The long summer holidays mean that parents across the UK have been trying to find ways to keep the kids entertained before the start of the new school term.
But with a week still to go before we wave the youngsters off at the school gate, many of us are running out of ideas – and cash – to occupy the little ones.
If you’re wondering how to keep your kids busy for less, here are some of our best cheap and free ways to spend the final days of the summer holiday.
Inspire a love of reading at the local library
Your local library is a wonderful place to frequent with the kids – and far from being an austere building where silence must be observed – modern libraries have a host of free activities such as story reading sessions, arts and craft days and thousands of children’s books to choose from.
Many libraries across the UK participate in the annual Summer Reading Challenge, which encourages children aged four to eleven to read six books over the holiday to build their literacy skills and discover the fun of reading.
This year’s theme for the Summer Reading Challenge is The Gadgeteers, who are a group of six characters ready to lead children on a fun reading adventure.
Free entry to UK museums
There are plenty of family-friendly UK museums that are free to enter – and you don’t have to travel to London to visit one. Explore Ely museum and discover how Fenland families lived in the past, where there are plenty of opportunities for interaction with dressing up rooms, animations and arts and crafts sessions for little ones.
The Discovery Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a free museum dedicated to sharing the story of the region’s proud shipbuilding heritage, plus some important inventions that changed the world. There is an interactive Science Maze for kids to enjoy and a Lego mini-figure trail that is taking place until September 4.
Join in a fun scavenger hunt at Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre and uncover the artefacts and films donated by the local community. It’s an informative day out with plenty of activities to keep the kids amused – and a sensory area with provisions for children with additional needs.
Eat out with a discounted meal
To help cash-strapped parents cope with the double whammy of the school holidays and the cost-of-living crisis, many restaurants and supermarkets are offering big discounts on kid’s meals.
Early risers can take advantage of the Brewers Fayre breakfast deal, where two children can enjoy a free breakfast with any purchase of a £9.50 adult breakfast, while Asda is offering hot and cold kids meals for just £1 – without any minimum adult spend.
IKEA is also offering cheap meals for the kids, with a hot dinner, jelly, a piece of fruit and a soft drink for £1.50 in the shop’s popular cafés.
Fans of pizza can also take advantage of Bella Italia’s kid’s meals for £1 by visiting the Italian restaurant chain between 4pm and 6pm, Monday to Thursday. Children up to the age of eleven can fill up with a three-course meal and get a free colouring pack to keep them busy.
Grab a cheap ticket to an attraction
Tesco shoppers can take advantage of their Clubcard points by turning them into vouchers to get discounted – or even free – entry to over 150 attractions in the UK.
Deals include theme parks such as Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland, or historical attractions including Hever Castle in Kent.
Compare The Market customers can also take advantage of ‘Meerkat Movies’ with a two-for-one cinema ticket offer at Vue cinemas. Treat the little ones to a trip to see summer blockbusters such as Minions: The Rise Of Gru – and continue to enjoy two-for-one film tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday for a year. That’s the half-term holiday treat sorted too!
Go blackberry picking
Grab a container and get out in the countryside to pick plump blackberries. It’s an activity that the whole family can get involved with, and after you’ve gathered a stash of shiny berries together, you can get the little ones busy in the kitchen to turn your berries into delicious pies and jam!
Give geocaching a go
Geocaching has been described as the ‘world’s biggest treasure hunt’ – and it’s free to get involved with. It’s a form of orienteering using GPS coordinates to help participants locate ‘caches’ stashed in areas all over the United Kingdom.
Simply sign up at the geocaching website and download a map of locations near you and get searching. When you find a cache, sign the logbook, put it back for the next person to find and log your find on the app or website.
It’s a fun, free way to get the kids away from their devices and explore the area around them.
Get active on a Junior Parkrun
Start your Sunday morning with an energising run with the kids. Weekly Junior Parkruns take place across the UK with the aim of encouraging children aged between four and fourteen to take part in a 2k timed run, jog or walk.
To take part, all you have to do is register (it’s free) at the Parkrun website, print off your registration bar code and take it with you to the event.
There are 1,149 locations to choose from, so there is sure to be one nearby. The activity is open to everyone and promotes a positive and inclusive experience where children (and their parents) can benefit from improving their fitness and feeling part of the local community. Find your nearest Junior Parkrun location.