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Half term is nearly here again and that means parents all over the country are suddenly under pressure. It’s easy to forget just how hard it is to entertain kids for a week! Often the temptation is to throw money at the problem. However, if you’re on a budget or you’d rather save for Christmas then what do you do? Luckily, we’ve got some great ideas for a half term with the kids that don’t cost a fortune.
While Halloween actually falls after half term, that doesn’t mean that preparing for it can’t provide plenty of entertainment. This is the perfect week to get kids to create their own costumes. Helping them to cut up an old sheet, spending a morning making a papier mâché witches hat or an afternoon coming up with party games will take up time in a way that kids will want to get involved in. Look out for local Halloween events too. Libraries, nature spots, museums, galleries and farms all have themed events at this time of year – most of which are free.
Given that there are plenty of school holidays to consider throughout the year, it’s worth considering investing in a family discount card. The National Trust, for example, offers a family membership card for just £9.25 a month. Get the card and you’ll have unlimited access to all their properties all over the UK. The National Trust has a pretty comprehensive programme of half term events too, most of which are covered by the membership price (or free). For £30 a year you can buy a Family & Friends Railcard, which will give you 1/3 of all your rail fares. Head for the coast, take the family to London or explore cities you’ve never been to with 33% off.
If there’s one thing Britain is great at it’s museums. Whether you’re in London, Newcastle, Winchester or Hereford there are museums all over the country. Most are free entry – or very cheap – and many have exhibits designed to engage kids. In London, you’ll find institutions such as The Science Museum and the National Portrait Gallery that offer free entry. But London isn’t the only location with great places to visit. The Sunderland Museum, Mansfield Museum & Art Gallery, Slate Museum, Llanberis and National Media Museum in Bradford are just a few local institutions that get great online ratings from parents.
This is the perfect time of year to get out into the countryside. The weather is slowly getting colder but is still warm enough for al fresco pursuits to be enjoyable. If you’re a family with bikes then get out and explore the local cycle trails. Websites like Cycle Route offer an easy way to find inspiration and plan tracks to follow. Walking and hiking are simple with children as there’s no equipment involved and everyone can help to plan the route. This is also a great time to get children to try new activities – from kayaking, to horse riding. Many activity centres and clubs offer short taster sessions that are free and perfect for a thrilling morning of entertainment.
There are city farms all over the country, from Hackney in London to Windmill City Farm in Bristol in Bristol. Visiting the farms is usually free of charge although remember they survive on donations from families who have had fun. With animals to pet, gardens to explore and a calendar of events to take part in, your local city firm could provide plenty of half term entertainment. Most farms also take children volunteers during half term. This is a great opportunity for kids to start learning new skills and understand what it takes to be part of a team.
The cinema is an ideal option for parents looking to keep kids entertained. During half term week cinemas tend to offer tickets from as little as £2 and a great range of films. Do a cinema swap with other parents – take all the kids on your own to give the other family a few hours off and then enjoy the same in return. Theatres all over the country also do some fantastic half term discounts. From the West End, which has tickets from £12, to local theatres, there is plenty to see, often with interactive elements and free workshops before or afterwards.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley