22 ideas for free family fun this summer

Sometimes the best things in life really ARE free. Mumsnetters share their favourite summer holiday activities - enjoy them without spending a bean

1. If you have a garden, wave the kids on their way


"My daughter and her friends have been playing all day in the garden. They've built a den, had a picnic, played on the trampoline, made 'perfume' and they're currently playing in the paddling pool/throwing cups of water at each other. They are having a ball. It hasn't cost us a penny and it's not even a particularly warm day. Happy days."

2. Everyone loves toasting marshmallows. Fact

"My favourite joyful summer moment so far has been camping in the back garden. We invited round some friends from the neighbourhood, put up tents, played lots of fun games in the garden and made some 'survival snacks' out of things we had in the cupboard, such as s'mores - made from chocolate, digestive biscuits and marshmallows."

3. Embrace your inner Railway Child

"We live within walking distance of a bridge that goes over the top of a railway line. Our son's favourite thing to do is to walk there together and watch out for trains. His face is a picture when he sees a train coming and he is even more delighted when the train drivers respond to his frantic waving by sounding their horn."

4. Sometimes it's all in the timing


"One of my favourite free things to do with our kids in London is to look up the Tower Bridge lift times and go along to watch the bridge lift and the ship go underneath it. Always has that wow factor."

5. Get ready, get set, explore


"Taking the kids rockpooling is always fun. Our three-year-old isn't quite sure about catching anything that moves but will happily spend hours directing her grown-up helper to collect sea snails for her and giving her new 'pets' names like Fluffy."

6. Dear Teddy, you're cordially invited to tea


"Our daughter loves making dens over the washing line and smuggling in ice creams from the freezer or setting up a teddy bears' picnic with all her dolls and teddies and putting a lovely tea party out. Both cost nothing but involve lovely imaginative play."

7. Head to the city for dragon and dream spotting


"We like the sculpture trails that temporarily visit cities. Norwich has had some good ones (elephants, dragons and gorillas) and there are BFG dream jars in London at the minute."

8. Channel your inner Brian Cox (or, if you're old enough, Patrick Moore) 


"Star gazing when we were camping last weekend. No light pollution. It was absolutely amazing."

9. Go fly a kite (or at least try)


"Running on the field near our house 'flying' a mini kite. It wouldn't fly at all unless we were running with it, but it was the highlight of my summer so far!"

10. No garden? No problem

"We made a street chalk obstacle course. When you have no garden to speak of you have to be creative. We raced all the way up to the other end of the street."

11. Get some sand between your toes


"There's so much at the beach for little ones, and no cost except maybe a picnic lunch or an ice cream. My son adores it - playing in the sand, paddling in the sea and splashing through rock pools."

12. Give the go-ahead to a garden makeover


"I let my toddlers paint the leaves of our hedge. They painted happily for hours and it gave the hedge a pleasingly surreal look afterwards. It all washed off after a couple of rainy days!"

13. Take a church safari - but watch out for gargoyles


"I took my daughter to a nearby cathedral where we went on a hunt to see how many animals we could find on the stained glass windows, tombs and floor tiles."

14. Can't get to Rio? Host your own Olympics


"My two are hosting their own Olympics. So far they have made medals from tin foil, and a torch from cardboard. They will be racing up and down the back garden while I sit with my feet up and be the judge!"

15. See the woods for the trees 


"We went to a local forest and did their play trail today. Free and lots of fun as well as healthy. It was lovely to see our son and the other children there enjoying being outside and being active rather than sat indoors."

16. Sign up for a soaking


"Our kids love playing tennis or cricket with water balloons. They particularly love it if Mum or Dad get soaked!"

17. Embrace ALL aspects of the British summer 


"Carpet picnics with a new (or rediscovered) DVD always go down well and are a great rainy day activity."

18. A good picnic spot means hours of fun


"I am lucky enough to live close to a river. We spend hours there with nets, fishing and having a picnic. There are no shops so everything is brought from home and therefore cheap."

19. Avoid the traffic on a trailway 


"We have found lots of bike trails in our area. Lots of them are old railway lines. It's great fun setting off not knowing what you'll see along the way and they are totally safe and traffic-free."

20. Get little helpers to grow their own 

"Yesterday my son and his dad went to the allotment and harvested our onions and spuds, spending the afternoon digging and chatting. They hadn't spent time together on their own for a while, so had lots to catch up on. Didn't cost a penny and we have months and months worth of spuds and onions as a result!"

21. Remember, anything messy goes down a treat


Pic: Hotmomsclub

"We are doing various things in the water tray this summer - ice, water beads, shaving foam etc. Mostly stuff we already have at home. It's been so much fun. Jelly has been the winner so far!"

22. Ban the word no (but just for one day, otherwise ANARCHY)


"I tried to say yes for a whole day. Or, at least, not say no. It took some creative thinking, and I really had to zip my lips and sit on my hands at times, but the children had a fabulous day. And the mess was... manageable."


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Last updated: 5 months ago