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 splurge 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. Here are our favourite ideas...
head into the great outdoors
1. Get imaginative at the park
Get them involved in some friendly competition with a game of football, badminton or tennis, basketball, or setting up a little putting green and having a go at minigolf. If you don't have the equipment already, investing in some value sports equipment like a football can provide hours of fun for just a couple of pounds!
For the non-sporty types, why not turn your day in the park into a treacherous nature expedition and get the kids to take pictures of all the bugs, plants and flowers they find. Then, when you're home, spend some time looking up your discoveries and documenting them in an explorer's scrapbook!
Similarly, if you're looking after a bigger bunch of kids one day, try setting up a treasure hunt with clues or riddles at each point - they'll love figuring out where to go next. This is just as good in the garden as it is in the park, and a great option for an easy children's birthday party.
2. Get active on the beach
If we get lucky with the weather, why not take to your closest beach, set up for the day and let your little ones roam (within eyesight) and enjoy all the natural entertainment on offer. From rockpools to swimming, beach cricket and 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 shell-collecting is a brilliant way of finding arts and crafts materials for another day of fun later in the holidays - just check ahead of time that your beach doesn't mind people taking rocks and shells 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.
Mudchute Park and Farm in London has 32 acres of paddocks and fields right in the heart of the hectic capital, with everything from goats to alpacas and plenty of play areas. There's also The Garden House and Land in Stockport: a community-run farm open to the public 7 days a week, with animal petting opportunities and a stunning woodland walk trail. The kids will love playing in the outdoor play areas and watching the cows being milked, too.
If London and Stockport are both too far to travel, check out this list of free farms to find one nearer you.
Soak up some culture
4. Get cultured at an art gallery
The UK has loads of amazing art galleries, with many offering free craft workshops and activities too. London's National Portrait Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Bristol's Museum and Art Gallery all offer free activities for different ages. Check their websites ahead of time to see what workshops they're running during your visit - you may need to book ahead.
5. Go back in time at the museum
We're lucky to have plenty of free museums at our disposal in the UK. The Horniman Museum in south London, pictured here, runs numerous free family sessions that explore different themes linked to their collections, including animals, costume, masks, music and toys to name a few.
And up in Manchester, you can find the National Football Museum, which is a soccer-lover's haven. It's packed with colourful memorabilia, player profiles, football kits and photographs chronicling the history of the game.
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.
7. Play tennis for free
With Wimbledon just kicking off, 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
This summer, The Canal and River Trust are holding free fishing taster sessions across the country with professional angling coaches on hand to teach the basics. Grab your sunhat and don your wellies - things could get splashy!
9. Don't forget your trunks
Every summer, Swim England (the UK’s national governing body of the sport) and the RNLI (sea safety and lifeguards) join together to run free water safety skills and outdoor swimming lessons for kids across the UK.
Aimed at kids 7-14, these sessions mix fun games with water safety skills to provide sessions that are both enjoyable and informative, teaching kids how to deal with potentially life-threatening situations. The programme runs across nearly 30 coastal and inland locations. To find your nearest spot and book a place, visit the Swim Safe website here.
*Please be aware of travel which will include petrol/transport costs.