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Cheap and free things to do this half term

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Wondering how to entertain the kids during the February half term and looking for cheap or free things to do? Look no further.


When half-term arrives, parents all over start wondering what to do with their little darlings - and how to keep it cheap. But there are loads of things to do if you keep your ear to the ground, and much of it is free.

Find a free local event

If you fancy getting out of the house, but money is a real issue, there might be something going on near you that’s free to attend.

Check out Enjoy England, Visit Scotland, Visit Wales and ni4kids.com to find local activities and attractions, plus loads of two-for-one offers.

Free-events.co.uk and Wherecanwego.com are also great for finding brilliant free events right on your doorstep! Or take a look at your local council's website or your local newspaper (and its website).

The Wakefield Festival of Food Drink & Rhubarb for example is on at the  Wakefield Cathedral Precinct from Friday 21st-Sunday 23rd February and is free to attend.

The List has expanded beyond Scotland and now has a terrific kids' section encompassing events around the UK. While if you live in or near London, Time Out has a great list of kids' activities on its website.

Finally, don’t forget to check out your local theatre as many hold half-term activities.

Get creative

Loads of fun can be had making things.

Visit Britain has a great list of free art galleries on its website that are sure to be holding some affordable workshops.

At the National Portrait Gallery for example there is a free art workshop called T-shirt Selfies running through the holidays where kids can create a self-portrait t-shirt.

Elsewhere at some B&Q stores there are Kids Can Do It classes run on the weekends for those aged 7-11 where children can learn basic DIY skills. These normally cost £5 but you can get them free if you join the free B&Q Club.

And at Ikea locations around the country there are free half-term activities like face painting, craft workshops and lamp shade decorating.

Don’t forget to check out your local council’s website for details of any creative activities being put on for families over the half term too!

Enjoy the outdoors

Weather permitting you can have plenty of fun outdoors.

The National Trust has various locations around the country that have special half-term activities for kids and its running an extra fun series of 50 activities based on things to do before you are 11 ¾.

There’s a free family wild walk at Trelissick Garden in Cornwall on Wednesday 19th February where families can explore. And at Cotehele house in Cornwall there’s a chance to cook on a campfire.

Do something educational

When it comes to museums, don’t rule out that museum in town you've probably ignored for years – most hold activities or exhibitions that children find fascinating.

If you want to visit the big hitters in London, most of which are free, Visit London has a guide. Meanwhile, National Museums Scotland has a list of family activities at its museums here.

At the V&A Museum of Childhood for example an exhibition called War Games is on which looks at how toys have been influenced by warfare from 1800 to the present day.

Visit Britain also has a great list of free museums on its website.

Go to the movies

Most kids love films and new releases like Mr Peabody & Sherman, The LEGO Movie and Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy are sure to entertain. But with some cinemas charging up to £9 per ticket it can be very expensive.

Vue Cinemas has a saver scheme called Kids AM where you can see children's films on Saturday and Sunday mornings and every day in the school holidays for just £1.75 per child. The accompanying adult pays the same price while 3D films are £3. Meanwhile teens aged between 13 and 18 can 20% off the adult ticket price, though this offer applies all year round.

Most Odeon cinemas have Odeon Kids, which includes films on Saturday and Sunday mornings and over the school holidays, with prices starting from just £1 - adults pay the same price as the child.

Meanwhile, Cineworld runs Movies for Juniors at many of its cinemas on Saturday and Sunday mornings as well (it hasn't extended this to school holidays), where adults and children pay £1 apiece. If you're a My Cineworld member, you'll only pay 90p and no booking fee.

And if you're an Orange or EE phone customer, you can take advantage of its two-for-one deals every Wednesday at most cinemas. It also gets you a two-for one deal at Pizza Express before or after you’ve seen your film.

Alternatively, you could hold your own cinema event. Download a free film (legally!) from one of these free movie websites, get the kids to draw some tickets and posters, buy or make your own popcorn and snacks and settle down to watch the film!

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Get them reading

Check out your local library as most will hold at least one storytelling and/or music session during half-term which, of course, is free (you may need to book in advance).

