The school summer holidays are well and truly upon us. For the kids, it's six weeks of fun without school. But for you, it's six weeks of planning activities and trying not to break the bank in the process.
But you don't have to break the bank to have a fun-packed day out this school holiday. Believe it or not, there's a range of free activities* you can do as a family to make sure you have many a summer adventure to write home about. So put away your pennies and be prepared to have a corker of a cheap summer.
head into the great outdoors
1. Get imaginative at the park: Let them get involved with some friendly competition by playing a game of football, enjoying a game of rounders or setting up a little putting green and having a go at golf. For the non-sporty types why not make a nature project and get the kids to take pictures of all the bugs, plants and flowers they find - you can then go home, look up what they are and make a scrapbook of their discoveries! Or set up a treasure hunt with clues or riddles at each point - they'll love figuring out where to go next. Just make sure you check out the Green Flag Awards to decide which award-winning green space you'll visit.
2. Get active on the beach: Although we can't promise that the great British weather will be constant sunshine, take to your closest beach, set up for the day and let them run around enjoying all the natural entertainment. From rockpools, to swimming, to beach cricket or football, there's no way they'll be bored. Pack a frisbee, a kite and a bat and ball to keep the activities flowing, and encourage them to collect the prettiest seashells to take home.
3. Say hi to the animals on a farm: With cute animals to pet and larger animals to feed, it's no surprise kids love visiting a farm. And luckily, a handful of them up and down the UK are free. For example, Old Holly Farm in Preston is a working dairy farm and has lots of interactive activities for kids, with everything from donkey rides to chick and rabbit petting. Younger children will love playing in the indoor play area and watching the cows being milked at the end of the day. But if Preston is too far, here are some more free farm ideas.
Soak up some culture
4. Get cultured at an art gallery: The UK has loads of amazing art galleries and in many of them, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, you can get involved with some free crafts too.
5. Take yourself back in time at the museum: Blighty is also packed with many free museums. There's the Horniman Museum, in Forest Hill (pictured above), which runs numerous free family sessions which each explore a different theme linked to the collections in their galleries, like animals, costume, masks, music and toys to name a few. And up in Manchester, you can find the National Football Museum, which is a football-lover's haven. It's packed with colourful memorabilia, player profiles, football kits and photographs chronicling the history of the game. So make sure you check out your local museum this summer.
6. Visit an art festival: It's free entry to most exhibitions during the Edinburgh Art Festival in addition to special children-tailored events. From 2D and 3D arts activities to a mix of play outdoor art and storytelling events, let your little ones explore their creative side.
6. Have a go at running: Get those little legs running by taking part in a Parkrun. The free, weekly, 5km timed runs take place in pleasant parkland surroundings all over the UK (and the world) and are open to all abilities. So grab their trainers - you never know, you might have your own mini Mo Farah.
7. Play tennis for free: Although Wimbledon might be over for another year, there's still time to get in on the action. Tennis for Free works with local councils to provide free 'walk on and play' court access in as many parks as possible. They profile every free public tennis court in the country and run free weekly coach led sessions, including the free use of equipment, for children, young people and adults. Just make sure you check here first to see where your nearest Tennis for Free site is.
8. Let's fish: Free fishing taster sessions are being held by The Canal and River Trust and there's professional angling coaches on hand to teach the basics.
Watch a live show
9. Watch a live TV recording: Instead of watching TV from your home, you can get behind the big screen yourself with free audience tickets for big shows such as Britain's Got Talent or kids' favourite A Little Bird Told Me. Simply register your details with Applause Store and cross your fingers!
*Please be aware of travel which will include petrol/transport costs.