Ways to save money entertaining your kids this summer

8 min Read Published: 12 Jun 2024

School summer holidays: Keep kids active and stay in pocket The summer term is coming to an end, schools will finally be out and the long summer break begins. It can be a daunting time for parents, worrying about entertaining the children for 6 weeks as well as the cost of trying to keep them busy. In this article, we provide free and cheap ways to stay busy on a budget this summer. 

Free things to do with kids this summer

Free tennis sessions this summer

If your kids are inspired by Wimbledon, you could get them a free tennis lesson thanks to ‘Tennis For Free’. There are currently 40 locations nationwide offering free tennis coaching sessions with more in the pipeline. The sessions are open to all ages and include drills and games although it is worth noting some sessions are for 12 years and over. For more information, and to book, head over to the Tennis For Free website.

Check your local council for FREE events

One of the best places to find free and cheap events is to head locally! There are plenty of things happening right on your doorstep that won’t be broadly advertised. It’s worth checking on your local council website as you may find a list of free organised events happening in your area.  Also join local Facebook groups that will give you the heads-up when something is happening. And be sure to check your local libraries, as they also run events in the summer such as book clubs and toddler groups.

Visit a national museum

If you’re looking for a bit of culture, you’ll find a lot of museums are free to enter - especially if you head to London (though they may ask for a donation). Major museums such as the National History Museum, the British Museum and the Science Museum are all free - though you will need to book online in advance if you want to go. Have a Google for museums near where you live too, as you may find one you didn’t know about.

Free scavenger hunt nationwide with Geocaching

Geocaching is great fun for the kids and it’s free to use. Little treasures have been hidden all around the country (and the world) and it’s your job to find them. Once you’ve downloaded the Geocaching app you’ll find treasures (also known as caches) marked on a map. These are usually in secret spots and give you clues to find them. Caches usually have logbooks so bring a pen and write your names in the book when you've found the hidden cache. Sometimes there are treats inside that you can take but often they like you to put something else back in the cache to replace what you take. There is a paid-for version that unlocks more caches but you can still have fun with the free version. For full information, and to download, head to the Geocaching website.

Free visits to lifeboat stations nationwide

Everybody knows about the RNLI but not many people know that you can go for visits to the stations year-round. You can see all around the stations, see the lifeboats and meet with some lifeguards who work there. Some stations also have gift shops where you can buy some RNLI merchandise or make donations to the charity. There are over 200 stations around the country's coastline each with different opening hours. For full information, head to the RNLI website.

Your kids can also learn how to swim in open water for free, thanks to courses from the RNLI. Learn more at Swim Safe.

Eat out with Kids Eat Free (Or For £1) offers

Many popular chains of restaurants and supermarket cafés are offering free meals for children this summer. They include Tesco, Dobbies, Pausa at Dunelm and Beefeater restaurants. Other venues such as Asda and Bella Italia offer kids meals for £1 with a full paying adult. IKEA offer meals for children for 95p or £1.50 with the only condition being you have to be a IKEA family member. For our full list of restaurants offering free or cheap food for kids, read our article 'How to save money eating out with children'.

See TV recordings for completely free

Did you know that you can watch your favourite TV shows live and in person for free? You'll need to book tickets online in advance, but ne aware there's no guarantee you'll get in. Tickets will be sent to you for your date of recording if you are successful, but tickets are oversubscribed to make sure all the seats are filled. So get there early on the day if you wanted to get in. Keep an eye on the websites Applause Store, Lost in TV & SRO Audiences to snap up your favourites.

Free activities in stores this summer

There are lots of high street shops and retailers that offer free classes and activities for both kids and adults. Most often they are totally free and there is no requirement for you to buy anything in-store to attend them. Quite often, however, you do need to book in advance. Here are some events that we’ve spotted happening this summer:

  • Apple - Offering lots of free classes for families, children and adults covering topics such as art, photography, music and coding.
  • Pets At Home - Offering free animal workshops for children aged 5-11.
  • Dobbies Garden Centres - Children aged between 4-10 years old can enjoy a free gardening workshop with the garden centre. Workshops run on the first Sunday of every month and last 45 minutes to an hour and there are also special workshops in the school holidays.
  • IKEA - A variety of workshops and activities are available in your nearest IKEA store as well as the free creche/soft play.
  • Hobbycraft - Take part in arts and crafts workshops across its stores. The majority of them you will need to pay for but there are a few that are free. 

