to find butterflies with a butterfly spotting sheet like this one: https://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/images/Downloads/spotters/butterfly%20detective%20spotting%20sheet.pdf
26. Blow bubbles
Bubbles are a cheap and cheerful way to keep the kids entertained for a short while. You can even experiment by making your own bubble mixture and creating wands from twisted cotton covered pipe cleaners or wire.
27. Have a water fight
Simple, easy and lots of fun!
28. Play in a sandpit
Set up a sandpit with spades to dig and buckets to fill. Younger kids love sand pits and will play happily for ages.
It’s only a few pounds for a pack of three Playdoh colours in our local supermarket or just one pound for a pack of Plasticine.
30. Grow your own veg, herbs and salad
Get green-fingered and plant your own vegetables and salads. To make things quicker and easier you can buy a plant from your local garden centre for a head start. Kids love planting things and watching them grow. Even better if they get to eat what they grow too!
31. Plant some flowers
Whilst you’re at it, plant some flowers too.
32. Make 3 ingredient healthy ice lollies
Help to cool down the kids and entertain them at the same time by making your own ice lollies. It’s super easy and also very cheap to get an ice-lolly mould if you don’t already have one.
33. Build a den
Inside or outside. Give the kids a bunch of throws and sheets and let them create the coolest den.
34. Play Twister
If you don’t have the board game then check out your local charity shops or create your own. You could make your own using patio chalks in the garden!
35. Go swimming
Most swimming pools are only a few pounds per person or you can usually swim for free in swimming lakes and of course at the beach.
36. Build with Lego
Tip the Lego out and let their imaginations go wild.
37. Walk along a canal path
Visit your nearest canal path for a summery walk spotting boats, swans and plenty of wildlife.
38. Fly a kite
Let’s go fly a kite, off to the highest heights…
39. Go trampolining
Check out Groupon to see if you can get some cheap passes to your nearest jump park or use your garden trampoline if you have one!
40. Collect pebbles and paint them
Get some large pebbles, maybe collect some from a pebble beach, and use paints to make them into ladybirds, bees or whatever you like.
41. Make and send postcards
Get the kids to create their own postcards with pictures of things they’ve been up to. Write them and send them to friends and family.
42. Go berry picking
Towards the end of the summer the blackberries start popping out so check out any local fields with bramble bushes and alleyways to find spots for blackberry picking.
43. Have a BBQ
Enjoy lots of food outdoors when the weather is good and cook on the BBQ.
44. Make a summer holiday scrapbook
Keep tickets, print photos, stick in pressed flowers and write down all your summer holiday adventures in a shared family scrapbook.
45. Play rounders in a field
Grab your bats and balls and have a rounders tournament with friends and family!
46. Turn up the music and have a kitchen disco
Whack the kitchen radio on full blast and dance around like loons!
47. Visit a charity shop for cheap toys and games
Support your local charity shops and discover affordable games and toys to play when the kids are bored.
48. Draw on the patio with outdoor chalks
Jumbo chalks are only a couple of pounds and can provide hours of entertainment!
49. Fill up the paddling pool
On scorching days get the paddling pool up or simply fill up some buckets or large tubs with water to let the kids splash around.
50. Create a treasure hunt
Set up a treasure hunt in the house, garden or both with a prize at the end. Make a treasure map or leave clues. My husband loves making treasure hunts for the kids and they get so excited each time!
Of course this is mostly a travel blog, but not everyone can travel far and wide in the school summer holidays. Hopefully this list will inspire you to find something free or cheap to do to entertain the children during the holidays or in-between all those fabulous trips away you’ll be having!