Cheap and free things to do this half term
Wondering how to entertain the kids during the October 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.
1. Halloween themed fun
The first half-term of the school year falls over Halloween, so inevitably there are a lot of themed events going on.
National Trust properties, for example, have an extensive line-up of spooky activities such as experiencing Cothele House in the dark or ghost stories by the fireside at William Wordsworth’s childhood home.
Theme parks like Alton Towers and attractions like the London, York, Blackpool Tower and Edinburgh Dungeons tend to get into the spirit too. Booking in advance online will get you better savings.
Alternatively you can have Halloween themed fun at home making costumes, telling ghost stories and playing games. For the best bargains check out our article Cheap Halloween food, costumes, decorations and more.
2. Fireworks and bonfires
Bonfires and firework displays are plentiful at this time of year as Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali and Halloween all take place over October and the beginning of November.
Or if you want to put on your own, read Money saving tips for fireworks night.
3. Go to the movies
Most kids love films and new releases like Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University 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, 3D films are £3). Vue has also introduced family tickets, where everyone pays the child price, although you need a minimum group of four (including two children) to be eligible.
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!
4. Shoot and splash for free
If you’ve 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.
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 as many will be running reasonably priced half-term sports courses.
5. Attend a free local event
If you fancy getting out of the house, why not go to a local children's event? It's very cheap, or even free, to attend.
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).
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.
6. 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 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.
London Zoo is just one of the attractions that are included and has a roster of Halloween fun planned, like spooky stories at the Owl Emporium. Meanwhile LEGOLAND Windsor is putting on a superhero-themed fireworks display.
7. Enjoy a cultural experience
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.
At the Museum of East Anglian Life for example, the whole family can try printing with found objects to coincide with an exhibition on famous engraver and illustrator, Thomas Bewick between 29th October and 31st October. Children go free but adults have to pay £6.90.
Visit Britain has a great list of free art galleries and museums on its website.
Don’t forget to check out your local council’s website for details of any activities being put on for families over the half term too!
8. Listen to a story
Alternatively 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.
9. Get them cooking
A great activity that many kids love is cooking, so why not get them to make their own tea?
Depending on how old they are you’ll have to be prepared for some serious mess, but it’ll be good fun. Check out CBeebies’ Big Cook Little Cook site for recipe ideas.
Older children could be challenged with creating their own, healthy takeaway food (you can find recipes for burgers, sweet and sour chicken, pizzas and vegetable quesadillas on the BBC Good Food website).
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