Deals for the summer holiday

Kids Pass - 1 month for free

Kids Pass is a discount club that gets you money off activities and restaurants around the country. It allows you to get access to discounts on theme parks, zoos, cinemas, bowling, restaurants, holidays and more. The exact details of the discounts are revealed when you sign up but the website gives examples such as up to 56% off theme parks including Drayton Manor, up to 40% off cinemas including Vue and Odeon and up to 56% off activities such as Go Ape and Clip n Climb.

Membership costs £3.99 per month but you can have a 30 day trial for £1. You could therefore take advantage of the trial period over the summer holidays and then cancel your subscription before it increases to £3.99 per month. Kids Pass states you can cancel at anytime.

For full details visit the Kids Pass website.

Discounted tickets for Universal Credit recipients

If you’re on a budget but wanted a trip to London or Whipsnade Zoo, you can visit for just £3 for a child and £6 for adults if you receive certain benefits. Usually, these tickets can cost £20+ each so it’s a massive saving with this deal. There are a number of government benefits that are eligible for this deal including Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance. If you are claiming one of the above benefits, you can book the tickets online in advance. Be mindful, however, that when you pick up the tickets at the gate, you’ll need to show proof of the benefit you receive (in the form of a letter or by logging on to your Universal Credit portal). For full details, and to claim your tickets, head to the London Zoo or the Bedfordshire Whipsnade Zoo website. Other venues offering discounted tickets are The Historic Dockyard in Chatham where Medway residents who receive Universal or Pension credit can book tickets for £2 (children under 4 go free) and York Castle Museum where recipients of Universal Credit can benefit from free entry. It is worth mentioning that children who live in York also qualify for free entry to the museum. For more details on each of these offers visit the Historic Dockyard's website and the York Castle Museum website.

Kids go free to London West End theatre shows

Over the summer, London's West End offers cut-price tickets for some of its top and lesser-known shows. You can find tickets to shows such as The Lion King, Matilda, Wicked and Six as well as smaller productions such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Zog and the Flying Doctors and The Lion Inside. The big West End shows will be more expensive with the lesser-known shows being much cheaper. There are also special events such as workshop sessions and interactive curtain calls available to book alongside your discounted tickets. The deal is valid on performances from 24th July to 6th September and the tickets go on sale on 11th June. They are available on a first come, first serve basis and may run out. However it is always worth checking as one of our team last year managed to get tickets last minute ticket for Frozen. For full details head to the Kids Week website.

Use the train to unlock 2-for-1 deals

If you’re heading somewhere on the train you can use your ticket to get yourself 2-for-1 deals at attractions nationwide. Included in the deal are football stadiums tours such as Wembley and Liverpool FC, historical sites such as the Tower of London, sporting events such as horse racing at Goodwood and city cruises in London, Poole and York. As well as the 2 for 1 deals there is a wide range of attractions at discounted prices. You’ll find lots of places to choose from, some of which need booking online in advance, so check the website before going. For full details, head to the Days Out Guide website.

Cinema Ticket offers

There are various offers on cinema tickets that you can take advantage of, they include:

  • 2 tickets for £10 at Odeon cinemas with Amazon Prime (can be used Monday to Thursday)
  • Two free cinema tickets for Sky Cinema customers (can be used Sunday to Thursday)
  • Meerkat Movies: 2 for 1 cinema tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Look out for special screenings of family films where you can get discounted tickets, Cineworld Juniors (£2.50 per ticket, Odeon Kids (£2.75 per ticket) and Vue Mighty Mornings (£2.49 per ticket)
Check out our DEALS OF THE WEEK which we update daily with our pick of the deals available in the UK.

Are you a working parent? You could be entitled to the tax-free childcare scheme

If you are a working parent the school holidays can be stressful when it comes to organising childcare. Did you know that you could be entitled to tax-free childcare up to £2,000 per child each year? Tax-Free Childcare is a government scheme that helps support parents and carers with the cost of childcare. For every £8 you pay towards qualifying childcare, the government pays an additional £2. The scheme can be used to pay for childcare with registered providers including holiday clubs.

Are you eligible for tax-free childcare?

  • Working parents with children up to the age of 11 (up to 17 for disabled children)
  • Must earn the national minimum wage for their age group
  • Have to be working the equivalent of 16 hours per week

For more information read our article 'How does Tax-Free Childcare work?'

Going on holiday this summer?