Five free family activities!

Entertaining your children at weekend and during the holidays can be an expensive activity. Play centres, theme parks and attractions all have entry costs, even if they offer family tickets, and the cost can soon mount up when you add travel expenses and refreshments whilst you are out.

Keeping your youngsters occupied doesn’t have to cost the earth, though. Here are five activities you can take part in that don’t cost a penny…

1.    A walk in the woods

Search for woodland areas that are free to the public in your local area. Many woods have websites where you can download walks and trails free of charge.

To make your day trip even more exciting, put together a list of birds and trees for your children to spot or give them the map and ask them to navigate. Getting out in the fresh air is good for the soul and your little ones will be so engrossed that they won’t even notice they’re doing exercise!

If you’re planning to make a day of it, pack up a picnic rather than forking out for lunch at a café nearby.

2.    Get swimming!

Some councils offer free swimming sessions for children at local leisure centres. Have a look online to see if anywhere in your area is offering these schemes.

During weekends and holidays, many pools operate fun sessions with inflatable toys and wave machines. It’s worth looking up the timetable to see what’s on offer – even if these activity hours aren’t free of charge they can be a lot cheaper than other days out.

3.    Build a sandcastle

A day at the beach is a great way to entertain children at a very low cost. Help them to build a sandcastle or have a competition to see who can get the most bounces skimming stones into the sea.

Even if the weather is a little cold, a brisk walk along the shore can blow the cobwebs away and give kids the opportunity to burn off some energy before they return to the house.

4.    Set up a fast food restaurant in your own home

As a cheaper alternative to going out for burger and chips, create a fast food restaurant in your kitchen. Put some oven chips and burgers or chicken nuggets on to cook and create containers out of leftover cardboard boxes – you can even stick greaseproof paper together to make chip packets.

Whilst the food is cooking, get your children to decorate the packets ready for service. Then ask them to come up to the kitchen bench and place their order when the food is ready!

5.    Look up at the stars

If you’re having trouble getting your young ones to sleep, treat them to a moonlight adventure with a spot of stargazing. The activity can start in the afternoon by printing off a map of the stars and teaching them about the various constellations and the stories behind them. Get each child to choose their favourite pattern to look out for that evening.

When darkness falls, dress up warmly and make some cocoa ready for your stargazing adventure. Take the kids outside and see whether you can spot any of the constellations you discussed during the afternoon.

A word of warning: this activity only works on a clear night!

If none of the above ideas take your fancy there are still plenty of things you can do with your family that don’t break the bank. Parenting websites such as Netmums and Day Out with the Kids have a directory of free attractions and organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage often run promotions during the school holidays.

Nature Detectives is a great site if you’re looking for ways to engage your little ones in the great outdoors. You can even make the prospect of spending more time in the garden interesting by setting out an obstacle course of things to jump over, climb under and run around.

When the weather’s bad, have a look online for family websites for drawing templates and craft ideas that you can print out to keep your children occupied. The Kidz Page and Activity Village have lots of artistic ideas for rainy days. You could also enroll your children in a local library – let them pick a book to read themselves and a story for you to read to them when it comes to bedtime.

All of the above suggestions show how you can still have fun with your family, even if you are on a limited budget.

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