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15 Cheap Or Free Things To Do During School Holidays

15 July 2019

Calling all parents - if you have children who are easily bored, the Summer holidays can seem awfully long. Now you can resist the urge to occupy them with electronic games. Our run-down of 15 Cheap (or FREE!) Things-To-Do With Children during the Summer Holidays will save your sanity and your bank balance. Whatever the weather or the age of your children these ideas will keep them entertained for a while.

Things-To-Do At A Glance:

  1. Treasure Hunt
  2. Home Baking
  3. Gardening
  4. National Museums
  5. Junk Modelling
  6. Magical Mystery Tour
  7. Water Play
  8. Get Back To Nature
  9. Dressing Up
  10. Pavement Art
  11. Picnic
  12. Make a photo album
  13. Home-made Playdough
  14. Retro Games
  15. Play Shop

Treasure Hunt:

Download or draw a simple map of your local area and help the kids to navigate from one point to another using clues (perhaps offer a few hints if they get stuck). Let them find a small prize at the end to reward their efforts. Alternatively, use Google to find a ready-made treasure hunt for your local area.

Home Baking:

Bake and decorate simple fairy cakes or biscuits using basic ingredients. Try to introduce fruit, seeds and other healthy ingredients to cut down on the sugar content. Also make sure the kids help with the cleaning up as well as the eating! Check out BBC Good Food for some child-friendly recipes.


If you have a garden or yard, get the kids involved in planting, weeding and watering. Old food containers can be decorated and upcycled into fun plant pots. It’s not too late to plant fast-growing seeds like cress, so little gardeners can eat their own produce! If you don’t have a garden, look out for farms that offer pick-your-own strawberries, and remember you don’t pay for what you eat while you’re picking!

National Museums:

Many towns and cities are home to our National Museums which can be visited free of charge and offer great interactive exhibits for children. Our favourites are the National Railway Museum in York, the Science Museum in London and the World Museum in Liverpool. Many local and regional museums are also free for local residents.

Junk Modelling:

Start keeping old boxes, cardboard tubes and used wrapping paper, ready for a junk modelling session. All the kids will need is some PVA glue, paint, brushes and their own imaginations. Encourage them to create fantastical robots, cities, vehicles or abstract art! Don’t forget to help them out with cutting if necessary.

Magical Mystery Tour:

Lots of children travel everywhere in the car these days. Why not plan a fun road trip using public transport such as trains, buses or even trams? Tickets can be cheap or even free for children. Older children can get involved in checking timetables, routes and fares too. Take a picnic and visit a park or playground they haven’t been to before.

Water Play:

Water is the ultimate free kids entertainment as long as you don’t mind them getting soaking wet! Save (clean) plastic drink bottles, yogurt pots, and containers in various shapes and sizes. Set the kids up outside with buckets or a padding pool filled with water. Throw in a little bubble bath or washing up liquid for extra fun. Don’t forget to supervise them and apply sunscreen.

Back To Nature:

Why not have a day out in the countryside or your local park. Kids will love activities such as bark rubbing, bug hunting and feeding the birds (with bird food rather than bread). If you have a garden pick a few leaves or flowers and try pressing them until they’re dry, then they can be used for collage-making, but don’t take flowers from your local park!

Dressing Up:

Before you take those old clothes to the charity shop, put a few interesting or colourful garments and accessories aside to create a dressing up box. Ask relatives if they have anything unusual or quirky to add to the box. Look out for novelty sunglasses, hats, ties/scarves and any lengths or fabric that can be tied into a cape! If they need further inspiration, ask them to put on a play or show wearing their outfits.

Pavement Art:

Chalk is one of the cheapest craft materials around, with a typical pack costing less than £1. Give children a safe, paved area to draw on and let their creativity do the rest. Don’t forget to photograph the results before the rain washes them away. Of course, don’t do this on other people’s property or near traffic.


Kids never tire of picnics, especially if you involve them in getting the picnic-ready. Let them help make the sandwiches or pop food into small containers e.g cheese cubes, fruit or carrot sticks. Also get them involved in planning what else you need to take such as sunscreen, blanket, etc. After your picnic, take the opportunity to educate children on disposing of their waste and rubbish responsibly.


Kids love taking photos and it needn’t be expensive. Why not have a day out taking their own photos, perhaps around a theme such as patterns, colours or nature? Either let them use a phone camera (with supervision) or buy a cheap disposable camera and get them processed the old fashioned way! There are several app (such as Free Prints Photobooks) that will turn digital photos into a printed album free of charge, all you pay for is the postage.

Home-Made Playdough:

It’s easier than you think to make playdough, and it’s much cheaper than the shop-bought stuff. All you need is some cheap store cupboard ingredients and food colouring. Give your children some simple tools such as plastic cutlery and a rolling pin. For playdough How-To Guide and video, check out BBC Good Food.

Retro Games:

Many children have never been exposed to the games we played in our own childhoods. Why not teach them retro games such as hopscotch, leapfrog, hula-hoop, juggling and skipping? You might be surprised by how much they enjoy these old favourites. You can pick up cheap hoops, skipping ropes and balls at pound stores or car boot sales.

Play Shop:

Don’t throw away food boxes and tubs, collect a selection of clean empty packaging ready to play shop. Just tape up the tops of boxes so they look unopened – fun-size cereal boxes are especially good for this. Then get the kids to make a price list and take turns being the shop keeper and customers. If you don’t have play money just get them to make banknotes from scrap paper.

Hope you enjoyed our rundown of The Best Cheap (or FREE) Things To Do With Kids During The Summer Holidays. If you have any feedback please visit our Facebook page. If your child’s school doesn’t have a lottery, why not get one underway and start raising money next term.

Our schools are on track to raise £2,032,430.40 this year

67.92% Complete

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Our schools are on track to raise £2,032,430.40 this year

67.92% Complete

97,713 tickets of our 143,865 ticket goal