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10 free and cheap activities for kids

Things to do this summer that won’t break the bank

West End show

You could get free or cheap tickets to a West End show this summer

With the school summer holidays starting this weekend, parents across the land will be bracing themselves for six weeks of spending. According to recent research, families can shell out as much as £2,200 on keeping youngsters entertained after their escape from the classroom – so here are 10 ideas for activities that, in some cases, won’t cost you a penny.

1. Visit free museums and galleries

Some of the country’s most impressive museums and galleries don’t charge for entry – so consider taking your children along to see art and exhibitions at the likes of the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum and the British Museum.

And it isn’t only museums in the capital that offer free entry: York’s National Railway Museum is free to visit, as are Swansea Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.

The Do Free Stuff website lists free-to-enter museums and galleries across the country.

2. Take a trip to a national park

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that Britain’s National Parks are free to visit. Taking in the beautiful views and fresh air of the Cairngorms, the Peak District or the New Forest won’t cost you a penny – so start planning your day out now on the National Parks website.

3. Get the lowdown on local library activities

If your little ones love books, find out what activities your local library has organised this summer.

Special reading groups, play sessions and story-themed craft events will be happening up and down the country during the school holidays – so visit your local authority’s website for information on what’s going on near you.

4. Travel by train to get 50% off attractions

If it’s big name attractions your children are interested in, find out whether you could cut the cost of a family visit by going on the train. Booking tickets online could mean you also get 2 for 1 entry to top London shows such as Blood Brothers and attractions like the Harry Potter bus tour and the Tower of London. Go to the Days Out Guide website for more information. 

5. Get active with low-cost sports

While the British summer weather may mean spending every day outdoors is impossible, no doubt you’ll want your kids to stay active over the holidays. Most local authorities run free sports schemes and events that are cheap or free to take part in – so see what’s on near you.

Alternatively, Asda’s Sporting Chance scheme is helping to engage young people with a variety of different sports up and down the country. Visit the website for more information.

6. Track down great deals on the web

Whether you’re looking for cheap activity tickets or bargain restaurant deals, the internet is the place to be. Check out websites such as Lastminute.com, Kids Go Free and What To Do With The Kids for finding details of events that will appeal to children without busting your budget.

Meanwhile, sites such as Toptable and 5pm.co.uk will help you track down vouchers for cheaper dining. The Which? Ways to save on eating out guide is also worth looking at if you’re planning to treat the family to a feed.

7. Get great deals at the movies

A cinema trip for the whole family could easily set you back as much as £50 – so if you want to take your youngsters to see a film, consider signing up with websites such as See Film First, Momentum Screenings and Disney Screenings. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the opportunity to go and see movies for free before they go on general release. However, it’s worth noting you’re unlikely to have a say in exactly how many tickets you get hold of or which cinema they are for.

Meanwhile, children under 13 and accompanying adults can see selected films at some Vue cinemas for £1.25 at weekends and in school holidays. Visit the Kids AM page of the Vue website for more information.

Cineworld also charges just £1 per person for specific Saturday morning films in certain locations as part of its Movies for Juniors scheme, while an adult gets in free with each child paying ‘pocket money prices’ for Odeon Cinema showings on weekend mornings.

8. Grab cheap tickets for a London show

It may seem that a family theatre trip is out of reach this summer thanks to expensive ticket prices, the stubbornly high cost of petrol and the cash you’d have to splurge on food and drinks during a day out.

Luckily, kids can go free to some of London’s biggest West End shows if they are accompanied by an adult paying full price. Visit the Kids Week website for more information.

9. Find downloadable fun

Let’s face it: there are going to grey days this summer, and there’s nothing worse for energetic children than being stuck inside while the rain pours.

If your youngsters are climbing the walls, why not download some mini activities to keep them occupied until the sky clears? The Kaboose website has colouring pages, craft projects and children-friendly recipes for parents to download.

10. Go natural

Finally, if you live somewhere near woodland, why not get your children involved in the Nature Detectives project?
The Nature Detectives Club costs £12 a year to join, but outdoorsy children will love the activity pack that comes along with membership.

Alternatively, the website features information on where to find local woods to explore and houses a library of ideas for summer holiday activities which are free to download.

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