Family fun on a budget


hopscotchShrinking budgets leave little cash for expensive family outings.  But who says having fun with the kids has to cost the earth? With a bit of planning and creativity we can entertain the family without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions to get you started!

1. Build a playhouse

Cardboard boxes make great playhouses, and you can get them for free from any electrical appliance outlet.

Place in the living room or garden then cut and shape some windows. Help the kids decorate their ‘house’ using finger paint or washable felt tip pens.

An indoor ‘tent’ is also a winner. Simply string a blanket between two chairs, throw in some cushions, and get ready for a teepee party.

2. Floor painting

An inexpensive roll of wall paper lining from any DIY store makes a great family canvas.

Tear off a long sheet and spread it on top of old newspaper.  Decide on a theme then use poster paints and make each family member responsible for a particular aspect of the scene.   The result is hours of fun and a unique picture!

3. Traditional games

Introduce kids to some traditional children’s games.

Skipping competitions are fun and are also great exercise.  A piece of chalk and a shoe polish tin is all you need for ‘Hopscotch.’   Marbles, Jacks and Tiddly Winks have amused kids for generations.

4. Libraries and museums

Libraries are family friendly and free!  As well as books, you can borrow DVD’s and CDs, and you’re likely to find internet accessibility and story-telling events.

Direct.Gov provides regular updates on what’s on in your local library.

Museums are also a great option for a free day out. For example, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood is a magical experience. Browse online to find child-friendly museums near you.

5. Theatre & arts

Choose from drama, dance, mime, comedy, or musical events. The performing arts community offers a variety of family entertainment that suits all budgets.

Amateur productions can be top quality but cost you a fraction of the regular price.

Sign up to receive the latest events from your local theatre, and keep your eye on regional events listings online.

6. Zoos and farms

Spend an afternoon in the company of friendly farm animals, or enjoy a visit to the local aquarium.  Animal sanctuaries, zoos and farms offer special-rate family outings, and some are even free.

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7. Entertainment with English Heritage is great for some family variety. An annual membership costs £46 but lets you take up to six children with you for free.

With over 400 castles and stately homes to visit, it’s worth investigating if you’re likely to take advantage of the trips throughout the year. Bonuses include free educational visits, spooky Halloween trails and festive mystery events.

8. Interactive TV tours

At £30 for a family of four, this is a great day out for a special occasion.

BBC Children’s Tour of Television Centre is geared for children aged between six and 11. Kids have an opportunity to make their own TV, take part in some hilarious games and meet some familiar faces.