Let the kids choose some books while they’re there, use the free internet provided and hire a DVD or two and the morning or afternoon will fly by.

Don’t forget to check out your local bookshop as most are also geared up for half-term. Or browse a book swap site like readitswapit.co.uk or bookmooch.com and get some new books you can enjoy together for free.

If you’re in London there’s a Children’s Book Swap on Saturday 15th February. Little ones can bring along books to swap at various venues including the William Morris Gallery and the Museum of London. Meanwhile the Imagine Children’s Festival is on at the Southbank Centre in London and will be jam packed with cheap or free literary events and workshops. There’s a vintage reading library being held every day over the half-term and authors like Jacqueline Wilson and Malorie Blackman will be holding talks.   

Try a bus or train adventure

While it may sound dull to you, young kids that travel mostly by car find bus or train journeys unbelievably exciting.

If you live somewhere (such as London) where kids under 11 can travel by bus for free this can be a very reasonable day out.

Pack some lunch, drinks and snacks, hop on a bus and buy an adult daysaver ticket – you can choose to hop on and off as often as you like. If you pick up a route map (or print one off from your council’s website before you leave) you can all choose a few places to visit.

Energetic grannies and grandpas aged 60 or over and on babysitting duty could find this a good way to entertain as most are entitled to free bus travel anyway.

If you fancy hopping on the train, don't forget that children under the age of five travel for free. And if you're travelling in and around London or the South East, your train ticket can open up a host of two-for-one offers via the Days Out Guide website at attractions and restaurants.

The Science Museum is just one of the attractions that are included. Here you can visit the Large Hadron Collider exhibition to learn more about the ground-breaking experiment. Meanwhile at Chessington World of Adventures you can go on a Zufari where you will come face to face with a host of exotic animals.

Cook up a feast

A great activity that many kids love is cooking, so why not keep them busy in the kitchen?

Depending on how old they are you’ll have to be prepared for some serious mess, but it’ll be good fun. Check out the CBeebies’ site for recipe ideas for younger children.

Older children could be challenged with creating their own, healthy takeaway food (you can find recipes for burgers, sushi, pizzas and fajitas on the BBC Good Food website).

If you’re really brave you could have a cooking party and invite some of your child’s friends to join in the fun. Our sister site lovefood has some handy tips on children's cooking.

Get active  

If you’ve got a budding David Beckham in the house, why not see if you can sign him (or her) up for some free football coaching with the Tesco Holiday Skills Sessions (in England only, sadly).

Or you could take them to the free National Football Museum in Manchester, where for a small fee you can also try challenges like scoring a penalty at Wembley.

There’s also free tennis two-hour coaching sessions available nationwide. See if there are any near you on the Tennis For Free website.

If you live in Wales, children 16 and under can go to your local swimming pool for free during the school holidays – there's more details at the Sport Wales website. Some local councils in England and Scotland also offer free swimming – check your local council's website to see if it's one of them.

In fact, even if you're not up for a swim, it's a good idea to check out your local council’s website anyway as many will be running reasonably priced half-term sports courses.

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Do something expensive (but bag a huge discount)

There are plenty of discount vouchers and daily deals sites with cut price offers on exciting activities for the kids you might not normally consider because of the price.

For example right now you can get up to 82% off an American Raptors experience at The English School of Falconry in Bedfordshire. On the day you get to handle a variety of American birds including hawks and even vultures and each ticket comes with a hot drink as well as a burger and fries. The package usually costs £89 for one person or £178 for two, but is now available for £19 for one person or £32 for two via Amazon Local (available until 17th February).

Have a look for other family friendly deals on littlebird.co.uk and don’t forget there might be something the whole family can enjoy on general daily deals sites like Groupon, Living Social, Wowcher and KGB Deals and discount sites like vouchercodes.co.uk.

Do you have any other ideas for great free or cheap activities for children? Share them in the Comments section below.

We update this article ahead of every major half-term holiday

More tips for families:

The best Junior ISAs

The top Child Trust Funds

How to claim your Tax Credits

How to renew your Tax Credits

Five ways to cut the cost of childcare

Breastfeeding: free help and moneysaving tips

Free childcare places extended for two-year-old children

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