18 cheap (and free) things to do with kids to keep them entertained during the school holidays
Written by Emmanuelle Gammage
It can be overwhelming trying to think of ideas to keep the children entertained all summer long, especially when budgets are squeezed due to the cost of living. If only there was a list of cheap and free kid’s summer activities…
Look no further! Many of us at SaveMoneyCutCarbon have families and here are a few summer holiday activities we’ve compiled to entertain your kids without breaking the bank.
1. Take a painted nature trail walk
This is a great way to reuse those empty egg cartons and enjoy some time outside. It involves painting the different sections a different colour and then finding natural items along your walk that match those colours. It will also allow your children to explore their senses and enjoy smelling and touching the elements of nature. Typical things you’ll find on your walk are fruits, flowers, twigs, leaves and stones.
To make an afternoon of it, pack a picnic with you to boost your energy. To keep your sandwiches and treats fresh, ditch the clingfilm and wrap them up in beeswax wraps instead. The sustainable wraps are handmade in the UK using end-of-line fabric offcuts and locally sourced beeswax.
2. Make a bird feeder out of toilet roll
Use your old toilet paper roll to create yummy food for the birds. It’s super easy, fun and will benefit local wildlife! It involves pouring some birdseed onto a plate, smearing peanut butter around the outside of the roll, and rolling it in the birdseed, completely covering it. To hang it up, simply slide it onto a small branch or put some string through it and watch the local birds flock to your garden.
3. Hit the charity shops
Give your kids some pocket money and let them rummage through the local charity shops. You never know what hidden gems you’ll find including toys, DVDs, clothes and trinkets to decorate their room with. While you’re shopping, you can introduce the concept of recycling and reusing items and why it’s beneficial for the environment.
4. Visit a museum
There are free museums all across the UK from science museums and transport museums to historic museums. It’s a fun way to engage your children with education and there are usually interactive tasks to complete throughout. It’s not just for kids, you’re likely to learn something new too!
5. Spend a day at the beach
The UK is blessed with beautiful coastlines. It’s time to pack up the bucket and spade and head to the seaside. You can take a picnic, buy tasty ice creams, paddle in the sea and create epic sand statues. The children will absolutely love running around and covering themselves in sand. For a real adventure (and to reduce pollution) take the train! Children under 15 go cheaper and children under 4 go free!
Learn how to have a plastic free picnic.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated in the sunshine! We have the perfect bottle for your adventure. The Super Sparrow Water Bottle in Jade is a hardwearing stainless steel water bottle complete with both a sports and loop cap. Designed for longevity, it won’t split, crack or leak so you can enjoy peace of mind.
6. Take part in rock painting
Do you remember when painting rocks was all the rave during lockdown? Well, it’s still going strong. It’s a fun way to bring a smile to people’s faces and perhaps build new friendships. For those of you that aren’t aware, it’s essentially hide and seek using rocks. You paint rocks, hide them and partake in an online scavenger hunt.
Search for your area name followed by “rocks” on Facebook and you’ll find a dedicated Facebook page. Find some rocks and paint colourful pictures on them, then take them out and hide them around your area. But the fun doesn’t stop there! You can take a stroll around and see what rocks you can find. Don’t forget to snap a photo for Facebook and re-hide them.
7. Make your own beeswax wraps
Making your own beeswax wraps is a fun activity for an afternoon that will benefit you for months afterwards – no more clingfilm and single use plastic!
What you’ll need:
- Cosmetic-grade beeswax pellets
- 100% cotton fabric
- A brush
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- A clothing hanger
- A ruler
You can find the full method on Good Housekeeping. To ensure your wraps stay as fresh as possible, use the BEE Zero Waste refresher block. Made from locally sourced UK ingredients, it will keep them in tip-top shape.
Don’t forget to tag us in your creations so we can see your Summer fun and re-post you!
8. Create nature art
This free kid’s activity involves gathering twigs, leaves, flowers, stones and whatever natural materials you can find in your garden. You never know what masterpiece your child will create from materials you see every day. The possibilities are endless and Pinterest is great for some inspiration if you’re not sure where to begin.
9. Enjoy Kids Eat Free deals
A growing number of restaurants and cafes have a Kids Eat Free deal, considerably slashing the price of eating out. Eating out can be expensive, especially if you’re going out often to keep the kids entertained. Simply Google your area and find the deals near you including Morrisons, Asda, Yo! Sushi, Hungry Horse, Ikea, Dunelm and Bella Italia are all included. Be sure to check the terms and conditions before you go.
10. Build a den
There is nothing more fantastic than getting muddy and building a den in the woods with your family. You’ll need to gather fallen branches, twigs and leaves to create your den. If you use anything unnatural such as rope, remember to take it home at the end of the day. The Woodland Trust has some top tricks if you need some guidance.
If the weather isn’t in your favour, making a den inside is just as much fun! Using your sofa, table or chairs, all you need is plenty of blankets draped over them. Use washing pegs to clip everything in place and position cushions all over the floor to get comfy. You could decorate it with fairy lights and turn it into a movie day.
11. Make eggshell planters
Something as simple as eggshells can be used to make something beautiful. All you need is eggs, seeds and a bit of soil. Note: you do need to be careful when handling the eggshells as they’re fragile.
- To begin, tap the top to remove it like you would when making eggs and soldiers. Pour out the actual egg and wash the remains.
- Prick a drainage hole in the bottom using a pin for drainage.
- Take a handful of soil and mix it with some water, then squeeze the water out and add it to the eggshell until it’s three-quarters full.
- Add a seed to each eggshell and top with a little more soil (follow instructions on the seed packet).
We recommend using Mr Fothergill’s seeds to grow your own mini herb garden. Use it to garnish your dinners and show your children how rewarding it is to grow your own.
12. Visit your local library
Give your local library some love this summer. Your child can get their own library card and encourage them to share their opinions and choose their own stories. New books can be expensive and space-consuming so renting books from the library is a great alternative.
Take part in the Summer Reading Challenge 2022! This year’s theme is “Gadgeteers”, created in partnership with the Science Museum Group. The aim is to spark children’s curiosity about the world around them and encourage them to look for the science and innovation behind everyday objects. Discover what libraries are running the challenge near you and what books are on the reading list.
13. Build something out of cardboard
Do you have cardboard boxes lying around? Don’t throw them away, transform them into something brilliant like a rocket ship, a castle, a boat or perhaps a robot. You only need a few additional supplies such as tape, scissors, a tape measure and felt tips to decorate it. There are tons of tutorials on YouTube which I find easiest to use because you can follow the instructions in real-time. Your children will be occupied for hours!
14. Try planting seedboms
Guerrilla gardening is planting seeds in neglected areas such as fields, urban spaces or abandoned parking lots. Seedboms are an easy way to bring colour and life to bland spaces.
You don’t need any equipment or gardening skills to plant seedboms – you just need to throw it and let it work its magic.
We have a wide range of seedboms containing various flowers for various settings. The pollinator power gift set includes a mix of nectar-rich wildflower seeds that the bees will adore or the urban bloomer seedbom is perfect for city dwellers.
Why do we love seedboms? They’re made from organic peat-free compost and the seeds are packed in a 100% compostable starch-based shell. Once the seeds have flourished, the shell will biodegrade into the environment.
Learn more about the benefits of seedboms.
15. Document summer adventures in a diary
Asking your children to draw or write down their adventures in a diary will not only help their learning but it’s a mindful experience to share. Let them choose the design and find some colourful pens so they can get as creative as they want with it.
Journaling also encourages children to observe the world around them, help explore emotions and improve their storytelling. It’s also something to treasure over the years and look back on one day.
16. Go on a geocaching treasure hunt
Going on a walk can be exciting, especially with geocaching. Download the app beforehand and embark on the world’s largest treasure hunt. Use the app to navigate you to a geocache nearby. Once you’re there, you’ll have to look for clues because geocaches come in all shapes and sizes.
Don’t forget to sign and date the logbook to document it. Tip: bring a pen with you in case there isn’t one there. For more information, click here.
17. Roast s’mores by the fire
Is there anything more delicious than gooey marshmallows and chocolate squeezed between two biscuits? This American treat is a fun activity that will satisfy any family member’s sweet tooth.
But of course, don’t forget about the environment. Say goodbye to the old petroleum-soaked firelighters and hello to the FireUp natural firelighters. Made from a wood mix which is fully FSC certified, they’re eco-friendly and suitable for indoor and outdoor fires as well as BBQs and regular cooking. They’re better for your wallet too, costing only 5p per firelighter!
Not sure what FSC products are? Discover here.
18. Enjoy the big screen for less
Make the most of the cool and enjoy a family movie at discounted prices with these deals!
ODEON – adults pay kids’ ticket prices. Check your local ODEON cinema for kids screenings which happen every weekend and every day during the school holidays.
Cineworld – Movies for Juniors gives you access to discounted weekly screenings. Kids screenings take place most weekends and school holiday mornings but check your local cinema to check.
Vue – see the best kids films and family films with both adult and child tickets for only £2.49 per ticket. Mini Mornings run every weekend morning and in the school holidays from 10am.
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The summer holidays don’t have to be stressful and expensive 24/7. Enjoy these free kids activities and tag us in all of your fun because there is nothing more rewarding than supporting our customers on their eco-living journey. When you join our Home Club, you’ll immediately get access to thousands of articles just like this, making it easy to choose sustainability and budget-friendly swaps.