Merely surviving the summer holidays as a single parent is daunting enough, but with added childcare costs and the prospect of having to keep the kids happy for upwards of six weeks, school holidays can quickly turn into a budgeting nightmare, too. If the weeks of family time are stretching out before you in a never-ending parade of empty diary dates, have no fear. I’ve rounded up some of the best free summer holidays activities for families, plus a few very affordable options thrown in for good measure. Let the summer of fun commence…
Free (& very cheap) summer holidays activities for kids & families
National Play Days
From street parties to group woodland explorations, National Play Days happen on Wednesday 7 August, with a host of free family activities to join in with across the country. Check out www.playday.org.uk for your nearest event and join in the fun.
Tennis for Free
Sporting charity Tennis for Free offers free weekly two-hour tennis coaching sessions across England and Scotland for ages three and up, so your little one can give the sport a try without splashing out on expensive lessons or having to actually take to the court yourself. Although having said that, it’s also worth checking out if there are any local community tennis courts you can make the most of, to keep active with the kids this summer when you suddenly can’t make it to the gym while the kids are at school / preschool. (This last bit was a note to self, FYI.) www.tennisforfree.com
OK, so a National Trust membership isn’t free, but it’s very affordable. A single parent family membership (one adult and up to 10, yes, 10, kids) is just £6.50 a month, while a two-adult family is £10.50 a month. From this monthly membership comes hundreds of subsequently ‘free’ days out across the country, so wherever you are you can find a new location to explore, with some of the country’s most beautiful spots. There are usually child-friendly activities (often treasure or wildlife hunts of some kind) being run for a nominal fee, usually a quid, that will stop your child calling their day ‘booooooring’. My National Trust membership has kept me completely sane throughout nearly four years of parenthood. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
For many, a museum trip means a costly journey into London or across town and an expensive café lunch, but the UK is bursting with free-to-enter museums with child-friendly exhibitions (just remember to pack your egg sarnies). From the National History Museum in London or the National Football Museum in Manchester or your local town museum (my local museum in Reading is pretty decent), most have interactive exhibitions and dress-up boxes or hands-on experiences to keep the kids happy (and learning). Just don’t exit via the gift shop…
A family cinema trip can get costly, especially if you forget to pre-buy your popcorn, but if you sign up to sites such as www.showfilmfirst.com you will be invited to first-come-first-served test screenings of new films. Set up a notification so you get there, ahem, first.
Picnic in the Park
Cheap packed lunch (that they’d have eaten at home anyway), football, bat and ball, couple of their friends (and yours) if available and bob’s your uncle you’ve got a full afternoon of alfresco fun without spending a penny. Just remember to pack the suncream / umbrellas as appropriate.
City Farms and Country Farm Shops
There are farms across the country where you can stop by and meet the animals without spending a penny. Sure, you might want to stop for a cup of tea in the farm shop or stock up on free range eggs while you’re there, but the kids will love the animal time and getting a little taste of farm life.
Whether north or south, head for your nearest coastline and explore the rockpools around the UK with a bucket, a net and a cheese sandwich in your pocket. If you didn’t do this in your youth, did you even grow up in Britain?
Wherever you are, check out your local ‘visit’ website for lots of free activity ideas that the kids will enjoy. For example, young Jane Austen fans can download a free Jane Austen audio tour for Bath from www.visitbath.co.uk and walk in the famous author’s footsteps for the day.
Recycled artwork is huge right now, so help your little one get in on the action (and kickstart their career as an artist) by tipping out the contents of your recycling bin in the garden and asking them to create you a giant jellyfish. Or go Blue Peter old-school and demand they make you a perfect Tracy Island replica. I never did finish mine.
For more general advice about surviving the school holidays as a single parent, check out this post.
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