By Howard Brady
Summer holidays are looming and, once again, many parents will be faced with the prospect of keeping the kids entertained for six weeks.
But, especially for larger families, the cost can be crippling. That’s why we’ve come up with ten cheap or free activities to do with children of all ages this summer, come rain or shine...
1. Sign up for free football training
With the World Cup now in full swing, what better time to get your kids learning about football? The FA Tesco Skills Programme is offering kids aged between 5 and 11 free football coaching at 36 venues across England during school holidays. Each session lasts two hours and you can opt for one or two days. You will have to book in advance though at the scheme’s website.
2. Have a watery picnic
On the handful of days the sun comes out in full force, waste no time in making the most of it. Pack a picnic, sun cream and head off to your local park – especially if it has a kids’ splash area or pool. Alternatively, have your picnic in the back garden and set up the hose pipe.
3. Pay less for the cinema
So long as your kids are 14 or under, you can both get into selected Saturday morning cinema screenings at 67 Cineworlds for a cost of just £1 each. Although you can buy tickets on the door, you may want to book ahead as the films get busy. The offer is also only available at selected locations so check out its Movies For Juniors website before you set off.
4. Learn to play tennis
With Wimbledon on our TV screens this month, get your kids playing tennis as well as watching. Charity Tennis For Free works with schools, tennis clubs and local authorities throughout the UK, giving children and young people the chance to learn and play tennis for 50 weeks of the year. To find your nearest location by postcode, visit Tennisforfree.com.
5. Make fairy cakes
When it’s pouring down outside, making a tray of fairy cakes and icing them in different colours will cost just pennies – as well as while away a whole afternoon. Kids get to see the efforts of their hard work, while you have dessert for the evening sorted.
6. Host a sleepover
The best treats for kids are not because they are expensive – but because they are normally forbidden. In this case, your child could invite a number of friends to the house for a sleepover and let them watch a DVD and eat popcorn or play games instead.
7. Travel around London for free
It’s a little-known fact that up to four children under 11 years old can travel free on London Underground and Docklands Light Railway when accompanied by an adult who is travelling with a valid ticket or Travelcard. Kids will not be required to carry a pass or ticket but will be allowed straight through the gates by staff.
8. Visit the Science Museum
Some of the most fascinating places don’t cost a penny to enter. London’s Science Museum offers an IMAX 3D cinema, drama performances and 1,000 years of science and technology – and admission for both children and adults is absolutely free. What’s more, the museum is open from 10am to 6pm, seven days a week.
9. Have an arts and crafts day
For days spent indoors, turn your hands to some arts and crafts. This doesn’t mean going out and spending a fortune on materials. Papier Mache requires water, flour, a balloon and yesterday’s newspaper – and your kids can paint on a face when it’s dried. If it rains long enough, you can even make a whole family.
10. Put them online
It’s easy to dismiss the internet as a bad influence for children but supervised social networking sites are harmless and can kill a good few hours for older kids. Give them a time limit though, as there is plenty more to do and see.