Cheap family fun: 25 ideas that won’t break the bank

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to entertain the family. There is so much to do that is either free or is exceedingly cheap. So make the effort, have a little family time, and reap the rewards.

Check out these ideas for cheap family fun

Go to the library. As well as reading books for free, check out what activities they offer – ours does toddler story time and the summer reading challenge for school age children, you can book a computer for free or just catch up with the papers.

Go to the park and play on the swings, or take a football or cricket bat.

Play rounders! I have excellent memories of family holidays doing this when I was young.

Go for a walk at a fast pace and you won’t need to bother with the gym. Do it with a buggy and you are resistance training!

Check your local museums and art galleries – many will be free. This Guardian article lists its top 20 to get you started.

Take the family to see a working farm close up. LEAF Open Farm Sunday organises annual open days around the UK.

Have a ‘cinema night’. Borrow a DVD from the library or watch a film you have recorded. Pop some corn. Easy.

Let it grow

Grow sunflowers. Kids enjoy watching them germinate and develop, and they can have a competition to see whose grows the tallest.


imagePack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, ideal for a family walk: It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Go to the garden centre. We have several locally that have so much to see for free, and the kids love their Christmas displays. However, don’t be drawn in to the café, and don’t buy anything unless you need it and it is a good price.

Visit your relatives and friends. They are an under-rated and often under-valued form of entertainment and support. Cheap family fun at its best.

Old-fashioned but good

Dig out your old board games and packs of cards. It is good to go low tech and get away from electronic games once in a while.

On a similar vein, do a jigsaw. You can almost always find these in the charity shops and they check to ensure they have all their pieces!

Make a dressing up box. This was the most used form of entertainment when my children were young. Look out for suitable items in charity shops and at boot sales. Old hats, scarves, nighties and petticoats are great, as are handbags and long strings of beads (although the latter are no good if you have babies or toddlers about).

Invest in some cheap water pistols – kids love playing with water. For toddlers a washing up bowl with a little bubbly water and some plastic cups provides endless entertainment.

On a similar note, make some bubble mix (this also entertains the animals if you have them).

Buy some play sand and dig a sandpit. Hours of entertainment.

Play dough is very easy to make and lasts ages.

Great cheap crafts: save bottle tops, ribbon, ends of wool, cardboard toilet rolls, wrapping paper, bits of fabric, lolly sticks, etc. Rather than binning them, bring them out with some paint and glue and see how creative your children can be.

Cooking is fun

Teach your kids to cook! In my experience, kids will eat almost anything if they cook it themselves. Not only is this an essential life skill, it is an opportunity to broaden your children’s tastes and get them to be more adventurous – and it is also fun! My eldest could cook a full roast dinner by the time she was ten, and often did.

If they are too little to cook, even toddlers can decorate fairy cakes and make a splendid mess at the same time.

Play hide and seek. Literally hours of free entertainment.

Visit a boot or jumble sale. Give your children a small amount of money. This is a good chance for them to understand how money works and its value. Teach them how to find a bargain!

If you have a small tent, put it up in the garden for the summer holidays as a play house. Older children could have a camp out.

Let me have your ideas for cheap family fun and I will add them to the list 🙂


2 thoughts on “Cheap family fun: 25 ideas that won’t break the bank

  1. Excellent ideas. We actually already do / did a lot of them. I’d just add a couple of things to your list. I shop at Aldi and get some things at Sainsbury / Tesco. We used club card vouchers on days out (they were 4 x face value). And the deal was always that if we were going to a paid venue we took our own lunch. Coffee or ice cream only at the venue as a treat.

    We bought a tent. That way we were able to go to Wales / Cornwall / Northumberland etc and have lots of adventures and experiences without having to pay for expensive UK hotels or cottages. Our only ‘wasted’ money was on air beds and cheap sleeping bags. The replacement self-inflating mats and 4 season sleeping bags were expensive (though 4 of each in total cost less than 2 nights in a hotel) but meant comfy nights.

    • I totally agree with you about the tent – small kids especially love camping, although my girls are older now and refuse to come. I still enjoy this as a cheap holiday and intend to drag Mr Shoestring somewhere next summer. I used my clubcard vouchers in the past for Legoland and also for the cinema, but I use Tesco so little now it takes too long to save up enough points!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *